‘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.
Have a bit more time? Watch the video below to find out more about how God has been transforming lives in the Aru Islands community:
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.
Despite the difficulties of working across different time zones, the translation team is making steady progress with several New Testament books. They have translated and checked the book of Matthew up to chapter 13 (453 verses out of 1071!) and the initial checks on 2 Peter and Hebrews are also complete.
The next stage of the process will involve face-to-face checking with a language consultant and with a group from the Dobel community, but unfortunately these processes are all facing delays because of continuing Covid-19 travel restrictions. It is possible for the translators and consultants to have some meetings on Zoom, but that is difficult because of the time difference between the UK and Indonesia, and poor internet connection in the Aru Islands.
Plans for a visit
British team members Jock and Katy are currently based in the UK. They have both had both of their Covid vaccinations and are hoping that they will be able to make a trip to the Aru Islands in the (UK) autumn to get 2 Corinthians, 1 & 2 Peter and Hebrews checked face to face.
Praise God that no-one on the Dobel team has been seriously ill with Covid-19. It is currently difficult to obtain vaccines in the Aru Islands; some government workers have had a vaccination but none of the translation team have been able to get one.
Plans on hold
Before the pandemic, the team had planned to publish books as they were completed as a resource for Aru Christians. Now they are getting towards the end of the translation project, it is likely that they will wait until it is finished and publish the whole New Testament rather than individual books.
Romans 8:28 in Dobel:
Sama si kwalisan si sama si aran, Dukwaida Ssinan atarada yaꞌa fara tayi yanai kwakwai kuyar re nam afan yyaꞌa ti. Sa ongalai tarlaꞌa yaꞌa ita re attarada re, fel tabulemuin, kotu taꞌaikwa re soba yi aseta a, atu nai alai tongar fara re nam ffui afo re ssoba yaꞌada.
Translation into English:
Brothers and sisters, God has called us to be his children according to what he has planned. And indeed, we know that we whom he has called, and who love him, whether we encounter what is good or bad, he will work it out so that all of that brings good to us.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the continuing good health of the team
- Jock and Katy’s second vaccination, which was earlier than expected.
- the near completion of the book of Hebrews
- the progress being made on the New Testament, despite the difficult situation.
Please pray for:
- Jock and Katy’s plans to visit the Aru Islands in the coming months
- the vaccine programme in the Aru Islands, that vaccines will reach those who need them soon
- the team as they work out the best way to check the translations in the current situation.
Continuing the work
Covid-19 has had a considerable impact on the Dobel team and their work, but they have not let it stop the translation project.
They are very grateful for technology which has enabled them to meet over Zoom while some of them have been living back in the UK. They will be unable to return to Indonesia until after they have received a vaccine.
The team members in the Aru Islands have been able to carry out community checks on 1 and 2 Peter and Hebrews. This involves reading through the books with members of the local community to ensure that they make sense to the people who are going to be using them. They were then able to report back, using Zoom, to those who weren’t able to be there in person.
Plans for the future
The team is looking forward to the future when Covid-19 restrictions have lifted. They would like to visit all of the villages with Dobel speaking churches on the Aru Islands this year, to encourage them to use Dobel Scriptures in church and Bible study groups.
However, it isn’t easy to travel around the islands. The public transport system is not reliable; they could wait for days, or even a week, for a boat, and not all of the villages have a boat service. The best option is to hire a speed boat, but this is quite expensive.
If they are able to make the trip, they will be giving away Scripture portions and other literature, and also encouraging people to download the Bible app, as smart phones are becoming more widely used.
One team member in the Aru Islands, Yustus, tested positive for Covid-19, but he was not seriously ill, and has recovered. After his diagnosis the office had to be closed for a few weeks over Christmas, but has since reopened.
Changes to updates
We wanted to let you know that these project updates will be changing. In order to ensure we are stewarding our resources well, we shall be sending updates twice a year rather than quarterly. We pray these will continue to encourage you as you see God at work across the world.
Dukwaida Ssinan nam kkoi si ttal afan ti! Afo nda tamatu yen akoi tu ti.
“Woi, kkoi si ttal ye, amu awasa fui ti!
Woi, kkoi si ttal ye, nda bisa mdem monga te yaꞌaꞌama ti!”
1 Corinthians 15:54b-55 in Dobel
Translation into English:
God has defeated death! So, no-one will die anymore.
“Hey death, your power is gone!
Hey death, you can’t hurt us anymore!”
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the recovery of Yustus from Covid-19
- the provision of technology to allow work to continue via video conferencing
- the progress that has been made, despite the challenges.
Please pray for:
- protection for the team and the community from Covid-19
- the team members in the UK, that they will get vaccinated and be able to return to Indonesia soon
- the translation consultant to able to come safely to the Aru Islands to carry out consultant checks.