Martin Barang, a Man with Heaven on His Mind
As told to June Hathersmith by Martin Barang
Martin, like other men I met who had worked on the Gwahatike New Testament translation in Papua New Guinea, seems strong in spirit yet gentle and thoughtful. When he shares his life story, his sincerity and depth touch the heart. Martin's desire is to be an ambassador of heaven. Years ago, when he was 'searching for life' Port Moresby, PNG's capital city, a pastor asked him, "Are you sure that you are going to heaven after this life?" Martin didn't know.
A few years later, Gwahatike translator Nafian Saremo wrote to Martin and asked the very same question. "Martin, are you sure you're going to heaven after this life?"
"From then on," Martin said, "I thought a lot and I prayed. One night I had a dream. I saw a light coming towards me, and a man emerged from the light. He challenged me, 'Martin are you really sure you are going to heaven?' I asked, 'Why are you asking?' He told me, 'You must repent because I am coming soon!' So I decided to follow Christ. I joined the Evangelical Church of Madang and became a youth leader and later Chairman of the Church."
Martin smiled when he said, "Years ago I had no clue about translation. I read the Bible just for fun. I wasn't a Christian, and I was floating like the wind, not knowing which way to go. Korean Jee-Young An, who came to work with the Gwahatike people, lived in the neighboring village. I didn't want to know anything about his work. I was actually afraid, but I think he was praying for me. Towards the end of 1991, he asked me to translate a few booklets, which I did. Over the years, he encouraged me to work alongside him. I think he saw that I could do translation.
"Later when the translation team was checking the New Testament, Nafian's brother Roman came to our place. He asked questions on 2 Corinthians to make sure people understood the Gwahatike translation. My interest started to grow. I thought, 'Maybe I could help with this type of work,' and I began visiting Jee-Young regularly. During the last two years of translating the New Testament, I worked with him and the team. My faith started to grow. I gradually realized God was calling me to do something for Him.
"We heard about Vision 2025 after dedicating the Gwahatike New Testament. Nafian, Roman, Noel Diru and I felt we should spread out and help others translate the Word of God into their languages so they can understand. Jee-Young told me, 'Well because you speak Asara'o, you should be the one to go back to work on the Asara'o language.'
"I'd been wondering how to help the Asara'o people understand the Word of God. I did some preaching before becoming a translator. The response was not what I expected. I used a lot of Pidgin, our trade language, and English, which is really a foreign language. It was very hard for the Asara'o people to understand. I thought then, how could I preach the Word of God so the Asara'o understand fully what God did for them? That is why I began to take an interest in doing translation. So when Jee-Young asked me I said, 'I'll do it.'
"God speaks to me through the Gwahatike language. I feel that it would be the same if Asara'o speakers have their own Bible. God will speak to the Asara'o people through their own Bible. At the moment we must prepare the hearts and souls of the people through Bible studies. We find it very effective. Many people around here are nominal Christians. When we are preaching they pretend to understand what we are talking about. But, because it's not their language, as soon as they go out, everything disappears. So right now we are people-oriented. After all, if we concentrate only on translation, who will read the Bible after the dedication? The books will be sitting idle. We must prepare people's hearts first.
"I'm not really fluent in the Asara'o language yet. The language we speak on the other side of the valley is quite different although it's related to Gwahatike.
"I believe in prayer, and I need people to pray for me. Right now I have two men to work with me. I pray God will lead more people to work alongside us. There are four denominations in this area. It is hard to work together, but I would like to work more closely with the leaders of those churches. Pray about that.
"I am struggling with the powers of darkness. I need prayer. There are some people trying to stop me through a kind of occultism. I'm struggling. The powers are too strong for me alone. But I won't give up. I'm not going to do that. I have a heart for these people, and I know God does too. He does not want a single person to spend eternity in hell, so I believe He is using me to prepare their souls, to prepare them for heaven. I won't give up. Though I will experience opposition, and problems, I won't give up."