Thursday, August 1, 2013

The God Sacrifice

Papua New Guineans often talk about how God was in Papua New Guinea before any missionaries came. Enga is no exception, and God was literally in Enga for generations before the first contact with Christian missionaries.

When the Apostle Paul visited Athens, he found an altar with an inscription that said, “To An Unknown God” (Acts 17:23). Generations before the first missionaries came to Enga, the people of Enga also offered sacrifices to an unknown god.

In traditional Engan culture, most spirits were considered evil. However, during difficult times such as a draught or famine, some Engans would perform a ceremony called gote pingi, which literally means “doing god” or “doing the god sacrifice”. Men would go to a mountaintop and divide up a small piece of ground into sections. Each man would then steam-cook food in his section of ground using heated stones and leaves. While the food was cooking the men would go away.

Aipinimanda, the mountaintop where Engan
men did the god sacrifice (gote pingi).
By cooking the food on top of the mountain, the men attempted to please an unknown spirit or god with the aroma of the food. Their hope was that this unknown god would in turn bless them and help them through whatever challenges they were facing. When the men returned, they would look for signs in their section of ground to see if this unknown god had answered. If a man found a centipede, for example, it meant that he would have many children. If he found a snake, however, it meant that he would die soon.

When missionaries first came to Enga and spoke about God, the people of Enga were able to make a connection between the unknown spirit to whom they had been offering sacrifices and the God of the Bible. Over time, they began to learn that it wasn’t the aroma of their food, but the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that paved the way for God’s blessings.

Bible Translation Work Has Begun
In May, the Enga translation team completed five weeks of training. This culminated in a large parade and celebration in Wabag town to launch the Enga Bible translation project. The Enga Bible translation team is now busy drafting a translation of Genesis, chapters 12 through 21. This portion of the Bible is their assigned homework from the translation training they received, and it will give them a good opportunity to apply the skills that they have learned. Next week we are planning on returning to Enga for an extended stay to check and revise the translation draft of Genesis 12-21 and begin work on translating the book of Mark. After nearly four years of planning and preparation, it is exciting that the translation work is underway! Our hope is to finish the book of Mark in 2014 and distribute it in print and audio format to raise awareness for the project.

Adam's family visiting the people of Sakarip
in Enga Province.
Boyd Family Visit
We were wonderfully blessed to have Adam’s father, mother, sister, and niece visit for a few weeks in June and July. The highlight of the trip was visiting Enga Province, which required a ten-hour bumpy ride over the Highlands Highway with nine of us squeezed into a Land Cruiser. Adam’s family was amazed at the friendliness and hospitality of the Enga people. They had the opportunity to experience a mumu, which is a traditional way of steam-cooking food by placing heated stones in the ground, covering them with leaves, placing the food on the leaves, covering the food with more leaves, and then putting dirt on top to keep the heat inside. The Enga people were incredibly touched that Adam’s family would travel so far to visit them. Adam’s father was asked to speak at three different gatherings, and each time he shared with the people about God’s love. He told them that even though we live so far away and come from such different cultures that we are all part of God’s family.

InFocus Newsletter
A story from one of our previous updates about our time in the village of Immi was published in June in Wycliffe USA’s bimonthly newsletter InFocus. This newsletter is sent to the financial partners of Wycliffe. Click here to read more about it.