The third Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS) workshop in Wewak finished recently. OBS is designed to help people learn a Bible story and then be able to tell the story accurately and naturally in their own language. After the story is told, questions are asked that are designed to draw out things you can learn and the process helps to facilitate change in peoples’ lives. There were six language groups represented from the East Sepik Province in Papua New Guinea and they learned five stories of Christmas during this two week course.
Our family is working in the East Sepik and Sandaun Provinces of Papua New Guinea. These two provinces combined have roughly 215 languages in a land area of half the size of Illinois (30,500 miles squared) and a population of 682,000 people. This puts the average language group size at 3,200 people. At least half of these language groups have no Scripture in their language and less than 20% have a full New Testament. Many of these places are very remote and have low education levels.
Some people would say that it isn’t worth it to translate a Bible for only 100 people or 1000 people or even 10,000 people. In many ways they are correct. Translation and literacy are time and resource intensive and most of these language groups would have trouble fully supporting a translation or literacy program. That is one reason we are starting with Oral Bible Storytelling. It is an easy, inexpensive, and quick way to get some part of the Bible in these languages.
But in other ways they would be wrong. No one tells a pastor of a 1,000 member church that he is wasting his time because it isn’t a 5000 member church. You cannot expect a strong church without the Bible in a language people can understand and without it being applied to life situations. Jesus himself came for all people (John 3:16) and compared His kingdom to a shepherd that left the 99 sheep to find the one that was lost (Luke 15:3-7). There will be representatives from all languages in Heaven (Revelation 7:9) and Christians are told to go to the “ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
To be honest, it isn’t very easy doing what we do. There are a lot of languages, only two families spearheading operations, a lot of hard hiking because villages are remote and there is no other means of communication, and many other obstacles. But we do as much as we are able for the people we dearly love, the people of Papua New Guinea.