‘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: 13,000
  • 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 2022

Making progress with Matthew

Reading the Scriptures together in pre-Covid times

British translator Jock, working with the rest of the team in the Aru Islands, has been able to complete the translation of chapters 14-20 of Matthew’s Gospel. Around two thirds of the book is now completed. Matthew’s Gospel is the last book that needs to be translated in order for the whole New Testament to be drafted.

As the consultant hasn’t been able to visit the Aru Islands in person, the team has sent her the books of 2 Peter and Hebrews so that the checking process can be started remotely. The consultant has sent back some comments about 2 Peter, and the team is waiting for her feedback on Hebrews.

British translators Jock and Katy hope to coordinate a visit to the Aru Islands with the consultant in the coming months, so that they and the rest of the team there can all meet together.

Delayed plans

Jock and Katy had planned to visit Indonesia in the autumn but travel restrictions and high Covid levels in the Aru Islands prevented them from making the trip. They are still hoping to visit during the spring, but this will depend on restrictions in both the UK and Indonesia at the time.

However, they give thanks that, so far, no one on the translation team has been seriously ill with Covid 19. Some of the team members in Indonesia have been vaccinated now;

please pray that the rest of the team can receive their vaccinations soon.

 

Aru children learning about the Bible

Working remotely

For almost two years the translation team has been working remotely. They are very grateful for the technology that has allowed them to do this, but it hasn’t been without its challenges. With Jock and Katy having had to return to the UK at the beginning of the pandemic, they have been working across different time zones and battling with the unreliable internet and electricity supply in the Aru Islands.

They are very thankful to God for the progress that they have been able to make during this time.

John 1:18 in Dobel:

Nda tamatu yen ayokwa Dukwaida Ssinan, si ngarin nanga re na Yanai kwaꞌayyen yaꞌa namda tarlaꞌa yuꞌun. Dukwaida Ssinan nabulemui Yanai, fel Yanai nam i ettu ffelni, fel nai nda yen fuꞌun fai Dukwaida Ssinan tu.

Translation back into English:

There is not one person who has seen God, but nevertheless his one-and-only Son has caused us to truly know him. God loves his Son, and his Son is one with him, and is also himself no other than God.

Praise and prayer

Give thanks for:

  • God’s protection over the Dobel team, so that no team member has been seriously ill with Covid-19
  • the vaccination programme in the Aru Islands that means that some of the team members have been vaccinated
  • the progress that the team has been able to make on Matthew’s Gospel.

Please pray for:

  • Jock and Katy’s plans to visit the Aru Islands
  • the language consultant as she checks Hebrews
  • good connections and communication as the team continues to work remotely across different time zones.
August 2021
One of the translation team members at work

Making progress

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.

A church in the Aru Islands in pre-Covid times.

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.
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