Today’s post is written by Buzz and Myrna Maxey, CAMA staff members serving in Indonesia.

“‘Pobuk aphwami so’boru emin, ik emin, erlak agoam nele ho ‘gela’ge, an niak ese legi a’ge ai nele en enede ‘baluagoluk tagenebaik a’ge oruagat o.’”

“Our Father the Chief, whose name is above all others, has this message for us, ‘Like people are hungry for sweet potatoes and thirsty for water, so the words I say to you will affect our insides.’”—Amos 8:11

Two men, Enos and Amos (pictured below), both understand the significance of this verse. Enos and Amos’ lives were transformed by the gospel, and they have been the main translators of the Bible into Ngalik—the heart language of the people of Silimo in Papua, Indonesia. 

Enos (left) and Amos (middle) have done invaluable work over the course of their lifetimes to make the Bible accessible to the Ngalik people.

Giving Others the Gift of the Word

61 years ago, your support of Alliance international workers made it possible for Ed and Shirley Maxey to arrive in Silimo—becoming the first outsiders to come to the area. After building a house and an airstrip, they committed their lives to learning the oral language of Ngalik and getting it into written form. After creating literacy materials for those around them, they began the enormous task of translating the entire Bible into Ngalik. Ed and Shirley recruited two local young men, Enos—who in his youth had spent many hours as an orphan in and out of their home—and Amos, to help them. Enos and Amos quickly became integral parts to the translation process.

Translating the Bible into a previously unwritten language is an extremely challenging task. Only after the language has been fully learned by the translators, and those receiving the Word have learned how to read, can the translation start—verse by verse, often word by word. It requires hours, months, and years of dedication as well as patience, a curious mind, and an ability to contextualize difficult theological concepts! 

Enos is a deep thinker who found contextual language that could be understood by the Ngalik people without changing the meaning of the verse. Sometimes descriptive concepts from local surroundings had to be used to provide clarity. For example, instead of just saying “red,” Enos would write, “the colour of the red rocks used to dye nets.” Purple would be described as, “the colour of the wipegen berry.” The phrase, “Gain Onuk Logo a’ge,” is used for the name of the Lord. It means, “the Chief who is above all others.”

Completing the Project

After working on the translation for many years, Buzz’s parents passed the project on to us.

After decades of hard work, Ed and Shirley passed the task of completing the full Ngalik Bible on to us. In 2011, after being approached by leaders of the tribe about the project, we asked Enos and Amos if they would be willing to help complete the Old Testament in Ngalik. They eagerly agreed. A few years later, a small group of people from RockPointe Church in Calgary, Canada, offered to type up the hundreds of pages that had been translated by Enos and Amos—providing a huge answer to prayer. In 2021, the Old Testament was fully translated, but the laborious task of checking everything that had been written still had to be done. With the help of an Indonesian consultant and Wycliff Bible Translators, edits were made. Then a full reading with corrections was recorded with the help of men and women from the Ngalik tribe. After a final check for punctuation and spelling, the manuscript was sent to the Indonesian Bible Society for their own checking and printing!

As we worked alongside Enos, Amos, and others, we were excited by the hunger and support of the Ngalik people for the completed translation of God’s Word. Of their own volition, local carpenters from the Ngalik tribe built new homes for Enos and Amos, and a local Alliance church in a large lowland city raised the equivalent of $14,000 USD to help with printing costs—both acts serving as a demonstration of mutual support and excitement for the project.

Getting the Word into Their Hands

Because of you, the Ngalik people now have access to the written Word of God!

Thanks to your generosity and support, at the end of 2023, the translation and printing of the entire Ngalik Bible was finally completed! 3,000 Bibles are now set to be delivered throughout Silimo in the coming months. The people of the Ngalik tribe have been waiting for decades to receive “the Message from the Chief” in their heart language! Once the Word finally gets into their hands, it will be a great historical event, and they are planning to have a big feast in celebration to thank their Father, the Chief, for all He has done.