Tears of joy, dancing and shouting ……The men were running and dancing with spears, which they stopped using in tribal warfare after the gospel arrived 50 years ago.
The singing and dancing began as the tribal members gathered near the small mountain airstrip in Papua, Indonesia.
“We’re here to celebrate the finishing of the complete Bible in the Hupla language,” pilot Mike Brown explained while standing near his small Mission Aviation Fellowship airplane.
And this time the party took place with an Irish Bible translator and the missionary pilots who helped make it all possible.
“This is exciting stuff for us,” he said. “We’ve been partnering with the missionaries who have been translating this thing for years and years and years. So it’s just great to be able to come and join them in the celebration.”
For the past 40 years, Brown and other MAF pilots have flown the translating team in and out of the Soba airstrip. One frequent passenger was Sue Trenier, an Irish missionary who helped Christian tribesmen translate the Old Testament.
Trenier observed the festivities from the top of the Soba airstrip, where the first plane landed in 1968.
“Most of the Hupla tribe of 3,000 people are digging pits to cook pigs,” she explained. “They’ll be having services. They’ll be praising God. There’s singing. There’s all different groups from different churches. All we’re seeing here is like a Hupla tribal party.”
It took more than 200 roasted pigs to feed the crowd. The men were running and dancing with spears, which they stopped using in tribal warfare after the gospel arrived 50 years ago.
When the New Testament was translated into their language, the newly founded church began to grow. Today, 26 more converts were baptized.
But the highlight of the celebration was the delivery of the completed Hupla Bible.
David Holsten, also a MAF pilot, said that although this people group has had the translation in the New Testament for awhile, “what really makes the dedication this day unique is that it completes the story. It’s the Old Testament.”
“I get excited thinking about what it’s going to be like for them to see God’s story of salvation that begins in Genesis,” he said.
The first Bibles were given to a young man, representing the youth; to a woman, to stand for all women; and to an older man, recognizing those who had waited many years for the entire Bible in their language.
The son of one of the translators, Kenuel, was excited about the box of Bibles they had just received.
“We had a special time of devotions together opening the Bibles. I’m feeling like I’ll be able to learn more deeply about God’s word. When I sit with my own people I’ll be able to read, we’ll be able to read it together,” he said.
The Hupla Bible translation was supported by the Indonesian Bible Society.
According to Wycliffe Bible Translators the global challenge is still great, with over 1,800 languages waiting for the start of a Bible translation project.