A Sign of Jonah

A Letter From the Church in Mibu

Dear brothers and sisters in God’s church in America,

We, the church in Mibu, send our greetings to you Christian believers. Through the work of Jesus Christ, God has caused us to become one family. It’s very true that there is a time in the future that we will meet each other face to face and be joyful. Right now we aren’t able to meet each other – we can only communicate via letter. Later God will cause us to meet and talk together.

We have come to understand this teaching that Jesus is the only road for us sinners to come to God, our Master. And so now we are joyful and thankful to God. He sent us missionaries to explain the Gospel to us so that we could be saved. It wasn’t as if we wrote a letter requesting missionaries to come. We were just going about our lives and God saved us.

And now we believe that God is going to do something similar in order to save the other people that He desires to take for Himself. Here there are many requests that come our way from the other languages in our area, wanting to hear the message. There are many different people sending messages requesting to hear the message. Young people, old people, disobedient people, even leaders of other religious groups. They are sending their requests, but we as limited people find it difficult to fulfill their request. Everything happens according to the plan of the Lord.

There are places that we’d like to bring the Gospel, but the task of Bible Translation is overwhelming. So we’re telling you about this concern in hopes that all of us can pray and strategize together and find a way to bring salvation to these groups.

That’s all! Thank you! And may God be with you all.

Sesie Tingneyu and Keteng Rumex on behalf of the Mibu Church

The Mina Translation

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.

Preparing for What Lies Ahead

Just after we presented the Gospel in March of this year, 2 Miboo men, Sesi and Keteng, attended a two week translation seminar.  They learned what it takes to have a good, solid Bible translation.

Since the village of Tariknan is the last village in our language group, the Mibu believers are beginning to prepare for crossing the language barrier. They have caught the vision of bringing the Gospel into the two related languages on either side of Mibuland, Jerung and Mina.

In preparation for the future outreaches, Sesi and Keteng recently held their own translation seminar.  The idea is to take two Mibu guys who are bilingual in Jerung, and two Mibu guys who are bilingual in Mina, and teach them translation principles in one week long seminar.  However, a total of 12 guys ended up attending!  What an awesome response!  Just today as I was walking home from church, Bapeke was talking to me about all the sacrifices he learned that William Tyndale went through in order to translate the Bible.  And what a joy it is to hear these guys chatting about the technical aspects of a good translation.

Please uphold in prayer these two language groups, Jerung and Mina.  (Pronounced jair-ung and minn-ah). Together with the Mibu people we have set the goal of reaching out to them early 2007.  The church still needs to finalize the plan as to where to go first.  There are over 1,000 pages of evangelism lessons to translate in the meantime, so plenty to keep everyone busy!

So far, Genesis chapters 1-2 have been translated into Jerung.  Andrea Knotts, who is visiting us for the summer, typed the translated materials into the computer for us.  Andrea is also teaching two Mibu girls how to type in order to help us keep up with the workload.  We are so glad for the blessing that Andrea has been to our team.

A few facts about the Mina people to the west of Mibu:  There are 11 villages ranging in population from 25-110 with about a total of 850 people.  Mina people regularly intermarry with Mibu people, so there are many bilinguals.  When we taught in Mibu, 54 people from 10 Mina villages came and were saved.  The word “Mina” means “what”.

OK, now the Jerung people on our east:  There are 10 villages with a total estimated population of 1,500.  There are 10 believers from 4 different villages as a result of the teaching in Mibu.  Jerung and Mibu people also intermarry.  The largest village of Gwarawon has an airstrip.  The word “Jerung” also means “what”.  In a recent meeting, all of the Jerung villages officially expressed an invitation to have the Word of God taught in their villages.

For His glory!

I will perpetuate your memory through all generations; therefore the nations will praise you for ever and ever. -Psalm 45:17


With immense joy, it is our pleasure to share with you that for the first time ever in the history of the Mibu people, a portion of Scripture has been written down in their very own language!!!! Though it is only the beginning, we cannot contain our excitement! For the past month we have been working on the first drafts of Genesis 1-3.

Frequently Asked Questions:
1. What word did you use for “God”?
-Just as in the English Bible, God has many names, and we do the same in the Mibu translation. Where the Hebrew uses the word “God”, we use the Mibu word “Bamnyu Pangun”. This literally means the “Biggest, Strongest One”.
For “LORD”, we use the Mibu word, “Unyugun”. This means “He, himself”, or “He is that He is”. This is the Mibu version of, “I am that I am.”
And for “LORD God”, we are using the term, “Unyugun Pangun”. This means, “He Himself, the Strongest One”. Much thought, prayer, and consideration is going into these decisions, and we welcome your prayers as we work to make God’s words correct and understandable in the Mibu language. We feel the weight of responsibility as well as joy and amazement that God would use us in this way.

2. Is the attachment to this email the final draft, ready to be published?
-Not yet!! Before this will be publishable, much more checking will have to be done. We have to check for simple things like spelling errors, as well as more complex things, like making sure that all the meaning in the original is communicated in the translation in Mibu. We need to go through the material with different Mibu people, double checking that the Mibu people understand what is being said. All of this checking includes many people, from the translator to the other team members (who read the material and translate it back to English and compare it with our Bible), to the translation consultants (men who have done other translation work in other languages and can help us through the rough or confusing areas).

3. What other steps are there in translation?
-First we have to understand what the meaning of a chapter is. Then, we write down to the best of our ability how to say that in Mibu. But, that’s not a translation!!! Next we sit down with a Mibu person and explain the passage to them. When he understands the story well enough to repeat it back from start to finish, we record him. Then, we write down word for word what he said from the recording, and together with him fill in any other details he might have left out, and in some cases take out extra information he might have put in. From there we do the checking as mentioned in question 2. After all those checks, we have a translation consultant come and check our work.

4. Why do you record a Mibu person speaking instead of just writing down how you think it should be said?
-Even though we are fluent in the Mibu language, we will never sound as natural as a Mibu person. So, in order for the Mibu translation to sound natural in their language, we record their rendering of the story once they understand the meaning. So our job as translators is to make sure that the translation is faithful to the original Hebrew or Greek. The Mibu translator’s job is to make sure the story sounds as natural as a mother talking to her child. Working together, we will have a faithful translation that sounds natural to the Mibu people.

Yours Truly,