‘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

Local church worshipping together

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.

Latest news

February 2021
Communities reading the Scriptures together (pre-Covid)

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

Dobel Scriptures are being used more often in churches

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.

Team news

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.
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.



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