Blind Barnabas

By Rachel Greco

Sheltered among the floppy banana trees, brilliantly hued hibiscus, and fluffy tree kangaroos of Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea, live the Mato people.

For years the Mato asked for the New Testament in their language. In 1997 work began, and in August of this year, 24 years after requesting a Bible translation, the Mato people celebrated the completion of the New Testament in their own language!

A Mato child celebrating at the Bible dedication

The celebration began when the first boxes of New Testaments arrived in the helicopter with Scot and Cherie Stober, the main translators. The Word of God had arrived to the Mato people!

The boxes were not allowed to touch the ground and were led in procession by dancers along a palm-frond and banana-leaf-lined pathway in replication of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The procession wound to the translation office, where they stored the New Testaments until the dedication took place a few days later.

On the day of the dedication, the boxes of New Testaments were carried in a long procession from the church to the grandstand. Several neighboring language groups had come to welcome the Scripture with dance and song and help carry them.

Mato people celebrating the completion of the New Testament in their language!

In the procession, the boxes passed from one language group to the next with much fanfare. The Ronji, a language group who haven’t begun translating, led the procession. They passed the Scriptures onto the next two language groups, who have completed New Testaments. The Scriptures then passed to the Nukna, a neighboring language group who have an ongoing language project. The Nukna carried the Scriptures for the final part of the trip to encourage them not to lose heart in the long process—for their time to celebrate might be next! Several pastors then blessed the Mato New Testaments in a dedication ceremony that lasted over three hours.

JAARS took part in this joyous occasion by providing MegaVoices, solar-powered devices to play recorded Mato Scripture. Faith Comes By Hearing had sponsored a project to record the entire New Testament using Mato speakers, and these recordings had been placed on the MegaVoices. Since many Mato people don’t know how to read or write well, the recorded version of Scripture is vital to engage with God and his Word. Many eager people purchased MegaVoices at the dedication.

Listening to the Mato New Testament on a MegaVoice player for the first time

One of Scot’s greatest joys of the festivities occurred after the dedication. While he and his team stowed stuff in the office, he noticed Barnabas, a blind man who lives in the area. Barnabas routinely navigates the dirt paths alone. He has a sweet disposition and often plays the guitar in church worship services. “Did you buy a MegaVoice player that has the audio version of the New Testament?” Scot asked Barnabas.

Barnabas replied that he had no money, so Scot gave him a MegaVoice and demonstrated how it worked by moving Barnabas’ hands on the player. “He was overjoyed to be able to listen to the New Testament any time he wanted, since he’s never been able to read it in the national or any other language,” Scot said.

Barnabas, a blind man who was overjoyed to listen to Scripture in his language

Praise the Lord that Barnabas and the Mato people now have God’s Word in their language! Join us in praying for endurance for those working on Scripture and for more workers to come help those still waiting to hear and read his Word.