When Word Alive writer Doug Lockhart visited Bougainville this past fall with photographer Alan Hood, he gained a clearer understanding of the decade-long Bougainville Conflict. He also learned how the turmoil affected the islands’ residents and the current progress of Bible translation there.
To visit translators working in the Sibe (SEE-bay) region, Doug and Alan had to pass by the former site of a giant copper and gold mine (pictured above). It figured prominently in the conflict on Bougainville, which is now an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea.
“It was eerie to see enormous burned-out buildings, as well as mangled electrical towers and charred vehicles littering the landscape,” says Doug. “But even more disturbing was the reminder that 20,000 people died during the war.”
In the Sibe village Doug and Alan visited, translators Mark Sipaala and Samson Sukina told of how they survived those dark days by hiding from independence fighters in the dense rainforest. Most of Sipaala’s work on New Testament translation was lost at that time, and both men nearly died.
Although the war ended about 16 years ago, progress in Bible translation has been slow. Many of the “first wave” of expat linguists and translators who helped launch translation projects have since retired or returned home. So the focus has shifted to training Bougainvilleans themselves to carry on.
“It’s a grand vision,” reports Doug, “but one fraught with challenges.”
One thing is clear—Bougainville needs the prayers and financial assistance of Canadians to help local translators provide mother-tongue Scriptures for people speaking nearly 40 languages and dialects. That is why Wycliffe Canada is helping to sponsor the Bible translation project there as one of its Focus Regions around the world.
Jesus warned us that in this world we will have trouble, but He also promised that in Him, we could have peace because He has overcome the world (John 16:33).
For those in Bougainville, who have known the ravages of war firsthand, this truth from God and so many others, needs to come in Scriptures that clearly speak to their hearts.
May it be so—and soon.