By Ben and Leah
Hello! This is Ben Wacek and Leah Wacek, and as a brother/sister tag team, we would like to share with you the experience that we were blessed to have at a Bible dedication in Indonesia earlier this summer. We hope you enjoy it!
Roma 10:15b – “Kove ngkov irate vatano ude wo Ayao Kovo Amisye raugave mansai!”
Romans 10:15b - "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!"
In the early 1940’s, Dutch missionaries introduced Jesus and Christianity to the people on a small island in West Paupua (then Irayan Jaya) for the very first time. From this time forward, the lives of the individuals in this group were changed as they turned from their animistic worship to the worship of Jesus. In one village on the island the people were so excited about this knowledge of life after death that one by one they carried 80 pound concrete blocks about 20 miles through the mountains in order to build a church.
Although the news of salvation was better than any other news the people on this island could have received, there were still a few problems. One of these problems was that the only Bible that they had was written in Bahasa Indonesia – the country’s national language. Unfortunately, very few of the people spoke Bahasa which meant that almost everything they knew about Christ and the Bible was explained to them by the few who knew the national language. As a result, for many of them, their faith was not based on the Bible and their focus was on living according to a set of rules.
Matius 28:19 – Maisyare omai ti, Syo wasatutir wata no rui rui vayave indamu wapo vatane kotaro ntuna no mine so rai mansanyao tenambe indamue utavondijo Rinai. Muno wapo maugasyo kuvuni mana raijo Injayo Amisye apa tame rai muno Apa Kavo tame rai muno Anawayo Vambunine ama tame rai.
Matthew 28:19 - Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
|Larry and Linda with the island's lead translator.|
Fast forwarding to 1983, Larry and Linda Jones moved to this island in West Papua to fill in some of these holes. Their first step was to learn the native language by living with and conversing regularly with the people. After learning the language, Larry and Linda created a written language since one did not exist! Finally they were able to teach the written language to the people and begin translating the Bible into the new written language.
The translation of the Bible into this new language was an incredible process. It was a joint effort of both the native people and the Jones family. Each verse needed to translated one by one and then checked by a separate party. Early on in the process a young native man was chosen to be a key person in the project. He moved to Jakarta, which is on the other side of Indonesia, to work with the Linda and Larry. When in Jakarta, this native man became homesick and longed for his relationships back on the island. After much internal struggle, he decided that he needed to go home, leaving the translation work behind. This deeply saddened the man; and in many ways he felt as if he had failed. The translation continued, but many years later it became apparent to the Jones that a key native person was needed in order to complete the translation.
Larry went to the village to talk with the people, raising his concerns. The islanders all agreed that the original man involved needed to help complete the translation. At this time the native man had a dream that he was carrying a bag of gold up the mountain to his people in the village. During the long, difficult hike the bag of gold was lost and he wasn’t able to deliver it to his people. After waking up that morning, the man went to the garden to think about this dream he had. While he was still in the garden, Larry approached him and asked him to rejoin the translation team even though they hadn’t seen each other in years. At this instant, it was clear to this man that God wanted to continue to use him to bring the Word of God to his people, and from this point forward he became the main laborer in the translation process.
Finally, on June 30th, the New Testament was done and ready to be presented to this tribe. The two of us were humbled to have the opportunity to travel to this remote village to be a part of this historical day. Just to give you an idea of the remoteness, even after 24 hours of travel to get to Indonesia, we still had four additional flights, two open-back truck rides, and a hike through the mountains in order to arrive at our final destination. Although this village had no running water, no electricity, and no beds or mattresses, they were receiving the New Testament in their native language – and that was plenty of reason to celebrate!
Acts 2:11b – …amisye pi bambunin, Apa ana daveye ngko dave!”
Acts 2:11b - …we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”
|The island's church.|
The Bible dedication itself was crowded, difficult to understand, and long, which is why I think it was so special. First of all, everyone wanted to be part of this monumental event. The church mentioned above was packed with about 300 people and those who weren’t able to fit inside crowded around the doors and windows just to get a glimpse of what was going on inside. Secondly, the service was almost entirely in the native language of which we understood none. Actually, our experience was probably very similar to you trying to read and understand each of italicized Bible verses which are in the island’s native language – it just isn’t possible. This was a bit frustrating until we realized that this is exactly how most of the people on the island felt every time scripture had ever been read to them, until this day.
On this day, the Bible was transformed from an overwhelming and difficult to understand book into a masterpiece in their native tongue! Thirdly, the ceremony was long not only because all of the speaking but also because of the long handshakes. In this culture, the longer a handshake between two people, the closer the relationship. We timed the longest handshake between Larry and Linda and one of the people at more than two minutes. It was so neat to be able to see the lasting impact Larry and Linda had on these people’s lives!
The party did not stop after the dedication ceremony was complete. After the service, the people had the opportunity to buy a Bible in their mother tongue. It was amazing to see these people receive this book and page through with an eagerness that’s indescribable. We had the privilege of joining in on cultural singing and dancing that lasted long into the night. God’s glory was on display. We were celebrating the fact that a people group now has the Word of God in their own language. This was something to celebrate!
2 Timotius 3:16 – Ana ratoe no Ayao Amisye mamo Amisye pi po raugaje tenambe. Muno Ayao Amisye ngkov irate wansai weye mo wansanyao irate ayao tugae rai, mo wama ayao kakaije raroron kakavimbe wansai, mo wansanyao indamu wansakinavo wama ayao kakaije rai, muno mo wansanyao indamu wama ana wandave mamai no Amisye amune rai.
2 Timothy 3:16 - All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.
|Father and son reading together.|
Reflecting back on this experience, it is one that we are incredibly thankful to have had because it is unlike anything that either of us has ever experienced before and because the unity in the love of Christ was so evident in our time there. As we think about what God taught us through this adventure, two main questions/challenges come to mind:
1. Do we treasure the Word of God as much as these people did? On this trip, we were reminded that the Bible is not just a self-help book or a bunch of interesting stories, but that it is literally the words of God. When seeing the Bible though this lens it has intensified our desire to read it, study it, memorize, and meditate on it.
2. Will the way that we’re spending our lives have an eternal impact for God’s Kingdom? This challenge was brought to mind because the way that Larry and Linda are spending their lives will have an eternal impact in a very tangible way. If the Jones’ had not been willing to make the sacrifices required to do this work, then it’s very possible it could have been a long time before this people group received the Word of God in their native language. But because they were willing to devote a lifetime to this work, a remote village has the truth of God available to them which will be passed on from generation to generation until the return of Christ. Larry and Linda are without a doubt making an eternal impact for God’s Kingdom.
Thank you so much for reading about our trip. We hope that our experiences are an encouragement to you and they challenge you to ask the above questions of yourself. If you have any interest in learning more about this trip, please feel free to ask. There is so much more that we weren’t able to include.
Being welcomed into the village as they sang their favorite song. Some of the lyrics are, "God's word, this good word, is with us in this world."
Celebrating receiving God's word with flutes.
Note: The specific name of the island, people group, lead native translator, and language were intentionally left out of this piece for the safety of the people.