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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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By Angela Nelson

As Román and Venancio boarded the bus to travel outside of their home state for the very first time, they wondered what was in store for them. After all, they were leaving their families in the midst of a very busy agricultural harvest schedule, not to mention their responsibilities with church and their rural community.

It wasn’t the most appealing proposition, but their translation work on the Huichol Bible was important to them. So they were willing to take a three-day bus ride and spend several weeks away from home to attend the Tabernacle and Temples of the Old Testament workshop in Mitla, Oaxaca, Mexico.

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Translators Hilario, Venancio, and Román

When they arrived at the linguistics and translation training center, Román and Venancio were joined by two instructors and twelve mother tongue translators from six other language groups. For the first time, they met men and women just like them—Bible translators for their own people.

The workshop focused on the Old Testament chapters describing the tabernacle and the temples of Solomon and Ezekiel (in Exodus, 1 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Ezekiel). Each day Román and Venancio took turns telling the group how they had translated the various passages. In addition, they each had to prepare and present a devotional that focused on the symbolism of an element of the tabernacle and temple. Venancio gave his devotional on the symbolism of the horns of the altar. And Román told about the meaning of the veil, with its guarding cherubim that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place. He used New Testament Scriptures to show how it represents that Christ has opened access to God for us. All these experiences helped the men practice explaining and applying Scripture, something they would use at their home church and weekly Bible studies when they returned to their people.

Román explaining Ezekiel’s temple

Román explaining Ezekiel’s temple

Before they left for home, Venancio also experienced God’s provision through a tough situation. While returning from a weekend market on a local bus, his wallet was stolen. It contained two weeks’ worth of salary and his identification card.

When Chucho, Venancio’s roommate at the workshop, learned what had happened, he asked the others to come to the auditorium with an offering for Venancio at 5 p.m. He placed an empty milk carton on the front table. Sure enough, at 5 p.m., the other translators filed in and dropped their offering into the milk carton.

Chucho presented the offering to Venancio the next morning. The translators had given sacrificially—far more than he had lost! On the last day of the workshop Venancio shyly spoke his thanks. Haltingly and emotionally he told the group that when he discovered that his wallet was missing, he felt that “he had lost his life,” but their love and concern had given it back to him.

Venancio and Román returned to their village full of stories and new knowledge, ready and dedicated to continuing their precious work!

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By Catherine Rivard with Richard Gretsky

For much of the workshop, Susan, a Kwomtari speaker of Papua New Guinea, sat unobtrusively at her table, often resting her chin on her hands as she listened to the lectures. One of thirty participants from seven languages, Susan was attending the third of four workshops on Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS), a course that teaches Papua New Guineans how to memorize and retell Bible stories in a dramatic manner.

Quiet and humble, Susan rarely spoke in discussions, and so when she shyly walked to the front of the room, everyone grew silent. She stared at the ground for a moment, and then, breaking into a huge grin, Susan dove headfirst into the story of Moses fleeing Egypt. Waving her hands and darting around the room, the tiny woman became as fierce as Moses scolding the Hebrews, as cowering as shepherds, and as vivacious as Jethro’s daughters. As she finished the story, the room roared with laughter and applause; Susan beamed in delight—not being able to read no longer meant she couldn’t share God’s Word.

As a pastor’s wife with a deep faith, Susan’s inability to read has long been a great frustration to her, preventing her from leading well her women’s fellowship group or even telling Bible stories to her children. After she attended her first OBS workshop, Susan eagerly began sharing stories with her family and throughout the village, though some women in the fellowship became angry, accusing Susan of arrogance and not accepting their authority as literate members.

However, when Susan was asked to share a Bible story for the opening devotional for a regional women’s meeting, she gladly obliged. “How many of you can read?” she asked. A dozen of the 150 women raised their hands. “OBS helps you learn Bible stories and share them with your families—without needing to read.” Excited, the women sat listening, spellbound by the biblical story and the passion with which Susan told it.

Susan

The opposition that Susan had faced melted away, and instead, more of her people became excited about receiving God’s Word through OBS in their own lives!

After Susan’s husband saw the impact his wife was having, he found a way to help her use her strengths to impact others. And since then, Susan has been telling Bible stories in churches throughout the Kwomtari area, with her husband following her and preaching his sermons based on the message contained in the story she shared. Together, they are planning outreach trips to other Kwomtari villages and beyond.

Catherine Rivard is a linguist with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Papua New Guinea. She blogs here.

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“Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:6, NLT).

This month, Wycliffe will hold three TOTAL It Up! (TIU) courses in a variety of cities, including Kent, WA; Dallas, TX; and Stevens, PA. Through TIU, adults and teenagers interested in Bible translation learn the basics of translation and linguistics, and are taught by experienced translators. This five-day course makes a great introduction to the work of Wycliffe and the worldwide Bible translation team.

  • Ask God to begin preparing the hearts of participants even now, so that when they attend the course, they will be ready to hear from Him regarding the call He has placed upon their lives.
  • Pray for TIU teachers and organizers, that they would feel encouraged as they prepare lessons and coordinate program logistics.
  • Pray for good health for all participants during the upcoming TIU sessions, and for meaningful interaction between students and staff.
  • Pray that each TIU student would be radically impacted by what he or she learns about Bible translation. Ask God to speak clearly to each student about the direction for their lives.
  • Pray that many interested people will learn about the upcoming summer TIU courses as well, and sign up soon!

Learn more about TOTAL It Up! and sign up to participate at a location near you.

This announcement was originally featured on Wycliffe’s PrayToday blog. Click here to read more prayer updates and requests from Wycliffe.

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