We met John in a village called Kelabo. He is a local Papua New Guinean, who was born in this Duna village and was given the opportunity to be educated. This education has made him one of few in his village who is able to do what he is called to; translate the Bible. Currently the Duna have the New Testament in their language and John is helping to provide them with the Old as well.
When we arrived in Kelabo, John met us at the vehicle door. We had been given a ride by a local man from a village we preached in earlier that morning. John greeted us as told us to follow him. He took us to an old missions compound that was built in the 1970’s by some missionaries from Australia. They were long gone but they had donated their house to the village to act as a guest house. John said, “you will stay here tonight.” We thanked him for the roof over our heads and proceeded to get settled in. Once we were settled, John said, “I will come back a little latter with some coffee for you and we can chat more.”
He returned later that evening with some roasted sweet potatoes and some powdered coffee and powdered milk. While we ate together we began to talk to John about his life, what he does, if he has family and other such things. He told us that he is a Bible translator working on translating the Old Testament in to the language of the Duna. He told us that he was once part of a team of several people who were working on the project. However, that now the money was all gone so he was the only one left. As we started in on our second cup of coffee each, we asked him if that means he works for free, he nodded his head yes. Of course the next question out of our mouths was how he eats, I asked if he had a small farm, or anything like the other people in the village. He replied, “No, I don’t have time. I spend all day translating the Bible, and then on Sundays I teach in the church.” We asked well what do you do for food then? He said, sometimes people from the church will give their tithe to me in the form of food from their small farms, but also that this sometimes does not happen. We asked him what he does when people don’t give him food. He told us that he has a small solar panel and that he can use it to charge people’s phones. Normally he charges 3 Kina (about $1) but that a lot of people can’t afford that so he gives it to them for just 1 kina ($0.33). He said usually he makes about 10 -12 Kina a week ($3-$4). I asked him if this is enough for him to buy local food. He said not always. Then I asked, “what do you do when you have no food?” He said, “well sometimes I fast, and other times I will drink that coffee and milk (he motioned at the plastic containers filled with the powdered substances sitting on the counter).”
In that moment I had a deep sinking feeling. Here we are people from the USA coming in here for just a few weeks and drinking the food reserves of this man who has given everything to the Lord. In that moment I knew this man was sold out for Jesus. He was willing to give of his very little to us, his visitors and co-laborers with Christ. We thanked him profusely.
When I grow up I want to be like John. A man so passionate for Jesus and his Word that he is willing to live on the brink of hunger so that his people can have greater access to Jesus and his Word. And so devoted to the teachings of Jesus that he is willing to give out of his very little to help people like us when we had nothing. John walks the walk and talks the talk. Perhaps we all have a little something to learn from a man like this. John is pictured here on the right. on the left is our translator and co-laborer simon. Simon is holding one of the New Testaments in Duna.