Posts Tagged ‘Solomon Islands’

Solomon Islands

Photo: Elyse Patten

A young girl from the province of Makira dances at the 11th Festival of the Pacific Arts in Honiara, Solomon Islands. Click here to connect and pray for Bible translation in the Solomon Islands.


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When the Knochel family visited a Bible translation project they were financially supporting in the Solomon Islands, their hearts were overjoyed to know they were part of the team.

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By Elyse Patten


The endless blue horizons and remote villages of the Solomon Islands archipelago are beautiful to see, but can be difficult to traverse, especially if you are trying to get help translating the Bible into your language.

Many local translators, fueled by the hope that access to God’s word will transform their communities, make long and dangerous sea voyages in small boats like the ones in this photograph. A wild journey across the waves on one of these overcrowded canoes is often the only option for people desperate to get to the next island, and beyond. Moses, a translator from Simbo, regularly travels across the surging seas, his total journey taking a least a week or more, to gain essential support and advice from other teams and consultants in the capital, Honiara. And he isn’t the only one. A Bible translation mentor working in the Solomon Islands wrote a story detailing these great ‘Odysseys’ regularly undertaken by dozens of local translators. Read the full story on wycliffe.net

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Solomon Islands: Part 3

By Rachel Wolverton, Wycliffe USA marketing strategist

(Rachel visited Wycliffe’s work in the Solomon Islands in early July. This blog series gives a glimpse into Bible translation efforts in that part of the world.)

Read Part 1: Not Just a Fly on the Wall
Read Part 2: It’s a Full-Time Job

Girls from the Solomon Islands

As fireworks to celebrate the opening of the Festival of Pacific Arts* rang out on a beautiful evening in the Solomon Islands in early July 2012, many were reminded of a fateful night in 2000 when they heard similar sounds. But on that night, twelve years ago, they weren’t the sounds of celebration. Instead, the sounds of gunfire marked the beginning of what many in the Solomons call “the Tension.”

It began when ethnic conflict developed between some of the indigenous people of two neighboring islands, and the capital city of Honiara became the battlegrounds for the coup. A near civil war broke out.

Wycliffe and its partners had been at work on Bible translation in the Solomons under the name Solomon Islands Translation Advisory Group (SITAG). At the time of this conflict, all SITAG staff, along with all other expatriates** in the Solomon Islands, were required to hastily leave the country for safety.

More than seventy languages are spoken in the Solomon Islands

Not knowing if and when expatriates could return to the country, key local leaders who had been working with SITAG on translation work into their own languages, realized something that concerned them. Without the SITAG staff, translation work would come to a screeching halt, meaning that Solomon Islanders speaking many of the more than seventy languages in the country may never have the opportunity to read the Bible in their own language. They did not want to let that happen.

And so out of this great conflict came the Solomon Islands Bible Translation and Literacy Partnership (SIBTLP), an organization of Solomon Islanders working on Bible translation and literacy. This new organization provided support for the islanders that had been working with SITAG on translations, with the hope that over time, capacity would be built so work would always be able to continue regardless of economic or political climate.

SITAG expatriate staff were eventually allowed back into the country, and the two organizations now work side by side to accomplish the task of Bible translation in the Solomons. Joshua Lui Zoti provides leadership to SIBTLP and helps build church partnerships across the islands for the organization while also working on the Bible translation for his mother tongue, Simbo.

Joshua has held a variety of jobs over the years, ranging from a member of Parliament to a police officer. Much like other Solomon Islanders, he has lived through wars, tsunamis, and loss of his home. Now Joshua often has to travel away from his family (and travel in the Solomons is no easy task!) to visit churches across the country. And yet he would say that his job as a Bible translator and leader for SIBTLP is the hardest and most important job he’s held. He, like those who founded SIBTLP almost twelve years ago, believes that Bible translation is worth it all so that his people can clearly understand God’s Word one day.

Rachel and Nick Wolverton with Joshua Lui Zoti, national coordinator for SIBTLP

*The Festival of Pacific Arts was started in 1972 to promote traditional art forms in the region. This year’s festival was held in Honiara, Solomon Islands, making it the biggest tourism event ever to be held in the Solomons. Participants representing twenty-seven countries celebrated unique aspects of their culture during the two-week festival through performing arts, literature, and other exhibits. SIL (Wycliffe’s primary strategic partner) was asked to participate this year for the first time by hosting a “Languages of the Pacific” display and daily linguistic activities. Wycliffe Australia and Wycliffe New Zealand hosted Bible storytelling workshops before and during the event.


** a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of their upbringing

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Solomon Islands: Part 2

By Rachel Wolverton, Wycliffe USA marketing strategist

(Rachel visited Wycliffe’s work in the Solomon Islands in early July. This blog series gives a glimpse into Bible translation efforts in that part of the world.)

Read Part 1: Not Just a Fly on the Wall

Debbie and Greg Conwell with a girl from the Solomon Islands

No two days in Debbie Conwell’s job are ever the same. The island culture of the Solomons probably plays into that, but so does the variety of hats that she wears. As the coordinator of training and review for SIBTLP (Solomon Islands Bible Translation and Literacy Partnership), she trains translators from the Solomon Islands and reviews their first drafts to help ensure they are true to the original text.

Some days Debbie is helping to plan and execute two-week translation training programs on how to translate specific portions of Scripture like the Minor Prophets or the Gospels. Other days, she might be part of a team planning a literacy workshop. I can still remember the excitement in her eyes as she showed me Sunday school materials about Elijah and Elisha that the attendees of a recent workshop collaborated to write and then translate into various local languages. In one workshop, they more than doubled the Sunday school materials in the whole country!

These workshops used to happen about twice a year, but the number of people working on translation has steadily increased, and the need for training is growing so fast that they are now considering having fourteen a year.

As time consuming and important as the training aspect of Debbie’s job is, she is also one of a team of people reviewing the local translators’ work. For instance, when a translator on a project that Debbie is involved in finishes the book of Romans, someone on the team translates it back into English and sends it to Debbie to perform the first of many checks this book will go through before being produced in the final New Testament. She checks to see that the book was translated accurate to the original text while remaining natural and clear. And she currently does this for nine languages, a number that is expected to continue to grow. Other team members are performing similar checks in various languages throughout the Solomons.

There are over seventy languages in the Solomon Islands.

Not surprisingly, Debbie and others working on translation in the Solomons desperately need more people to join their team to help with tasks like planning and leading workshops or performing reviews and checks.

These two roles say nothing of the other jobs that Debbie performs, not the least of which is willingly hosting visitors like she did for us in early July. She and her husband dropped their important tasks (like the nine books of the Bible awaiting review in her inbox) and selflessly prepared us meals and afternoon tea—with biscuits and delicious fresh tropical fruit—helped us with our laundry, and gave us rides to town.

Debbie and her husband didn’t join Wycliffe until they were in their late forties, leaving stable jobs in Australia to follow God on a new journey. I was able to see the ways that God perfectly gifted Debbie for the job she has now, and how He gave her such a deep passion to see Solomon Islanders reading the Bible in their languages and involved in the work from start to finish. It doesn’t matter to Debbie that her boss is a man from the village of Gizo, because she feels it’s their work anyways, and she’s just there to be a help and support in any way possible.

Debbie and Greg wave goodbye after a visit to the village of Poro

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Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands: Part 1

By Rachel Wolverton, Wycliffe USA marketing strategist

(Rachel visited Wycliffe’s work in the Solomon Islands in early July. This blog series gives a glimpse into Bible translation efforts in that part of the world.)

My whole life I’ve watched friends and family give to charities, churches, and non-profit organizations. I’ve seen them wrestle through decisions of where to give and how much, hoping that their gifts will be a blessing to those on the receiving end. My husband and I have had these same conversations in our home. Sometimes we feel that the best way to bless others is to give quietly, staying under the radar.

But my recent trip to the Solomon Islands taught me differently.

My husband and I accompanied a family who has given generously to Bible translation there. They wanted to learn more about Wycliffe’s work in that part of the world, to put visuals to the people and language groups they are praying for daily, and to give their kids a greater understanding of the world. They would have preferred to simply observe as a fly on the wall and not burden anyone. Perhaps in America, things can work that way.

Not so in the Solomon Islands.

Our group with people from the village of Poro

We were all received with fanfare. The people in the village of Poro that we visited had rarely seen white-skinned faces, and definitely not in groups of eight at a time. We were greeted with a welcome unlike anything I’ve ever seen and were followed by an entourage of people attempting to communicate in broken English (which is more than we were able to do in their language, Gao). There was dancing, songs, gifts, and more.

We’d been told that Solomon Islanders love speeches, and on our last night, Joshua, the national coordinator for SIBTLP (Solomon Islands Bible Translation and Literacy Partnership), made a speech to those of us who were visiting.

He expressed to Nate, the father of the family, sincere words of thanks for giving generously so that people speaking more than seventy languages in the Solomons could read the Bible in their own language. That was the part I was expecting. But then Joshua thanked the family for coming to visit them, for taking the time to get to know people in Poro village. He also thanked them for coming as a family. Solomon Islanders are relational, and they value little else in life as much as they value relationships, especially those of the family. For this family to have given money without visiting would have made little impact. But because the family gave their time and offered friendship to Solomon Islanders, they showed that they cared for them and were committed to Bible translation. The last thing Joshua shared was the most touching: “We view you as partners in this work.”

Village members singing as a part of an evening program

In that, I realized that the fanfare, the entourage, and everything we all would have opted out of if given the chance were the islanders’ way of building relationship with us. It was their way of expressing that they viewed this family as a part of the team, not just unknown faces giving money anonymously to people they know nothing about.

In the United States, we might have felt that a visit of that magnitude was burdensome, but not for these people. It was even more meaningful than any monetary gift could have been.

My opinion of generosity has been rocked. I want to think of ways to give, not only money (which is still very necessary), but also my time in ways I haven’t before, like building relationships. Maybe it’s as simple as actually reading the updates I get about work I’ve supported so I can know how to pray, or writing letters of encouragement to those involved. We often talk about holistic ministry, but in the Solomons, I was taught something new. I was taught lessons about holistic giving.

Waving goodbye

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A Fijan performs an energetic warrior dance during the opening night for the Eleventh Festival of Pacific Arts

Photo by Elyse Patten, Wycliffe photojournalist

The Eleventh Festival of Pacific Arts recently concluded in the Solomon Islands. Held once every four years, this two-week-long celebration brought together many cultural groups from all over the Pacific. Wycliffe and its partner organizations participated through ethno-arts and Bible storytelling workshops.

Elyse describes the experience as she captures images of the diverse and colorful dances representing each region:

“The light is fading, but the energy is just increasing, and my heart is swelling as the mind-blowing displays of culture, art, pride and intense energy are directed right at me. And they aren’t stopping.”

Read more from Elyse and see more of her photos from the opening ceremony of the Eleventh Festival of Pacific Arts.



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