A little stuff

​In addition to the song leaders, this photo shows a few simple things that North Fly Bible provides to help raise the standard for rural workshops:

1. Plenty of chalk (normally very precious).

2. Handmade posters showing the „books“ of the Bible and how they are organized.

3. A rope timeline showing the chronology from Genesis to Revelation – with no dates for start and finish (!), and approximate dates for historically verified events.

4. Wood to construct a long desk with a seat (there was a second one on the other side of the room).

5. A world map (many more maps, also of places and times relevant to understanding the Bible, were placed around the room).

This small investment of materials, and the cost of flying them in with the facilitators and observers, was still much less than the cost of running the workshop at a larger center near a town – with much greater community impact.

The partnership also provided one English and one Tok Pisin Bible for each officially registered couple or single, a few school supplies, and preprinted handouts.

The Pa-language participants, and observers from the Aekyom and Ninggirum language communities, improved their literate study skills and learned a storytelling method for transferring Bible passages into their local oral languages.

Kam, yumi stori

​Centre right: Paul – elementary teacher, Pa-language Bible translator. In this photo interpreting from English and Tok Pisin into Pa.

Centre left: Steven – North Fly Bible coordinator, rubber grower. In this photo telling the „story between the stories“ in English and Tok Pisin.

Far left: Rony – intending Bible school student, workshop scribe. In this photo waiting for the next „story“; he will listen in Pa, take notes in English, and sometimes discuss with other facilitators – in English, Tok Pisin, and/or Samo.

* Story = one Bible passage in a set of Bible passages that were selected to help give an overview of the Old Testament. Each one was retold in Pa by a church-recognised pastor or Bible teacher, who then also moderated a discussion of the passage by all of the participants.

* Story between the stories = a narrative summary of the portion of the Bible that lies between the previous „story“ and the next „story“ in the selected set.

This oral process was at the heart of the recent Old Testament workshop for the Pa language community in remote Debepari. The workshop was also observed by future Aekyom and Ninggirum language mentors.

Physical food

​“Land of the Marsupials“ would be an accurate, if somewhat nerdy, description of the Papua New Guinea province of the Animal Kingdom. In the natural order of the world, humans find almost all of the fauna here good to eat – and marsupials are relatively easy to hunt! This specimen added to the variety of the protein portion of the Old Testament workshop menu, which was actually already pretty rich in fish and pig.

The workshop also provided a boost to the orality and literacy skills of the Pa-language participants and the Aekyom and Ninggirum observers.

A cross-language experience

​No snide comments from the Hebrew scholars please! The workshop participants received a handout on the original languages of the Bible. It included a display of an ancient form of the Hebrew pre-alphabet – no vowel points yet. The participants then did their best to write their names using Hebrew letters. The photo shows the handiwork of one of the Aekyom observers. The workshop took place in Debepari for the Pa language community.

Who lives in the North Fly?

 

By Clyde

During most of my experience so far as a missionary, the dominant way of thinking about the people we are trying to reach has been framed in terms of groups defined by language and culture. Thus in the North Fly we talk about tribes and language communities – or, more generically, about people groups.

However, recently I have become aware that putting people into these simple categories has been seriously questioned by research that has been developing for about fifty years! As it turns out, much of mission strategy during my lifetime has been based on an understanding of anthropology that froze in the 1960s, while the actual field of anthropology and related disciplines continued moving forward with little effect on Christian missionaries like me.

While we still talk about language communities in the North Fly, we also recognize several additional factors that have deeply changed our vision. We now look forward to the day when everyone in the North Fly can read or hear God’s Word and respond to it in a growing Church. To see this vision realized, we are paying much more attention to: orality, multilingualism, and non-tribal social identities. Most importantly, we are paying much more attention to the growth of the Church in the North Fly – and it’s connection to the Church beyond the North Fly.

We also recognize that there are many people in the North Fly who do not fit into any of the recognized tribal groups. There are many people whose families fled hostilities in West Papua. There are immigrants from the Philippines employed in management positions in Kiunga businesses, especially in the rubber industry. There are immigrants from China who are employed in management and security positions in a growing number of Chinese-owned businesses. There many urban Papua New Guineans who don’t identify clearly with any one tribe, and others who do but are less comfortable in their local languages than are their rural relatives. On the other hand, there are children growing up in town who are learning and speaking their local languages – something none of us predicted even ten years ago.

Our conclusion can only be that the social situation is complex! Rather than bemoan the many changes we have seen over the years (and regret that for years we ignored many important social factors), we choose to embrace the complexity as a fascinating challenge and aim for our new slogan, „The Bible for Everyone“ – whatever that takes!

If anything of the above interests you at all, consider reading Soul, Self, and Society: A Postmodern Anthropology for Mission in a Postcolonial World, by Michael A. Rynkiewich. I read this book in preparation for the conference Johanna mentioned on April 20. The author was the keynote speaker, and the four of us who traveled up from the North Fly enjoyed getting to know him personally as well.

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Pastors‘ Workshops, part 2

 

The 2014 highlight of our work in the North Fly was definitely the two trial workshops. The goal of the workshops was to use “storytelling” to bring an accurate understanding of the Bible to all members of the community. We use the term “storytelling” to refer to the primary method of learning and saving information in an oral society. Both the PNG English expression “we’re telling stories” and the Tok Pisin expression “yumi stori” imply that one person (at a time) is sharing what they know, and a group is repeating it and discussing it.

The workshops targeted the pastors and other Bible teachers of the Honinabi district of the Evangelical Church of Papua New Guinea. The participants as a group studied forty-five passages selected from all major divisions of the Bible. They learned the flow of the Story recorded in the Bible and became familiar with the Bible’s „library“ structure. Along the way they also Improved their study skills.

The workshops also facilitated plenty of practice in incorporating Bible storytelling into preaching and Bible teaching. The workshops each concluded with an analysis of the spiritual needs of the community, and strategic ministry planning and follow-up.

Extended family

 

Although we thought we were co-sponsoring a workshop for pastors, it quickly became clear that the event would be a great experience for the whole family! Still there were times when the parents found it hard to concentrate, and we are hoping to introduce some activities for the kids in the New Testament workshop coming up in October.

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