The Gospel Has Transformed PNG Culture

Making changes in the rough draft of a translation of Scripture can be a very slow, tedious process.  In the article written below by one of our PBT missionaries, she relates how difficult it was to check the translation of John in one language, and was only able to finish checking chapters 1-15 of John in a three week period.  Praise the Lord that she and the language team were able to identify rough spots that needed some corrections and these have now been entered into the computer.

Changing the hearts and minds of a people group can take much, much longer.  This is especially true here in Papua New Guinea, where tribal warfare, fear of evil spirits and all manner of animistic practices have reigned for millennia among the hundreds of distinct linguistic and cultural groups of this country.  But praise God even more, that we are seeing the fruit of countless missionaries and budding churches here as the lives of many Papuan people have been and are being transformed by the Gospel.

                                

“This isn’t right!  What is this ‘doing the head’ thing anyway?  We don’t talk like that!” said one man.  After several rounds of discussions about how to communicate “hate/treat someone as an enemy, ” the national translator finally said, “I have something that will work.”  After a few more minor corrections of pronouns, the first man and the other translation assistants were giving good back-translations and everyone agreed that the phrase was accurate. 

The literal back-translation of John 15:23 now says, “One man dislikes me and puts the head and sees me, he also will dislike my father and put the head and see him.”  In the NIV this reads as follows, “He who hates me hates my Father as well.”

Wanting to better understand this idiom for hate/treat as an enemy, I asked them to explain it a bit more.  One of the older men said, in the past our ancestors fought with various neighbouring language groups.  The leader of our village/clan would take a trophy – the head of an enemy and bring it back after a fight.  They would sometimes eat the edible parts, but sometimes they would just let it rot until it was just a skull and then they would paint it red and hang it up in the leader’s house. That is the way we showed that we were treating those people as enemies.” 

I asked if anyone living had participated in those kind of raids, and he assured me that when the first missionaries came, all of  that had ended.  He had just grown up hearing the stories about it all and various idioms from their head-hunting days (such as the one above) are still a part of their language.  He ended by saying that if it were still the head-hunting days, there would be no way that he could safely travel to Madang – he would have been killed.  Hearing the stories from probably 100 years or more ago, made me very thankful for the transforming power of missionaries on a country that had been controlled by tribal warfare.   

    

A few days before this discussion, we had been struggling with the concept of “peace”.  In the language of wider communication, “peace” is referred to as having a “stomach that is soft/slow/at rest” – bel isi.  The translation checkers, however, objected to the literal translation of this phrase into their own language and said, “What is this soft stomach stuff!”  I tried several scenarios to help them find the correct term. The one that worked best was when I asked, “After you have been fighting for a while with another village/language group, how do you resolve it?” 

They explained that after things were talked through and people all had “one thought” they planted a coconut as a symbol of the peace, the fact that they now had “one thought”.  I explained that John 14:27 was saying that when people end the fighting and have “one thought,” it only lasts for a while and eventually fighting will break out again about something. However, when Jesus does it and we have “one thought,” then that kind of “one thought”  will last forever.  “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14.27 (NIV)

After three hard weeks, we ran out of time and thanked God that we had been able to complete the checking and revising of John 1-15.  It was a difficult checking session in which the rough draft was heavily revised.  Thank you for praying that we would find the problems.  God definitely answered those prayers.  Pray that the discussions we had about peace and many other important concepts will have an impact on the lives of all the participants in the checking session.  Please pray too that we will find a time to complete the checking of the Gospel of John in 2014.

    

Prayer:  “Lord God, we praise You that the truth of Your Word can be expressed in every language of the world.  We pray that You would help all of the missionaries and the national translators who work so diligently to find the best way to express Your truth into their local languages.  We praise You for the salvation that comes through Jesus Christ so that we are no longer Your enemies, and that You can grant to us Your eternal peace.  May this message of Love continue to transform the lives of the people here in Papua New Guinea and around the world.  Amen!”

Praise God

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