Final miracle brings Indigenous recording home
It is finished: the word will be heard in Central Australia
The Pitjantjatjara New Testament audio recording is finally a reality, allowing the word to go out in audio format among the Pitjantjatjara people of Central Australia. This recording will now be mastered with sound effects and musical backgrounds and should be released soon. Bible Society’s Paul Eckert reports that the final recording session was the voice of Peter read by Pastor Phillip Wilyuka from Titjikala, at 9:45 on Thursday night before Easter.
“At the end he prayed a lovely prayer thanking the Lord for sending Dan and Kay Finley (the team from ‘Faith Comes By Hearing’) all the way from the USA to record the New Testament for ‘our people’ and for Bible Society,” says Paul, Bible Society’s long-serving Production Coordinator in Remote and Indigenous Ministry Support.
Recording had been tight during the last weeks with key people called away to funerals and a looming deadline for Dan and Kay to return to the US, but God had a miracle waiting.
“We praise God for taking care of so many details during the 18 weeks it took to do this huge task.” – Paul Eckert
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“During final proofing, we found two lines had been accidentally deleted from the narration of Acts, but Deborah, who read it, had returned to her home nearly 500km away some weeks before,” Paul reveals. “I rang her to see if she could return but she was looking after her sick mother and unwell herself.”
“However, on the last day of proofing, I received a phone call from her from the Alice Springs airport – she’d come in on the Flying Doctors escorting her mother for an operation. So she was able to redo those missing lines.
“We praise God for taking care of so many details during the 18 weeks it took to do this huge task. It’s hard to believe it’s finished.”
After completing the first half of the audio recording of the Pitjantjatjara New Testament in Adelaide last year, recording resumed in Alice Springs in late January. The recording involved more than 50 Pitjantjatjara people reading different biblical characters.
Ann Eckert, former Bible Society and Wycliffe Bible Translator, joined her husband Paul in Alice Springs coordinating the household for the team and readers. In weekly news reports, she wrote of the pleasures and challenges of the 12-hour days of recording sessions with men and women from Central Australian Pitjantjatjara communities.
“A teacher who sat in on one session exclaimed how amazed she was by Paul’s patience in prompting people with poorer reading skills so their voices could also be included. And yes, he has that in great measure.”
“The readers report that the words they record are also helping them and encouraging them in their walk with Christ.” – Ann Eckert
One thing that saddens us is how many ‘excellent’ readers now struggle with fluency having been compromised by ill health, she wrote in week three. “Yet they are the senior ones whose voices will be respected.
“The words of Jesus in Luke are currently being recorded by a young fellow who did Jesus in Mark, and the narrative bits of Acts have been completed, both with great fluency. Now we need a Peter and Paul! And 2 Corinthians was completed as planned last week. So there is much to be thankful for.”
On February 23, she paid tribute to the “very skilled and self-giving, persistent and patient work of Dan and Kay Finley, the team from ‘Faith Comes By Hearing’. They come with considerable life and cross-cultural experience and great skill in this multi-voice recording effort.
“However, as most missionaries will testify, working with Australian Aboriginal people is a new and different experience. They have worked steadily to achieve relationship, even though the speakers come and go for usually no longer than two weeks at a time.”
The following week she expressed her appreciation for the “fine Aboriginal Christian people in this recording project. It seems a real privilege to get to know some of their stories, recall memories with those whom we’ve spent time with before, and laugh together during breaks from recording sessions.
“It’s not only the long hours in the recording room but the uncertainties about whether people will come to participate or not.” – Ann Eckert
“The readers report that the words they record are also helping them and encouraging them in their walk with Christ. They have interesting reflections on some of the readings, and sometimes suggest a word in the 2002 edition will not be understood by the next generation and suggest an alternative one, and occasionally also read a good alternative way of expressing the same truth and so, in essence, the reading is also providing a needed revision of the 2002 text.”
On March 9, despite enduring intense heat, Ann comments that she still likes to see “sun” on the weather forecast … “not because we don’t welcome rain, but because the sound of rain on the tin roof interrupts recording. Thunderstorms came as predicted one night this week. It poured and poured loudly, starting around 1.30am one night, but by morning and these two days following the lesser amount of rain has steadily and gently fallen, not negatively impacting progress. We are thankful!”
But she worries how Paul keeps going.
“It’s not only the long hours in the recording room but the uncertainties about whether people will come to participate or not … some don’t understand that Dan and Kay have only a limited time here; partly it’s the constant funerals, etc.”
By March 16, it’s clear that completion of the recording “rests on the shoulders of Pitjantjatjara men exclusively as all of the parts women could do have been completed – but the male parts remaining are extensive and our report at the end of next week will tell it all. All these years we have fit around the time schedules and way of life of the Pitjantjatjara, but THIS time there are restraints of how long the recordists can stay – and it is a challenge to operate within this new reality.
“We are about 96.5 per cent there but can’t complete without the men who have pledged to come, because we need their different voices.” – Ann Eckert
“Paul is positive and amazingly patient, and I attempt to not carry too much emotionally, ’cause there are factors beyond us both in this world and in the heavenlies with which we do business. Dan and Kay would like the recording completed before Easter, ’cause, in addition to recording, we have to listen to each completed book after the various voices are all put in together, book by book, and then Paul ‘signs them off’ as correct.”
The week of March 23 was discouraging, with readers of Peter’s words and Satan’s words delayed by funerals.
“We are about 96.5 per cent there but can’t complete without the men who have pledged to come, because we need their different voices. Dan and Kay will have to extend their stay and adjust their flights by six days.
“As we approach Easter, the health of our dear co-translator of 28 years fails with an acute inoperable issue they’ve been treating unsuccessfully. Earlier she had been part of the recording and completed Romans 1-3. It is hard to watch her suffer. Until she became unconscious, her favourite Pitjantjatjara chorus was an adaption of Matt Redman’s He’ll never let me go. And he didn’t – she has now entered into the next phase of eternal life. But oh, how we shall miss her. I read her 2 Timothy 4:7-8 more than once, and Tuesday before Easter, she had finished her race and had remained faithful.”