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"If you had put the Gospel to music, the people would be touched very deeply, much more than if they just hear it read to them", Jeno told the Bible translators.
Jeno and a team of singers from the Dawawa language group of Milne Bay Province, PNG, had just finished recording 20 traditional songs telling the story of the "passion of Christ", accompanied by kundu drums. Sybil Shaw, Senior Recordist with GRN Australia, had made the recordings.
Jeno explained further, "Originally the Dawawa people would pass on stories through songs rather than by story-telling".
Since 2000 Sybil has been involved with the Dawawa language group, working with Jeno and Martin and Beate Knauber, SIL translators in that language. The GRN "Good News" audio-visual presentation was the first recording made in Dawawa and it proved a turning point in the translation process. In 2001, after Sybil had recorded the "Good News" in the Dawawa language, the Knaubers wrote to her:-
" We are absolutely amazed and excited about what the Lord is doing through the Gospel tapes, not only among the DAWAWA, but also among other people from surrounding language groups. We never anticipated such a great response! Wendy (Jeno's wife) wrote a letter saying that she and Jeno were going around to different houses at night, playing the tapes to the people and talking to them about the gospel. The response they were getting was tremendous.
"Copeland (another local worker) told us how the people were eagerly buying the next lot of tapes in advance because the first shipment (200 cassettes) had sold out a long time ago. It is very unusual in PNG culture to actually pay for something in advance!
"The longer we live and work in PNG, the clearer it becomes to me that these people are not a 'book culture.'"
When the Dawawa people really HEARD the Gospel (through the recorded stories and songs) suddenly they found they could UNDERSTAND what the message of the Bible was all about. It even helped them to get more enthusiastic about the Bible translation project!"
Since 2001 the eight-part "Look, Listen and Live" audio-visual programme has been recorded, along with many songs.
Dawawa is just 1 of about 30 languages that Sybil has recorded in the Milne Bay Province. These isolated language groups range from a few thousand speakers (e.g. Suau) down to just a hundred or so (Amoli). In this area churches are common but real understanding of the Gospel is rare. The people are poor, literacy is low and there are many social problems. The transforming power of the Gospel is needed.
Buhutu is another of the language groups where Sybil has worked closely with SIL translators. There also, the "Good News" programme has had a powerful impact on the people. The recording of songs is stimulating local believers to write more of their own. Effective communication of the Gospel is increasing.
On her last trip to Milne Bay (May-June 2006), Sybil made more than 30 recordings in 13 languages. Going back to the same area several times has resulted in good, trusting relationships and an appreciation of the recording ministry. Local people and expatriate missionaries alike are seeing the value and the impact of the GRN materials in the lives of the local people and are asking for more!
While in the area, Sybil was invited to attend the 'VITAL' workshop, run by SIL to train local translators. There she recorded Scripture portions in nine languages most of which were from remote locations that she could not get to.
Languages recorded on that trip were Buhutu, Auhelawa, Dawawa, Lausaha, Iduna, Kaninuwa, Anuki, Taupota, Ghayavi, Maiadomu, Topura, Wedau and Kakabai.