‘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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Language of love
During the translation process, it is vital that Scripture goes through a number of community checks. This ensures that it sounds natural, is accurate and makes sense to the readers. The Dobel team has found that these checks do much more than bring clarity to their translations; they also change people’s lives.
Some in the Dobel community have taken part in a number of checks, and through this have been growing in their understanding of Scripture.
‘I really care for people who are old and can’t walk. I thought loving them just meant giving them something. I just learned that we can love people in many other ways as well.’ - Dobel community checker
For some the impact is being seen not only in their own lives but also in those around them.
‘This is the third time that I have helped to check books of Scripture in my own language. Through each check I just keep growing in my faith and my life keeps changing. I’m changing to be more loving to my family.’ – Dobel community checker
The team hopes to soon move onto the community checking of 1 Peter, but has had to put this on hold due to Covid-19 restrictions. Join in prayer that it will eventually be able to go ahead, and have an eternal impact.
Right on target
The Kola team has been busy connecting with the local community through visits to villages and churches. During these visits, the team helps people to read translated books and encourages people to pray in Kola.
Many of those the team met with have shared how much more they understand of Scripture when it is in the Kola language rather than in Indonesian. Local man, Minggus, described wonderfully what it was like to pray in Kola:
‘It’s like when you shoot an arrow and it hits the target.’
When praying in Kola, Minggus feels that God immediately hears and understands him as if he is right there by his side.
A change in focus
It has been a joy to partner with both the Dobel and Kola teams. Over many years we have witnessed their faith, endurance and commitment to ensuring that their communities have access to the transformative word of God. We thank you for standing with them.
Over the last year we have had to review our support to the Dobel and Kola teams, looking at how we can make best use of our available resources. As a result, from now on we shall solely be providing support to the Dobel team as it comes close to completing the New Testament. The Kola team is currently exploring the possibility of receiving support through other Wycliffe organisations to enable it to continue with the encouraging progress it has made in translation and reaching out to local churches. Join with the team in prayer as they look to the Lord for provision.
Persevering through Covid-19
The impact of Covid-19 has begun to be felt in the Aru islands. The translation office is closed and teams are unable to work due to lack of internet connection. All village visits are also suspended.
In the wider community people are concerned for their health if there is a virus outbreak, as they live in crowded houses and healthcare is limited. Many also rely on going regularly to markets as they do not have fridges to preserve food.
Heading for the finish line
We praise God that despite the delays that Covid-19 has caused, in recent months the Dobel team has been racing towards the finish line and has, at times, even been ahead of schedule. The finishing touches have now been made to 1 Corinthians which is ready for publication and 2 Corinthians is just one check away from also being complete.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the progress made on 1 and 2 Corinthians in Dobel, and Luke and James in Kola
- community checking of 2 Corinthians being completed before lockdown
- understanding of Scripture growing and having an impact on people’s lives
- Dobel translator Yoke’s health improving.
Please pray for:
- protection over the community and team as they begin to see the impact of Covid-19
- God’s provision for the Kola team as they seek support from other organisations
- wisdom on how to proceed with translation during Covid-19
- the community to continue to use translated Scripture.