Lois Nadjamerrek has been working on translating the New Testament into the Kunwinjku language for more than 20 years. “It’s coming to an end,” she tells Eternity.
The Kunwinjku Bible translation has been in progress for almost 30 years. The Kunwinjku people of West Arnhem Land have been receiving the Bible bit by bit over that time, as booklets or Sunday school materials.
But now, the whole New Testament is finished.
When Lois started out as a Bible translator – working alongside Steve and Narelle Etherington, missionaries and Bible translators from the Church Missionary Society (CMS) – she didn’t know much about the Bible. Now, she’s an ordained Anglican minister, and a Christian leader in her community of Oenpelli (also known as Gunbalanya).
“I didn’t really see what I was doing; doing the translation work, I was just learning to read the Bible and finding out more about it.” – Lois Nadjamerrek
“My first work was translation work. I didn’t know about becoming a minister. I didn’t really see what I was doing; doing the translation work, I was just learning to read the Bible and finding out more about it.”
“It surprised me when I started to read and learn for myself, and I thank God that the Holy Spirit was teaching me and showing me how to read in my own language.”
Steve and Narelle Etherington began serving the community as Bible translators in 1984 through CMS, working with many local translators including Lois.
In more recent years, Bible Society has partnered with CMS to support the translation to its completion, offering translation consultants and publication assistance.
After almost three decades of translation effort, the New Testament is expected to be published in early 2017 for the Kunwinjku people.
“The most encouraging thing that has happened in this project is seeing some of the Aboriginal Christians really hanging in there despite difficulty, growing in Christ and using some of the translation, too.” – Steve Etherington
“It’s going through a final spell check and is about to be sent to Bible Society,” says Steve.
Bible Society will publish the Bible, making the full New Testament available for the first time. It will also work on Bible engagement tools that help the community read it, including resources for kids.
For the Etheringtons, the finalisation of the project means they can retire after a lifetime of service. But there is much to be thankful for.
“The most encouraging thing that has happened in this project is seeing some of the Aboriginal Christians really hanging in there despite difficulty, growing in Christ and using some of the translation, too. They’re the things that make us happy,” says Steve.
“I’m not a very important person, but God has called me to be faithful in this work.” – Lois Nadjamerrek
For Lois, the arrival of a full New Testament in West Arnhem is a momentous occasion.
“God has a special job for me. I’m not a very important person, but God has called me to be faithful in this work.”
“Our language has been given to us from God, so sharing the word of God in my language so the people can hear God calling them in their heart language is very important.
“I keep thanking the Lord. I’m looking forward to the celebration of the Kunwinjku Bible coming to my homeland. The time has come for my people to hear a lot more about God and the love given to us through Christ.”
Less than 20 per cent of Australia’s Indigenous peoples have the complete Bible in their heart language. Can you help Bible Society fund this important work?