Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Take My Pyakende Upon You

“Take my yoke upon you…and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus’s words in Matthew 11:29-30 are some of the most difficult to translate into the Enga language. From the time that I became a Christian, I was taught that a yoke is a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the neck of two animals and attached to a plough or cart that they are to pull. This is an easy enough concept to understand for people who come from societies that make use of beasts of burden, but in Papua New Guinea, there are no beasts of burden. Consequently the concept of a yoke placed on animals is completely foreign. Thus, we have struggled greatly in our attempt to translate Matthew 11:29-30.

Recently, however, I came to learn that a yoke can also refer to a wooden frame that a person places on his neck or shoulders to make it easier to carry a heavy load. Indeed, the Bible often makes figurative use of the word ‘yoke’ as it refers to people and not to beasts of burden (see 1 Kings 12:4-14). As I was pondering that idea, I began to notice that when Engan men carry heavy logs on one shoulder, they often balance the load by supporting it with a small stick placed across the other shoulder. A few weeks ago, it clicked in my mind that the small stick they use to make it easier to carry a heavy log is like a yoke. Excited by this realization, I quickly asked my friend Benjamin if the stick that men use to make it easier to carry a heavy log has a name in Enga. Sure enough it does. It is called a pyakende. With great anticipation, I asked the translation team if we could use the word pyakende to translate the word ‘yoke’. After wrestling with the phrasing for a little while, we came up with the following translation: “In order to remove the heaviness from your shoulders, take my pyakende. When you have taken it, you will receive rest. As my pyakende helps you, what I give you to carry is not heavy and you will carry it without struggling.”

Lightening the load with a pyakende
My Heart Will Go Thud
One of the things I love about Enga is the rich metaphors it employs. Sometimes, however, these metaphors can be difficult to grasp at first. There is one particular metaphor that I have struggled to understand precisely: mona lyuu lenge. I knew that the entire phrase meant something like ‘to be at peace in your heart’. I also knew that mona meant ‘heart’ and that lenge meant ‘produce a sound’, but I really struggled to know what lyuu meant. Usually a word that comes before lenge is some sort of sound or speech, but what sound is produced when your heart is at peace? As we were translating Philippians 2:19, the team used this phrase to describe how Paul would feel when he received news of how the Philippians were doing. So I asked the team what exactly mona lyuu lenge meant. Often it is hard to get a straightforward answer to such questions, but the team explained that the literal meaning of lyuu lenge is the sound that is made when a large object hits the ground. For example, when a cluster of pandanus nuts hits the ground, it makes such a sound. Finally I realized that the word lyuu literally means ‘thud’ and that lyuu lenge means ‘go thud’ or ‘make a thud sound’. Well, I was happy to figure out the literal meaning of the word lyuu, but I still couldn’t see what it had to do with being at peace in your heart. The team then further explained that when you feel anxious about something, it is like your heart is hung up on whatever it is that you are anxious about. But when your anxiety is relieved, your heart falls back into place. And when your heart falls back into place, metaphorically speaking, it makes a thud sound just like a cluster of pandanus nuts when it falls to the ground. So, in the Enga translation of Philippians 2:19, Paul literally writes, “When [Timothy] tells me how you are doing, I will hear and then my heart will go thud.” I think my own heart went thud when I finally realized the meaning of this rich metaphor!

A cluster of pandanus nuts
Translation Progress
Since August, the Enga translation team has completed drafts of 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude, James, and Philippians. We are currently working on drafting 1 Peter. As God enables us, we are covering much ground each day, even through the more difficult books of the Bible that we are now translating. We have now drafted 73.5% of the New Testament. Please pray that God would enable us to finish drafting the entire New Testament by 2019.