A house for a translator to knock on

Paul and Nicola Mangohig, with their children Joey and Katarina, are based in Vanuatu with Wycliffe, where they are seeking to work as Bible translators in collaboration with Bible Society. Here Paul describes their excitement at finding a translation project to support.

We have been allocated a translation project! Our translation project will be with the Akei (Ah-kay) language community located in the southern region of the island of Espiritu Santo! We are so excited, nervous, scared and everything in between.

In February, a group of us headed to the island of Espiritu Santo on a reconnaissance trip. Our first stop was Santo’s capital, Luganville, where we met with a missionary couple who provide logistical support to missionaries in Santo, especially those associated with Bible translation work.

Map of Espiritu Santo.

Nicola, Joey and Katarina had a playdate with other missionary mums and kids while I went to a weekly men’s breakfast. Finally, we had brunch with another couple who have been a great help to us in organising the Santo trip and who are also working with the language community that we were about to visit.

After a couple of days in Luganville, we headed to the southwestern region of Santo to visit two main villages where the Akei language is the everyday (vernacular) language. The villages were Ipayato and Tasiriki (check the map for reference). Since we first visited Vanuatu last year, this language group has been put on our radar. So for the past year, we’ve been praying, researching, and talking to people about the language group, especially the history of past missionary efforts.

The Mangohig family in Tasiriki.

I tried to visit Ipayato last July but the weather did not cooperate. For us, it was an important step to see the villages as a family and get a sense from God if this is the language community he would like us to be part of so they can have the Bible in their heart language. So we were praying and hoping that we’d be able to make it. The road to these villages was rough. But we made it nearly five hours later by God’s grace!

We stayed in Tasiriki for two nights and another night in Ipayato. We had a small tour of these villages and checked out places to potentially build a house. But more importantly, we met with key people in these villages who will form the translation committee for this language.

From left, Pastor Daniel Boe from Bible Society Vanuatu, Thomas the translator and Father Norman, Vanuatu Bible Translation’s Chairman and Senior translator for the Merei language in Santo with a local speciality of laplap.

We were travelling with Bible Society’s Vanuatu Leader, Pastor Daniel Boe, as this is a joint project between SIL and Bible Society. So we met with the chairman and translator of the committee that Bible Society has organised in Tasiriki, to see what kind of support they need.

The translator, Thomas, has been working on one of the Gospels and has found it frustrating that he doesn’t have anyone nearby to ask about linguistic, exegetical and theological questions on passages he’s working on. He’s had to write a letter to Bible Society Vanuatu who then sends it to a specialist in Bible Society Australia to get the advice – a lengthy process. So Thomas was happy to hear that we could be a house he could knock on to get advice. Hearing what Thomas said and feeling peace about potentially living in one of these villages confirmed that God has opened the door for us to be part of the Akei language translation project.

Joey exploring with one of his new friends.

After Tasiriki, we went to Ipayato, where we met with Pastor Stefan, who desperately wants the Bible in their language. We walked around a little and spent one night. The following day was Sunday and so we attended church.

Unfortunately, Nicola suddenly got very sick, so we had to cut our time short in Ipayato. We had organised a meeting with key leaders to discuss the joint project with Bible Society, but we had to miss this so we could return to Luganville and give Nicola proper care and rest.

Nevertheless, our director, Andrea, and Father Norman, Vanuatu Bible Translation’s chairman, went ahead with the community meeting. The meeting went well, and they are keen to form another translation committee that could work with the Tasiriki team.

Sunday service in Ipayato

Since returning to Port Vila, we’ve been ruminating on what happened in Santo. We’re thankful to God for the opportunity to go and visit these villages and meet the people who desperately want the word of God in their language. We’ve been reflecting on what God has been doing and where he is working, particularly in the language community of Akei. And so we are extremely grateful to God because we sense that he has opened the Akei language for us as a translation project.

Moving forward, we will continue conversations on developing the partnership between SIL, Bible Society, our family and the Akei language community. We will stay in Port Vila for a couple of months to help with a variety of administration work in SIL. This could mean helping with visa applications for current and future members, doing airport runs, helping run our accommodation facilities and repairing bits and pieces around SIL properties.

SIL Vanuatu is in desperate need of a Centre Manager. Responsibilities include overseeing the SIL Office/Centre, including maintenance and upkeep and supervising two groundsmen. Supporting SIL teams with logistics and shipping, upkeep of work permits/visas for teams and other roles that come up on a need basis. SIL Vanuatu is looking for someone to take over the role long-term but short-term opportunities are available. If you have any more questions about the role or would like to be considered, please email Andrea Bryant at [email protected]


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