Archive for September 2006
Bougainville is a large island with towering peaks that approach 9000 feet in elevation. Geologically, it is part of the Solomon Islands, but due to the vagaries of colonial politics in centuries past, Bougainville and several surrounding islands are a part of Papua New Guinea today. The region is home to an amazing diversity of peoples.
“Ah, Bah, Dah, ….” School children shouted out the Saposa alphabet as their teacher pointed to letters over the chalkboard. Then, after reading a few simple words aloud together, it was time for a writing exercise. Most Saposa people live on a group of small islands just off Bougainville’s northwestern coast.
Far to the east of Bougainville lies the Mortlock (Takuu) Atoll. Only a few bits of the ring-like reef protrude above the sea, but Polynesian sailors found this place long ago and made it into a home. Polynesian peoples live today on several atolls in the northern Solomons; three of these (Fead, Mortlock, and Tasman) are politically part of PNG.
Edmund and Kennedy are from the Tasman Atoll. With the assistance of their adviser, Sue, they have completed a draft of the New Testament using a computer program called Adapt-It and an already-completed translation in a related language. Sue also works with the Takuu people, who are also nearing completion of a first draft.
Nissan Island is another atoll. Unlike Mortlock, it is uplifted considerably out of the sea, forming an irregular, nearly complete ring of land. Around the outside of the island, jagged coral cliffs overlook the sea, which is tranquil here but sometimes slams these rocks with enough force to send plumes of water high above the cliffs and even the trees atop them.
The people of Nissan and nearby Pinipel speak a language called Nehan. They are not Polynesians; they are related to the people of Buka Island to the south. Rough coral rocks are abundant on Nissan, and islanders use them for the walls that protect precious food gardens from free-roaming pigs.
Chris is one of several Nehan speakers working to translate the New Testament. He uses a device called an Alphasmart to input information.
These men and women met to check a draft of Colossians for accuracy and clarity. This is one step in a whole series of checks and revisions designed to ensure a high-quality translation.
Elizabeth (right) is from the far southern tip of Bougainville itself. She and Margie are working on the translation for her Buin people. Because the women cannot live in the Buin region right now, they find that their work is proceeding slowly. Please pray that God will open doors for Margie and Elizabeth so that the Buin people will receive the Scriptures soon.
PNG’s Morehead District is dry for many months of the year, and it is very flat. Tall red anthills reach out of the grasses toward the sky, sometimes growing taller than a man. The flat terrain is well-suited to bicycle travel, and that’s how many people get around.
Coconuts and big, old mango trees give the villages a park-like feel. Cockatoos and birds-of-paradise feed in fruiting trees, and carefully planted rows of flowers and shrubs keep the pathways bright. Houses are made from huge slabs of bark.
Morehead people are quick to laugh and like to tell each other stories. Their languages are related to one another but do differ, sometimes even between one village the next. This man speaks Nama, and regular readers may remember that I’ve posted about Nama before.
Having wrapped up grated coconut and sliced yams in a coconut frond, women place the dinner onto embers and heated stones. It will be covered with leaves and bark slabs to hold in the heat during cooking.
The people are proud of their dancing clothes. They put on their feathers, grass skirts, and other decorations to celebrate feasts and holidays, and to impress their guests.
I came upon this family just sitting outside together as evening fell. The mother was scraping yams to eat, and her son was blowing on a bamboo flute. Men and boys play the flutes only during yam harvest, but I noticed that some of the boys seemed more interested in using their instruments for blow guns than for music.
Yams, cassava, and other garden foods are the foundation of people’s diet, but they also catch fish in the rivers and hunt for feral pigs, cassowaries, wallabies, and deer that have been introduced from Indonesia. Here, a man carves a bamboo bow for hunting.
Of the 10 or more languages in Morehead District, only one has an active Bible translation project. How long will all the others have to wait for the Scriptures? I didn’t have an answer to give the people; I could only tell them to pray.