The Earth is the Lord’s: Isnag Bible Dedication, Part Two

By Rachel Greco

This is part two of the story of the Isnag Bible dedication in the Philippines. Read part one here.

Translator Rudy Barlaan worships at the candlelight service.

Candles held aloft, piles of tattered New Testaments stacked beside new, whole Bibles, beaming faces emerging from the river. These are a few scenes from the Isnag people’s celebration of the completion of the full Bible in their language this summer in the Philippines.

It took a team of people to make this celebration happen. Because JAARS no longer operates airstrips and aircraft in the Philippines, our aviation partner Ethnos360 flew guests from Tuguegarao out to the village of Dibagat. Via road, the trip would have taken four hours, but via helicopter, it took 30 minutes.

Nard arrived at Dibagat in the Ethnos360 helicopter.

To transport all the guests who were attending the celebration, the pilots had to complete seven flights by 4:30 p.m. And they had to contend with the danger of rainstorms that build at that time of year.

The day dawned bright and sunny, but in the afternoon, clouds began building, and the pilot had to dodge rain showers. People began praying that he could make all the flights.

When he went back to Tuguegarao for the fifth, sixth, and seventh flights,” said Rodney Ballard, a JAARS photographer who attended the celebration, “it felt like the clouds just vanished. Within an hour, those clouds were completely gone. All the flights made it in. God parted the clouds for that day.”

The Ethnos360 pilots finished flying everyone to Dibagat right at 4:30!

On Saturday night, a candlelight worship service was held at the church. One person lit a candle, which spread to others, representing the Word of God going out across the earth to the Isnags—one person at a time.

Well-used New Testaments next to complete Bibles

We are humbled and rejoice that we at JAARS, with your partnership, were able to have a small part in helping the gospel spread to the Isnags through our aircraft, pilots, mechanics, and everyone who gave and prayed! Thank you!

On Sunday, the Isnags gathered at the church in Dibagat, packing the building with about 400 people. Some had walked for hours.

After the service, the crowd moved down to a river, where 18 people were baptized by a pastor from the Virginia church that supports Rudy Barlaan, one of the translators, and by a pastor from Orlando, Florida. The baptized believers were smiling, and people worshiped with guitars and their voices.

An Isnag woman getting baptized.

Then the people returned to the church to trade their tattered, well-used New Testaments for the complete, new Isnag Bible. As the exchange progressed, the stack of tattered New Testaments grew. The way they were marked up touched Rodney as he held up a copy. “This is evidence of a person living in the Word,” he said. “I was humbled by this because I like to keep my Bibles pristine. Hopefully in another decade or two, [the new Bibles] will have lost their covers and will be marked up and pages ripped: more evidence of people living in the Word.”

The people were excited to finally have the entirety of God’s Word! “They were so glad to get the copies of the Bible,” Rudy explained. “Once they got it, they sat down and opened and read right away, the old people and even the kids.”

The Isnags are already well on their way to marking up and loving their complete Bibles. One older woman loves Psalms because “it’s straight,” meaning that it says what it needs to say.

Emma, Nard’s sister, with her copy of the Isnag Bible

Two boys read their Bibles immediately and found the passage in Proverbs 23:20-21 that says, “Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.” They read the verse to their older brother who drinks, but he didn’t believe them. Then their mother came and read the same verse to him. Hopefully, God’s Spirit will move in his heart!

Toward the end of Rodney’s trip, he walked up a hill, and as he examined the beautiful landscape spread out before him, he thought of Psalm 24: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.”

That includes the Isnags! They are the Lord’s. Nothing about them would elevate them in the eyes of the world, and yet the Lord loves them. He bled and died for them. This is why Dick Roe canoed up a river for 16 hours to reach the Isnags in 1956, why Nard Pugyao, an Isnag, became a pilot with JAARS, and why other men and women left comfortable homes to go to this difficult place, this tiny remote village—to show the people how much God loves them.

And that is why JAARS continues to ease burdens, reduce barriers, and deliver God’s Word. As Rodney said, “There are thousands of other Dibagats peppered throughout the earth that need the Scriptures and are part of that Psalm 24 verse.”

Some of these unreached people have been identified in the rainforests of central Africa and on the islands of Melanesia. They have never heard about the God who loves them. We need your partnership to reach them!

Partner with JAARS today by giving to Where Needed Most so we can open these fields and share the love of Christ with them.