Well, I said there would be a lot of pictures... and I wasn't lying! (Believe it or not, I really restrained myself only posting this many!) This past weekend I (Susan) attended the dedication of the Urat New Testament, while Brian stayed at home with the kids.
To give you an idea of my travels, here is a map, showing approximate locations. We flew from Ukarumpa to the town of Wewak (a 90-minute flight in a Kodiak) and then rode in the back of a big truck for six hours to get to the Urat language area.
We got to the airstrip at 6am, and were greeted by this dismal sight. We all know that the planes can't take off until the ridge at the end of the runway is visible. So we sat and waited. Someone reported to us that they had just been at the market in Ukarumpa, just a short hop away, and it was bright and sunny there!
Finally ready to go, an hour past our scheduled departure. There were two plane-loads of folks from Ukarumpa going to the dedication.
This was our transport to the village. We were pleasantly surprised to find that we got padded seats in the back of the truck! Those black-wrapped boxes under the seats are the Bibles. We had 25 people in the back of the truck, which meant that we had the benches along each side packed, plus four people sitting on cargo on the floor.
I'm not going to say that the trip was pleasant, because it wasn't. But it wasn't that bad. It helped that most everyone had a good sense of humor about the whole situation!
We ran into a funeral convoy along the way. That's a police Landcruiser behind us. We fingured that it must have been an important person who died, judging by the amount of cars in the convoy and the fact that they had two police vehicles escorting them.
No rest stops along the way, so the truck stopped along a lonely stretch of the highway so that we could stretch our legs and take care of any business in the tall grass.
Photo taken at another stop along the road.
It was nearly dark when we finally reached the village where we would eat our dinner.
After we had eaten, I was dropped off at another village with seven other ladies - either single women or traveling without husbands. This is the house that we stayed in for two nights. We were spoiled to have a flush toilet and a shower downstairs with rain tank water, though no electricity. We slept on the floor under mosquito nets.
The next morning the dedication wasn't slated to begin until 10am, but I walked the two kilometers to the site early with the videographer and helped her get footage and interviews.
All of the villages we saw were beautiful.
A women returning from market with unsold bananas. This same type of traditional basket would be used later during the ceremony for bringing the Bibles.
We watched a group of dancers get ready for their sing-sing.
Young and old got to participate.
Each language group has their own unique style of traditional dress. I'd never before seen headdresses like the men wore.
Those are Bibles packed into a traditional basket.
The two main translators.
At last, (closer to noon than to 10:00), the celebration was ready to start!
The sing-sing group led a procession about 200 meters through the village, bringing the Bibles and the invited guests to the grandstand.
The waitskin meri carrying a basket of New Testaments is Hilka, the Finnish translation advisor.
A happy crowd.
The dedication itself consisted of lots and lots of speeches, another sing-sing group, a choir, and a drama. It was more than four hours long.
At the very end, a pastor from each denomination came forward to pray over the New Testaments to dedicate them.
A crowd eager to purchase their own copies of the New Testament.
One woman told us that although she couldn't read Urat yet, she was eager to learn, and was looking forward to a promised adult literacy class.
I was so thankful that I was able to witness this celebration, but most of all I'm so happy for the Urat people, who finally have the Word in their language 40 years after the translation began. As I "looked forward" to the bumpy and dusty six-hour return trip int he truck the next day, I thought that my road wasn't nearly as long as the one the Urat translators had traveled!