I had just returned to the van parked in Wewak with market produce. There were throngs of people walking by or just standing around watching and waiting. I didn’t know it, but one of those guys was waiting for me. Opening the door to the van, I put the fresh fruit and vegetables inside and closed the door. I turned around, and he was right there. He took my hand in his. What was he going to ask for?
“I live close to Maprik (a town in East Sepik province) and want you to come,” he said. “I have ground I will give you. Come and teach my people to read and write. Start some schools in the local language. Help the adults to read. You (SIL) must know my language already since they used to be in Maprik!”
With over 100 languages in the East Sepik and over half of those languages have never had any language work done in them, the chances of SIL having worked in his language was slim. Not only that, if there was someone who had worked in his language, they were no longer there and SIL doesn’t know his language. Nor does SIL have any people to send to learn his language or help him.
I didn’t have the heart to tell him.
Almost every week, someone comes and says, “Please come help us!” “Help us translate the Bible!”. “Help us read and write!”. “Help us understand the Bible better!”. Those voices ring all across the Sepik – waiting, watching, pleading. There has to be some way to help. There has to be some answer to give. They’ve waited 2000 years to hear God’s Word. How much longer do they have to wait?