Thursday, March 22, 2007

Imbo-Ungu S.A.L.T.

A report by Paul Donovan

S.A.L.T. courses are usually held following the dedication of a New Testament translation to encourage the use and understanding of the Scriptures. The Imbo-Ungu people received their NT in 1997; and they now have a desire to have the Old Testament also in their language. Therefore the additional purpose of this S.A.L.T. course was to help the church leaders raise enthusiasm and support for tok ples (talk of the place) Scripture and an OT project.

Five expatriates (an interesting mix of 3 Americans, one from the deep south, an Australian and me - an Englishman), traveled up the Highlands Highway through the Eastern Highlands and Chimbu Province. Below is a photo of myself, Paul Williamson, Ian Tupper, Mike Howes and John Miller, which was taken right before we left for the village.

The Imbo-Ungu S.A.L.T. team

Pastor Tande’s village had been preparing for our arrival. We were very warmly greeted by villagers and Sunday School children adorned with flower garlands and a singing procession to our house. The house had belonged to the SIL translators but was donated to the Lutheran church upon completion of the work. The church has maintained the basic but comfortable building and its contents impeccably over the past ten years. Our leader told us we were very spoilt as we had not only running water but hot running water (solar heated), a western flushing toilet, beds and a kerosene cooker!

Paul Williamson pictured with Imbo-Ungu friends

The course ran Monday to Friday, 8am – 3pm over two weeks and was aimed at, but not restricted to, those who have Christian leadership roles such as Sunday School teachers, Elders, Evangelists and Pastors. Students came from surrounding villages; some walked over four hours to be present and then stayed the week. Throughout the course we had a committed core of about 50 students with others on the fringe and numbers going up to 70 at times.

A distinction of the S.A.L.T course is the focus on the use of ‘tok ples’ (heart language) rather than Melanesian Tok Pisin or English. We taught in English (though I found myself often slipping into Pidgin!) and a local man and women translated for us.

Ladies celebrate with singing and drums

The people said it was good to have the scripture in Imbo-Ungu and a common report from the outreach groups was that the people said it was sweet to hear God’s word in their heart language. We encouraged the students to persevere with their reading and the Bibles they had used during the course were offered to them at a highly subsidized cost of 5 Kina (less than $2.00).

Each of us taught four lessons using the S.A.L.T. outlines and posters, which give pictorial representations of the subject. The posters and the student’s workbooks/lesson outlines had previously been translated into Imbo-Ungu. A subject was taken each morning and afternoon along with the students doing reviews of the previous day's lessons, which helped us in some ways to assess understanding. The outlines were helpful for preparing my lesson and the range and sequence of subjects well planned. The students were very appreciative of us being there and giving the course. I pray that it will have taught, encouraged and equipped them a little more for their area of service.

Ladies singing at S.A.L.T. course

Once all lessons had been taught, the students were divided into eight outreach groups and given a village or church to take and teach some of the material we had covered. To earn a certificate, students had to attend at least seven of the nine teaching days and participate in outreach. Leading worship, prayers, reading tok ples scripture or teaching were the ways they could be involved.

Pastor Tande teaching

Pastor Tande taught the final lesson on the great commission and the groups were sent out over a wide area, some walking up to four hours and staying the night. Once all had returned we had a feedback session on how it had gone. Most groups reported a very enthusiastic response from people hearing scripture in Imbo-Ungu and wanting more of the teaching. A few reported how groups had requested that a S.A.L.T. course be ran in their village or church. This was all encouraging and we were able to emphasize that now the responsibility to teach the material and promote the use of the Imbo-Ungu Bible was with those who had received the training. We had trained the trainers! We did then hear suggestions from the students that they rotate around the venues with their lessons until all the villages had heard each topic. We congratulated them on this desire and left the organization of such with the S.A.L.T. committee, which had been formed from the start and oversaw all practical arrangements and decision-making.

53 students graduated. The committee had decided they wanted graduation as part of the Sunday morning service. The turn out of friends and family for the occasion meant there was not room in the church so we relocated outside in beautiful sunshine.

People gather for graduation

The number gathered, the effort put into the celebration and the well groomed students showed how much the course and the graduation meant to the people – it took me quite by surprise and I felt was on a par with how we might celebrate after completing a degree! Yet another expression of their appreciation were the traditional gifts they had jointly paid for or made and lavished on us. This was especially touching as the area’s staple crop; Kaukau (sweet potato-like and often the only meal of the day) had been affected by frost and therefore the little money they do have (as many do not have paid employment) was needed for food. Out of their need they gave as they had done throughout the course, bringing us food gifts from their gardens.

Graduates line up to receive their certificate

We pray that any subsequent outreaches that the students make in the language area will work in hearts to bring about a greater desire to have the complete word of God in their heart language. Pastor Tande, Carrie (a woman who translated for us) and Nick (an Imbo-Ungu man who is a PNG BC Pastor near to the SIL base) have been accepted into a five week Translators Training Course (TTC) at Ukarumpa. This starts April 25th and is aimed at giving national people the basics to begin translation work themselves. Subsequent training is then given over the years. One of my fellow teachers (Ian Tupper) has also been designated a language advocate for them. Ian is a linguist and will help and encourage them in the program and ensure they get the necessary training and support, but will not be a resident translator who does the work for them.

Mike shares photos with a look in the camera

SIL is developing more programs and courses to empower nationals to do the work, which I find very encouraging and believe is the right way to go with all of our kingdom building work. We need to be training and discipling Papua New Guineans to translate God’s word into their own language, to teach it to the church and proclaim it to the lost. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to be involved in supporting such an aim. It has been a wonderful experience and one that I am very thankful and privileged to have had the opportunity to be involved in.

Blessings, Paul Donovan