I didn’t see it coming.
We were doing literacy class among our Bible school students. This literacy class, for those who are already literate in Melanesian Pidgin, is as much for me as it is for them. Our co-worker, Sarah Glover, has taught some of these preachers’ wives to read and write in Pidgin. A year ago, they were illiterate.
Our Kamea language class gives me, the one who is learning Kamea, the opportunity to use what I’m learning as I learn. Our co-worker Cherith Ottosen, working with Margaret Manateo (whom followers of this blog recognize from our clinic), developed some reading primers and language lessons back in 2009. In the mornings recently I’ve been able to work with our Bible school students one-on-one in Kamea language materials.
This year we added Kamea literacy to our course curriculum in our Bible school. I wanted our men to be literate in Kamea so that they can help our translation team work on the Kamea Bible project. Four days a week we have been learning to read what little material there is in Kamea. A month ago, the students wrote their first stories in Kamea; brief and simple as they are, these represent a step ahead in language literacy. We printed them out and now they are part of a reading book. Needless to say, the students were excited to be published! Move over you big publishers, Kamea Press is cranking them out.
The students and I have worked together to translate a few Bible verses in isolation; that is, verses that can stand alone without supporting context and still have meaning. Our Ipaiyu church has memorized several of these verses already; the Bible school students are memorizing them too. This week we translated Matthew 4:4–“But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (KJV) It looks like this in Kamea; Matio 4:4–
Jisäs’o ä’oi täqutanqa ti, Tuwämnga yä qatna. Ämä’ä itaunta mtinga mame’a ihuta ti. Hawei. Ä’onga qhoä Nkot’oi’ya mängauta qatanqau ta mtinga mäuta ti.
Then it happened. Literacy class was finishing up, and we had a few minutes left. I saw the new verse on the blackboard and thought, “Let’s see if they can read it.” Mind you, they’ve been reading monosyllable words and have had little practice with the vowel blends that are in these words. I asked, “Who wants to try the verse?” Hands shot up. I called on them one by one. I pointed to each word as they read it clearly, without stumbling, in their own heart language. And, might I add, they were grinning from ear to ear. I had them explain the text, word for word. Yes–it is clear, accurate, and understandable.
I didn’t see it coming. I know that we are nowhere near doing the translation project. But I see hungry minds and hearts thrilled with God’s word, and I believe to see God do it.