Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Borong SALT

The Borong SALT team.

Team members: Fred Igami, Andrea Braun, Larry Doyle (SIL liason to Borong language project), Anne Smith, Andrew Tiki (leader).

Translators: Soini and Kaija Olkkonen (New Testament and materials); Dan Tumaka and Jerry Tekare (materials and SALT course speakers)

salt and nt
Borong New Testament and Borong SALT manual.

History: The Borong New Testament was dedicated 18 May 2003, having been adapted from the Burum-Mindik (Somba and Siawari dialects) New Testament. The Olkkonens worked in the project from 1996-2003, and Larry Doyle presently visits the language area to facilitate progress in Scripture-in-use, literacy and community development projects.

Travel: The area is noted for being clouded in most days, with a window for airplane landings in the early morning. As a matter of fact, the team left Ukarumpa on Monday morning, 18 September, and did not arrive at the Mindik airstrip until Wednesday morning 20 September. Four of us had been waiting at Nadzab for two days, and Andrea, who had attended the Dedua NT dedication over the weekend, was waiting for the MAF 206 to pick her up at Masa. This made the course start two days late, so four lessons were condensed into two, and two lessons were taught on the first Saturday and Sunday. From the Mindik airstrip the team hiked 2 ½ hours to Ebebang village, and returned to Mindik late on Monday, 2 October to wait for pickup on Tuesday, 3 October. That day the skies were clear and we returned to Ukarumpa, four of us on the SIL 206, and one on the MAF 206.

Fred, Andrew and Larry at dinner time.

Accommodations: The three men lived in the tiny house which the Olkkonens had built onto the back of the big Lutheran church building. The two women were given translator Dan Tumaka’s house. The team was fed in the Olkkonen’s kitchen-dining room by Depa Tumaka, while the 130 course participants were fed breakfast, lunch and dinner by 6 local women and their helpers at a temporary haus kuk built and staffed by the community just for the course. Cooks were awakened by a conch shell blowing at 4 AM to begin cooking for the participants. The course participants came from all over the Borong language area, and a few walked from as far away as the Huon Gulf or traveled from Lae. They were housed in Ebebang or a few neighboring hamlets. Local people brought in huge amounts of taro, kaukau and greens; participants were charged K6 for food, most of which probably went for the pig for the graduation day feast. We could bathe and wash clothes in the river, or a little farther away at a shower where a bamboo pipe carried water out of the rocks, or in the shower in the kitchen. We wanted to conserve the tank water for cooking, but it rained pretty frequently and kept the tank full anyway.

Over 300 people attended class most days.

Reception: The community was extremely positive about the course, in spite of the uncertainty about its starting date due to the weather. 135 church leaders registered, although a yearly Lutheran church conference was being held the second week in another area; only one representative from Ebebang attended that, while the rest stayed at the SALT course. A high level of vernacular adult literacy was evident, as many different people read aloud from their New Testaments, some very fluently, and others with help from the audience for long words. The two translators seemed equally comfortable translating from English or Tok Pisin, and many times the audience reacted as the presenter spoke in Tok Pisin once, and then again when it was repeated in Borong. There was much “tsk, tsk” and even clapping when an important point was made – sometimes during the reading of the scripture passage itself. Each class, morning and afternoon, began with enthusiastic singing of Borong songs, accompanied by 6-8 guitarists, or by several kundu drums. Many of the women would clap and do a two-step dance while singing; a few men stood and clapped, many sat, some didn’t sing. Although we planned class from 8:30-ll:30 AM, music generally started at 7:45 AM, and we ended at noon. Afternoons generally started at either 1 or 1:30 PM and went to 4, unless there was a reason to get out earlier.

Daily highlights:

Thur. 21 Sep.
First day of class. Andrew introduced the course, books were distributed. Lesson 1- “Pursuit of Truth” (Anne) and 2- “The Father Heart of God” (Andrea). Lots of audience reaction (especially “tsk, tsk.”)

Fri. 22 Sep.
Review of previous lessons was introduced. People were shy at first but got into it. We were never sure of what was said, although when the posters were pointed to, we could follow a little; the loud, enthusiastic oratorical style of many of the reviewers made it seem as if they were preaching rather than reviewing. 3- “The Nature of God” (Andrew). He spoke in Tok Pisin without using an interpreter, and we found that a number of people, especially women, did not understand him well. Next time he used a translator. 4- “The Character of God” (Larry) – there was a lot of audience reaction to the idea of “love your enemies.”

andrea teaching
Andrea teaches on how to become God's friend.

Sat. 23 Sep
One lesson in the morning: 5- “Developing Friendship with God” (Andrea). After the beginning worship time, three prayer points were announced, and each was prayed for in loud, clear Borong with the audience agreeing with murmured prayers and “tsk, tsks.” During the review, one man brought up 5 others who stood up straight and tall, then had them twisted into different shapes (showing either deceptions or how sin messes up people’s lives) and then had the Bible straighten them out again. It was creative and entertaining too. No one attempted to review the poster on the Nature of God (very hard material) but there was a lively review on the Trinity poster – and that had seemed a very hard concept to explain, yet Larry’s repetitions of “the Son is not the Father” etc. stuck with the audience. The course organizers instituted a question box (Askim Box) for people to write out their questions for us. We began picking out questions that matched our lessons, or answering them at the start of the lessons before the review (or ignoring them if they were too sectarian or off-the-wall.) Some people asked us to answer questions privately, and that was ok too. But the Box was a definite positive addition to the course. Saturday afternoon was reserved for baths, volleyball games, and a soccer game.

Sun. 24 Sep.
There was no pastor at the Lutheran church (Dan Tumaka takes care of the building and preaches) so there was no problem having a lesson instead of a sermon. There were more formal prayers, an offering, and the curtains that screened off the altar were pulled back for this service. 6-“The Design and Purpose of People” (Fred) was very enthusiastically received, and people often applauded Fred’s points, especially that people are tremendously valuable in God’s eyes.

Mother uses SALT book to teach 10 Commandments.

Mon. 25 Sep.
7- “God’s Laws of Love” (Andrew). People were responsive and laughed at Andrew’s examples of following God’s design (Law) for people. He caught everyone when he asked “since the Ten Commandments are God’s good laws for people, can obeying them save you?” Nearly everyone answered “Yes.” He blew them away when he said, “NO! If you could be saved by following the 10 commandments, Jesus would not have had to die for your sins.” 8- “Satan and his Strategies” (Larry). Everyone was very interested in understanding Satan’s tricks, and the reviews the next day were lively.

Tues. 26 Sep.
9- “The Heart of Sin” (Fred) People responded audibly to his examples. 10- “The Destructiveness of Sin” (Anne). The morning session had less people than usual, and the afternoon even less. Depa, our cook, had told Anne at lunch that many people were “covering their ears,” going outside and even hiding, so they would not have to hear the lessons on sin. So Anne told people that if their neighbors were feeling bad about sin, and staying away, to tell them that tomorrow the lessons would be on salvation and that everyone should come. It worked. This was a short session because people needed to get to their gardens to get kumu and more food to bring in, as a larger number of people registered than was expected, which meant food was running out quicker than estimated.

3 generations
Three generations of Borong women study God's word.

Wed. 27 Sep.
11 and 12- “The Grace of God in Salvation” and “What is Salvation?” (Larry) were combined into one lesson. The large church building, with bench seating for 200, was packed to the back and up the aisles today (maybe 300 people). The prayer time following the lesson was very fervent. 13- “The Marks of a Christian” (Andrea) She started by writing three of the questions that people had put in the question box, but which we felt had been already been answered by previous lessons, on the blackboard. She challenged people who thought they now knew the answers to stand up and answer them. Then she led a study on the book of I John. We often had an individual read the passage, although many people were slower at finding references, and weren’t there yet when the reading started. Sometimes we made everyone wait and all read the passage aloud together. During the lunch break a visiting Christian singsing group from Hamoronong entertained people.

Thur. 28 Sep.
14 and 16- “Overcoming the Enemy” and “Breaking Sinful Habits” (Fred) These two were shortened and taught for an hour each, since they had some common themes. Then 15- “The Necessity of Holiness” (Larry) showed the positive side of the same theme. Announcing that they would all be on outreach teams to teach these lessons scared some people, as they didn’t feel capable of teaching.

camped out
Participants camped out on the floor.

Fri. 29 Sep.
17- “Walking in Forgiveness” (Andrew). His moving and humble example of his own need to forgive another Christian drove the lesson home. During lunch a husband and wife who had been divorced for a year, but who were both attending the course, reconciled! They got onto the same outreach team and testified to their reconciliation the next day! 18- “The Christian Family” (Anne and Andrew). Anne asked people to read the passages on responsibilities of husbands and wives, and form groups of all women or all men to discuss what they read. Andrew emphasized the husbands’ need to love their wives very forcefully, with the translator enthusiastically translating his words and repeating his gestures. Then Anne talked about raising children. We broke up at 3 PM so the outreach groups could chose their posters and practice.

Sat. 30 Sep.
Outreach teams left at 6:30 AM, some hiking out 1 hour, some 2 and one 3. There were 10 teams of 13-14 adults each, plus teenagers and children. The leaders had the responsibilities of assigning which part each team member would do, and reporting on their experience at the graduation. Some shyer team members preferred to pray silently while others taught. Some villages were expecting the team and prepared a singsing and gate to enter the village, and a feast afterwards. Some didn’t. The last team returned to Ebebang at 7 PM. A leadership team stayed at Ebebang to plan food for the graduation feast and build an outdoor table and serving area.

Sun. 1 Oct.
A normal church service with the afternoon off to rest – except for finishing the outdoor table area and hearing speeches about people’s responsibilities for bringing food for the next day. There was a battery-operated megaphone that was very popular, and amazingly enough, it lasted until the speeches on graduation day were almost over!

grad celebration
Men dancing at Graduation Celebration.

Mon. 2 Oct.
Graduation day. The start, a welcome parade bringing the team and graduates through 3 gates and singsing groups, was scheduled to start at 8:30 AM. But since the pig for the feast didn’t arrive until then, and still had to be butchered, the program started more like 10:30 AM. We reached the church at 11:30, and recognitions, reports from the 10 teams about the outreach results, a very Biblical sermon from the Hube Circuit Vice-President, presentation of 131 certificates (we were 4 short), and thank-yous, lasted until 2:30 or so. An offering was taken and K35.90 given to the SALT course. We got a huge group photo, and then people went off to get their food ready. The rest of us listened to speeches outside, and then some singsing groups got ready to entertain during the meal. The team ate fast and left Ebebang at 4 PM for the 2 ½ hour walk down to Mindik.

We stayed overnight with Russu, the Mindik MAF agent whose guest room and house are near the airstrip. He speaks Borong fluently, and was the one representative of the Burum-Minkik people who attended the Borong SALT course.

Tues. 3 Oct.
The SIL and MAF 206’s arrived at the same time and we took off about 10:30 AM for home.

135 participants qualified for SALT certificates.

Results: 135 participants graduated from the Borong SALT course; however, on most days there were 300-350 people attending! In fact, there was so much enthusiasm for the course that the organizers announced that they would have a SALT II next year. (None of the team had suggested that!) Many attendees expressed their appreciation, said they “never heard these things before” or discussed ideas with their friends. It was obvious that the community enjoyed the presentations because a large number of people came who were not enrolled in the course. They enjoyed doing the outreach. One man, who had long been a self-proclaimed evangelist, but was universally scorned by the community for his mixed up ideas and for leaving his wife and children while he wandered around, testified that he finally understood God’s truth, would change his life and take care of his family, and freely forgave the people who had talked about him behind his back. It still remains to be seen whether barriers between the various area churches really do start to break down. It was also unclear whether the course had caused more people to buy and pay for New Testaments. When Larry Doyle returns to the area in November he will have a chance to assess the results.