Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Power of Language

During our initial six-week stay in Wabag, Enga Province, we learned just how powerful it is to speak to people in their own language.

I (Adam) had taken just a few steps down the street in Wabag town when I realized that I was unintentionally stealing the groceries I was carrying. I had left the store without paying for them! I quickly went back into the store where I had bought them and said, “Namba kame silyo!” which means, “I am forgetting.” (At that time I could not yet say “I forgot to pay” so I just said what I could to get my point across.) I had shopped in this small store a couple of times before, and I had always tried to speak in Enga. This time, the store workers were so excited to see a ‘kone’ (white man) trying to speak Enga that they forgot to ask me to pay! Luckily I was able to pay for my groceries without any problems, and they were impressed that I had come back after realizing I hadn’t paid.

I have encountered similar reactions all over town whenever I speak in Enga. When I stop to speak with someone in town, I soon have a crowd of people around me who are fascinated to hear a ‘kone’ speaking Enga! People have literally squealed with joy at hearing me speak Enga!

The reactions are not the same when we speak in Tok Pisin, which is the main trade language of Papua New Guinea. Many foreigners can speak Tok Pisin. But there are few foreigners that take the time to learn Enga!

Now, if people get that excited to hear a ‘kone’ speaking a few words of broken Enga, imagine how excited they will be to hear the very word of God in Enga! Learning someone’s language tells them that you value them, and I believe that when people hear the Word of God in their own language, they will experience the love of God in a unique and powerful way!

When were you in Wabag?
We were in Wabag, the capital of Enga Province, for six weeks from September 19 to October 30.

Where did you stay in Wabag?
We stayed in a guest house located on the grounds of the Wabag Assembly of God Church. The guest house was conveniently located close to town. While this was a wonderful place for us to stay, it will not be available for us long-term, so please pray for a long-term housing solution for us in Enga Province.

Why did you go to Wabag?
We went to Wabag to confirm our calling to do translation work in the Enga language, become familiar with life in Enga Province, and continue language study. After six weeks in Wabag, we are now ready to officially allocate to the Enga Bible translation project.

Is Enga hard to learn?
If you ask an Engan, they will tell you that Enga is very easy and that you will learn it in a few months. In reality, it is a very difficult language for an English speaker to learn. The sentence structure is very different from English, and the verb forms are extremely complex. It is nothing like learning Spanish or Tok Pisin, which are both relatively similar to English.

Have you started translating yet?
We had our first meeting of the Enga Bible translation team in September! Each team member was given a portion of Jonah to translate, which will help us evaluate each person’s translation abilities. However, the primary work of translating the New Testament is slated to begin in 2013!

How are Martha and the kids?
Martha and the kids are doing well. Martha homeschooled the kids while we were in Wabag, and she did a great job. The kids quickly made new friends, and they had lots of fun playing on the church grounds.

What's next?
We are now in Ukarumpa, where we are continuing independent study of the Enga language. We are hoping to go back to Enga Province in January, so please pray that we will be able to find suitable housing that will be available to us long-term.