Monday, August 1, 2011

Judas Iscariot, A Cultural Hero?

When Don Richardson shared the story of Jesus with the Sawi people of West Papua, Indonesia, they considered Judas to be the hero of the story. Find out how they changed their minds and adopted the gospel of peace.

In 1962, Don Richardson went to live with the Sawi people of what was then Dutch New Guinea. The Sawi culture held to an ideal called 'tuwi asonai man', which means 'to fatten with friendship for unexpected slaughter'. According to this ideal, a man who could trick an enemy into thinking they were friends only to kill him unexpectedly was called a ‘legend maker’, which was a term of high honor and praise among the Sawi.

After Richardson had learned enough of the Sawi language, he shared the story of Jesus. The Sawi were impressed by how well Judas Iscariot earned the trust of Jesus only to betray him to his death. Judas, in their minds, was a great ‘legend maker’.

Frustrated by his inability to explain the gospel as well as by the fact that his presence had escalated violence by causing different groups to live closer together, Richardson told the Sawi that he was going to leave. Worried about losing their only source of medicine and steel axes, the Sawi told Richardson that they would make peace. Richardson doubted the possibility of peace, but they explained a custom of exchanging infants between warring villages. Each infant was known as a ‘Peace Child’, and they assured Richardson that as long as the Peace Child was alive, there would be no more war.

Richarson telling the Sawi about God's Peace Child
Richardson stayed with the Sawi and told them that Jesus is God’s Peace Child and God’s guarantee of eternal peace since Jesus lives forever. Many of the Sawi were transformed by this message, receiving God’s forgiveness and abandoning their treacherous ways.

How powerful it is to hear God’s Word in your own language and from your own cultural perspective!

Where We’ve Been
We’ve spent the last ten weeks at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks studying linguistics. This is the final pre-field training that we need to complete before leaving for Papua New Guinea. We will be back in California at the end of August.

What We Studied 
Because there is no real documentation of the languages that still need a Bible translation in Papua New Guinea, our preparation consists of linguistics training specifically geared to help us create alphabets, analyze grammar, understand culture, and learn to speak a a language that nobody has ever really studied in depth. For Adam, this consisted of Phonology (the sound systems of language), Writing Systems (how to develop an alphabet for an unwritten language), Ethnographic Methods (how language and culture relate), and Field Methods (practice in putting it all together). Martha finished the course set that Adam took last summer including Syntax & Morphology (sentence diagramming to the extreme), Sociolinguistics (how language is used in society), and Second Language Acquisition (how to learn language without classes or textbooks).

Sharing our story and
mission at a church
Adam Shares His Heart 
We’ve added four short videos of Adam sharing powerful stories and illustrations about the need and effectiveness of Bible translation. We invite you to watch them by clicking on the video tab at the top of this page. Don’t miss your chance to hear Adam read John 3:16 in Hawaiian Pidgin and in Tok Pisin, the national language of Papua New Guinea (see below).

What’s Next? 
As we finish our classes in North Dakota in early August, we will travel through Colorado to visit friends and family and share at churches before returning home in late August. This fall, we will be sharing at a different church nearly every Sunday as we begin our final preparations to leave for the field. Our goal is to arrive in Madang, Papua New Guinea on January 22, 2012, to begin the Pacific Orientation, a 14-week course designed to help us adjust to Melanesian culture and learn how to live in a village setting.