Shortly after a church was born in Mibu 18 months ago, the young believers were impressed with the need to share the awesome truths they had just learned. One man named Bapeke had walked the 3-4 hour hike from his village every other week for the entire six months to hear the Bible lessons. God’s Word made a deep impression on him, and changed his life. When the Mibu believers began discussing how to reach out to others with the gospel, Bapeke knew he wanted to be involved with taking the message back to his own village. He thought about the people in his village, especially the ladies and children there who would have a harder time understanding the subtle differences between their dialect and the Mibu dialect. The Mibu Church felt that the Bible lessons must be changed over into the Mina dialect so that no morsel of truth would be lost or confused. Shortly after, Bapeke, Tomas, Samooel, and Justin were at my door ready to talk logistics. I printed them out a copy of the first several Bible lessons, and got them set up with pens and paper. I have come to really look forward to the days that they show up with pages and pages and pages of work in hand. With hearts fully invested in this work, their zealousness and faithfulness is such a joy!
These two dialects are so similar to each other (You say to-may-to, I say to-mah-to) that the process is not as nearly as intense as translating from English to Mibu. Some of the changes are minor. For example, the word “meaning” in Mibu is “yupe”, but in Mina they say “yupul”. Once Bapeke makes a change in one lesson, we can use the computer to make the changes for that specific word in all the other instances in which it occurs. Other changes in the lessons have to reflect the slightly different patterns in culture that exist between the Mibu and Mina speaking villages.
After making all the changes, we read the lessons to several other Mina speakers to make sure that it is communicating the same life giving message. Then we asked for help from an experienced missionary friend who works with a different tribe in PNG to come in and help verify that our lessons would indeed communicate in the Mina dialect.
How does that work, having a missionary from a different tribe come in who doesn’t speak Mibu or Mina? Here’s how: Bapeke invited his friend from the Mina area, Apeke, who hasn’t heard the lessons yet. Then Bapeke read to him in Mina from the book of Jonah, which is one of the stories we use in our Bible lessons. Apeke had to tell the story back to our missionary friend Linda, (see picture) using the common trade language, Melanesian Pidgin. By listening to Apeke’s version of the story, we could compare all the details that he remembered. What elation! The Mina translation was communicating at a deep level to Apeke! And in any places where details were lost or misunderstood, Linda was able to give us pointers in how to work with Bapeke to make it even more clear.
Having been assured that the methods we were using to translate from Ma into Mina were working well, we put the finishing touches on the rest of the lessons. Just yesterday, the last of the evangelism lessons was completed, and will be sent to the printer as soon as the helicopter comes in next, two weeks from yesterday. These lessons will be used to further the Gospel to the 850 Mina people in 11 small villages! God’s Word is alive!
So, when to begin teaching? That is the question I’ve asked the men who have been training and preparing to do the teaching in Yongem, the first of the Mina villages. Please pray for God to give wisdom to the Mibu people as they are working with the teachers and village leaders in Yongem to handle the details of when to begin. There is a good healthy mix of urgency to get the message out tempered with a desire to see maturity in the believers who will teach.
Its been fun to hear some of the questions that the Yongem people have been asking the guys who are preparing to teach. It reminds me of when we first moved to Mibu, and the Mibu people asked us these very same types of questions. “What do you think about our beliefs?” “Is our thinking correct?” “Will we have to change our ways?” In response to these questions, can you guess what the Mibu teachers have been replying? They are refusing to rush it! They are giving the very same answers we gave to them! “Excellent questions, when we get to the teaching, God’s Word will answer those very questions that you are asking.” Praise God that His Spirit is using every day people to create a hunger for His word.