Friday, June 27, 2014

But what about the spirits?

Over the past couple of months, I've had the opportunity to participate in several "checking parties." When a translation is getting ready to be printed, it goes through a process of typesetting, which gets everything looking like a book--from page numbers to headings to footnotes. After Emma, our typesetter, puts it all in order, she calls for a group of volunteers (the "checking party") to go through the translated Scriptures with a fine-toothed comb, making sure every chapter is correct, every Old Testament reference is properly formatted and every picture is credited. You can read more about this experience here.  

Sören and Britten Årsjö have more experience than most at typesetting--they've worked in two different language groups, completing two New Testaments and one revision--and earlier this year, I participated in their third checking party! Here's a story I wrote for our Communication Department about the Årsjö's experiences among their first language program, the Ama.


What could they do?

Sören and Britten Årsjö looked in amazement at the young woman lying on their porch, as Albert, one of Ama translators, pleaded with them. “Please, you must do something!”

When the Årsjös first arrived in 1973, there were no Christians among the 380 Ama speakers hidden deep in the jungle. It wasn’t until seven years later, five spent in translating, that Albert became one of the first Ama to give his life to Christ. Soon, the other translators followed, and God’s love began to spread. But, before the Ama could fully accept this new God, they needed to know—what about sorcery?

In traditional Papua New Guinean beliefs, the practice of sorcery and fear of the spirits govern daily life. In Ama, the word, popuwa, meant “evil spirit;” there was no such thing as a “good spirit.” A cursed person was doomed to die within three days—and if he or she told anyone, death would be immediate.

So, when Albert’s cousin courageously told him she’d been cursed, he acted immediately. They all gathered around the girl and began praying fervently, as well as administered antibiotics to help counteract any potential infection caused by the custom of inserting bone fragments into the sorcery victim’s body. They waited and prayed and waited, the whole village watching. Would she die? Or would this God be more powerful than sorcery and spirits?

The girl lived! The Ama people looked on in awe. This Bible that was being translated—it was relevant! This God who spoke these words, He was there for them too. They no longer had to be afraid.

The Ama New Testament was dedicated in 1990 and a revision in 2010. Before the Gospel arrived, it wasn’t uncommon for only one or two out of ten children in a family to survive due to sorcery killings and poor health care. Today, the Ama population is more than 500 strong! The Ama have truly found new life in Christ—both physical and spiritual.