Monday, May 3, 2010

New Testament Dedications

In case some of you are new readers and haven't figured it out yet, I write on two connected blogs. Here is where I write about my faith, politics, theology, and things I'm wrestling with. The other blog, Papua Girl in Dallas, is where I just write about what's going on in life. Over on that blog I've recently posted some photos from Papua, where I grew up.

I have a few more photos I want to post, and I decided to put them here, because the subject matter is very much related to faith, the Church, and ministry.

I grew up in a missions community. There's a great variety of missions, and in the city I lived in there were 7th Day Adventist, Catholic, and Protestant missions. There were church planting missions, evangelistic missions, missions aviation, and missions focused on community development and literacy. Some missions were more liked by the government (essentially, they were uncomfortable with those who preached and converted and more appreciative of those who did development work so the government didn't have to do it themselves).

From papua

Papua is in the unique position of being a partly Christian and partly animist island that is controlled by a democratic Muslim government (Indonesia) which allows five religions. Papua wants their independence. The interior of the island is still mostly untouched, beautiful jungle, mountains, and swamps. It's sparsely populated by tribes of people, some of whom have contact with the outside world, some who still don't. Those that don't still live sort of in the Stone Age.

From papua

From papua

One thing that many of the organizations in Papua have done is to translate Scripture into the local languages of these tribes. It's an immense task - it usually means going to a tribe with no previous exposure to their language or culture, setting up a home and simply learning by immersion. Often the language has never been written down before and there isn't anyone that can read or write. Over the years they learn the language, create an alphabet and begin to teach villagers to read and write. Years down the line if they're still there they begin a translation process, which takes years more. When a New Testament or a full Bible is completed and brought to the island for distribution, it is a landmark event that is the result of blood, sweat and tears. It allows the gospel to be permanently present in their culture. It generally also allows the language and culture to preserved much longer than those that never are taught to read and write.

These are photos from a recent dedication, and they are beautiful:

From papua

From papua

From papua

When I was a senior in high school I went to the dedication of the New Testament in this village:
From papua

My best friend's family worked there, and had been for YEARS.
From papua

When we flew in, the whole place was filled with people and with pig roasts, and dancing and singing and people in celebratory dress. Within two generations since the name of Jesus was first brought to this area, there are now 40 churches and 6,000 baptized believers. Here is the first, named Saragenanya, baptized in 1974:

From papua

I got a front row seat as the first Bible was pulled out of a box and proudly handed to Saragenanya:

From papua

I'll tell you what, it was beautiful to see not the hand-off of the Bible, but Saragenanya's reaction. He pulled it to himself and wept and wept and wept, and couldn't get a word into the microphone he was handed.

At another dedication that my father attended, one man put his Bible in his net bag, and told the audience that in the same bag in which he once carried the meat of men (yes, they were cannibals), he now carried the meat of the Word of God.

Then there's this photo, at another dedication:

From papua

This woman came to Papua for the first time in the 60's, and she and her husband and kids settled into a village and began work. He was martyred (the story is told in the book Lords of the Earth).

Within the missionary world, a lot of people talk about how Bible translation takes too long and isn't best bang for your buck. Well, if speed is what you want, that's true. It's not fast. I do love that it gives great value to the indigenous culture and to the Word of God, and that this way when the missionaries leave, the local church can preach and teach from their own language. I love that it requires years of investment into a culture, years in which translators (at least the ones I knew) also started community development and agricultural and health programs. Translation is always sticky work, and I do hope that translators and the translation consultants and checkers are extremely careful. A dedication, though, is a beautiful thing to see.

3 comments:

Young Mom said...

It is beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

Rae said...

I always learn so much when you talk about your childhood. I'm a bit embarrassed to admit how ignorant I was/am!

Kacie said...

Hah, Rae, I was playing catchup on US history for ages, but I knew a lot more Asian history and politics than most people!