How will they hear?

Elspeth’s role organising the Orientation Course for our latest intake of mission staff sees her in Goroka for two weeks, immersed with the eleven course participants in cultural studies.

The Melanesian Institute seeks to inform and challenge new mission staff to be aware of the history and cultural traditions of PNG, as well as the current social issues that affect the people today. This cultural training will enable the missionaries to be more effective in their work of translating and / or supporting translation work alongside PNG co-workers, and to thrive within local communities.

The workshops also include international ministry staff from local churches. One Tanzanian pastor serving in the Hela Province shared his experience with translated Scripture.

He noticed that the people struggled to understand the Tok Pisin language used in the church services. Outside of church – at school, in the market, at home, in business – the people predominately speak their own vernacular language, Huli.

This posed a challenge for the pastor, as the people were not being truly impacted from the Scriptures which they heard each week in church.

The Bible had been previously translated into Huli – the heart language of the people – so the pastor decided to use it to try and engage the congregation with the church service and the gospel message.

Using the vernacular Bible for the readings, and even attempting to preach at times in the Huli language, drew a response from the people as they whispered and talked to each during the readings and the preaching. During the service, the pastor was assisted by an elder who translated the message. At the end of the service the congregation clapped and spoke of how their hearts were moved as for the people on the day of Pentecost when everyone heard the gospel for the first time in their native tongue. Everyone expressed amazement that the pastor, who came from another country, could communicate in their own language.

In God’s providence, the pastor’s own vernacular language uses many of the same letters and sounds as the Huli language, making it easier for him to read the Huli Scriptures, even though he struggled himself with comprehending the full meaning.

Lomo 10:13-14  Huli NT

13 Anduane Homogonaga mbugani lo ngadagua ogo, Anduane Homogo mini olararu Ngode Datagaliwabehanda ti pele mulebira, lalu gilibu nga. 14 Ani ngago tigua ibuhondo mini mbiraore nawiyagua ibu mini agua olabehebe. Bi mana hale naheyagua mini mbiraore agua wibehebe. Bi mana nalamidayagua hale agua habehebe.

Romans 10:13-14

13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?

The following Sunday … the people came back to hear more.


That this Huli church community would experience God’s love and grace in their lives, flowing to their entire community

That the material presented at the Melanesian Institute would be helpful in equipping staff to work, and thrive, in PNG.

That the participants from eleven different countries will also be blessed through sharing the internal cultural differences within the group.

For strong relationships to grow within the Orientation Course group – as it did for ours – out of the time spent facing challenges together.