Danny and Becca DeLoach

Serving the people of Papua New Guinea
through Scripture Engagement

 

Folopa New Testament Dedication

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This is a summary about the Folopa New Testament dedication. It was written by Neil and Carol Anderson, the Wycliffe translators for the Folopa people. The report was originally intended for fellow Wycliffe missionaries. I have edited it to help make it more clear to our partners at home.

 

Folopa New Testament Dedication Report

18 January 2007

The weather is always something we watch closely when anticipating arrivals of airplanes and visitors. The weather pattern in December had been hot sunny days with little rain. As January began there was a large storm system over much of the country for days bringing huge downpours of rain and little sun. That system seemed to clear just as the first guests arrived. We had several days with little rain and then started to be concerned that the water in our tanks was getting low. Just as the dedication flights started we were conserving water.

The day most of the guests arrived, 15 January, we had some rain but not enough to prevent everyone from arriving safely. The Islander (twin-engine) aircraft cannot land on our airstrip if it is very wet so we were aware that it may have to land at a nearby airstrip and the smaller Cessna 206 airplane would have to shuttle people over the mountains to Mt Tawa airstrip. We were delighted that the strip was not too wet and the Islander was able to make the two landings that day. At that point we had almost 40 people in our house and the new building we constructed for housing guests, with all of us eating our meals in the house. We were spread out in every square inch of space sitting, chatting, eating, laughing, and sharing. It was fun for everyone.

That night as we all bunked down on beds of various types with every spare mattress we could muster from Ukarumpa and about 23 that we had bought for the occasion. The men were in the new building and the women were in the house. Most people got some sleep and we found that the new building with its metal siding and roof made a good sound tunnel for lots of snoring men. Everyone reported in the morning that it was someone else snoring. Nobody complained, however, leading me to again affirm how gracious Christians can be.

The day of the dedication dawned clear and bright with a beautiful sunrise in the south western sky. We had some morning fog but the weather was very favorable to two Cessna 206 flights that were due to arrive bringing more one-day visitors. The flights did arrive around 9 AM. Neil and other guests helped get the sound system set up down at the large speakers’ platform the Folopa men had constructed earlier.

The ceremony began about 8:30 AM with the worship team (6 men on guitars and 7 young women with tambourines) singing. The same group of women plus many others including children and some men, were dressed in traditional dress and paraded up and down in the way that they used to do many years ago when they had feasts.  A large group of men also dressed in traditional dress marched in two columns and chanted in the same way they did before except this time they called out "My Jesus" instead of the names of spirits that were once the focus of their feasts.

By 9:30 the speakers began with their speeches and the day visitors came down the hill from the airstrip about 9:45. They were welcomed and a short break was had while the visitors freshened up in the house before they made their way to the ceremony. Everyone reconvened at about 10:30 and the show went on. Giving speeches were each of the main translators, Oliver Kasa, Tom Bese, and Pastor Paul Hons. Thomas Fiu spoke on behalf of the Seventh Day Adventist church. Thomas was once a co-translator in the 1980s. Jan Gossner as Director of SIL (Wycliffe’s partner organization in Papua New Guinea) presented translation certificates to all those who had been co-translators. Steven Thomas spoke for BTA (Bible Translation Association – The Papua New Guinean version of Wycliffe) and thanked the men who had been BTA members for many years for their service to the cause of Bible Translation. A tribute to Robert Sandy was given by Oliver Kasa. Robert served for many years as a co-translator before his death from a defective heart in 1996. His certificate was received by his widow and surviving son, Merlyn.

The highlight of the time was a speech by Kitabategi Yonape in which he recounted his story about being the first evangelist to enter the Folopa speaking area. He called out a small group of Christians, the last living members of the first church, and told how he had instructed them to pray that a missionary would come and help them learn more about God's word. They prayed faithfully back in the late 1960s and early 1970s and then the Andersons arrived. This had been a powerful demonstration that God answered their prayers. After that there was a drama in which three men dressed in the old way (leaves and bark) were shown sitting in a makeshift "Temake Be" which was the spirit house. They had stones and were praying to them saying "Make our pigs good, make our wives have children, make our children good, make our gardens good".  The MC of the event, Tim Deke, who speaks English and is a recent graduate of the University of PNG, explained what the custom had been of praying to spirits and idols to make their lives good. In the drama, Kitibategi arrived and preached to them and many of them stopped praying to spirits and began a small church. Finally, they had Neil arrive and bring them the New Testament.

After the speeches there was more music and then the men went to prepare the presentation of the New Testaments. During this time there was singing.

While everyone waited the weather changed and it began to rain. We were all praying that it would hold off until we were finished but it continued to drizzle. This was in a sense an answer to prayer as normally it would have been a deluge.

The presentation consisted of the traditional marchers coming in with three gift poles at the lead. The translators, Tom, Oliver and Paul were carrying the long poles held straight up each with New Testaments tied all the way up. Fortunately all the books have a clear plastic cover and the men had taped the edges with packing tape so they did not get too wet. The men were wearing red t-shirts with the words Folopa Translation Team on the front and also a lap lap (wrap around skirt type of garment) of bark cloth. The wives were wearing bright blue "meri" blouses and everybody painted their faces with white, brown and red markings.

After the gift poles and marchers Neil and Carol marched with the procession as well as it went around and around. Two men carried a large box of New Testaments on a pole between them and the whole group finally ended up in the front and put the box on a table (those up front were amused by the words on the side of the box that said "Keep Dry"). The dancing and chanting and singing went on for quite a while as the rain picked up and got a little heavier. By this time it was about 2:00 in the afternoon and we were ready for a break to get dried off.

There was one last drama as the people portrayed the coming of the New Testament with women standing around two tall posts in the ground at the front. They had a man wrapped up in bark cloth and rags bound with ropes and face painted and looking very hopeless. At the top of one post was a PNG flag and at the top of the other a cross and a bundle. The bundle was slowly lowered as the people reached up for it. The person on the rope kept raising it out of their reach and then lowering it again. When they reached for it, it was yanked out of reach again. Slowly it came down and they finally got it but it was wrapped up in ropes and they couldn't get the knots untied. The pastor took it from the two women who had been unsuccessful in getting it untied. He and Tom Bese untied the knots and unwrapped the parcel until they saw it was a completed New Testament. They waved it in the air and shouted praise to God. This was a picture of how they had waited for the New Testament in their own language instead of the truth being out of reach in some other language they couldn't understand.

At this point the pastor began to sell copies of the NT to people and we headed back to the house with our visitors as it was well past time to eat. Everyone was wet and muddy but a good time was had by all anyway. It rained for some time after that but the people kept stepping up to buy New Testaments. About 100 were sold that day which is a pretty good number for this group of people. Most of those were purchased by people not from this village as they were leaving soon after the presentation.

Along with the NTs a sturdy nylon zippered book cover was included so the new books could be protected from the elements, bugs, rats, and mud. We are very thankful to the supporters who helped in the purchase and shipping of these covers.

Added to the first 37 guests we then had another 14 or so added and all ate lunch in the house-quite a feat! Late in the afternoon the two Cessna 206 aircraft were able to depart and head back to Ukarumpa.

The next morning everyone reported having slept quite a bit better. But the weather was no better. We woke up to fog on the ground which lasted almost until noon. By 1:00 PM the first planes took off with the last plane flight not leaving until 4:30 in the afternoon. Everyone got home safely and we trust soundly for which we shout Praise the Lord. The flights were our biggest concern.

We and the Folopa Christians are deeply indebted and grateful to the SIL Aviation personnel who went above and beyond the call of duty to get people and cargo transported to and from the dedication. Thanks to everyone who had a part.

For the Word of God in every language,

Neil and Carol Anderson

18 January, 2007

Fukutao Village