Ministry among the Wantoat People

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By Danny DeLoach, serving with SIL in Papua New Guinea

The Wantoat people number about 8,000, living in the remote, rugged Finisterre mountains of Papua New Guinea. They have a well-established Church. The New Testament and Psalms are available in the Wantoat language. Unfortunately, many people do not use these Scriptures.

My wife and I went to live among the Wantoat people in 2004. We have been searching for effective ways to help the Wantoat people engage with God's Word. In December 2005 I received an e-mail from Pastor Nickson Soal, who works with Global Recordings Network in Papua New Guinea. His mission is to provide oral Scripture resources (e.g. cassettes and CDs) for the languages of Papua New Guinea. Pastor Nickson was asking for information about possible outreaches into other language groups in my area.

I quickly realized that his ministry could be very powerful among the Wantoat people at this time. I asked Pastor Nickson if he would consider coming to our language area. We first met in March 2006. I quickly saw that God had truly given Pastor Nickson a genuine desire to evangelize and disciple Papua New Guineans. I was also impressed with his knowledge of producing materials in an oral medium. We made arrangements for him to visit the Wantoat area in May 2006 to record Christian worship songs and also to distribute Wantoat Bible stories that had been recorded a many years ago.

We prayed a lot in preparation for Pastor Nickson's visit, and we definitely saw God answer our prayers. One of the first things that really impacted me was how enthusiastically the Wantoat people responded to the Bible story cassettes. Church leaders huddled around as Pastor Nickson cranked the hand-wound cassette player. Their attention was rapt. After listening for a while they said things like, "Wow! This is true Wantoat language. Today our people mix Wantoat with other languages, and it isn't very clear. But these stories go deep and pull out the true meaning." I believe these cassettes will have a significant impact on the Wantoat people as we continue to distribute them.

During his short stay in the language group Pastor Nickson was very effective at working with the local church leaders to organize the recording of the worship songs. In all of his dealings he always kept a ministry focus, taking whatever chances presented themselves to encourage and disciple the people around him.

The first couple of days we had trouble gathering the local resources we needed to begin the recording work. I was impressed that instead of letting this time go to waste, pastor Nickson used it to gather whomever was around to listen to the cassettes that he had brought with him. Once the equipment was all in place the recordings went smoothly and quickly. More than ten songs were recorded to comprise the first-ever Wantoat worship cassette.

Before leaving, Pastor Nickson met with the Wantoat Scripture Use committee. Together they made plans for Pastor Nickson to return in August to begin recording scripts for producing the Look, Listen & Live Bible teaching curriculum in Wantoat. A supporting church in America has volunteered to subsidize the costs of these materials. Pastor Nickson brought samples of the materials with him for people to view. Several leaders have already committed to purchase the whole set once they are available.

I honestly can't say enough about how excited we are that God has begun this work among the Wantoat people. I have already seen a tangible impact among the people who have heard the materials that have been produced. I can't wait to see the results as we distribute the newly recorded worship songs and begin to produce even more Scripture-based materials in the language group.

Serving Christ Together,

Danny DeLoach