Bible translation challenges – the Word of our God endures!

In recent months the world has been experiencing a spate of natural disasters including earthquakes, floods, bush fires and volcanic eruptions.

Some of these have impacted translation projects both in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Vanuatu. In PNG a recent 7.5 magnitude earthquake destroyed two translation centres. And in Vanuatu, a volcanic eruption twice derailed the launch of the newly translated Havakinau New Testament. But despite it all, God’s Word endures…

Two eruptions can’t stop Bible launch

Evacuations in Ambae. Photo courtesy of Vanuatu Daily Post.

Two volcanic eruptions couldn’t stop the launch of the revised Havakinau New Testament, which is now serving an unexpected purpose. It’s bringing hope to Havakinau speaking Christians in Vanuatu as they begin the process of rebuilding their lives and homes on other islands following the volcanic eruptions of Monaro Voui on the island of Ambae.

The New Testament was finally launched a few weeks ago at the Annual Apostolic Women’s Conference where 200 women danced, sang and praised God for the Bible in their mother tongue. Many were tearful as the Havakinau New Testament has encouraged them to hope in the Lord for the day they can finally return to their island. About 11,000 people from Ambae have been relocated to three different islands in Vanuatu.

Some have relocated to Maewo, Port Vila and Santo. Some 2,000 of them are on Maewo but the majority of them are living with their relatives in either Port Vila or Santo. More than 200 of the refugees are actually being housed at the church where the Havakinau New Testament was launched. It is an extremely difficult time for them reported Pastor Lois Fatu, head of a church in Luganville, Santo, Vanuatu. Many have been relocated indefinitely with the women, girls and children sleeping in the church and the men and older boys in tents pitched on the church grounds.

Only last weekend they heard the volcanic ash was reaching heights of 11,000 metres above the crater and affecting gardens on neighbouring islands as well as Ambae itself.

“We pray that God’s Word in their own language will be a help and comfort to them at this stressful time,” said Pastor Lois.

The volcano Monaro Voui has exploded twice, once in September 2017 and then more recently in March this year. In fact, it was just as the consignment of 1,000 New Testaments arrived in September for the second attempted Bible launch that Manaro erupted and the islanders were urgently evacuated. It was a stressful time for the whole community as they fled to safety, leaving their homes and animals behind, unsure of what they’d come back to afterwards.

Jack Titek, Vanuatu Branch Manager of Bible Society South Pacific (BSSP), said one of the things that kept them going was the thought of returning home and celebrating the arrival of their revised New Testament.

“They felt the launch would be an historic occasion for their people and therefore people really wanted it to take place in their home in the west of Ambae,” he said.

The return home and a second eruption!

And so, as the volcanic activity decreased and more and more people returned home to rebuild their lives, the Bible Society and the churches began making preparations for the launch. But, once again, their plans were thwarted as Monaro started spewing ash and gas, blanketing the whole island. People fell ill, food and water supplies were contaminated and roofs collapsed under the weight of the ash.

In April 2018, the Government announced the urgent and permanent evacuation of the whole island.

Finally – the launch!

The launch of the New Testament

So it was with great celebration and fanfare that the Havakinau New Testament was finally launched at the end of August in Luganville on the island of Espiritu Santo. To mark the occasion, 200 women marched around the school grounds singing and dancing with the New Testament in their hands. Then worship, prayers and speeches were made before the New Testament was officially handed over to the people of Ambae.

Pastor Pollyana Banga read from Mathew chapter 7 with tears streaming down her face. She said reading the Bible in her own language moved her in a way she couldn’t describe. The majority of the audience listening were also in tears. Seventy year-old Kathleen Lingi, one of the translators from Ambae, said, “I am very happy about the Havakinau New Testament.”

“My people can understand God’s Word better in their own language. As they read they believe in God as the basis of their faith. This is the good change that I can see coming.”

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