Kata, who lives in a village in remote Papua New Guinea (PNG), carries with her a very old and worn-out Bible, with tattered edges and dirt from fingering the pages. A Bible like Kata’s is very valuable to people in the villages. “Bibles are expensive in PNG, and they can only get them from the town, which is three to five hours drive away,” Sara from Living Child Inc. explains.
Bible Society Australia and MegaVoice Australia are working in partnership with Living Child, serving communities in remote areas of East Sepik Province with healthcare for maternal and newborn baby care and God’s word. Because of the low levels of education in these remote villages, MegaVoice’s audio Bible devices are uniquely suitable to Open The Bible with those desperate for God’s life-changing message. This project initially aims to reach the 40,000 people living in the Keram area, across 50 villages.
Kata shared with Sara, “I feel that the church in my village is not strong, families are not attending.” In March this year, other women from Kata’s village also shared many stories of problems with drunkenness, gambling and violence. Yet Kata is convinced that if people began to attend church, if they started to read their Bible and put into practice the teachings of Jesus, this would make a difference. Sara explains, “Having an audio Bible helps the people have access to the word, in their language. I’m excited to see the impact of having an audio Bible in every household.” When speaking to Sara, Kata said,
“Audio Bibles will help people get back to the word of God.”
Living Child is working with the Melanesian Evangelical Churches of Christ (MECOC) with local Sepik-based women to develop culturally appropriate health information. They’re providing essential equipment for mothers and childbirth to support frontline maternity health workers, as well as a boat and motor for transport. “When I first went to one village eleven years ago,” Sara recalls, “the older women came to me at the end of my stay there and told me that God had sent me to their village and that they had been praying and asking him to help them.” Sara recalls that one of the women gave her a big hug, and held her close, which is unusual in Melanesian culture. “She spoke in her local tongue, thanking God for sending a midwife to help them.”
Through the work of Living Child, in 2023 people in five villages are receiving God’s word in their language. This goal has been to give each of the 1,000 households in these villages access to the audio Bible in Tok Pisin, along with the health training material. The Church of Christ has 125 churches in the Ramu and Keram river areas. Their leader, Pastor Yabru Jerry has opened the door for the work, and the project works closely with the church leadership, who are the starting point of work in any village.
Since the program started in the villages, church leaders have observed that the mothers are getting together every week to pray together and that they are attending church. As a result, the men of the villages are following the mothers to church.
“The church is growing because of the project,” Sara says, “as the people have access to the audio players with the Bible in Tok Pisin.”
This growth can be seen at the individual level too. In December 2020 a village man named John was baptised by the Church of Christ pastors in the Yame. At his baptism he acknowledged, “I am now surrendering my life to Jesus, and being reborn.” John’s faith and new life were soon tested with a violent incident in the village. The flower fence lines — part of the project — were vandalised by a local man and his family members. John was understandably very upset by this. “My old self would have got ‘my boys’ and gone over to this man and killed him and fought with the other men,” John admitted. “But since I am now a follower of Jesus, I prayed.” John and the others came up with a peaceful solution; there was no violence.
When Sara visited Yamen in March, she says, “The offending man came up to me and offered his sincere apologies. He said it will never happen again and that he has surrendered himself to Jesus now too.” A pastor from Australia who is also involved in the work, Pastor Mike Bullard, commented, “There is something different in this man and his wife now. We could see that he was transformed through faith.” John also continues to grow in his faith. “He is a man of incredible wisdom and gentle leadership. I always seek his wisdom and insights into how to proceed with the projects,” says Sara.
The needs of these people are great, and so is the impact this project is having. Sara says,
“The people in the remote villages are hungry for education and for the word of God.”
These people in remote PNG know what they need: they want to learn to read and write, they want to learn how to care for their families well, they want to learn new skills so that they can find a way to earn an income to support their children to go to school.