We know from 1 John that the ‘word of life’ is revealed in Jesus – the Word who took on flesh, lived among us, defeated death and is living still. The Bible is this word of life, it is ‘alive and active’ (Hebrews 4:12) and brings us life.
It is for this word that we named our new training building in Ubuo village, Papua New Guinea – the ‘Oroi’io Madei Training Centre’. This can be translated as either ‘Word of Life’ or ‘Living Word’ Training Centre. Both translations remind us that the word brings life and is alive in Jesus, speaking to us today, across time and cultures.
The centre was built to train and support people in translating God’s word into their language, for Bible-use training and supporting literacy work.
Since 2015 I have worked the Kope people, training and supporting them in translating Luke into Kope. I have seen the translation team members’ faith grow as they come to understand God’s word more clearly. These co-workers share their learning with their families, churches and communities.
I also have become increasingly aware that neighbouring language communities do not have similar access to God’s word and I have been looking for ways to support them. A training centre seemed a good path.
The path from dream to reality, from planning and fundraising to building, has been long and rocky, but steeped in prayer and with alongside each step taken in faith. God confirmed our path, often providing what was needed just in time. For example, just as solar panels and batteries needed to be paid for, I received a gift from the sale of Peace Lutheran Church Anna Bay in New South Wales! This is love in truth and action.
Despite the challenges of such a big project, especially during COVID, God raised up partners to help. Local villagers contributed through land and foundation preparation and assisted the building team. As a result, the building was completed in three-and-a-half weeks. Local women fed hungry builders and a day before the opening, the builders and electricians worked into the evening, with the power only turned on at 10.00pm.
The dedication and opening on 15 November was a huge communal effort and what a day of celebration it was! With guests from throughout the region and with much joy, we dedicated the building to the glory and work of God.
In June we plan to host a Scripture-use workshop and in September a literacy workshop. Further ahead we hope to reach out to a dozen language groups through training in oral Bible storying. This is a first step in translating God’s word into their languages.
Praise God for all he is doing among the Kope people and their neighbours. Pray for more workers and that he will prepare the hearts of those attending workshops. Pray that as they spread the word in their own languages, their communities may believe and, ultimately, know eternal life.
Hanna Schulz is a linguist and Bible translation advisor in PNG with Wycliffe, a partner of LCA International Mission. Email her at Hanna_schulz@wycliffe.org.au