When Bible translator Hanna Schulz goes to live and work in a remote Papua New Guinea village for approximately two months out of every four, she goes without mains power and water, a fridge, air-conditioning and a flushing toilet. The weather is ‘hot or hotter, sweaty or sweatier’ and mosquitoes are a constant pest.
And yet Hanna, who recently came home to Australia for four months of biennial furlough, says the country of her birth is a much tougher mission field than PNG.
‘In PNG people want to talk about spirituality, they want to know about God, they want the Bible’, says Hanna, who has been working in the Pacific nation since April 2012. ‘I think it’s a much harder mission field and life in Australia as you’ve got all the comforts. It’s easy to forget that we actually are reliant on God, because there’s so much around us that we can lean on instead.
‘I’m the only expat in my village. The only person I can have an honest conversation with in English is God and that’s pretty good for your prayer life.’
For her first three years in PNG, Hanna worked with a dozen different languages, helping on different projects. In the past year she has settled into working on one language with one tribe – the Kope people in the Gulf Province village of Ubuo’o. There are 3500 Kope across seven villages in a nation of 7.5 million people.
PNG has four official national languages, but more than 840 tongues in total – more than 10 per cent of the languages in the world. More than 200 language groups do not have a Bible in a translation they can understand, so the need for translators and support staff is great.
Hanna, who has qualifications in social sciences, theology and linguistics, is backed by the LCA’s Lutheran Bible Translators Australia (LBTA) under LCA International Mission and Wycliffe Australia. Her work relies on donations from congregations, individuals and groups, including women’s guilds, back in Australia.
In PNG part of her time involves learning the language and culture, building relationships and working on a draft translation of the Gospel of Luke with a group of very enthusiastic locals in Ubuo’o. Alternate two-month blocks are spent working at the Ukarumpa base of the non-denominational SIL International in Eastern Highlands Province, with other translators and support staff.
Born in Ballarat in country Victoria, the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, Hanna grew up in Perth, finished high school in Naracoorte in South Australia, and studied at the University of Adelaide and Australian Lutheran College.
She wants to encourage people in whatever mission they are called to. ‘Don’t put me on a pedestal. Yes, I’m doing God’s work where I am using the gifts I’ve been given, but so are people here (in Australia)’, she says. ‘It’s not a lesser mission or a greater mission; it’s God’s mission and we participate in that wherever we are with the skills we’re given.’
To support her or others involved in Bible translation work, or to find out how to become involved, contact:
Lutheran Bible Translators Australia
a: 197 Archer Street North Adelaide SA 5006
e: email@example.com | p: 08 8267 7300
To learn more about Hanna, visit her blog at blessingsandbubbles.blogspot.com.au
This feature story comes from The Lutheran September 2016. Visit the website to find out more about The Lutheran or to subscribe.