‘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.
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.
An unwavering promise
The promises found within the pages of the Bible have been coming alive among the Dobel community. Just as we are reminded in Romans 4 that Abraham never wavered in his conviction that God is able to do what he promises, so too were a number of Dobel people taking part in a recent translation checking stage of Romans.
Reading the verses in Dobel shed new light on the meaning of these promises.
‘I have memorised Romans 4:21 in the national language, but it wasn't until I heard and memorised it in my own language that I really knew that is was true!’ – Dobel participant
Some taking part shared how this impacted their own lives – despite being faced with sickness, strife and having no money to buy food for their family when they arrived home, they still gave glory to God that he had amazingly provided for and taken care of them.
A milestone to celebrate!
With the completion of Matthew, the Dobel team rejoices that they now have a first draft of the whole New Testament!
The milestone also brought new understanding for Dobel translator Yoke. For the first time she realised why, so many years ago, a family from overseas decided to step out in faith and begin translation among the Dobel people and why there is such a need for more people to do the same;
Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age. – Matthew 28:19–20 (NIV)
Alongside completing a draft of the New Testament in Dobel the Aru teams have been busy making progress in all sorts of areas of work. Some highlights of the last few months have been:
- translators being able to receive training in translation principles
- completing a first draft of Acts 1–4 in Kola
- the Kola team identifying a new local person to join their team
- the Dobel team being able to visit 10 churches.
Chatting with God
During translation, multiple stages of checking take place, one of which is done in collaboration with local native speakers who have not been involved in the translation, in order to give an objective view. This also gives teams the opportunity to connect with the community and share Scripture.
The Kola team saw the fruit of this after they recently enlisted the help of a young man called Ambri Wamir to take part in an oral checking of Luke 20–24. Following the checking Ambri shared how hearing God’s word in his own language had given him a new understanding. He felt as if he were chatting with friends, and his heart was lit up by all that he heard.
Pairing up with local churches
A key area of focus for the Aru teams is to encourage and equip churches to confidently read Scripture and pray in their own language. Churches are often spread across islands making travel to them difficult, but the Dobel team praises God that in July they were able to visit 10 churches in Dobel villages.
This time around the team used a creative method to introduce key biblical terms. Using a pairs game, people were asked to match up Indonesian terms with the Dobel term – a game which proved popular and helped people to better understand the Dobel translation.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the progress which has been made with translation
- visits made to a number of villages to share Scripture and encourage people in prayer
- the opportunity for local translators to take part in training
- people applying Scripture to their own lives and seeing God at work.
Please pray for:
- local people to use the Scriptures that have already been translated
- the Kola team, who feel that whenever work is going well, obstacles start to appear
- the teams to continue to work well together and make progress
- healing for Dobel translator Yoke who often has painful stomach aches.
Project and progress
Teams continue to work with two of the Aru languages, Dobel and Kola, with the hope that one day soon the New Testament will be in the hands of the local community and churches.
Over recent months the Aru teams have been making progress with translation and encouraging communities to engage with Scripture. They have been working on:
- the initial drafting of 1, 2 and 3 John in Kola
- community checking of Luke in Kola
- drafting Matthew and Exodus in Dobel
- adding translated passages to a phone app to increase their reach
- making visits to Dobel churches to help encourage them in their use of Scripture.
Connecting to Scripture
Although the road to completing a Bible translation may be long, there are many stops along the way which enable local people to connect to Scripture before it is even printed.
For Kola speaker Shinta Wamir, connection came during a community checking session. A stage of translation where local speakers read through translations to check they sound natural. Shinta shared her happiness and the impact of the words she was reading:
‘They skewer my liver and penetrate my heart.’
This may seem unusual, but in the Kola culture, the liver is seen to be the centre of emotions. Shinta also her shared her joy at being paid for participating as this allowed her to buy a Bible.
Confidence in prayer
Having access to Scripture has not only been helping the local Aru community to engage with the Bible, but also to develop their prayer life.
During the recent oral checking of Luke, where Scripture was read aloud to local speakers of the language, one of the checkers, Upi Mahwill, declared that this had given him the confidence to pray in Kola. This brought a new side to his prayer life:
‘When I prayed, I felt this was something unusual within myself. I felt that the Lord was very close to me, which made me very happy.’
To increase the reach of the portions of the Bible which have already been translated, the Dobel team have turned to technology.
The team has been working hard to consistently update a Bible app which will enable local people to read Scripture at the touch of a button. Alongside this, the team translates and sends readings and liturgy in Dobel to church pastors via Whatsapp. The islands often remain cut off for many months due to turbulent weather, so these resources can be a lifeline.
The Kola team has welcomed two new people in recent months, who have both brought cause for celebration.
A new member has joined their team from a local village, who is due to start work this month. This in response to there being a large proportion of Christians from the new member’s area who speak a slightly different dialect from that of the current translation team.
Kola translator Aca has just returned to work after giving birth to her fourth child, a healthy baby boy. The team praises God for their growing families and team!
A forgiven and transformed life
For Dobel translator Yoke, life since knowing Jesus and working on translation has been changing. Yoke has been on the Dobel translation team since 2015.
Yoke’s life used to be filled with days fighting friends, which left many scared of her, and arguments with her family. Today Yoke’s life looks very different, characterised instead by taking the time to talk to friends and sharing in their problems, love for her family, and a growing faith. Yoke’s family and friends have begun to notice a change and wonder why. Yoke responds:
‘It’s because of God’s word, and I’m not like I used to be. I know God has forgiven me for what I used to do, and I can receive that. He looks on me and sees my life is slowly changing.’
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the provision of a new Kola team member from a local village to help with translation
- the completion of the next stage of the Dobel translation – Ephesians, Galatians and Jude have been consultant checked
- visits made to 10 Dobel churches to encourage them in their use of translated Scripture
- the transformational impact which God’s word is having on the Dobel and Kola people.
Please pray for:
- Kola and Dobel speakers to use and engage with the translated Scriptures
- good progress on the exegesis of 1 and 2 Corinthians for the Dobel team
- safety for the Dobel team as they continue with church visits, and for the enthusiasm for God’s word to grow in these churches
- the Kola team to overcome some problems with their computers and that this would not be a distraction.