Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Story about a Wee Little Man... and the Church

“Look! Look! Can you see him? I think he’s coming!”

I jumped up and down, straining to see. “Look at the size of that crowd... wow, just look at all those people. I can’t see anything!” I shielded my eyes from the sun and craned my neck, stretching as high as I could on my tiptoes. “Oh no! I’m just too short! I’ll never get to see Jesus!!”

Suddenly, I froze, then slowly turned around. “Do you see that tree!?” I pointed excitedly at the chair on the far side of the room and tried to keep my makeshift turban from slipping over my eyes. “I bet if I climbed that tree, I could see Jesus!”

To the amazement of the workshop participants, I scampered over to the chair and proceeded to “climb” up the tree, until I was balancing on top of the wooden seat. “Aiyah! Jisas em i stap aninit long diwai bilong mi nau!” (Oh my! Jesus is underneath my tree now! ). This was a re-enactment of the story of Zaccheus like they had never experienced before!

We were halfway through the Church Engagement Training Course, and I, along with another intrepid staff member, were demonstrating to the participants a variety of ways they could make Bible stories come alive in their children’s ministries—including one-person dramas, puppets, songs, and classroom skits.

Thirteen participants representing six different denominations from around the outer islands, from pastors and priests to theological school lecturers to translators, attended the week-long course held this past June at the Kokopo regional centre on the island of East New Britain.

In this course, the participants were learning skills such that they could better educate their communities, congregations, and schools about how they can use their own languages (tok ples) in church and with the Scriptures. Through the format of the workshop, they were able to practice giving lectures and holding discussions, spanning topics from Scripture memorization to music in ministry to the process of creating an alphabet! The course then finished with the participants giving Bible translation awareness presentations in five different local churches of four different denominations.

Upon conclusion of my week-long holiday in Cairns, Australia, I flew directly to Rabaul (with an interlude in Port Moresby that you read about earlier!), to serve on staff at this course as kitchen manager and person-of-all-work :) (more about those stories later!). It was an incredible honour to spend two weeks in Rabaul with these godly men and listen to their burning excitement to encourage the people around them to become personally engaged with the Word of God. In addition, I was blessed to watch them rejoice in the opportunity to cross denominational lines (often very rigid boundaries in PNG) and work towards unity through the opportunities to dialogue late into the night.

Church engagement is a critical component of Bible translation. Without churches understanding the value of using a Bible in the language of their heart—their mother tongue, the work of Bible translation is relegated to back shelves and mouldy boxes... and those who desire to clearly see their Saviour find themselves like Zaccheus, coming up short and gazing from a distance through the branches of a tree.

Bible translation is more than vowels and verbs; it’s about engaging people with the Word of God, allowing it to change their lives and bring them into relationship with Christ.

And sometimes, that includes includes hopping on and off a wooden chair, speed-changing hats (from turban to classic-Jewish-head-shawl thingy), and attempting to deepen my voice (a hilarious joke, I might add) to differentiate characters as I switched between a wee little man and the Son of God who “has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”