Growing Up in Bible Translation: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Growing Up in Bible Translation: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

November 22, 2022


Seed Company writer Ruth with children in Papua New Guinea

Ruth, a Seed Company writer, reflects on the generational impact of Bible translation after visiting Papua New Guinea.

“Sobu is here!”

I leapt from the couch, motioning for my son to follow. We’d waited many years for this moment.

American woman and son hugging man in Papua New Guinea

When I was a little girl growing up in Lalok, a jungle village on Papua New Guinea’s north coast, I gave little thought to what my parents did for work. I knew they were serving with Wycliffe Bible Translators, and that they loved Jesus. 

As a child, I couldn’t comprehend how their life’s work would result in such a precious gift to both me and those who had become my extended family—the Anjam people.

A little American girl sits in a church surrounded by local believers in Papua New Guinea

While my dad spent hours and hours in his office, and my mom supported him and cared for our home, I only thought about spending time with friends and swimming in the river. 

Thankfully, I grew up under the watchful care of people like Sobu, our dear family friend. I’ll never forget standing as a bridesmaid in his church wedding—a significant break from cultural tradition.

Little American girl sits on tortoise with friends in Papua New Guinea

Decades later, Sobu and the Anjam people still hold a special place in my heart. Now, a mom of two, my kids have heard countless stories of village life—so much so that my 14-year-old son Malachi had long been asking, “When can I go to PNG?”

When Least Expected, Malachi’s Dream Comes True

To my surprise, my supervisor messaged me in early June asking if I would be interested in going on a story trip to Papua New Guinea to attend the Aruamu Bible dedication. I answered immediately: “Yes!”

About 12 years ago, I became a writer for Seed Company. While not a translator like my parents, I’ve learned a great deal about Bible translation and am passionate about the mission of helping all people have God’s Word in a language they fully understand.

As the Anjam people are never far from my thoughts, this opportunity to return to the country where I spent most of my childhood delighted me. But how could I go without Malachi?

“Could I bring my son?” I asked.

My mind was blown as God opened doors, friends and family provided funds, and six weeks later, Malachi and I were sitting on a jumbo jet bound for PNG.

Rejoicing with Aruamu Brothers and Sisters

We first arrived in the town of Madang and spent a couple days recovering from jetlag. Then we, along with eight others mostly with Pioneer Bible Translators (PBT), loaded into the back of a large truck and jostled over rough roads for five hours until we arrived in the village Tiap, where the Aruamu Bible dedication was to take place.

Group of Americans rides in a truck in Papua New Guinea

We stayed with PBT missionary Marsha in her bush house, sleeping under mosquito nets and listening to rats scamper across the floor and bats brush past the windows.

Marsha and her husband John started the Aruamu Bible translation project in 1986. John died shortly after the New Testament was completed in 2004, yet the translators were determined to continue their work. Now Aruamu speakers have one of the few full Bibles in PNG—a country with over 800 languages!

Two Americans visit Aruamu Bible Dedication in Papua New Guinea

On dedication day, an open field near Marsha’s house pulsed with color as thousands of Aruamu speakers gathered to celebrate. People danced and sang; speakers inspired and challenged; and the crowd roared with laughter as a skit about “the first missionary” demonstrated classic PNG humor. 

My heart nearly exploded as I watched Malachi take in all the sights, sounds, smells, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences.

Malachi at the Aruamu Bible dedication

Coming Home with Treasure in Hand

Our days in Tiap went quickly, and soon, Malachi and I were off on our next adventure. We were going home to Lalok!

As we walked through the village, people’s faces beamed. They recognized me. When I introduced Malachi, many eagerly shook his hand, and some even sobbed as they drew him close.

American teenage boy with group of local children in Papua New Guinea

“You haven’t forgotten us!” they exclaimed.

Never! In fact, for the last several years, my dad has been translating the book of Psalms into Anjam. This trip afforded me the unexpected joy of delivering this precious gift to them.

Sobu was the first to receive a copy when he met Malachi and me in Madang a few days earlier. What a special moment—introducing my son to our cherished family friend and handing him the Psalms printed in his own language.

American woman and man in Papua New Guinea hold Bible

Months later, I still marvel at how God orchestrated each detail of this trip. I never imagined that three generations of my family—my parents, me, and now my son—would have the opportunity to help bring God’s Word to Anjam speakers.

But God is accomplishing his purposes, and I can’t wait to see the many ways he will continue using the gift of translated Scripture to transform hearts and minds across generations around the globe.

See More Photos from the Aruamu & Anjam Communities

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