The South Pacific region spans vast stretches of ocean, beautiful island nations, and a diverse mix of people, cultures and languages. Along with spectacular beaches and active volcanos, the South Pacific is rich with opportunities to share God’s love through his word, the Bible. Bible Societies have been working for years to reach the many people groups across the South Pacific, yet there are still people left unreached, languages with no Scripture, and a yearning for God’s word in many hearts.
Geoffry Miller, General Secretary of Bible Society South Pacific, says, “The current biggest challenge for us is the size of the region we serve, 16 island nations within the South Pacific. Though they are not large in population size, they are so dispersed within the whole ocean body of the Pacific…it is very expensive to travel, and it also takes time to reach them, and to be able spend time in different places and different countries.” Bible Society Australia is excited to join with Bible Society South Pacific and Bible Society Papua New Guinea, our neighbours in the Pacific, so that together we might Open The Bible with more people than ever before. The new Oceania Alliance will enable greater collaboration and sharing of resources, strengthening Bible Society teams to better fulfil their visions. Geoffry says, “We envision a South Pacific that works together, rather than working on our own and doing our own little things in our own backyard. Through this Alliance there are many changes we are implementing… so that it brings about a more collaborative Bible Society and it enables us to work more closely together.”
“My vision for Bible Society Papua New Guinea is to see that the nation is filled with the knowledge of the word of God, as the waters cover the sea,” says Joel Peter, General Secretary of Bible Society Papua New Guinea. “I want to set a Scriptural, a biblical vision…to see a full resurrection, and the infiltration and penetration of the word of God, the growth and development of the word of God, in the nation of Papua New Guinea. That this vision would drive me and any staff that will come on, and every brother and sister Bible Society who are supporting us. This will be a driving motivational vision for us going forward from 2022.”
Geoffry adds, “Going forward in the future, serving our people better [will be accomplished by] doing it together. Working together, we will be stronger going forward into the future.” The Oceania Alliance is focused on recognising the people of the South Pacific as neighbours and seeking to love each other as Jesus instructed. The Alliance seeks to build up each Bible Society team, so they can better reach their communities with God’s word.
Jesus said, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Mark 12:31
“The fact that we are neighbours is very important,” says Joel. “In terms of collaboration and cooperation it is so important to work together. I want to see us work together in assisting and developing plans, through prayer and through giving support, through funding and through a change of people…to help build capacity. That will be a great encouragement, to see each national Bible Society in the Pacific helping each other in training and capacity building and in logistics.”
Each Bible Society brings its unique opportunities, resources and capacity to the Alliance, as Geoffry reflects, “One of the best ways for us to work together is sharing the resources that we individually have. Each Bible Society has its own strengths. For us I believe one of the biggest contributions into the Alliance is the vast mission field that we have and the people to reach. We also do have the big need within Bible translation itself. There is so much to do but with little people to do it.” Geoffry sees that one of Bible Society Australia’s strengths is human resources and ‘know-how’. “The partnership will enable us to translate Bibles that are still yet to be translated into the heart languages of our people. We dream that we’ll be able to reach more people with God’s word and be able to translate more Bibles than us doing it all alone.”
Joel says, “We know that Bible Society Australia will stand with us through the Oceania Alliance we have in place, and we will see that support continue with Bible Society Papua New Guinea to be able to fill this nation with a knowledge of the word of God, looking forward into the future.”
Geoffry is passionate about Bible Society work, especially the mission trips the team are able to take. “I am one who loves going out to the communities and visiting our local communities,” he says. Geoffry was not originally looking to work for Bible Society. He studied both theology and urban and regional planning, and he was looking forward to working for the government in Fiji. Yet when he didn’t hear back about his position with the government, “That’s where my journey with Bible Society started.” Geoffry was appointed to his position as General Secretary of Bible Society South Pacific in 2019, stepping into the shoes of a predecessor who had served for 31 years.
“I have always taken every opportunity with mission work,” Geoffry says. “That means going out to islands and visiting villages, taking God’s word in distribution, and conducting training where we are invited by the church in the communities. My journey, now going on four years, has been exciting and I have enjoyed every bit of it, learning more and getting to work with people within Bible Society globally.”
Joel Peter was recently appointed as the General Secretary of Bible Society Papua New Guinea, having previously held the role of Translations Manager. Joel says, “What’s so important about Bible Society that drew me to work with them, is that Bible Society is an interconfessional body. It exists to send, to meet the needs of churches and individual people in Papua New Guinea across the breadth and width of this nation.”
Bible Society Papua New Guinea has been through great upheaval in recent years, rising again in 2019 with a new General Secretary, ready to begin rebuilding. Sadly, the new General Secretary Verenagi Ravu, passed away from COVID-19 in March 2021. Joel held the fort of Bible Society Papua New Guinea, working closely with the United Bible Societies global mission team to implement the mission, focused on reinstating services to ensure Scriptures are available to people in Papua New Guinea.
Joel understands the importance of Bible translation, as it helps his people understand God’s message of salvation: “They can respond with faith because it grabs the heart of the people. The Bible written in our words is the most precious treasure we have.”
Will you help share God’s word across the Pacific?