Tribal Literacy Graduation a Joyful, Encouraging Occasion

By Adam Boyd - AGWM missionary to Papua New Guinea on December 19, 2018

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This November, I was honored to be the keynote speaker at the literacy graduation ceremony for one of Papua New Guinea’s local church denominations. I rejoiced to see 40 students from three different congregations gathered to receive certificates acknowledging their literacy progress in Enga (a tribal language).

The fact most of the people who were graduating had little, if any, prior exposure to reading in any language was also encouraging. It was joyful to see people, many of whom were middle-aged or older, learning how to read for the first time in their lives.

Often, people in Papua New Guinea need encouragement to try to read in their own language. The task is daunting, so many never learn, instead settling for reading Scripture in English or Tok Pisin (neither of which they understand as well as they understand their own language).

To help people grasp the beauty of receiving Scripture in their own language, I shared from Psalm 119:103, which, in the Enga translation, sounds like this:

The sweetness that happens when I heard your word, surpasses the sweetness that happens when I taste honey.

Applying this Scripture for the graduates, I then said, “The sweetness that happens when you read God's Word in the Enga language surpasses the sweetness that happens when you read God's Word in other languages. Why? Other languages are not yours. The Enga language is yours.”

I reminded them that when Israelite boys first started learning the Hebrew Scriptures, the rabbis would give them a taste of honey to remind them that the Word of God is sweeter than honey. After that, I had the graduates come forward for a taste of honey to reinforce to them just how sweet the Word of God is when they read it and hear it in the Enga language.

Please pray for these graduates, as they have only just begun the long road toward becoming fully literate. We in America often take literacy for granted, and we forget how long it took us as children to learn how to read. It is harder for adults to learn how to read, especially when literacy is not a value of the surrounding culture and when there is little access to books or libraries!

To promote an ongoing interest in reading, we gave each of the graduates a free copy of the Gospel of Matthew in Enga. Please pray that they will read it daily and improve in their newfound literacy skills, and pray for us as we make further progress with this translation project.

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