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Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada • Spring 2011

Wycliffe Canada is
“A” Grade Charity

Blossoming with
How Bible translation for Nkonya Scriptures
PNG’s Mandara people is
rocking their world. Penetrating
Every Last Cell
Spring 2011 • Volume 29 • Number 1
Word Alive, which takes its name from Hebrews 4:12a, is the official
publication of Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada. Its mission is to inform,
inspire and involve the Christian public as partners in the worldwide Bible
translation movement. Immeasurably More
Editor: Dwayne Janke Dwayne Janke
Designer: Laird Salkeld

Senior Staff Writer: Doug Lockhart
Staff Writer: Janet Seever
t’s fascinating the way God plants a vision in people’s
Staff Photographers: Alan Hood, Natasha Schmale
hearts and moves heaven and earth to fulfil His pur-
Word Alive is published four times annually by Wycliffe Bible Translators of
Canada, 4316 10 St NE, Calgary, AB T2E 6K3. Copyright 2011 by Wycliffe
Bible Translators of Canada. Permission to reprint articles and other Steven Hong’s family moved from South Korea to
magazine contents may be obtained by written request to the editor. A Los Angeles in 1973. Steven was 19 years old and still not a
donation of $12 annually is suggested to cover the cost of printing and Christian. Before long, he was working full time, pumping gas
mailing the magazine. (Donate online or use the reply form in this issue.)
Printed in Canada by McCallum Printing Group, Edmonton.
at a local filling station. After graduating from college, Steven
worked as a computer engineer for Hughes Aircraft company
Member: The Canadian Church Press, Evangelical Press Association.
for six years.
For additional copies:
Back then, could Steven imagine that God would bring him
To contact the editor:
to Papua New Guinea (PNG) to serve the Mandara people?
For address updates:
Or that he would one day be honoured as a chief of this iso-
Note to readers: References to “SIL” are occasionally made in
lated language group?
Word Alive. SIL is a key partner organization, dedicated to training, lan-
guage development and research, translation and literacy. Probably not, because our God is the one who is able to do
immeasurably more than we can imagine (Eph. 3:20).
Back in Steven’s homeland, God had drawn another
Korean, Holly Park, to Himself through a college Bible study.
The daughter of a pastor, Holly also committed to become a
missionary. However, she moved to the U.S. in 1976, to work
Wycliffe Canada Vision Statement: A world where translated as a computer programmer.
Scriptures lead to transformed lives among people of all languages.
But God had something very different in mind. In 1980,
Translating Scripture, Transforming Lives Holly had a chance to visit the Wycliffe Bible Translators
Together with partners worldwide, we serve indigenous people through
office in Huntington Beach,
language-related ministries, especially Bible translation and literacy. Our
California. As Holly heard about
goal is to empower local communities to express God’s love in both Word
and deed—for personal, social and spiritual transformation. Wycliffe
So often God smashes through the Bibleless people, she recalled
personnel currently serve globally in more than 1,500 language projects
for about 2.6 billion people. However, about 2,100 minority language
our low-ceiling expectations how her grandmother became
a Christian through the Bible
groups still wait for the power of God working through their own lan-
guages. Wycliffe invites you to participate in this effort through prayer, with His sky-high results. written in Korean, her heart
service and funding. language. She also remembered
Canadian Head Office: 4316 10 St NE, Calgary, AB T2E 6K3. Phone: her grandmother’s prayer that someone in her family would
(403) 250-5411 or toll free 1-800-463-1143, 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. become a missionary.
mountain time. Fax: (403) 250-2623. Email: French Holly shared the news about Wycliffe with her fiancé,
speakers: Call toll free 1-877-747-2622 or email
Steven Hong (now a believer). He also began sensing God’s
Cover: Mandara children perform lively acrobatic stunts, during an calling to serve with Wycliffe. Their new journey began.
evening bath near their village on Simberi Island, Papua New Guinea.
Photograph by Alan Hood.
God knew the Mandara had no written language, and no
translation of Scripture they could clearly understand. Out
of His love for them, and His intimate knowledge of Steven
and Holly, God called the unlikely missionary couple—who
never even intended to translate Scripture when they moved
to PNG—to change careers and move to an island with their
four young children.
Because they did, the Mandara Church now has God’s
Word in its heart language. And, as you can read in this issue’s
In Others’ Words feature articles, He is changing lives in some remarkable ways.
Immeasurably more—that is what our powerful God is all
“Within that awful volume [the Bible]
about. So often He smashes through our low-ceiling expecta-
lies the mystery of mysteries. . . . And
tions with His sky-high results. Should we really expect any-
better had they ne’er been born, who thing less? After all, our God is the creator of the universe.
read to doubt or read to scorn.”
—Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), Scottish
historical novelist/poet, in “The Monastery.”

Articles by Doug Lockhart • Photographs by Alan Hood

6 New Life in New Ireland

Led by a Korean-American couple, a team of Mandara believers

in Papua New Guinea spearheads a life-changing Bible transla-
tion project.

18 Unsheathing the Sword

Christianity’s impact on the Mandara deepened when they
started reading—and understanding—Scripture in their own

26 Fired Up
An angry young Mandara man’s conversion to Christ has helped
spark prayer, outreach and Bible study.

32 Blossoming with Nkonya Scriptures

The Nkonya New Testament is one of 27 New Testaments and
Bibles bringing God’s Word to 33 million people this past year.

2 Foreword Immeasurably More
By Dwayne Janke

18 4 Watchword Wycliffe Canada is “A” Grade Charity

34 Beyond Words Walk the Talk

35 Last Word Penetrating Every Last Cell
By Don Hekman

26 Word Alive • Spring 2011 • 3


Wycliffe Canada is “A” Grade Charity Increased Translation

W ycliffe Bible Translators of Canada has earned an “A” in the first grading Closes in on Vision 2025

system of the nation’s largest 100 charities by MoneySense, a Canadian
anguages with a probable Bible translation
magazine for managing personal finances.
need and no work yet started total 2,078
Wycliffe Canada President Don Hekman is pleased with the rating.
worldwide, according to new figures from
“But, frankly, I’m not surprised,” he explains. “Wycliffe Bible Translators of
Wycliffe International.
Canada has been led for years by leaders who are very conscious of good
That is down by more than 900 from 1999, the
stewardship and responsibility, both to the causes we support, and to the donors.”
year Wycliffe adopted Vision 2025: a goal to see
MoneySense’s Summer 2010 issue gave the grade based on research of four
Bible translation started for every language that
key financial indicators among charities. They include overall charitable and
needs it by the year 2025.
fundraising efficiency, governance practices, and transparency in making
Since 2000, translation projects by all organiza-
audited financial statements public.
tions have begun in 838 languages, 82 per cent
The magazine’s findings, helping potential donors have more information to
of them by Wycliffe. Projects started per year by
personally judge charities, can be reviewed online at <>.
Wycliffe have increased nearly five times compared
to the previous decade, to 61 from 13 annually.
Centre Opens for Sign Language Bible Translators The increased pace of work has moved Vision
2025 much closer to fulfilment. At the current

A new Bible translation and

training centre near Nairobi,
Kenya, operated by Deaf Opportunity
site has four video studios plus 10 edit-
ing and back-translation stations.”
DOOR will be able to facilitate up
start-up rate, Bible translation will be underway in
every language that needs it by the year 2037. That
is more than 110 years sooner than the projection
OutReach (DOOR) International, is to 10 Deaf translation teams from was in 1999.
preparing translators to bring God’s different countries at the same time, About 341 million people speak the 2,078
Word to the Deaf. he adds. “We are praying that other languages where translation is needed but has not
Translation teams of Deaf people regions of the world—Asia, Europe, yet started.
from six African nations, as well as Americas —will send Deaf translation More complete general statistics on the Bible
India, are now living and working at teams to Kenya to get their training.” translation task among the world’s 6,860 languages
the centre, says Mike Buus, DOOR Wycliffe Associates (WA) provided are available at <>.
International director. They were in project management and site supervi-
awe at first seeing the new facilities. sion for the $3 million, multi-building
“From a prayer dream to a vision of campus, says Buus. “We could never Nepal Language Survey Begins

the future, God has provided a place have built this campus without the IL, Wycliffe’s key partner organization, is provid-
designed and built specifically for sign assistance of WA.” ing training for language surveyors at Nepal’s
language Bible translation work,” says Staff with SIL, Wycliffe’s key partner Tribhuvan University’s central department of lin-
Buus. “The new organization, are helping to train guistics in Kathmandu. It is one of the collaborative
DOOR’s six consultants-in-training to projects started under an agreement between SIL and
do exegetical reviews and oversee com- the department.
munity testing of sign language Bible Survey results will provide useful information for
translations, which are presented on language and translation work as well as educational
video. Virtually initiatives in the country.
all of the esti- Information gathered will also help the nation’s
mated 400 sign Constituent Assembly representatives draft a consti-
languages used tution for Nepal.
by the Deaf Nepal has 124 languages within its borders.
worldwide will
need translations
Nepal China
(see Word Alive,
Summer 2009).

Courtesy of Door International

4 Word Alive • Spring 2011 •

Wycliffe Togo Celebrates 10th Anniversary
W ycliffe Togo marked its 10th anniversary this
past August with a special program called The
Togolese Mother Tongue Language Fair. Participants
Mali Niger
“Our long-term goal,” says director Dr. Napo
Poidi, “is that by 2012, we would like to see the
church in Togo becoming a missionary church,
included the United Bible Societies, universities, librar- effectively engaged in supporting the work of
ies and the national TV network in the African nation. Togo AFRICA Bible translation and sending people outside to
Wycliffe Togo has 16 Togolese staff members who Ivory do translation in neighbouring countries where
Coast Ghana
serve either directly in Bible translation or in support the need is great, like Nigeria and Cameroon.”
of the work, but there is great potential for growth.

Dave Crough
No Pencil Crayons Required Wycliffe India Brings

C anadian Wycliffe translator Keith

Forster laboriously used pencil
crayons to manually colour-code each
Holistic Transformation
P ersonnel with Wycliffe India are
becoming trailblazers in bringing
character’s dialogue in the entire San holistic transformation among groups
Blas Kuna New Testament, after he while working in Bible translation
helped translate it for the speakers in and other language-related ministries.
Panama. Forster then spent countless They are equipping individuals and
hours creating a script to produce a pop- communities to identify their poten-
ular dramatized audio recording. tial and resources, and use them
For years afterward, however, Forster optimally for their own betterment—
pondered how scripts could be done elec- to improve the lives of the whole
tronically, but lacked the computer know- community. A good example is using
how to create a solution himself. Jim Albright, a “participatory method approach”
a computer programmer with JAARS, Wycliffe’s to help one village among the 66,000
technical partner, provided the answer. Korwa people of northeast India
Albright has spent years working on a computer program decide that they needed a tube water
called Dramatizer. The free software automatically marks virtu- well. Wycliffe India is currently trans-
ally all spoken passages in any New Testament translation that lating the Bible into 16 languages,
are in digital form with a consistently marked quote system. and assisting translation into 45 other
Users can then print scripts for each voice, as well as audio languages by training and doing
recording technicians. consultant-checking with partner
Today, Bible translators and vernacular media specialists, organizations.
mostly in Africa, are using Dramatizer to help bring God’s Word About 150 language groups, representing 65 million people,
to life on cassettes and digital audio players. still need Bible translation to begin in the nation.

Going Hungry for God’s Word Word Count

T anzania’s Simbiti people recently demonstrated their deep desire for
Scripture to Pastor Albinus Waynse, who is translating God’s Word for them.
The pastor read a translated passage from Luke to a gathering of the people.
2014 Number of the world’s languages with
between 1,000 and 1,999 speakers.

“As soon as we broke for morning tea,” said Pastor Waynse, “they immediately
wanted to get their own copy.” 1824 Languages with between 10,000 and
99,999 speakers.
In doing so, the Simbiti speakers had a choice to make. The Scripture portions
sell for 400 shillings each, the same cost as the morning chai tea, the first meal of
the day usually accompanied by a snack. 304 Languages with between 1 million
and 9.99 million speakers.
“Everyone chose to buy the Scriptures and go hungry that morning rather than
buy food,” reports the pastor. “That’s how strong their hunger for God’s Word is.”
There are more than 100,000 speakers of Simbiti, one of the languages served
8 Languages with between 100 million
and 999.99 million speakers.
by the Mara cluster project (see Word Alive, Spring 2009). Source: Ethnologue (16th edition)

Word Alive • Spring 2011 • 5

New Life in Led by a Korean-American
couple, a team of Mandara
believers in Papua New Guinea spearheads Articles by Doug Lockhart Photographs by Alan Hood
a life-changing Bible translation project.

6 Word Alive • Spring 2011 •

Holly Hong (right) receives a gift
of food wrapped in banana leaves
from her friend, Pati Moses. Moses
and other women living on Simberi
Island contribute to the work of
Bible translation for their people,
the Mandara of Papua New Guinea,
by cooking and serving food to
Holly, her husband Steven and their

ast May, the Mandara people of Papua New Guinea A Detour Ordained by God
(PNG) threw the largest party they can remember. More Steven didn’t feel like a Mandara chief when the Hongs made
than 1,000 residents and guests from around the world their first exploratory journeys to the isolated Tabar Islands in
attended the colourful event, to dedicate the recently 1991. Steven, Holly and their four children frequently travelled
published Mandara New Testament. there by boat, for anywhere from three to five hours depending
During the celebration on Simberi Island, representatives on weather conditions.
from SIL, Wycliffe’s key partner organization, presented certifi- “For me, protecting my family was very important,” says Steven.
cates of appreciation to 15 members of the Mandara team for “But often we didn’t feel safe while travelling on the water.”
their roles in translating Scripture and promoting literacy. The risks they took back then could have tempted them to
The Mandara people also expressed special thanks to second-guess their decision to do Bible translation. After all,
Wycliffe’a Steven and Holly Hong, a Korean-American couple Steven and Holly—the first Koreans to join Wycliffe U.S.—both
from Los Angeles who led the Bible translation and literacy had backgrounds in computer technology. They planned to pro-
project. In fact, the Mandara took the unprecedented step of vide computer support to other translation teams when they first
appointing Steven as one of their chiefs, with real authority to arrived in PNG in 1988.
help govern the Mandara community.
Word Alive • Spring 2011 • 7
“T he kids But within a few years of their arrival, the Hongs began to
question the work they were doing when they learned that in
some parts of PNG, Scripture translations were not being used.
In many cases, the lengthy process of translation had left no
who came time for literacy work—and thus few readers for the completed
“That really burdened my heart,” Steven says.
to the tokples
Deeper Truths
Over time, God confirmed the Hongs’ change of direction and
(mother tongue) led them to serve the Mandara. In the Tabar Islands—home
to about 4,000 Mandara-speaking islanders who live primarily
on Simberi, Tatau and Big Tabar islands in PNG’s New Ireland
prep school Province—they began their work with support from the United
Church. This PNG denomination was formed in 1968 through
the merger of churches established as far back as the early 1900s
by the London Missionary Society, the United Church of Port
began to read Moresby and Fijian Methodists. Using Kuanua (KWON-wah),
one of the main languages spoken in a neighbouring province,
the Methodists had translated a number of hymns to use in
after six evangelism and church planting. They brought the gospel to the
island chain in 1916, at a time when some of the Mandara still
practised cannibalism.
months.” After living on a few islands to build relationships with
people, the Hongs and their four young children—Tina, Paulina,
Anna and Timothy—settled in Simberi village in 1994. Initially,
many of the islanders seemed eager to receive God’s Word in
their mother tongue, even though they had Bibles in English
and Tok Pisin, a trade language widely spoken in PNG. Mandara
believers now say those translations did not adequately convey
the deeper truths found in God’s Word (see “Unsheathing the
Sword,” p. 18).

PNG/New Ireland Province At a Glance

Population of PNG: 5.94 million (July 2010 est.) Religions: Christian (Protestant & Catholic) 97%; Remaining Bible translation need: 326 languages
Ethnic groups: 99% Melanesian, 1% Papuan, Negrito, Buddhism 0.7%; Bahai 0.7%, Traditional ethnic 1.8%. Literacy rate: 57% of adult population (15 years and older)
Micronesian, and Polynesian; Numerous tribal groups, Peoples/Languages: About 1,000 people groups in PNG. New Ireland Province: The people of New Ireland are
over half of which are less than 1,000 in population. Ethnically and linguistically, the world’s most complex nation. Melanesian and speak 25 local languages. Capital is Kavieng.
841 languages (highest of any country in the world); of those, Tabar Islands are approx. 130 km east of Kavieng. Gold mine
830 are living languages and 11 have no known speakers. on Simberi Island began operations in 2008. The open-pit
Language development & Bible translation: SIL, in mine operated by Allied Gold has since produced more than
Mongoliawith the PNG Department of Education since 150,000 ounces of gold.
1956, has conducted research in more than 389 languages, Sources: The World Factbook; Operation World (21st Century Edition); SIL’s PNG Branch;
<>; <>.
and at the present time about 316 Japan
SIL members are actively
working on projects in 190 different languages.
India Philippines Kavieng Tabar
Pacific Ocean w
Papua New

Alan Hood

Napakur Elementary School, one of
four schools on Simberi Island offering
mother tongue education, grew out of
early literacy work done by the Mandara
translation team. By the time they begin
Grade 3, these students will transition to
learning in English.
“So Bright!”
After working with the villagers to develop an alphabet, Steven As for adult literacy, Steven says Mandara women generally
began translating Mark’s Gospel with help from Joseph Tulok, have shown more interest in literacy than the men.
a Mandara man who spoke some English, and a few others. In “Most of the men can read pidgin or English, so they’re kind of
1998, they published Mark’s Gospel in Mandara. The couple literate,” says Steven. “But they need to transfer their literacy skills
immediately began using the translated portions of Mark to start into tokples. As far as tokples, vernacular literacy, it’s very low.
a literacy program. “Women are getting better at reading. They participate in
Holly worked closely with four Mandara women, teaching many training programs and Bible studies, so they are gaining
them to read and training them as literacy teachers. The women literacy skills very well. But most of the men only gain some
went on to establish a one-year mother tongue education pro- reading skills in pidgin and English. They’re kind of hesitant to
gram for preschoolers. transfer their literacy skills to the vernacular.”
“The kids who came to the tokples (mother tongue) prep
school began to read after six months,” says Holly. “When they Turning Point
went to grade one, the teacher said, ‘These kids know how to Rupen Masasa is one Mandara man who values literacy. A former
read and write! They’re so bright!’ ” pastor, he was among the first to work with Steven as a co-trans-
News about the successful program spread quickly and dozens lator. He was also actively involved in literacy efforts among his
of people from the language group came for teacher training. people, using the translated Scriptures and Bible study materials.
Today, Simberi Island has four vernacular education schools that Masasa says the Mandara are blessed to have literature in their
operate under the government’s education department. Mandara heart language, especially the Word of God.
is the language of instruction until third grade, when the chil- “Even when we were doing our first drafts, the meaning
dren transition to English.

“Women are

getting better

at reading. They

participate in

many training

programs and

Bible studies, so

they are gaining

literacy skills

very well.”
(Left) In a “studio” beneath the Hongs’
kitchen, Wesley Kasaon and Steven
Hong record portions of the Mandara
New Testament. Readers and non-read-
ers alike will be able to listen to the
recordings using portable digital play-
ers. It’s hoped the recordings will also
find an audience on a Christian radio
station planned for the region. (Below)
Eyes riveted on a makeshift screen,
Steven Hong (far left) and villagers at
a church service on Tatau Island watch
video from the May 2010 dedication of
the Mandara New Testament.

Word Alive • Spring 2011 • 11

became very clear. These Bible studies and other materials that
have been translated into tokples have been really impacting “T hese Bible studies
people’s lives,” says Masasa. “They help us to know God more
clearly—who God is—and we’re coming closer to the Lord.”
In recent years, the Hongs have been encouraged by the and other materials
Mandara’s growing interest in the translated Scriptures. A wom-
en’s Bible study Holly launched in 2002 marked a turning point
in the Mandara Church; as the women’s understanding of Christ
deepened, so did their faith in Him. To this day, God’s Spirit
that have been
continues to draw Mandara people of all ages into a deeper walk
with Christ (see “Fired Up,” p. 26).
Tabar islanders have purchased more than 1,200 copies of translated into
the Mandara New Testament since the dedication event. Last
June, the translation team hosted a S.A.L.T. course (Scripture
Application and Leadership Training) for nearly 40 Mandara tokples have been
pastors and church leaders. The course is designed to equip
church leaders to effectively use the translated Scriptures and to
inspire a deep respect and understanding of God’s Word in the
vernacular (see Word Alive, Spring 2008).
really impacting
“Those lessons are helping us to grasp the overall meaning
of the Bible,” says David Sombara, chairman of the translation
committee. people’s lives.”
The “good seed” is being sown in many ways, whether
through Scripture memorization challenges for Mandara youth,
Sunday school classes or a new wave of hymns and choruses
being sung in church.
Roland Misibo, a member of the Mandara translation com-

12 Word Alive • Spring 2011 •

A Jar of Encouragement
By the end of 1997, the Mandara team had fin-
ished translating the Gospel of Mark. Before the
Hongs returned to the U.S. for a one-year home
assignment, they printed numerous copies of
Mark as well as a hymnbook.
Initially, Mandara believers seemed excited to
receive the first translated Scriptures. But when
the Hongs returned to Simberi Island early in
1999, they were disheartened to discover that
few people were using the translated Scripture
“We wondered if there was any point in continu-
ing with New Testament translation,” says Holly.
“If they weren’t going to read one small book,
would they read the New Testament?”
One evening, one of their Mandara co-workers,
Tapanir, came to see the Hongs with a deeply
meaningful gift for the couple. A year earlier,
Tapanir had broken four ribs when the boat he
was travelling in capsized, smashing into the reef.
His companions ran to Steven and Holly for help.
“He was coughing up blood and one of his lungs
had collapsed,” recalls Holly. “They thought he
was dying.”
The Hongs helped get him to a local health centre,
and later, to a hospital in the provincial capital. A
nominal Christian at the time, Tapanir was deeply
moved by the help he received from Steven and
Holly, and by the knowledge that Wycliffe staff
elsewhere in PNG had prayed for him.
When Tapanir came to visit the Hongs that night,
his gift was a jar filled with coins and a few bills.
He had saved his tithe money for a year, he told
them, to help support the translation project.
“He’d been saving it because he felt the transla-
tion work was really worth it,” Holly says.
Encouraged by Tapanir’s sacrifice, the Hongs kept
going. They asked their supporting churches and
friends back home to pray earnestly that the
Mandara believers would begin using the trans-
lated Scriptures.
They also invited Tapanir to become involved in
the literacy work that was just getting underway.
As part of his training, Tapanir attended a Bible
study led by Holly. That’s when God spoke to him
from Isaiah 55:6, “Seek the Lord while he may be
found; call on him while he is near.”
Convicted by the Word, Tapanir recommitted his
(Top) On a sweltering Saturday night in Simberi vil- life to Christ.
lage, Holly joins a group of Mandara youngsters who
have gathered in the local church to worship and “If I had died in that accident,” he said, “I would
pray together. (Above). Competing hands of other never have heard the Good News.”
youngsters shoot up as one girl falters while reciting a
Scripture verse during their weekly Bible quiz. But God did spare Tapanir’s life that day—and
later used his sacrificial gift to encourage the
Hongs. As a result, thousands more Mandara
people now have access to the Good News, in the
language of their heart.
“T hose lessons mittee, translates Scripture choruses and hymns into Mandara,
compiles songs translated by others and composes new ones.
“The hymnbook has been the most popular item of all the
are helping written materials we have published,” says Holly.
Other team members are recording the new hymns and cho-
ruses as well as Scripture readings so that non-readers, such as
the elderly, can listen to God’s Word on portable digital players.
us to grasp The players’ portability allows anyone to listen to the recordings
while walking from village to village or working in their gardens.
The Hongs are hopeful the songs and Scripture recordings may
the overall soon be broadcast by radio. Talks are underway with a broad-
caster who wants to start a Christian radio station in the region.

meaning of Light and Joy

For nearly a century, Mandara believers struggled to understand
God’s Word as it was only available in English or Tok Pisin, or
the Bible.” the Kuanua “church language” used in their sermons and hymn-
books. Now that they have the New Testament in their mother
tongue, the Scriptures are, in one co-translator’s words, “bring-
ing light, joy and clear understanding.”
Like believers everywhere, Mandara church members some-
times find the light of God’s Word uncomfortable, as it exposes
unbiblical habits and practices once hidden in darkness or
considered culturally acceptable. Centuries-old traditions and
beliefs are not easily abandoned.
However, there’s no doubt things are changing in the Tabar
As morning dawns on Simberi vil- Islands. The Spirit of God is at work, softening hearts, breaking
lage, Steven works on his laptop strongholds and leading the Mandara people into growing free-
computer. Simberi’s isolation made
dom in Christ.
it difficult for the Hongs to com-
municate with their families and He is using the Word of Life, written in their own language—
supporters until 2006, when they and nothing will ever be the same.
were finally able to connect to the
Internet via radio.
Piloted by their friend and co-trans-
lator Steven Posai, Holly and Steven
depart from Simberi Island to visit
the church on nearby Tatau Island.
The Hongs and their children have
endured countless long—some-
times harrowing—journeys by boat
over the past two decades, trusting
God to protect them as they obeyed
His calling on their lives.
“T he hymnbook has been

(Opposite) In the church close to

their home, Holly commits her day
the most popular item of
to the Lord. Since the translation
project began in 1994, she and
Steven have endured numerous
trials and setbacks that, at times,
all the written materials
tempted them to quit. Prayer—
including the prayers of folks back
home—helped them persevere.
we have published.”

Word Alive • Spring 2011 • 15

The Scriptures

are, in one




light, joy

and clear


A Mandara man sounds the call to

worship on a Sunday morning in
Simberi village, using a large seashell,
or conch, as a wind instrument.

16 Word Alive • Spring 2011 •

Sitting near a stack of yet-to-be-sold
Mandara New Testaments, a Mandara
man reads Scripture in his language
during a Father’s Day service held
this past September. The translation
team works to promote the use of
the translated Scriptures, through
Sunday school materials, songs,
recordings and other strategies.

Word Alive • Spring 2011 • 17

H olly Hong was exhausted
and deeply discouraged.
Christianity’s impact on the Mandara deepened
In 2001, she had returned
to California to help her old-
est daughter, Tina, get settled.
All went well until Holly’s
scheduled return to Papua
New Guinea to resume work
with husband Steven among
the Mandara people—on
September 14. Because of the
terrorist attacks on the U.S.
three days earlier, her flight out
of Los Angeles was postponed.
The chaos caused by 911 still
affected airline schedules
because the airport had been
closed for three days. Holly’s
flight was delayed 12 hours
before she finally boarded the
“I was filled with grief and
sadness, leaving my daughter
in this insecure place,” she
says. “And at the time, the
Gospel of Mark we helped
translate wasn’t being used.
We didn’t see much excitement
among the people using it.
“I was very tired, and I felt
there wasn’t much hope.”
On the plane, Holly found
herself sitting next to an older
Australian man who, it turned
out, was a Christian. When he
learned that Holly was work-
ing in Bible translation in
PNG, he prayed for her and
encouraged her to persevere.
Holly doesn’t remember
many details of the Australian
man’s prayers, but she felt
strongly that God had
arranged for them to meet.
Later, while resting in a hotel
room between flights, she
asked God’s forgiveness for her
own failure to pray and her
lack of faith.

It wasn’t the first time God
gave Holly and her husband
Steven the encouragement
they needed to keep going as
leaders of the Mandara New
Testament translation team.
when they started reading—and understanding—Scripture in their own language.

On Tatau Island, Mandara church

leaders Philip Massor (far left) and
Kendou Lambo pray for Ovien
Mandaka, a young woman with
AIDS who recently lost her husband
and baby to AIDS-related illnesses.
As Mandara believers grow in their
understanding of the gospel through
Scripture in their mother tongue,
they are reaching out with compas-
sion to people in their communities.
According to recent UN statistics, 34,000 Papua New Guineans are living
with HIV. In the Tabar Islands, the Bible translation team has equipped the
Mandara people with literacy skills and translated educational materials to
help win the battle against AIDS. At a HIV/AIDS workshop held in Simberi
village this past September, women trained by Holly Hong lead their
Mandara neighbours in a skit depicting how HIV enters the human body
20 Word Alive • Spring 2011 • and weakens its defences against diseases like tuberculosis and malaria.
Shortly after the Hongs settled on Simberi Island in 1994 with
their four children, they began to question whether the Mandara
people really needed them. After all, the Simberi churches
seemed alive. Robust singing, praise and fervent prayer filled
their worship services.
“I started wondering, ‘What are we doing here?” Steven
recalls. “They’re already on fire for the Lord—do they need us
here?’ ”
However, God soon confirmed His calling on their lives when
Susana, the daughter of a United Church minister, grew seri-
ously ill. Her father chose to take her to a witch doctor, believing
that someone had used sorcery to make her sick.
The minister’s actions confused many in the congregation and
when conflicts erupted, the lively church services suddenly ended.
“It just confirmed to me,” says Steven, “that they didn’t have
that foundation, the Word of God, even though they were using
the Tok Pisin (pidgin) Bible . . . and maybe they didn’t under-
stand fully what the gospel is all about.
“So that actually helped us decide to stay.”

Co-translator Vivnerou “Susana” Eron prepares a mixture of ground taro
For decades, Mandara pastors and preachers had only had root and coconut, which is wrapped in banana leaves before being cooked
access to English or Tok Pisin translations of the Bible. The lack over a bed of red-hot coals. Vivnerou, who helped translate Bible study
of Scripture in their mother tongue hindered them from under- materials for women, found personal strength in God’s Word to overcome
standing the deeper truths of God’s Word. Even their church her fear of sorcery.
services had been conducted in an unfamiliar “church language,”
taught to their forefathers by the Methodist missionaries who
first came to Simberi.

“It just confirmed to me that they didn’t have

that foundation, the Word of God.”
Motivated to provide mother tongue Scriptures, the Hongs noticed some remarkable changes in Mandara women who had
and their co-translators finished translating Mark’s Gospel in been attending the study—including Susana.
1998. Initially, Mandara believers seemed excited to finally have “As I studied God’s Word, I came to realize who God is,” says
a portion of the New Testament in their own language. Susana. “I realized the kind of God we’re serving, and how pow-
But many in the church continued to struggle in their faith. erful He is, through the stories of Jesus.
The fear of sorcery plagued many of the believers, including “That really helped me to get over my fear.”
Susana, who had been working closely with the Hongs in lit- Another Mandara woman, Vambo (WAM-bo), believed in
eracy. Susana believed that whenever she grew ill, an evil curse Christ, but practised traditional healing methods (lingis) that
was behind it. included calling on her dead ancestors. After the Bible study, she
“Whenever I got sick, I would go to see the witch doctors and asked God to forgive her.
try to get help,” Susana says. “Even though I went to church and However, some time later her granddaughter became very ill,
even preached, I don’t think I knew who God was.” and no one was around to help Vambo transport her to a clinic.
Knowing that mother tongue Scripture was needed to help Once again, she turned to lingis in a desperate attempt to heal
the Mandara grow in their understanding of God and overcome her granddaughter.
their fear of the spirit world, the Hongs and their co-translators The girl’s fever only grew stronger.
pressed on to translate Matthew, Luke and John. “At that time,” Vambo recalls, “I realized I had done wrong. I
kneeled down and prayed, and said ‘Lord, I’m sorry for what I
SPIRITUAL AWAKENING did—please heal my granddaughter.’
When January 2002 rolled around, Holly felt the Lord prompt- “After I prayed, the fever went down dramatically. I knew it
ing her to translate some Bible study materials for the Gospel of was the power of God, that I had been learning about from the
Mark. When she finished, she began using the materials to teach Gospel of Mark.”
women in Simberi village.
In the weeks and months that followed, Holly and Steven

Word Alive • Spring 2011 • 21

Holly chats with employees of
Allied Gold, Simberi Island’s largest
employer. Because the Hongs enjoy
good relations with mine officials,
they’re sometimes able to hitch a ride
on trucks or vans that transport mine
workers. Otherwise, they must walk
or cycle to get around the island.

Before long, women from a neighbouring village noticed a
change in Vambo and many other women, as they had forsaken
their old ways and begun praying to God for healing. Intrigued,
the neighbour women told Holly they wanted to start a Bible
study in their village.

“Even though I went to church and even preached,

I don’t think I knew who God was.”
Because Holly had trained Susana, she asked her to lead the Bible
study. On the first day of the study, Susana walked for an hour to
reach the village and found a group of women waiting for her.
Susana later told Holly that the pastor’s wife had to answer a
question about John the Baptist’s attitude towards Jesus. Choked
with emotion, the woman noted that John felt unworthy even to
untie Jesus’ sandals.
“She cried,” says Holly, “and she said, ‘I have been a church leader
and the wife of a pastor . . . but I have never humbled myself before
Jesus like that.’
“And she wasn’t the only one. Everyone else felt the same, so they
repented the first day.”
Conviction of sin continues to accompany the Mandara’s
response to the translated Scriptures. During Passion Week in 2009
before Easter, Mandara believers invited an evangelist and his team
to lead them in revival meetings. It was a time of deep repentance;
many relationships were restored in families and communities, as
people humbled themselves and asked forgiveness of one another.
“And on the last day,” Holly says, “they did a ‘Jesus March’ around

22 Word Alive • Spring 2011 •

Simberi’s gold mine, located on the east
side of the island, is a mixed blessing to the
Mandara. Although the Australian-owned
operation employs hundreds of local people,
the influx of workers from other parts of
PNG has brought unwelcome influences like
problem drinking and sexual immorality. The
Hongs trust God to use His Word as a bull-
wark against such influences.
Photos courtesy of Allied Gold

Word Alive • Spring 2011 • 23

“I knew my granddaughter was healed
of God that I had been
Simberi Island. Then in the evening, they brought all . . . the witch-
craft stuff they had been collecting and they piled them up. They
burned them all that night and renounced it before the Lord.”

As the Word does its work in the Mandara people’s hearts and
minds, believers are showing signs of growing spiritual maturity.
Through literacy classes, HIV/AIDS workshops and prayer for
the sick, they are reaching out to their communities. One young
man, Apelis Balat, is attending Bible college on a neighbouring
island, equipping himself for ministry to his people (see “Fired
Up,” p. 26).
Elsewhere on Simberi Island, a gold mine, which began opera-
tions several years ago, is providing employment for hundreds
of Tabar Islanders and other Papua New Guineans, bringing
increased prosperity to the region. However, miners brought in
from other parts of PNG also bring lifestyles that include heavy
drinking, promiscuity and marital infidelity. Some church mem-
bers have been affected, even drawn away from following the Lord.
In unseen realms, battles rage on for the hearts of the Mandara
people. But now, for the first time in their history, they are
brandishing the unsheathed Sword of the Spirit—in their own
language—and its power to change lives is making history.

(Above) Week-long revival meetings during Easter

2009 culminated in a “Jesus March” around the island.
Participants prayed over each of the island’s seven vil-
lages and burned fetishes and other objects used in
witchcraft. (Right) Youngsters pause to pray during a
Sunday school class in Simberi village.

24 Word Alive • Spring 2011 •

by the power
learning about from the Gospel of Mark.”

Word Alive • Spring 2011 • 25

An angry
A pelis Balat—or Tovat, as he is best known in his home
Apelis “Tovat” Balat (opposite, far
right), a resident of Simberi Island area of Simberi Island—is all fired up.
now studying at Life Bible College,
about 130 km from his home, enjoys That is to say, he almost glows with an inner flame that
a short break from his studies with friends and family attribute to his dramatic conversion to Christ
his mentor and teacher, John Waking. in 2008. Before that, he had an entirely different reputation—as
Tovat’s happy countenance is evi-
an angry young man whose violent behaviour and heavy drink-
dence of the radical change that
took place in his life while studying
young ing brought much shame to his family.
Scripture—in his own language. Looking back, Tovat knows that God was already softening
his heart by the time he approached Wycliffe’s Holly Hong to ask
if she would teach him how to use a computer. She had heard
some stories about Tovat, like the time his rage led him to smash
plates and do other damage at his grandmother’s house. Or the
Mandara time, in a drunken fury, he struck his stepfather with a loose
piece of iron, then grabbed a spear and chased him and his own
mother from their house.
Holly also knew that Tovat had felt so despised and rejected
by his community that he fled to the nearest island, where he
man’s stayed with relatives for a month and sold shells to earn some
money. With the cash, he planned to buy a pig so he could be
forgiven and reconciled to his family through a meaningful cer-
emonial feast called varam (see “Varam Away Our Sins,” p. 28).
Holly agreed to teach Tovat on the computer, but countered
with one condition: that he would do “One-to-One” Bible study,
conversion using study materials she had translated into Mandara years
Surprisingly, Tovat agreed. The two began meeting regularly
and Tovat, who had received some biblical teaching as a child,
peppered Holly with questions.
to Christ God’s Timing
“The first lesson is about who God is,” says Holly. “It talks about
how great God is and how well He knows us, but then at the
same time, how much He loves us.
“I think that’s the part that touched him. He accepted the fact
that God loved him, because I think he felt rejected by people.”
has helped Tovat agrees, saying much of his anger stemmed from being
abandoned by his own father.
“I did not know that God is my father,” Tovat says. “When I
came to know that He is my father, I had to change my life.”
Tovat is thankful he could study Scripture in his mother
spark prayer, tongue.
“It made it easier for me to understand the Word of God. As I
went through the study, I understood there is a God, who loves
me so much.”
When Holly considers the timing of Tovat’s decision to follow
Christ, she sees the hand of God. Just weeks before Tovat’s con-
outreach and version, Holly and Steven had returned to Simberi village after
a year-long furlough, or home assignment. They were nearing
the end of the New Testament translation project, but it seemed
that many of the Christians in Simberi had grown spiritually
complacent. A gold mine had brought increasing prosperity to
the island—but immorality had also
Bible study. increased.
“People weren’t as interested in
church activities anymore,” says
Holly. “Their fear of sorcery had
Varam Away Our Sins
In PNG, the Mandara people practise a cer-
emony called varam (WAH-ram). As Steven “W hen increased . . . so it seemed like Satan was telling us, ‘Look, you
and Holly Hong and their co-translators haven’t done anything significant here.’”
worked together to translate the Mandara The Hongs found the spiritual atmosphere disheartening, espe-
New Testament, they agreed that the cially when they recalled the dramatic signs of spiritual awakening
concept of varam could help the Mandara they had witnessed six years earlier. Holly and Steven contacted
understand what God had done for them— their supporters, asking them to pray for the Mandara people.
I came “We were so desperate; we thought, ‘What good is it if we finish
and all mankind—through Christ’s sacrifice
the New Testament and people don’t use it? They are not even inter-
on the cross. This is a “redemptive analogy,”
ested to come to church.’ We felt very threatened, so we sent out the
defined by missionary and author Don prayer requests in the beginning of March, 2008.”
Richardson as some practice or understand- Tovat came to Christ less than a month later—and the passionate
ing frequently embedded in cultures that 23-year-old immediately began sharing his newfound faith at every
to know
can be used to demonstrate the gospel. opportunity.
“When someone has committed a serious One-to-20
offence affecting important people in their Perceiving that he needed much teaching and guidance, however,
lives,” Holly says of the Mandara people, Tovat asked his uncle, Rupen Masasa, if he could live with him and
“then they hold this reconciliation feast his family. Masasa, a former pastor who worked closely with the
that God Hongs to promote literacy among the Mandara, agreed and men-
called varam.”
tored Tovat for about a year.
Until the feast is held, family and friends
“He had a set time to pray,” Masasa recalls. “After his conversion,
shun the guilty party. he would not let the Bible stay away from him. He would want to
“He cannot talk to people openly, he can- read the Bible all the time.”
not look at people in their eyes; they just is my Within weeks of his conversion, Tovat was invited to teach Sunday
live like…a guilty person,” explains Holly. school at the United Church in Simberi village. His rapid elevation
“They cannot shave or even laugh until they from town drunk to Sunday school teacher could have filled him
hold this feast called varam. Pigs must be with pride. But out of a deep sense of inadequacy, Tovat began to
fast and pray every Sunday.
slaughtered. At the feast, the chief declares
“I never taught him about fasting,” Holly says. “He said, ‘I read
that the guilty one is now forgiven through father, that Daniel was fasting and praying, so I decided to do that.’ ”
the varam sacrifice.” After one of the Bible studies with Holly on worship, Tovat felt
“Before they hold varam, the guilty one is convicted about a journal he had kept that was filled with words and
living under bondage. They have no freedom incantations related to sorcery. In obedience to God, he confessed
to enjoy life . . . As soon as the varam feast his sin to Holly and destroyed the journal.
is held, they can go back to their normal life.” On another occasion, Tovat came to Holly just as she and Steven
I had to were about to leave the island for two months. He asked her to make
The concept was used by the team when copies of the “One-to-One” study that he did with Holly, because he
translating various verses, including I John wanted to study it with some of his friends.
4: 10. Holly says an English rendering of the “Two months later,” Holly recalls, “we come back; we see Tovat
Mandara verse would be roughly translated doing Bible study, not ‘one-to-one’ but . . . one-to-20 people!”
as, “This is love: not that we have loved God, change Soon Tovat was lead-
but that he loved us and sent his Son to ing weekly Bible studies
varam away our sins.” for young adults in the
church, with help from
“When the Mandara people hear the word another of his mentors and
varam,” she adds, “they know what happens a member of the transla-
when you hold the varam feast; there’s a my life.” tion team, Steven Posai.
freedom that comes, and there’s a restora- (continued on pg. 31)
tion of the relationship.”
”But people say their varam is only tempo-
rary,” adds Steven. “They need to do it over
and over again. Tovat lived with his uncle, Rupen
Masasa, and his family for about
“Now they understand that God’s varam has
a year after he came to Christ.
an everlasting effect, to bring mankind into Masasa (left), a village elder
a peaceful relationship with God forever.” and spiritual leader who helped
promote literacy among the
Mandara, says Tovat was hungry
to read God’s Word.
28 Word Alive • Spring 2011 •
“As I went


the Bible

study, I


there is a

God, who

loves me

so much.”
Courtesy of Steven and Holly Hong

Since his conversion, Tovat has organized prayer retreats

for the youth (like those pictured at top) and even
found a special place to hold such events, which he calls
the “prayer mountain.” With guidance from Tovat and
other spiritual leaders, Mandara young people are learn-
ing to call on God—and study the Scriptures. (Above)
When he’s not attending classes, Tovat sometimes visits
the hospital in nearby Kavieng to pray for the sick.
Word Alive • Spring 2011 • 29
Courtesy of Steven and Holly Hong
(Top) In class at Life Bible College remains fixed on his goal: to return
(on a distant island near the pro- to Simberi as a pastor and spiritual
vincial capital, Kavieng), Tovat and leader to his people. (Above) Tovat
his classmates listen to a lecture teaches a Sunday school class in
on successful Christian living. Used Simberi village. He has become a
to being shunned back home, friend and role model to children
Tovat says his popularity with class- and youth throughout the Tabar
mates—including the girls—has Islands.
tempted him to be prideful. But he

30 Word Alive • Spring 2011 •

Praying, Preaching, Studying “I believe God
In the short time Tovat has served Jesus, he has spent much time
praying and urging others to pray. Once, he told Holly he want-
ed all of the young people in Simberi village to receive Christ.
She encouraged him to write down their names and ask three
other mature Christians to start interceding for them.
Holly was given some of the 52 names on the list. She admits has appointed
she sometimes forgot to pray, but two months later, Tovat told
her he was still praying and urged her to remain faithful.
God is answering those prayers. Tovat has led several young
people to Christ and Sunday school attendance has risen steadily
since he began working with the youth. me to . . . preach
“It was down to about 50 kids; it’s now back to 80 or more,”
says Holly. “Tovat was there with the kids all the time.”
The kids are learning to pray, too. Deciding it would be good
to have a special place to pray, Tovat and a group of young
people went to a hill on Simberi Island and cleared a small plot
of land for their “prayer mountain.” the Word of God
Since January 2010, Tovat has been studying God’s Word at
Life Bible College, on a distant island and close to the provincial
capital, Kavieng.
When he’s not in class, Tovat and a few of his classmates
sometimes go to the hospital in Kavieng to pray for the sick.
The fiery young Christian is grateful for the opportunity to in my own
attend Bible college and for his home church on Simberi Island,
which is paying his tuition. He aims to return to Simberi, once
he completes the three-year course.
“I think God . . . wants me to go back to my village, to spread
the Word of God. I believe God has appointed me to…preach language, so
the Word of God in my own language, so that people can under-
stand and come to Christ.”
Lifting Up the Light
On Simberi Island, Tovat is well-known and well-liked by many,
especially the youth. So far, he is managing to cope with his
“celebrity status”—but he did admit to Holly once that his popu-
that people can
larity with fellow students at the Bible college had distracted him
However, there are many people praying for the dynamic
young leader, including the Hongs and Tovat’s grandmother,
Vambo. They know that some of his old friends still pressure him understand and
to drink, but Tovat doesn’t want to travel down that road again.
He knows the young people in the church look up to him, so
he’s doing his best to avoid drinking, smoking and chewing betel
nut, or buai (BOO-eye). A stimulant that is popular through-
out PNG, its use is considered socially acceptable by Mandara
Christians. But chewing buai, which leaves a telltale crimson come to Christ.”
stain on the chewer’s lips, gums and teeth, can lead to addiction.
“We are the light, so people can see us,” says Tovat. “The lamp
is placed on top, so everybody can see,” he adds, referring to
Matthew 5:15. “I want to show an example to these children and
the youth, so they see the true light they need to follow.”
The New Testament in their heart language is aiding the
Mandara’s understanding of Jesus, the Light of the World. And the
young man who once terrorized the people of Simberi Island is
now on their side, helping them to grow in the image of Christ.

Word Alive • Spring 2011 • 31

Blossoming On Nov. 20, 2010, an enthusiastic crowd of up to
1,800 people gathered to dedicate the long-awaited Nkonya New
with Nkonya Scriptures Testament in Ghana.
Wycliffe Canada members Wes and Katie Peacock began work-
ing among the Nkonya people in 1991. The journey to reach this
The Nkonya New Testament is one of 27 milestone has been challenging. For the past five years, the Peacocks
New Testaments and Bibles bringing God’s have been based in Red Deer, Alta., carrying on the project from a
distance because of the need to be caregivers for family members.
Word to 33 million people this past year. During that time they have been taking turns going to Ghana for
visits of six to eight weeks, two or three times a year.
By Janet Seever In the days following the dedication, close to 1,500 New
Testaments out of a total of 2,000 were sold. The Sunday after
the dedication, Katie and a co-work-
er checked out the use of the New
Testaments in two of the local churches.
“Yes, the churches had blossomed with
Nkonya New Testaments,” said Katie. “In
the Presbyterian Church, the catechist
called on people to show their Bibles,
and the pews erupted in a sea of waving
New Testaments. One lady in front of me
spent most of the service reading hers. I
asked her how she found it, and she said
it was clear and easy to read.”

Read For Themselves

Many of the 30,000 Nkonya speakers in
Ghana were baptized as infants in one
of the mainline churches, some of which
have been in the country for more than
a century. Other
The catechist believers belong to
small Pentecostal
called on people Assemblies. After
hearing about
to show their Jesus for years,
they can now
Bibles and the read about Him
pews erupted in for themselves in
a sea of waving The people have
already learned to
New Testaments. pray in Nkonya.
What a difference
that’s making! A prime example is a man
who worked with the Peacocks on the
Nkonya translation project, Foster Ofori.
Foster’s uncle is a clan head and elder
who never had the opportunity to go to
school. He now reads his own language
fluently and the realization that God
speaks Nkonya changed his life.
“Originally he owned a shrine and
worshipped its god,” says Foster of his
uncle. “We had no idea of how we could
persuade him to become a Christian.
Scott Peacock
“Then he heard me praying in Nkonya and that made the dif- Other Dedications
ference. He told me afterwards, that because he had never gone With a joyous celebration in January 2010, the Nomaande New
to school and didn’t know how to read, he thought that he could Testament was dedicated in Cameroon.
not become a Christian. But, when he heard me praying in Wycliffe Canada member Terri Scruggs worked on linguistics
Nkonya, his reason for not being a Christian [was] finished. He among the Nomaande in 1980-1982 and later Wycliffe Canada’s
saw that he could pray to God in Nkonya and that God would Partners with Nationals program linked Canadian financial
respond.” donors with the Nomaande translation project for eight years.
This realization moved Foster’s uncle deeply because he had Nomaande people number 6,000.
been troubled for some time by a dream in which Satan and On Nov. 25, 2010, the Chumburung Bible in Ghana was dedi-
God were dividing up the dead. cated, bringing God’s translated Word to 69,000 speakers.
“After the dream my uncle used to worry about what God Canadians Keith and Ruth Snider were involved in the
would do to him after his death. But now he has seen that he can Chumburung translation project from 1982-1987, with the New
pray in Nkonya and God will respond and that it is possible for Testament being dedicated in 1989.
him to join the Christians if he dies.” “We were the third team working on the translation of the
Foster’s uncle has been baptized, has taken the name John and New Testament, and it was about 70 per cent done when we
worships God. arrived,” writes Keith. “Together, with a couple from the U.K., I
helped with the final 30 per cent of the New Testament, and also
Enthusiastic Reception In South Asia supervised the literacy program.”
The arrival of the M* New Testament generated great excitement
Keith also did extensive linguistic analysis of the language
in South Asia! Nine hundred people, including 550 M believers,
during those years, continuing as he has had time.
gathered at six dedications in the country. Later, another dedica-
In the Philippines, the Ayangan Ifugao speakers, numbering
tion was held in England on the Wycliffe team’s way home, and
43,000, dedicated their entire Bible in October 2010. Wycliffe
two more in Canada, with supporters and churches.
Canada member Len Newell, now deceased, did the initial
“So many have joined in praise and thanksgiving for the
translation of the New Testament and provided consultant help
Lord’s faithfulness to bring this to completion,” writes Mim,* a
on the Old Testament.
Wycliffe Canada member involved in the translation. Another
*Because of the sensitivity of the project, the language name, names of the translators and the country cannot be given.
translation team began the M project in 1971. A Canadian
member, Liz,* replaced one of those team members in 1975, and
Mim replaced the other in 1981. World Translation Summary
“There was genuine joy and thanksgiving at each dedication Scriptures translated with significant Wycliffe involvement were
event at having their own New Testament,” writes Mim, “even dedicated for 27 languages, spoken by 33 million people, since we
though there are various Bible translations already available in prepared our last “Translation Update” report in Word Alive a year ago.
the official languages and though New Testament portions in
The table below gives a regional global breakdown of the affected
this language were being published since 1983.
language groups, with their populations.
Late Night Study
During the main message of the first dedication celebration, the New Testaments
M speaker who was preaching said, “Perhaps there are so few Location No. of Groups Combined Total Population
well-grounded M Christians because up until now we have only Africa. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34,000
read it [God’s Word] in the national language. Asia. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32,410,000
“Now . . . we have no more excuse. Read it! Study it! Share
what you read! Give it to friends!” This man knows both the Pacific. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29,530
national language and English very well and has had two years Americas. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115,044
of Bible college, so was not deprived of a Bible he could under- Total. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32,588,574
stand. But even then his wife told Mim and Liz, “Since he
received the M New Testament, he is up late at night studying it, Whole Bibles
and I’ve never seen him so happy.” Location No. of Groups Combined Total Population
A villager who is not yet a believer said, “I have read all 547
Africa 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 369,000
pages of the book [M New Testament] you gave me! Many
things are the same in our Hindu Scriptures—do good to others, Asia 1 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43,000
etc. But some are different.” Total 3. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 412,000
After being asked to tell what was different, he responded,
Combined Total 27. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33,000,574
“God sent Jesus down here and spoke to us through him and in
the end, wicked people killed him on a cross.”
Pray that he will soon relate to this Jesus he has read about.

Word Alive • Spring 2011 • 33

Beyond Words

Walk the Talk

Alan Hood

On Simberi Island in Papua New Guinea, it’s not

uncommon to see people carrying light loads on their
heads. But to see someone reading in their mother
tongue is a relatively new phenomenon. As a benefit
of the Bible translation project that began here in the
mid-‘90s, literacy is opening up a world of possibilities
for the Mandara people—including a deeper walk
with God (see articles, pgs. 6-31).

34 Word Alive • Spring 2011 •

Last Word

Penetrating Every Last Cell

By Don Hekman

mmerse. Infiltrate. Penetrate. Invade. These While writing on this issue, I want to make
are words for what we, at Wycliffe Bible sure you don’t miss an upcoming important event.
Translators, hope will happen when people On May 7 in Calgary, Wycliffe Canada will be
engage with the Bible. We want every bit hosting a conference on the topic of Bible “infil-
of God’s Word to soak into every last cell of our tration.” “Contextualization” is the thousand-
heart, mind, body, relationships and society. dollar word theologians use, and “UnBound:
Wycliffe Canada not only verbalizes that in The Bible in Global Contexts” is the conference
our purpose statements but also supports it with title. But don’t be put off by the big words. This
concrete action. We envision “a world where conference has something impactful for every-
translated Scriptures lead to transformed lives one, from students, short-term mission trippers
among people of all languages.” and pastors to retirees, readers like you and your
We train, support, and send people who not circle of friends.
only help translate the Bible, but also help live
it, record it, print it, distribute it, film it, nar-
rate it, sing it, teach it, memorize it, dramatize
it. Whatever it takes to get God’s Word off the
shelves and into lives and whole societies.
I’ll cite two examples. In March 2007 in
Colombia, Wycliffe helped host the first ever
“Scripture Use” conference in Spanish for indig-
enous people and Latinos in the Americas. (Two
Canadians were on the steering committee and
played key roles in presentations.) A second such
conference was held in 2010, this time in Brazil
and conducted in Portuguese. More than 300
people attended these two conferences, most of
them being indigenous peoples who
have only had the Bible in their lan-
Whatever it takes to guages in recent years.

Dave Harder
These conferences covered topics
get God’s Word off the ranging from the use of the Bible in
healing the wounds of the trauma You’ll hear two outstanding speakers, Ray
shelves and into lives of war and abuse, to communicat- Aldred and David Lyle Jeffrey, and meet a popu-
and whole societies. ing the Bible through drama and lar Canadian talk show host, Michael Coren. You
dance, to teaching the Bible in the can choose from up to 10 enticing workshops,
local indigenous language instead of ranging from “Sing It! Act it! Dance It! Believe
Spanish or Portuguese. Again, the goal was hav- It!” to “Cutting-edge Software for Translators”
ing God’s Word penetrate every cell of our being. and “First Nations of Canada and Bible
Two years after the Colombia conference, a Translation.” Plus there will be a surprising report
pastor from the Garifuna-speaking churches of from a country we can’t name in print. And—
Honduras wrote: “This conference has marked would you believe it?—attractive door prizes.
my life. It opened my understanding to compre- I urge you to check it out at our website:
hend many things that I had ignored.” He went <>. See the back cover of
on to write that he was teaching at the annual this issue, too. Mark it on your calendars. See
conference of Garifuna churches the importance you there!
and the practical techniques of engaging with the Don Hekman is president of Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada.
Bible in their own language instead of in Spanish.

Word Alive • Spring 2011 • 35

4316 10 ST NE
Deliver to:

PM 40062756

Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada Presents:

A conference
exploring how
the biblical story
intersects with
cultural stories.
Saturday May 7, 2011 • 8:30 am - 4:30 pm • Ambrose University College • Calgary, Alberta
David L. Jeffrey • Distinguished Ray Aldred • Assistant professor Michael Coren • Highly popular
Professor of Literature and the of theology at Ambrose University and entertaining public speaker
Humanities and former Provost College (Calgary, Alta.) and cur- and writer. Michael will be the
at Baylor University (Waco, rently finishing doctoral studies host and moderator for the
Texas). He is guest professor of in theology. He is chairperson of UnBound conference. Michael is
Peking University (Beijing). Dr. the Aboriginal Ministries Council a weekly columnist, published
Jeffrey is the author or editor of for the Evangelical Fellowship of every Saturday with the Toronto,
17 books, including People of the Book (1996), Canada. As a First Nations person (status Cree), Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg Sun
Houses of the Interpreter (2003) and a forthcom- Ray is purposeful in developing indigenous newspapers, and The London Free Press. Michael
ing Theological Commentary on the Gospel of leadership and is an active member of NAIITS is also the host of the nightly “Michael Coren
Luke (Brazos, 2011). (North American Institute for Indigenous Show” on CTS television.
Theological Studies).

Regular registration: $30 per person, students $15, families $45. Group discounts available
• Includes lunch, parking and a free copy of Wycliffe’s Eye to Eye - Heart to Heart book
• Door prizes, including a 2GB iPod.

Everyone attending the conference can choose from a variety of insightful workshops,
conducted by knowledgeable presenters from across the country. Sessions include:
Sing It! Act It! Dance It! Believe It!: The arts and God’s Word - African contexts.
Bible Translation and Theology: Who Needs It?
Cutting-edge Software for Translators: Who knew this could be so cool?
First Nations of Canada and Bible Translation
Language and Culture Learning: A live demonstration
Redeeming Cultures: Latin America context
And much more! You’re invited to experience a thought-provoking and entertaining day
revealing the impact of God moving into the neighbourhoods of the world.

To register visit: <>. For more information, phone Melanie at

1-800-463-1143, ext. 291, or e-mail: <>.