‘When I hear them reading the Bible in our language and praying in our language, I feel like the words pierce and cut my heart in two.’ – Martha, local church leader


  • Country: Indonesia
  • Language: Dobel
  • Speakers: 5,680
  • Start date: 2001
  • Projected end date: 2025


The community

The very remote Aru Islands are located in the south-east corner of Maluku Province, Indonesia. A total of 17 languages are spoken across the 28 inhabited islands, which are home to about 90,000 people. Most Aru villages are coastal, so people make their living from the sea. Nearly all travel is by boat since there are virtually no roads outside the one town in the islands. Due to adverse weather, travel can often be very difficult.

There are primary schools in most villages in the Aru Islands, and a small – but growing – percentage (25%) of children go on to secondary education. Historically, girls were often not given the opportunity for further schooling, although this is changing now. It is also only in recent years that there has been any kind of literature published in local languages.

The need

While there has been a church in these islands for over 100 years, many of the 75% of people baptised as Christians still hold to traditional beliefs. Their grasp of the Bible is often limited as it has only been available in the national language, which they struggle to understand. There is also a Muslim minority (about 25%). Christian outreach has been done in the national language, which is seen as a language of people outside the community. Consequently, many local people think of Christianity as an outside religion. Most do not see Jesus as someone who understands their own culture and language, and with whom they can have a personal relationship.

The project

This project focuses on partnering with the Dobel people. Dobel Christians are eager to have access to the Bible in their own language in order to strengthen the church and help disciple believers. The Dobel team is currently translating the New Testament and portions of the Old Testament. Alongside this, they make regular visits to churches to equip them to use Scripture in their own language, and help disciple Dobel believers as they mature in their faith.

Local church worshipping together

Encouraging progress has already been made on translation; the team has completed a full first draft of the New Testament as well as a number of Bible stories and church liturgies. They have also translated a Christmas-story booklet, the books of Jonah and Ruth, and the Joseph story from Genesis. As a growing number of Aru people use smartphones, a Bible app has also been developed for Dobel speakers to access Scripture.

Join in praise and prayer for the Dobel people:

  • Praise God for the steady progress the Dobel translation team is making.
  • Give thanks for the team’s growing relationship with the local church and good reputation among the local people.
  • Pray for people’s ability to accept a new way of ‘doing church’ by using local languages.
  • Pray for God’s people to mature in their faith and to boldly seek unity among the different denominations present in the Aru Islands.
  • Ask God to speak into people’s hearts through translated Scripture, bringing them closer to him.

Latest news

October 2020

Pressing forward

Finding ways to stay connected when restrictions are in place, and people are separated, has been vital for the Dobel team. Over the last few months they been continuing to work together via video calls. The local team is able to go into the office to connect but then call in from different rooms.

This has enabled the team to press forward with translation. Over the last few months, progress has been made on 2 Corinthians, which is ready for its final face to face check, and Hebrews, which is ready for a community check. With some activities on hold, work on the book of Matthew was also brought forward.

The team is now exploring whether they can attempt to do some kind of community checking, or leave this until restrictions ease.

Revealing new promises

Having the chance to read the good news of Jesus in your own language for the first time

For many, being able to access Scripture in their own language can unlock new truths as understanding becomes clearer. This is something which is bringing great joy to local people in the Aru community.

Local man Wens Wehtabtabah shared his gratitude at finally being able to access Scriptures in his own language, rather than just Indonesian, and the happiness this brought him. Hearing Scripture and the Apostles’ Creed taught in his language revealed to him new promises:

‘Whenever I read it over and over I know that God chose me to be one with Jesus. So, now I know that Jesus isn’t far away from me.’

Rather than waiting for the whole New Testament to be completed, the aim is to pass books onto the community as they are translated. Books or passages are printed, and also added to a mobile Bible App, enabling more people just like Wens to engage with Scripture. Alongside this, liturgies for Sunday services have also been printed, and during community checking people are able to interact with Scripture.

Covid-19 situation

Up until July the Aru Islands had been classed as a ‘green zone’ due to having no Covid-19 cases. In late August, however, this status was changed to ‘red’ due to six people testing positive for Covid-19. As a result, the local government has brought in stricter rules on mask wearing and social distancing. So the team is still unable to use the office regularly, and when they do, they have to work in separate rooms.

Although the number of cases may seem very low, the likelihood of these spreading is concerning. This is due to houses being built very close together, often overcrowded, and the need for people to go out regularly to purchase food and supplies. There is little access to adequate healthcare.

An Aruese village
The sea is a big part of life for those on the Aru Islands.

Jesus by the sea

For the communities on the Aru Islands, the sea is a big part of life, with many relying on it for an income, food for their families and travel. This has helped lead the team as they work with local churches to share the gospel.

Being able to share Scripture in a way which is culturally relevant is vital to enable people to apply it to their own lives. For local Aru churches this means helping people come to know God through the person of Jesus who was involved with fishermen, and the apostles who sailed to preach the good news.

Praise and prayer

Give thanks for:

  • the very good discussions and progress made on Hebrews, enabling it to be ready for community checking
  • the provision of technology to allow work to continue via video conferencing
  • the portions of Scripture which have already reached the community through the Bible App and printed books.

Please pray for:

  • translator Yoke’s health to continue to improve following a couple of weeks of illness
  • wisdom on how to approach community checking safely, and when this can happen
  • the upcoming exegetical check of Matthew, and the team going through the resulting suggestions.


July 2020

Conference calling

One of the Dobel Zoom meetings

The overseas Dobel team members have had to return to the UK and continue work online due to the impact of Covid-19. This has led the team to look further into the use of technology for the long-term future of translation.

Poor internet access in the Aru Islands and the time difference between the UK and Indonesia have posed challenges, but the team has persevered. Like many of us they have been meeting via video conferencing. To complete the exegetical check of 2 Peter – to ensure the accuracy of the translation – they met together on Zoom every day for two weeks. Due to the time difference, they could only be online all together for around two hours per day, so they had to plan their meetings well. They hope to continue this form of working whilst they remain separated.

Continuing during difficult times

Many of the Dobel team’s usual activities within the community have been suspended due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

The Aru Islands have so far had no confirmed cases of Covid-19, but the restrictions remain in place. Despite the unusual situation the team has been able to make good progress on some of the translation projects.

The next step in the process of translation of 2 Peter is community checking, where the members of the local community read through the book to ensure that it makes sense to them and offer suggestions.

The team has also almost finished work on the exegetical check of Hebrews, which wasn’t originally planned for this year, and the translation of 2 Corinthians has been sent to a consultant for checking – one of the final stages of translation.

The books of Romans and 1 Corinthians are ready to be distributed throughout the community once the restrictions have lifted, and they have been added to a Bible app which can be accessed by anyone with a smart phone.

Learning my language

The translation process can be encouraging for the whole community. One of the Dobel believers who participated in a community check of 1 Corinthians earlier in the year shared:

‘I was very happy because usually we use Indonesian to study the Bible, but I didn’t really understand. But when we learn through our language we can really learn about Jesus and the things of Jesus. And not only that, I’m actually learning to know my language even better.’

We praise God for the growing understanding of Scripture and of the need for it in their own language.

Dukwaida Ssinan ani awasa bari yuꞌu. Afaꞌi yaꞌa adem re ssoba yuꞌu ida, labe fai re tasol ffain, yi kufai na re talafa ttal. Sa mima tabelen yaꞌa adem re ssoba yuꞌu yaꞌa ani tamatudi, ita wa, fel tabelen tu yaꞌa re Kul Ssinan ne Yesus addem ti. Tufu ye fui ye, tabelen ttanga re ssel. Ongalai nnanga riꞌa!

God’s power is very great. He uses it to do very good things in us, more than we ask him for, or we can even think about. So let’s praise him that he does very good things to us, his people, and also praise him for what the Big King Jesus has done. One generation after another, we praise him continually always. This is indeed so!

Ephesians 3:20-21 in Dobel and the translation into English, shared as an encouragement by the Dobel team.

Praise and prayer

Give thanks for:

  • the progress made on 2 Corinthians, 2 Peter and Hebrews
  • the provision of technology to allow work to continue via video conferencing
  • the addition of Romans and 1 Corinthians to the Bible app.

Please pray for:

  • the exegetical check of Hebrews which should be completed soon
  • the team to be able to work through revising the translation, by sending comments to one another and then meeting over a video call
  • wisdom as to how to proceed and when it will be safe for the overseas team members to return.