Skip links

Different world, same Word

PAPUA NEW GUINEA—Flanked by a mass of bodies singing in Kasua, “God’s book has come,” four men shouldered boxes of the first New Testaments in their language toward the Musula village center in remote Papua New Guinea.

In front, three women adorned with paint and cassowary feathers danced in circles before the procession. Behind, a throng with rattles of gourds and pill bottles kept time to fierce drumming by men with faces in rigid feather frames. They wore percussive peacock tails of reeds and clusters of crayfish shells.

The solemn overseer of this all-day celebration was village chief Amos Ulupele, who became the lead tribal translator alongside Tommy and Konni Logan, an American couple with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Some tribespeople had traveled for five days across a notorious section of jungle, limestone cliffs, and sinkholes.

Accessible only by plane, the Kasua had spent seven years clearing an airstrip when the Logans brought their infant daughter to Musula in 1991. The tribe of 600 was spread among six villages (now eight) in the shadows of Mount Bosavi, an extinct volcano. Tommy and Konni Logan, now in their 50s, were “young and wanted adventure” when they arrived in Papua New Guinea to work with Wycliffe’s partner, SIL International.

They woke to the warbling of tropical birds under coconut trees and worked amid heat, flies, and snakes called “death adders.” After years of academic study came years of translation and Biblical worldview presentation in a culture without an alphabet. Linguistic work can bring deep discouragement: “I’ve really felt that deeply,” Tommy Logan told me.

Tommy is a quiet man with a broad frame. Konni is buoyant with laughter. Daughters Rachel, 27, and Laura, 23, grew up in Musula before leaving to finish school in the United States. Together again, the family reminisced about language mistakes: The words for grace and chicken are similar in Kasua.

The Oct. 26 Kasua New Testament dedication brought together longtime translators and supporters from around the world to share in their greatest stories and deepest doubts. It can be easy to counsel patience in evangelism, said Johann Alberts, a translator with a nearby tribe, but it’s hard when he doesn’t see visible results.

Read more at World Mag. 

Share with Friends: