Over the Ocean and Through the Woods to Papua New Guinea

By Rachel Greco

Seven laptops partook of a long, exciting journey that would change their lives forever. These computers were not destined for a boring life on a desk in America or streaming Netflix or searching Facebook. No, these polished PCs would help their human counterparts in a much deeper, lasting way.

Deb Smucker and her husband Sam were part of the reason for these computers’ unusual journey. They serve with a team known as SPES (Sepik Partnership and Engagement Strategy) that works to engage language groups with God’s Word in the swampy Sepik province of Papua New Guinea (PNG). The SPES team needed more computers for translators to use during the Oral Bible Translation workshops they host throughout the year.

An oral Bible translation class in a Papua New Guinean village

“We needed the laptops to work with additional groups,” Deb explained. “There were already several here, but we are expanding the number of translators for each language group, so additional laptops were needed. None of these groups have personal laptops that they use for translation work.”

Three of the language groups who will benefit from these computers are the Inebu One, Awtuw, and Guriaso. These three groups have already participated in Oral Bible Storytelling workshops from 2015-2017 led by the SPES team. These language groups have had no other translation work in their languages and eagerly anticipate the next workshop, where they will internalize and memorize more Scripture.

The Seed Company,* sponsor of the Oral Bible Translation workshops, had purchased the seven laptops around December, and sent them to the JAARS Purchasing and Shipping Department. The laptops quailed at the thought of a long boat ride to PNG—just think of what the salt water and wind could do to their hard drives if there was a crack in their boxes or if they accidentally fell into the sea!

Thankfully, a much shorter option came about. As Glenn Blauser, who works at JAARS Purchasing and Shipping department, was packing the computers, he remembered that Mike Bunn and Jeff Johnson—JAARS Aviation staff—were going to Papua New Guinea in February to learn how our ministry partner there operates their helicopters. Glenn asked them if they’d be willing to hand-carry the computers to PNG. After verifying that Delta and Virgin Australia would allow them to check luggage that contained computers with lithium batteries, they agreed to take the PCs.

The computers, all boxed up, are ready for the first leg of the journey to Papua New Guinea to begin.

The men boxed up the laptops for the 9,000-mile trip to their new home in Papua New Guinea. The computers rode as checked baggage all the way to Port Moresby, PNG. And although cold and weary, they made it safely across the ocean.

But their journey wasn’t over yet!

From Port Moresby, Jeff and Mike took the computers on to Ukarumpa via a Kodiak piloted by a JAARS-trained pilot.

An Aviation staff member took the box when Jeff and Mike landed in Ukarumpa and made sure it got on a Kodiak flight traveling to the Sepik early the next week. The computers soared over more woods until they finally arrived in the hands of Sam and Debbie in Wewak on February 27—months after being ordered!

Now the computers await the lifting of COVID restrictions so they can fulfill their new purposes at these Oral Bible Translation workshops. During the five translation workshops for these three language groups, the goal is to translate 70-90 passages of Scripture. The computers are eager to hold these life-giving words in their hard drives and share them with the world.

Please join us in praying that these workshops can occur soon so the Inebu One, Awtuw, and Guriaso peoples can hear more of God’s life-giving Word.

*A JAARS Bible translation partner