Posts Tagged ‘Vanuatu’

By Melissa Paredes

The Advocating ChiefJohn Sethy is a husband, a father, and the chief of his small village of Nivenue on the island of Epi in Vanuatu. Those responsibilities all keep him busy, but recently he took on a whole new responsibility—becoming the advocate for the Bible translation in his own heart language of Lewo.

It took several years for John to reach this point of helping his people receive God’s Word in the language they understand best. In 2010, members of the Vanuatu Building for Tomorrow group (VBT) and the SIL* team came to John’s home village to hold a literacy workshop and record some of the Lewo New Testament. They came in response to a request from Kapiapo, one of the village’s church elders and long-time lead translator for the Lewo project. Kapiapo wanted his people to become more aware of the translation work in their language—work that had been ongoing for the last twenty years.

While in the area, the team members attended a Sunday church service. During the service, John stood up and read fluently from 1 John in the Lewo language. Everyone was impressed with John’s abilities, his humble attitude, his cleverness, and his passion for God’s Word.

Three years passed. VBT and SIL planned to host a workshop that would help equip people across Vanuatu to read, understand, and teach the Scripture. As they thought of potential participants, John was one of the first people who came to mind.

John would be difficult to get in touch with, because his village is in a hollow, and contacting him by mobile phone would be a challenge. But the team decided to try, so they called another man from John’s village to see if he could help them get in touch with John.

Amazingly, John was standing right next to the man when the team called. He accepted their offer with excitement.The Advocating Chief 3

With great enthusiasm, John attended the workshop and absorbed as much as he could during his time there. He was particularly enthralled by the study of God’s Word through learning more about the historical and cultural context of the Scriptures, and ways to deepen his understanding of it. With this approach, he’d be able to help learn about the true meaning of the Scriptures and could then help teach his people about what the Bible was saying.

John returned to his village, excited to test out his new skills with members of his community. People really enjoyed the new insight he could provide. John shared, “I started [using my knowledge] with my family and that was good. But I am a chief, and I see that these skills in working through problems directly apply to my work. … I can help people to analyze the problems now as I ask them questions. It makes my job much easier!”

Since the first workshop, John has attended several more. He’s also taken over the Lewo translation project with another man. Elder Kapiapo chose John as his replacement on the project team when he learned that he had liver cancer. He passed away in 2013—the same year the team first asked John to attend their workshops. But John has faithfully taken up the torch in Kapiapo’s place, helping to bring the Scriptures to the Lewo people.

John is continuing to learn more about God’s Word and how it can impact both his life and the lives of people in his village. “I see that people are mixing belief and traditional thinking, but I have seen through this course that everything depends on belief in Christ,” John said.

???????????????????????????????It’s that belief that is helping him deepen his knowledge of God’s Word. The Lewo New Testament is still waiting to be published, so pray that it would be printed quickly and distributed among the people. John isn’t just the chief of his village; he’s also working to teach and explain the truths found in Scripture, and to help his people learn how to really use it for themselves.

*One of Wycliffe’s primary partners

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My Language, But Not YoursCommunicating between different language communities can be difficult. Unless a mutual language is spoken—often a language of wider communication such as English, Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, Russian, or French—language barriers can be seemingly insurmountable.

These barriers are something that people in South Tanna, Vanuatu, face every day.

Most people in South Tanna are taught in English and French at school. But since most do not continue attending school after year six, their understanding of those languages quickly fades. So using the Bible in those languages is not an option.

The Bible is also available in Bislama, the language people use to communicate when someone doesn’t know their language. But most people only know Bislama well enough to carry on basic conversations, not heart-level discussions.

The people in South Tanna speak Nafe. That’s their heart language—the language that they speak in their homes, in their gardens, and as they are working.

The Nafe language needs its own Bible translation. And this summer, they’re finally receiving it. On June 13, the Nafe New Testament was dedicated!

You can help bring Scripture to people like the Nafe in the language they understand best. Go to www.wycliffe.org/summercampaign to learn how.

Read more about the Nafe language here.

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A group of women and children perform a dance for visitors in Santo, Vanuatu. A country with approximately 113 languages, there could be as many as forty to fifty languages still requiring Bible translation work. Pray that God would provide the workers to help bring His Word to the people across Vanuatu in the language they understand best.


Photo:  Elyse Patten

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When Pastor Joshua finished the New Testament translation in his language—North Tanna—in 2008, he began traveling around four of the islands in southern Vanuatu to promote Bible translation and encourage other local translators.

He was visiting the translation office in South Tanna one day, when he suddenly realized a ten-year-old girl, named Alice, was at the door. She looked at him and spoke quickly in her mother tongue. But since Pastor Joshua didn’t speak Nafe, he didn’t understand her.

“Can you say it again?” he asked.

Alice relayed her message again. Only this time she tried to speak slower.

“One more time,” Pastor Joshua urged.

Alice complied.

“Can you speak Bislama?” the pastor asked, still unable to catch her meaning.

Alice shook her head. She didn’t know Bislama, the national language of Vanuatu, well enough to speak to this respected man.

“Can you tell me in Whitesands?” he asked, thinking perhaps she knew another neighboring language.

Alice shook her head. Clearly frustrated, tears were forming in her eyes.

When Pastor Joshua saw this, he said, “Ah, let me just come with you.”

The two of them walked out the door of the office and up the hill to Alice’s home. Her mother was seated on the dirt floor in her bamboo-thatch kitchen, holding her arm. In pain, she asked Pastor Joshua to pray for an unknown sickness that had begun to bother her, disturbing her sleep and her ability to work in the garden.

Pastor Joshua did pray for Alice’s mom, and later on she was able to get medicine from the hospital, which has helped.

But the experience struck Pastor Joshua, reminding him of how many people struggle to communicate on these linguistically diverse islands. How could they grasp God’s message of hope if it’s not in a language they can understand?

Fortunately, Alice and her mom won’t have to wait much longer to hear Scripture clearly. If all goes smoothly, the Nafe New Testament will be typeset next spring, and printed by the end of 2013. But these final stages are key times when roadblocks often slow down the translation process.

Please pray for the Nafe translation and for each of the other languages in Vanuatu still waiting for Scripture!

The original version of this story was posted on the Pacific Bible Facebook page on July 27, 2012.

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By Roy Eyre, president of Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada

Those of us who are not directly involved in translating the Bible will never completely understand or appreciate the linguistic challenges our translators face day by day.

That includes me.

I am giving my professional life to the Bible translation cause. But I am an administrator, not a linguist. As a result, I approach the challenge of translation from a unique vantage point. I look at this topic as a father—and pastor of my own family. I look at it as an elder—concerned with right doctrine. And I look at it as someone who cares deeply for God’s Word—wanting everyone around the world to be able to have access to it in their own language.

Still, I can share some general insights on the matter.

One fundamental truth about translation is that there are no two languages that have an exact cross-over of vocabulary. Most Christians in North America have heard in church at one point or another that our English word, “love,” in our Bibles doesn’t capture the meaning behind the four Greek words in Scripture: agápe, éros, philía, and storgē. Take a moment to consider the implications of using éros instead of philía in a translation. Sexual connotations would certainly be a stumbling block when “brotherly love” was intended.

English is a handy language in its use of generic words like “love.” However, many languages have far more specific words. I remember a previous Word Alive story that explained that there are more than twenty different Inuit words that English attempts to encapsulate in the word “snow.”

But other languages have a more limited vocabulary. Wycliffe’s Ken and Mendy Nehrbass are Bible translation consultants on an island in Vanuatu, in the middle of the South Pacific. Ken once tried to convey to me the difficulty of translation into the Southwest Tanna language:

“Translated Genesis 2–4 yesterday. You’d think that the difficulty with translating would be that there are so many ways to say something—how do you narrow it down? But every chapter of the Bible presents the opposite problem for a language like SW Tanna: there’s no way to say it! Like [in Gen. 4:15], “if anyone kills Cain, he will be avenged seven times.” ([In SW Tanna, there is] no word for ‘avenge,’ no number above five, and no way to say ‘x number of times.’)”

Our translators face a difficult and complex task daily. Even the “simple” verses can trip them up. We in English-speaking countries—home to 85 percent of all Bible resources—have a difficult time visualizing the challenges. So let’s pray for translators like the Nehrbasses, working in isolated locations and struggling at times with a few other consultants to find the best solutions in each unique language.

How did Ken and Mendy end up solving their dilemma? They leaned upon their biblical, translation, and linguistics training; Wycliffe’s translation practices based on more than a half century of experience; insights into the local language and culture from the Southwest Tanna people; and, no doubt, much prayer.

Recognizing that conveying the meaning of God’s Words is an ultimate goal, they chose the following:

Nɨkam. Tukmə yermamə kɨrik rhopni ik, tukrɨrəh narpɨnien ehuə rapita narpɨnien yame nakawəh.

In English, this translation conveys the idea that if someone killed Cain, he’d receive a larger punishment than the punishment he meted out to Cain.

The manuscript of the New Testament is currently being printed, and the Southwest Tanna will soon have God’s Word in a form they can understand.

I may never know everything that translators, like Ken and Mendy, face. But I do know this: Wycliffe Canada is just as committed in 2012 to accurate, clear, and natural translation for every remaining language as we were sixty years ago when our personnel first started serving in this amazing and life-changing work.

—Roy’s post originally appeared in Wycliffe Canada’s Word Alive magazine. Read the rest of this issue on their website at http://www.wycliffe.ca/wordalive/#/2

—Read or watch more on Ken and Mendy Nehrbass’s work in Vanuatu at http://www.cbn.com/700club/guests/bios/Nehrbass_112707.aspx and http://www.nehrbass.info/

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Photo by Elyse Patten

Celebration makes the world go round. The people of this village on the island of Tanna, Vanuatu have been preparing for this day for months, even years. Collecting fruit and coconuts, harvesting root vegetables, buying fabric and rice, crushing and roasting taro, plucking chickens, fattening a cow and catching these giant fish on a small ocean canoe. But its worth it. For friends and relatives have traveled over land and sea for the celebration. You may think that 10 years is a long time to spend translating the Bible with a people group like this one on Tanna. But all that work is just preparation for a huge eternal celebration. And its worth it.

Editor’s Note: This photo was submitted by email from Elyse Patten who is a photojournalist for the Monsoon division of the Wycliffe Global Alliance.

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