NTM uses Biem language to teach islanders about the only road to God

By September 20, 2012

Papua New Guinea (MNN) — Papua New Guinea's Biem people are entering a critical time of spiritual growth. Using the Biem language–one of over 800 languages spoken in Papua New Guinea, a New Tribes Mission team has led islanders through foundational Old Testament stories. They use this approach to prepare the Biem people to learn about the Messiah.

"All the way through, there's a ribbon of truth that shows that God's going to send someone who will be the sacrifice for sin," said NTM's Nita Zelenak. "God's going to provide a way to take care of the sin that we can't take care of ourselves."

In the coming weeks, missionaries will teach the Biem people about Christ's life, death and resurrection. This week, the Biem people were taught about the birth and life of Christ.

“I see that this talk is like our coconut trees," one of the Biem men said to describe NTM teachings. "We haven’t yet heard of the Road Man, but He must be the food at the top of the tree. And just like there is no way to get the food but by starting the climb at the bottom, we too are understanding bit by bit and slowly climbing, and soon we’ll know of Him.”

Before NTM entered the scene, the Biem people only had access to God's Word in their trade language, Tok Pisin. Because the Bible wasn't written in their heart language, Zelenak said the nuances of spiritual truth didn't come through clearly to the Biem people.

"This group had the Bible in the trade language, but not in their own personal language," she said. "Consequently, as they took bits and pieces from the trade language Bible and mixed it in with their animistic beliefs, they ended up with beliefs that the way to get to heaven is by keeping lots of rules and doing lots of good works.

"They don't have a clear understanding that it was Christ's death on the cross that paid for their sin, and that's the only real road back to a right relationship with God."

The Biem people are an oral society, and therefore lacked any written forms of their language. Three NTM families immersed themselves in Biem culture, building relationships and learning the Biem language. After becoming fluent in Biem, teams developed a written language based on the English alphabet and began translating books of the Bible.

Firm Foundation Bible lessons began on July 16, and the Biem people started hearing Scripture in their own language.

"When the reading started, we couldn't believe that this was coming in our own tongue," said one of the tribal men excitedly. "The talk comes so much more clearly in our own tongue."

Not only are the Biem people hearing Scripture in their language, they're also learning how to read it. When the first students graduated their literacy training program, Zelenak said 700 people showed up at the graduation ceremony.

"They were so excited about the fact that people could now start learning to read in their own language," she stated.

As the Biem people learn about the life of Christ in coming weeks, they need you to pray.

"They expect to finish that in about 3 weeks, so these next 3 weeks are a critical time for the people," Zelenak said. "This is why we'd really like people to be praying for them.

"Please pray for the missionaries as they teach. They need real wisdom to make sure that what they're communicating is being understood."

Zelenak also asked for prayer for the Biem people.

"Pray for clarity of understanding in the hearts of people who are listening, and that their hearts would be open and ready to accept the Truth as they understand it."

You can support NTM missionaries serving in Papua New Guinea here. Or, you can learn what it's like to serve on the field through a missionary internship.

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