“We Thought Nobody Remembered Us”

By Rachel Greco

During the last week of March, the Tigak New Testament translation team of New Ireland, Papua New Guinea (PNG), had just completed translating the script for the JESUS film. Nakikus, one of the team, was excited to go to Kavieng, the capital, on a dinghy to get the script printed at the SIL regional center there. Then the team could proceed with their recording.

But in April the prime minister of Papua New Guinea issued a national lockdown order, which closed SIL’s Kavieng center, the only place the team could print the script. They prepared to wait until the lockdown was over, but then heard more discouraging news. Even when the restriction lifted, there would be no staff at the center to help them print the script; the managers had evacuated to the U.S. due to health concerns. So Nakikus and his team began praying that God would send someone to the Kavieng center to help them.

Meanwhile, Matt and Liz Gentry, who were living in Ukarumpa, PNG, had accepted new assignments as Scripture-use workers in New Ireland. “We were eager to go and get started,” Liz said. But the pandemic prevented them from traveling to the province.

When they heard that the managers of the SIL Kavieng regional center had to return to the States, Matt and Liz decided to temporarily manage the center. They knew this would be the most urgent task in supporting the translation work in New Ireland.

During the last week of May, when the lockdown order was lifted, Matt and Liz and their children traveled to Kavieng on the first available flight. “We were eager to meet local people who were involved with translation,” Liz explained.

The Gentrys learned that the Tigak translation team needed to print their JESUS film script at the center. But since the Tigak villages don’t have readily available internet or cell service, Matt and Liz had no way to contact the team and let them know they could help them.

Bennis, one of the recording technicians, for the Tigak JESUS film

So one day Matt, Liz, and their children, along with Bennis, one of the recording technicians, drove to the Tigak villages to contact the translators. Bennis said, “We didn’t know where we were going. We just followed the Google map as we drove through the paths in the jungle from the east coast to the west coast.”

After driving for a few hours, Matt and Bennis arrived in the village of Tome, where Ronald, the older member of the Tigak translation team, lived. With Ronald’s help, they drove from Tome to Lokono, and met up with the other two translators. As they sat down in Lokono village, the three translators—Nakikus, Ronald, and Cornelius—cried and thanked Matt and Bennis for coming to find and visit them. “We thought nobody remembered us,” they said. “When we heard that the Kavieng regional center was closed, we and our people thought that our translation work had stopped forever. Thank you for remembering us and coming to find us. Thank you very much!”

The next week, Nakikus came to the SIL Kavieng regional center and printed the Tigak JESUS film script and returned to Lokono village. There, the readers were eager to practice reading their parts for the JESUS film dubbing, which took place two months later.

Villagers gather to watch the Tigak JESUS film

The Tigak people will soon have copies of the JESUS film—an audio-visual reminder of God’s love for them. It will reassure them that God doesn’t forget anyone, no matter how small the island or village.

Pray with us that the Lord uses the JESUS film to draw the Tigak people to himself through his Son and that his love will spread like fire throughout this island.