A Beginning, Not an End
In 1958, Karl and Joice Franklin began living among the East Kewa people in Papua New Guinea's Southern Highlands. They started to learn the language and the culture of the people but left on furlough in 1963. While they were gone, another Wycliffe couple moved into the East Kewa area.
When the Franklins returned, they started work among the West Kewas, a neighboring and closely related group of people. The West Kewa New Testament was painstakingly typeset on a manual typewriter and was dedicated in 1973.
Meanwhile, the couple who had picked up work with the East Kewas left after three years and never returned. Work on the East Kewa New Testament did not resume for 35 years.
In 2001, some West Kewa Christian leaders contacted Karl Franklin (by then living in Dallas, Texas) and asked for his help in revising and re-publishing their New Testament. Karl and Joice agreed and returned to Papua New Guinea. While there, they met a young woman named Rose Poto, who worked as a primary-school secretary.
Rose is an East Kewa woman, and she remembers hearing stories about Karl Franklin, the white man who had helped to translate the West Kewa Scriptures. She had assumed he was long dead -- "part of the ancestral past," joked Karl -- but was delighted to find him alive and well, and back in PNG.
My people need the New Testament too, she told Karl.
At about the same time, a software tool called Adapt It was under development in Papua New Guinea. When two languages are closely related, Adapt It can help a person who knows both languages translate written material from one into the other. Since he had studied both East and West Kewa, Karl decided to create a draft of the East Kewa New Testament from the West Kewa New Testament using Adapt It.
As he finished manuscripts, he sent them to Rose, who distributed them among East Kewa speakers for checking and revision.
The project drew to a close in August 2004. The days of manual typewriters were long gone; this time, work was hastened by computers, e-mail, and powerful new software.
The East Kewa people celebrated the arrival of their New Testament on July 2, 2005. More than 150 other New Testaments had been completed in Papua New Guinea since the West Kewa dedication in 1973. Karl Franklin and his son Kirk -- whose first words as a child were in East Kewa -- attended the East Kewa celebration. "We never thought we'd see it done," said Karl, reflecting on the significance of the day.
And so, through 47 years and a series of unlikely events, God brought His Word to the East Kewa people. But the arrival of the New Testaments marked a beginning, not an end.
Renewal was the people's heartfelt cry during the dedication ceremony. Rose Poto read from John 1 and told the people that the Word existed in the beginning before creation. Now that the Word has come to her people, they too can be recreated, she told them. Another speaker referenced Romans 1:16, a verse that speaks of the gospel's saving power.
"Kagua, come to the Lord; Kagua, come to the Lord," sang a group of dancers. A woman walked through the crowd carrying a banner with the same message. Hers joined four other banners calling Erave, Suku, Koare, and Mendo -- symbolic corners of East Kewa territory -- to come to the Lord.