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Location map of Papua New Guinea

50 years in Papua New Guinea

On 21st April SIL (formerly Summer Institute of Linguistics) in Papua New Guinea (PNG), had a special day of thanksgiving and celebrations to mark 50 years of service in PNG. I have had photographs and stories sent to me some of which I will share with you. I would love to have been there myself as I remember the great time we had at the 40th anniversary, and our rejoicing then in the 100th completed New Testament (NT).

Serving Mumu food
Serving Mumu food
There were many visitors, including the Governor General Sir Paulias Matane, who spoke warmly about the impact of Bible Translation and Literacy in PNG. New Testaments that SIL teams have translated were carried on to the platform by employees and local folk, 159 in all which included the Kobon and Kein that had been dedicated the previous weekend. There were of course lots of speeches as well as times praise and prayer. Tai Yari, the man I trained at the SIL Store in the early nineties, spoke on behalf of the employees as did Orpah whom I taught bookkeeping. Later there was a Mumu lunch and evening concert provided by Ukarumpa residents, National and Expat. I will let pictures and snippets of speeches, tell the rest of the event. My asides will be in brackets.

Tai Yari . "..13 years after SIL came, I with kids of my age group of 7-9year olds, would walk to Ukarumpa from Akuna village to sell vegetables to the Mastas and Misis. It is a 2 ½ hours walk now but 6 hours then. Thirty years later and for 14 years I have been with SIL and have come to know more of and participate in the work of SIL. SIL has contributed much more than just translating the Word of God into the many languages of PNG. The Word of God in each dialect could not be read and understood if SIL did not teach the people who had no access to education to read and write in their own tokples. Tokples or Vernacular schools have been set up and people taught to read and write in their own language.

Tai Yari
Tai Yari
"There are people out in the villages who had no formal education but can read and write in their own tokples better than I do’." (Sadly Tai has never learnt to read Gadsup). "SIL has contributed much to the community and country as a whole which I would like to mention a few: training of PNGians in various fields .."(In all Support departments, and in two of the core purposes of our work: translation & literacy). "Apart from training SIL has helped PNGians attain good education with school fee assistance. Health services to the local communities and Kainantu as whole is very much appreciated by all. During the most critical times SIL has been there to help the people within and outside of this valley, Aiyura with the best medical care. There is much more we PNGians would like to say and thank SIL for but time will not allow. It is great to be part of the team and we look forward to working together in the years ahead."

Sir Paulius Matane
Sir Paulius Matane

Sir Paulias Matane. “I was very moved by the faith that you people have.” “If the people know the Word of God in their own languages, they will hopefully be able to do things that are right under Christian principles.” “Once again thank you very much, all of you who gave up your beautiful places and all the wealth that you have in your countries to come here and live amongst the people of Papua New Guinea. I just want to say thank you again.”
“But I’m glad that you are training Papua New Guineans not only in translation but also in many other things as well.” “I believe that through the availability and understanding of the Word of God in our own mother tongues our dreams of a better Papua New Guinea can be arrived at.” “The worldwide church, including the Papua New Guinea church, must take up the challenge of supporting and promoting mother-tongue Bible translation. This is my appeal to the people of Papua New Guinea.”

Pioneers honoured.

As a young man, Alex Vincent wanted to study Norwegian. Then he heard about a brand new work in Papua New Guinea, an Australian territory at the time. The Summer Institute of Linguistics, now known as SIL International, had just been commissioned by the territorial government to serve Papua New Guinea through language development and Bible translation.

Turning his back on dreams of Norway, Vincent left his home in Australia and arrived in PNG November 1956.

Across the Pacific Ocean, an American woman was finishing Bible school. Lois Heyer knew that many people did not have the Bible in their own languages, and she says she wanted to do something about that. She boarded a ship in San Francisco and arrived in Papua New Guinea weeks later, in 1957.

Both young people were drawn to PNG by a love for people they had never met. And when they arrived, they grew to love each other, too. Vincent and Heyer married in 1958, and they began living amongst the Tairora people of Papua New Guinea’s Eastern Highlands.

Alex and Lois Vincent
Alex and Lois Vincent

The couple struggled to learn the language and customs of the Tairora, but gradually they developed deep friendships with the people they had come to serve. Their children grew up with Tairora children and learned some of the Tairora language.

Years passed, and the Vincents dedicated the Tairora New Testament in 1980. They continued to work amongst the Tairora people, teaching literacy courses, translating portions of the Old Testament, and adapting the New Testament into dialects of the Tairora language.

Today, the couple are both in their 70s, but they still live amongst the Tairora people, revising some of the Old Testament portions that they have translated.

In recognition of their decades of service, Papua New Guinea’s government invested the Vincents with the Insignia of the National Logohu Medal in February 2006.

Over nearly 50 years, the Vincents have known four generations of Tairora people. They have seen their friends draw close to God as they’ve studied the Bible in their own language. “It’s going to be very hard to leave,” they say.

Des and Jenny Oatridge
<- Des and Jenny Oatridge another pioneer couple are still working on translation in Australia for the Binumarian people. Des along with Alex did initial survey work and they partnered until their marriages.

Playing bamboo tubes with flipflops ->

Playing bamboo tubes with flipflops
Queue to take New Testaments into Meeting House
Queue to take New Testaments into Meeting House
Receiving New Testaments in Meeting House
Receiving New Testaments in Meeting House
And the band played..."
And the band played...
I hope you have enjoyed a glimpse of the happy occasion. And marvel with us for all that our Great God has accomplished over the years. I thank Him for allowing me a small part in this great task, and for all those of you who through the Lord Jesus Christ, made this happen.

With Christian Love ,


Inside the Meeting House at Ukarumpa
Inside the Meeting House at Ukarumpa, Papua New Guinea.

Queue to take New Testaments into the Meeting House
Queue to take New Testaments into the Meeting House.

More Mumu food
More Mumu food.

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