It had been 8 months since we had prepared for a trip to the village. Thankfully this was a short trip and had a fairly focused set of goals.
First, we just wanted to reconnect with people in Bias.
Second, we needed to check on the house.
Third, we wanted to craft a series of 6 stories from the life of Joseph.
Kelli quickly got back into the groove of cooking and getting household supplies ready. She canned chicken and beef and vegetables, made up pancake and bread mixes, and boxed up fruits and other foods. A twelve-day menu all planned out, prepared and packed up.
I got all the materials (recordings, pictures, etc.) and equipment we needed for story crafting ready. Kelli even drew all the storyboard pictures in her ‘spare time’!
Finally, we stuck the boys and stuff in a plane and left the city and concrete behind!
After all the hugs and greetings on the airstrip, we got to the house. Eight months of sitting unoccupied in the jungle had taken its toll, but thankfully the house was in relatively good condition.
Kelli got busy cleaning and unpacking, and I got busy repairing the necessities.
Day 1 included putting up some fallen guttering for our water tank, crawling under the house to reconnect the pipe for the toilet (apparently a hog had gotten under the house and knocked it down), cleaning out all the water tank screens, reconnecting the solar panels, and getting the beds set up again. (I can’t even begin to detail all of Kelli’s tasks that first day. She looked like the Tasmanian Devil – dashing here and there cleaning and setting up house!)
The first couple of days were primarily consumed with getting the house in order, Unfortunately, there were some damages that couldn’t be immediately repaired. For instance one of our solar panels was fried. (Major loss!!!) Also, I had put a type of plastic screen in all the windows. To my great disappointment, the sun had completely dried the screen up till it became brittle, and the hard rains caused a large portion of the screens to simply crumble. (Another major loss!)
Sunday, I preached using a story from Revelation 7 that the people had not yet heard. It was fantastic worshiping the Lord and sharing His word with our friends in Bias again.
Monday, however, began the real excitement!
Monday, we began meeting with a group of about 10 people to craft stories from the life of Joseph. Up until this time, we have always crafted the Bible stories as a small team – just me, Sion, Jeri and Alex. This was a very different approach in using a larger group of people to help in the learning and translation process.
Everyday we spent about 4 hours learning a part of Joseph’s story in Indonesian by listening to a recorded passage repeatedly, discussing the terminology and concepts that were unfamiliar to them (e.g. sheep, kings, grapes, etc.), considering how to simplify the story without deviating from its essence, then working phrase-by-phrase in translating it into Yetfa.
After we had the basic story worked out, the group spent about 2 more hours going over and over and over the story, polishing up the language and getting it fixed in their heads. Then we started recording them telling the story. Everybody wanted a chance to be recorded telling the story – usually 2 or 3 times!
Finally, when everybody was satisfied with the recording part, we would sit down and have a devotional time of discussing the story. What did we learn about God in this story? What did we learn about the people in the story? What impact should this have on our lives?
Then when we finally dismissed, Sion would type the story up and store it in the computer. Then we’d get the materials ready for the next day’s story.
We went through this process everyday for 6 days straight.
For me, the week was such a mixture of mental exhaustion (working in Indonesian & Yetfa all day long) and spiritual exhilaration. It was priceless to sit back and watch portions of the living word of God being born in this language for the very first time ever. Every day the group was growing in excitement about the stories and the process.
When Saturday rolled around, I was inclined to take a break and finish the last story at another time. However, the group wouldn’t even entertain the thought! “No! We have to finish this!”
When Sunday morning came, the church was packed! Jeri told me how the group had been talking about the stories and the process to everybody in the village. One man named Matias, who was formerly a shaman, stood up and gave a long testimony about his experience in the group and the importance of having God’s word in their language.
In just 6 days, we saw a renewed interest and impact on the community in general. The group participants were clearly captivated by their involvement, and Jeri and Sion also seemed completely reenergized through the group crafting.
It was an amazing return to the village. I imagine all of the remaining 16 stories will be crafted in a group setting. The potential for wider discipleship and community involvement (not to mention the benefit of additional input concerning language issues) is simply invaluable.
I’m just overwhelmed at the fact that we have only been back on the field for less than 2 months, and yet so much has happened and so much progress has been made. Tomorrow we start the final recording of our initial set of 25 stories. Once that is finished we will move towards a widespread distribution of the solar powered MP3 players, as well as training for Story Fellowship Group leaders from various villages.
What an unbelievable opportunity to watch as God reveals himself to the Yetfa people through his word in their own language!