The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14 It is for this Word that the recently completed building in Ubuo village, Papua New Guinea, was named, ‘Oroi’io […]
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14
It is for this Word that the recently completed building in Ubuo village, Papua New Guinea, was named, ‘Oroi’io Madei Training Centre’. The name can be translated as either the ‘Word of Life Training Centre’ or the ‘Living Word Training Centre’. I love both options, as each reminds us that the Word brings life (now and eternally), and is alive in Jesus (now and eternally). We are not dealing with a dusty, ancient document that has no modern relevance, but with something and someone who speaks to us today, across time and cultures. The Centre has been built to support people in the work of translating God’s word, for training Christians in using the Bible, and for supporting literacy work in local languages. The name reflects the goals, which aim to provide God’s word in local languages, in order to bring life to the people and their communities.
The project to build the Centre started with a yearning for more people to have access to God’s word in their own language. Since 2015, I have been working alongside the Kope people, training and supporting them in the translation of Luke into Kope, a task we should finish this year. Since I have been doing this work, I have seen the faith and understanding of the translation team grow, as they have grappled with the meaning of God’s word at the translation desk, and come to understand it more clearly. My co-workers have then taken what they have learnt and shared it with their families, churches and communities.
At the same time, I have become increasingly aware of all the neighbouring language communities, and that they do not have the same level of access to God’s word. I know how much the Bible has shaped me, and I long for my neighbours to have the same access that I have enjoyed. As I continued working alongside the Kope team on our translation of Luke (and looking to start work on Acts) I began looking for ways to support the needs of these neighbours. A good solution seemed to be a training centre, where people could come together to learn and to encourage each other.
The path from dream to reality was long and rocky. All of it was steeped in prayer, each step taken in faith. First, there were discussions with the Kope translation team, then the sketching of plans with the SIL Construction and Maintenance (CAM) department. Following on, was the intimidating process of fundraising. At each step, God confirmed our path, often by providing what was needed on a just-in-time basis. Just as CAM asked if they could place an expensive order for solar panels and batteries, for example, I received a substantial gift from the sale of Peace Lutheran Church in Anna Bay, NSW! Thank you to everyone who saw this need and used their worldly gifts to help. This is love in truth and in action.
Taking on a big project like this would have been intimidating for me at any time, but in 2020 it was even more so, as the world tried to work out how best to respond to COVID-19. Yet again, God is good, and raised up a range of partners to help me through the complex process and see it to completion.
Local partners at the village level were vital. They prepared the land for the building and they donated, prepared and placed the kwila trees that became the foundation posts. When the CAM building team arrived, they worked alongside local volunteer builders. As a result of this teamwork, we went from a forest of posts to a completed building in just three and a half weeks, and local women succeeded in keeping the hungry builders fed. Finally, there was a huge communal effort to plan and prepare for the dedication and opening ceremony. Work continued right up to the day before the opening, when the builders worked into the evening and the electricians only got the lights and power on at 10pm!
The opening day on 15th November 2020 was indeed a day of celebration. Guests came from far and wide to be part of our great occasion, as the building process had become the talk of the region. With much joy, we dedicated the building to the glory and work of God, through Bible translation, literacy and Scripture use.
In a summary like this, it is easy to think that the months of planning and the month of building all went smoothly. It didn’t! There were the practical challenges of fundraising and building during a pandemic and the logistics of building in a remote area. Then there is the challenge we all face, of working in a world broken by sin. One of the ways sin revealed itself was that sometimes people love the things of the world, rather than the Maker of the things, and were involved in the project for their own reasons and desires. Working through these issues across cultures is a discipleship challenge and probably the hardest part of all my work. Please keep praying for me, to have wisdom and grace in how I live and love as a neighbour in this land, as I seek to bring the Word to life.
Looking back, it is exciting to see all that God did in getting this building built. More exciting, though, is looking forward. In June 2021, we plan to host our first Scripture-use workshop and in September, a literacy workshop on Vernacular Creative Phonics. Looking even further ahead, bigger plans are taking root – plans to reach out to a dozen languages in the area, by training them to do Oral Bible Storying. This is a first step for translating God’s Word into local languages and equipping people to share it within their communities.
Join me in praising God for all that he has done throughout this building process, and for all that he is doing among the Kope people and their neighbours. Pray for us as we nurture new opportunities and seek to be sensitive to where God is leading. Pray for more workers to join us and for God to prepare the hearts of those who will participate in workshops. May the participants return to their communities with this testimony: that God has given us eternal life and that this life is in his Son. Pray that as people spread the Word in their own languages, they and their communities may believe and in believing, might know eternal life.
If you would like to consider the opportunity to donate to Hanna Schulz, who is serving as a linguist and translation advisor in Papua New Guinea, you are invited to go to https://wycliffe.org.au/member/hanna/
For more information about Hanna Schulz, go to https://www.lcamission.org.au/about-us/who-we-are/countries/papua-new-guinea/papua-new-guinea-hanna-schulz/