Papua New Guinea (MNN) — Providing God's Word in the heart language of a people group is a key to evangelism, discipleship and church planting. Without it, people hear the words, but sometimes those words get lost in translation. That's exactly what happened to the Siar People of Papua New Guinea.
Missionary Lane Sanford's family serves with New Tribes Mission, along with two other families on the Island of New Ireland in southern Papua New Guinea. He says the Siar had read God's word in the national language, "But, [they had] absolutely no teaching from it, absolutely no understanding of the God of the Bible–especially Christ and what He did for them."
Sanford says it took them about 18 months to learn the language. "We had learned the language well enough so we could begin translating. And that began the process of translating the portions of Scripture we would need to begin teaching them, starting in creation and leading up to the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus."
Three months of intense chronological teaching led up to the Gospel presentation. Sanford says the Siar finally understood what grace really meant. When they did, they couldn't keep quiet about it. "A large number of the ones that were there gave a public testimony. None of it was prompted by us, the missionaries. They gave just tremendous testimonies of personal faith and what Jesus had done for them. I'm feeble in my attempts to try to relive that for anyone else. It was just awesome."
While that was a great experience, Sanford says this is just the beginning. "[God's] desire is to build a church, not just simply to evangelize people. It's the growth and maturation of the church that God's concerned with. That's His program. And He wants to see the church grow and mature to a place that it can multiply and reach out."
Since hearing and receiving the Gospel, the Siar have reviewed all they have learned and are now moving forward, says Sanford. "Right now, as we speak, they are working through the book of Acts in the early chapters, and they're starting to get this early picture of what the church is supposed to be like, how it's supposed to function. And within about a month, we'll be stepping into the book of Romans."
These new believers are already understanding their need to share the Gospel with nearby villages. "They're seeing God work in their own lives, based on truth. And the conviction to tell others is just really become a natural outworking of God in their own lives," says Sanford.
These new believers need prayer. "With the same fervor and passion that people prayed for the Siar to hear the Gospel, we really need a whole new band of people to do the same for them as they continue to now go down this journey of becoming the body of Christ,"says Sanford.
If you'd like to see the video of the Siar actually responding to the Gospel for the first time, click here.
New Tribes Mission has similar translation efforts underway all over the world. If you'd like to be a part of this, click here.