Archive for ‘history’

May 19, 2012

Are you worthy to suffer?

by bzephyr

A year ago at the Ukarumpa International School book parade, Josiah (right) with two of his best friends demonstrating our natural human desire to not be on the receiving end of suffering

We just finished consultant-checking the first 6 ½ chapters of Acts this morning in the Onnele languages of Goiniri, Wolwale and Romei-Barera, and in the Bauni languages of Pou and Barupu. With 28 chapters in Acts and two weeks left in our time together, we are well ahead of schedule.

It was a bit bumpy on the first day to get comfortable with the process of checking five languages simultaneously. By the second day, the vernacular language consultants from each language had a much better idea of the process and what was expected of them. And PNG consultant Aluis Simatab has been doing a fantastic job of doing what he normally does with one language among a group of five languages.

Because these languages have worked closely together in producing their translations, and because we have utilized consultant input early and often throughout the translation process, these factors make these final checking sessions doable in multiple languages. We have done this before in as many as three or four dialects from one language family, but this is the first time we have tried doing this final checking process with as many as five languages from two completely unrelated language families. To be honest, I was approaching this week with a fair bit of fear and trepidation. After the first few minutes of the second day of checking, however, my fears were set at ease. I has really been working well.

Because Aluis came down with a consistent cough a few days before we arrived in the village, he asked me to take the lead for the the last two half days. This experience will contribute to me becoming a full translation consultant myself. This will really be useful not only for the 10 languages currently involved in the Aitape West project, but also for other teams working among the 820+ languages of Papua New Guinea. It is difficult for many teams to find available consultants. We need more workers.

Aluis and I are both very impressed with the state of these translations. There are not a lot of changes needed. The hard work that has gone into drafting and revising the lengthy book of Acts over the last 3 ½ years is really shining through in these consultant checking sessions. It is so satisfying to see that the vernacular language consultants from each community are able to hear and read the translations and repeat back to us in the Tok Pisin trade language every detail that is supposed to be communicated in the verses.

Here is the most significant opportunity for improvement that we have found so far…

The three verses in Acts 5:40-42 make for a really surprising and inspiring conclusion to the story of Peter and the other apostles facing opposition for teaching about the resurrection of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who believe.

v. 40 – The ruling Council has the apostles flogged (READ: with whips that have metal shards that rip the skin right off their backs). And they are commanded never again to speak in the name of Jesus.

v. 41 – The apostles leave the Council rejoicing that God counted them worthy to suffer shame for the name of Jesus.

v. 42 – The apostles continue to teach that Jesus is the Messiah every day in the Temple and from house to house.

This is not normal behavior. Just reading those three verses makes me smile. Makes me laugh. It reminds me of Psalm 2 that the believers quoted in their prayer of Acts 4 the first time that Peter and John were released from jail and told not to speak to anyone in Jesus’ name:

“The kings of the earth prepared for battle; the rulers gathered together against the Lord  and against his Messiah.” (Psalm 2:2 in Acts 4:26)

God’s response to this in Psalm 2 (not quoted in Acts 4) is this:

“But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them., terrifying them with his fierce fury.” (Psalm 2:4-5)

In the same way, when the apostles are ordered not to speak of Jesus any more, they go away rejoicing that God considered them fit to suffer for the name of Jesus. I’m sure the Lord in heaven must have been laughing along with his fit apostles as he guided them and strengthened them in this episode.

In our translations, the reason for the apostles’ joy was not understood clearly. It was difficult to convey the reason for their joy, and all of the vernacular language consultants thought the apostles were happy because they had been freed and allowed to go on their way. That would be too normal. But this verse is talking about joy that only the Holy Spirit can give. This verse is talking about the joy of suffering. The joy of being a living picture of Jesus, sharing in his purposeful pain. The joy of laughing in the face of persecution because you know that you serve the one who was raised from the dead and rules in heaven (Acts 5:30-31). The joy of saying,

“We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29; cf. 4:19)

When the translators and language consultants heard a clear explanation of this verse, they were also wide-eyed and laughing. They agreed that they needed to fix their translations so that the true meaning of this inspiring verse would come out clear.

How about you? Are you a picture of Jesus in the midst of suffering? Is God’s Spirit alive inside of you? Is your life directed by the authority of God rather than men? Are you worthy to experience shame and suffering for the honor and purposes of our risen King?

Lord, let your Spirit live and laugh in me.

February 13, 2012

New songs about a new road at Koi Nili, “the place where they sing.”

by bzephyr

The concluding part 8 in the continuing short history of the Goiniri Onnele people of Papua New Guinea as reported to me last week by Dominic Pusai…

Now that the road is going in up there to Koi Nili, the Goiniri could move back to their roots within the next few years. At the same time the Goiniri, Wolwale, and Romei-Barera Bible translators are starting to think about taking the Bible translation movement into the mountains. There are many other Onnele language groups that still live in remote areas and have no access to the Word of God in their own languages.

These translators became a part of the Aitape West Translation Project in 2001 after a tsunami forced the Arop people to relocate further inland and the Arop translation team found themselves centrally located between 10 other language groups in the region. They were asking for Bible translation, and they couldn’t be denied. If the Goiniri people move back to Old Goiniri, or Koi Nili – “the place where they sing” — this could be another central area where the Bible translation movement could clearly mark out a new road for many other groups in the Onnele family of languages.

And once again they’ll hear others singing at Koi Nili. But these will be new songs about a new road from the Word of God, and in their own languages.

February 12, 2012

From Koi Nili to Goiniri, and back again

by bzephyr

Part 7 in the continuing short history of the Goiniri Onnele people of Papua New Guinea as reported to me last week by Dominic Pusai…

Over the years, the Goiniri Onnele people have increased in numbers and spread out, constantly needing to clear new land for their gardens. This has created much conflict with the traditional landowners from Nengian.

This year, a lumber company is constructing a new bush road that will connect Amsuku just beyond Wolwale and Romei to Old Goiniri and beyond. The road has just about reached their Koi Nili homeland. The Goiniri people are talking about moving back to their traditional land. That would resolve the conflict with their Nengian neighbors, and plus, there’s just something about moving back to your roots, to the ground that God gave to your ancestors.

February 11, 2012

Forced resettlement downriver at Niu Niri

by bzephyr

Part 6 in the continuing short history of the Goiniri Onnele people of Papua New Guinea as reported to me last week by Dominic Pusai…

Around 1960 an Australian doctor was making his regular patrol from Aitape and the lowland areas of Nengian and Wolwale villages before following the Pien River up into the Torricelli Mountains. He went up there to run a bush clinic for the Goiniri Onnele people. On that walkabout, he fell and injured his hand on the sharp spiny thorns of a sago palm. When he returned to the base of the mountains, he met with the Wolwale and Nengian people and suggested that they find a place for the Goiniri people to live down there. That would make it much easier for him to care for their needs as he passed through all the villages that run along the base of the mountain range.

There was a man from Nengian who had a large area of ground that was not being used, and it was decided that the Goiniri people could come settle there. So in 1961 the first three families moved from Koi Nili to the Goiniri village where they have now lived for the last 50 years. They call it “Niu Niri.”

In 1962 the leaders of the Goiniri people had discussions with the police and it was decided that the families remaining in Old Goiniri needed to resettle and build homes at the new Goiniri village. So the rest of the Goiniri people were forced to move to the place where they now live.

February 10, 2012

Our clans lived together at Koi Nili, “the place where they sing”

by bzephyr

Part 5 in the continuing short history of the Goiniri Onnele people of Papua New Guinea as reported to me last week by Dominic Pusai…

The Goiniri Onnele people lived at Nongkripilru for only a few years before they moved again to the head waters of the Pien River at the confluence a creek called Kupen Rele. They relocated in order that a number of their clans could live together in a tighter community.

This place is called Koi Nili, which means “place where they sing.” This shift brought them close enough to hear the singing and drums from several other people groups in the chain of Onnele languages to the north and west. This was the original “Goiniri” village, and the alternate spelling probably derives from the pronunciation differences of these other Onnele languages. It is now known to outsiders as “Old Goiniri.”

The aid post was also moved to Koi Nili, and it served as a central location where the sick and injured from the surrounding areas could receive medical attention. People would visit the aid post from the related language groups of Wuguble, Kabore, Molmo, Inebu, Kaiye, Karantu, Romei, Barera, Wolwale and Nengian.

February 9, 2012

Flat hopes for a mission at Nongkripilru

by bzephyr

Part 4 in the continuing short history of the Goiniri Onnele people of Papua New Guinea as reported to me last week by Goiniri Bible translator Dominic Pusai…

A number of years after World War II, the Catholic Church had a mission station at Sissano along the coast, and the priests there were looking to establish another mission station inland among the Goiniri Onnele. So the Goiniri people moved again to an area where an airstrip could be built in order to service the potential new mission. This place is called Nongkripilru, which appropriately means “flat edge of a hunter’s bow.” During the Australian administration of Papua New Guinea, a patrol officer’s outpost was established here, a “haus kiap.”

It was decided, however, that an alternative mission station would be established in the lowland Onnele village of Romei. From this central location, the new mission could reach further into the Torricelli Mountains where the Goiniri people lived, among other Onnele peoples. In the early 1950s then, the Goiniri people first attended schools run by the Catholic Mission. This was the first time they started learning the pidgin trade language, and it was then that they were first taught about the Word of God. But it was in a new and foreign language. And to receive this new learning, students had to come down out of the mountains from their new home at Nongkripilru. The airstrip was never built.

February 8, 2012

Big men, magic, and seduction at Munomu

by bzephyr

Part 3 in the continuing short history of the Goiniri Onnele people of Papua New Guinea as reported to me by Goiniri Bible translator Dominic Pusai last week…

The Goiniri Onnele people grew in numbers and needed more space for their clans’ houses and gardens. So they moved down from the mountain to an area with more space that they call Munomu. That is the name of a limbum palm, the kind they use to make basins for preparing boiled sago. This migration occured during the German administration of the northern half of the island in the early 1900s. It was here at this second location that an aid post was established as a central location among the mountain Onnele dialects. People would travel to this aid post at Munomu to receive basic health care. They stayed at Munomu for quite a long time.

During these years, the Goiniri Onnele people were fierce fighters with their spears, and they would make raids as far as Pes in the direction of Aitape. It was also common for them to use traditional magic to fight their enemies. They attest that there were two things that enabled them to continue occupying this land: the strength of their big men as well as the seduction of a woman. This particular area is referred to as “Arop woman held a man,” which recalls the time when their enemies turned back before battle because one of the warriors was seduced (and thus weakened) by a woman on the night before a raid.

February 7, 2012

We came from Feliple, “place of the mango”

by bzephyr

For the next week, I am posting a brief history of the Goiniri Onnele people of Papua New Guinea as reported to me last week by Goiniri Bible translator Dominic Pusai.

The Goiniri Onnele people speak a dialect of Northern One, a Papuan language, and live several miles inland from the northern coast of Papua New Guinea along the western range of the Torricelli Mountains. The ancestors of the Goiniri people originated on the site of a tall mountain. From that mountain they could look out over the whole region to the east and west of Aitape between the Austronesian-speaking coastal villages of Matabau, Arop, Sissano and Serra. The local name of this mountain is Feliple, which means “place of the mango.” This is the area that God gave to their ancestors.

February 6, 2012

Goiniri Onnele history: Dominic out of jail

by bzephyr

Dominic reports on Wolwale Scripture dedication

For the last several years that I have been living in Papua New Guinea, Dominic has told me that he faces constant threats from the family of a man that was killed ten years ago in a self-defense struggle. He says, “If God hadn’t called me to translate the Bible for my people, then I would run away and hide from those who threaten to kill me.” Five weeks ago, they attacked Dominic in town and put a five-inch gash in his upper arm with a large bush knife. When he reported it to the police, they held him in jail, partly for his own protection, partly to determine if his case would become a murder trial in national court.

I spoke with the police lieutenant four weeks ago, and he was very interested in hearing of Dominic’s role as a new leader in the translation project. He said, “Ben, I know that the Word of the Lord changes people, and that makes my job much easier.” He assured me that he was interested in Dominic’s safety and the continued translation of God’s Word into the many languages of his district.

Dominic was released from jail just over two weeks ago. With no eyewitnesses, the police released him after negotiating an out-of-court settlement between the two parties. Dominic owes compensation of 15,000 kina (close to $7,000), but the two groups shook hands, signed an offical statutory declaration with the police, and the opposing family confirmed that Dominic’s life is no longer in danger of retaliation. They said he should feel free to walk around and do his work, and they will not seek revenge or threaten him.

Dominic spent the last few weeks at our translation workshop, making an audio recording of the Goiniri Onnele translation of Luke and entering final corrections into the draft of Acts. For the next seven days, I will post here a brief history of Dominic’s Goiniri Onnele people as reported to me by him last week.

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