"God is a Miniafia Man"
“God is a Miniafia Man,” the loincloth-clad speaker exulted! “Before He was English, and American, and Australian. But today He has become Miniafia!”
A steady beat of drums and trumpeting of conch shells gave voice to the excitement that everyone felt as the 1st of the Miniafia-Oyan New Testaments was carried into the village on a model canoe. Traditionally dressed dancers proceeded and followed the bark cloth wrapped New Testament, their voices thundering praise: “Orokaiwa, Regah Keriso! O a merar ayiy! (Greetings, Lord Christ! We greet You!)”
Walking in front of the “canoe,” Fran and I laughed and cried our way up from the water’s edge, through Utukwaf village, to the especially prepared veranda and speakers’ platform where the Dedication service would take place. We laughed with joy over the obviously enthusiastic reception of the Scripture: 750 copies of the 1000 printed had been purchased before this first had even arrived in the village. We cried in memory of our friends who had died without seeing the Book we were now celebrating. Among them was Utukwaf village chief Gideon Yowen. Not long before he died he said, “My son, you have lived with us now for many years. I love the stories you have translated, but I am now an old man. Soon I will die. My heart is most sad about this: I will never hold the finished Book in my hands.”
The Book that Gideon Yowen died longing for, his children and grandchildren now hold in their hands. It was a day we sometimes despaired of ever seeing. We had begun the project on December 7, 1973, but had to leave it barely half done in 1993. Thanks to the perseverance of national translators Stanley Oyabuwa and Josiah Javeve, translation was finally done and we were able to return to the project and help complete final editing and typesetting early last year.
Miniafia Church leaders, though, were anxious about one thing. “David,” they said. “When you speak, please be sure to let the people know that our work is not finished. As soon as we have rested from this celebration, we need to finish the Old Testament, and we need their continuing support.” Indeed, Stanley Oyabuwa has drafted 70 chapters in Psalms already. He and his wife, Ethyl, have committed to finishing the Old Testament.
Even before the echo of celebrating voices and drumbeats had faded from the air that weekend, the Translation Committee reported that the 900th copy of the New Testament had been sold. “How can we get more?” they asked in alarm. I couldn’t help but smile. What a wonderful problem with which to end a most memorable weekend!