I am an Australian working in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in Bible translation and linguistics. Before I moved here I worked on traditional sailing ships doing sail training, and shared life with friends through our variation on intentional Christian community living.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinion of any of the organisations mentioned.
Saturday, 15 June 2013
Tigak Hymn Books
When George Brown came to New Ireland with a team of Fijian
Methodist missionaries in 1875, he brought with him the Methodist Hymn Book. It
was first translated into one local language, but has since found its way into
many more. So it was that we found ourselves with two days to help Miskum and
the Tigak translation team to edit and format the hymn book in their language…
or at least the 209 songs they have translated so far. There are 235 more that
they’d also like to turn to Tigak.
The Tiang version of the Hymn Book
As we edited and formatted we regularly referred to the
original Kuanua Hymn Book. Miskum had been singing from it for many years and the
pages were soft and fabric-like from all the years of page turning. Filed among
the pages were receipts, bulletins, sermon notes and Bible quotes. It was
clearly a well loved book.
Many Tigak had been involved in translating songs for their
hymn book. Many different people had assisted them with entering these hand
written songs into the computer and with updating it as more songs were completed
and corrections came to light. With a shortage of our staff available to assist
with this project, people had helped where they were able, just as we were
coming in late in the project to give a few days of help.
I do not know if any computer program is designed for
formatting hymn books, but certainly none of them are designed for coping with
multiple stages and the efforts of multiple contributors. We found ourselves
fighting the computers and resisting swearing when they mysteriously undid or
auto-corrupted our carefully laid plans. In the end though, we had a pdf and
could print off a final draft.
A few more corrections to enter...
We printed and roughly bound the hymn book at the end of our
second day. On giving it to the patiently waiting Miskum he was clearly touched
by holding this final draft, complete and almost looking like a real book. He
took it away and showed it to people he met in town. He found us the next day
with a few more corrections and a week later found us again to request a change
of picture for the cover. Clearly he was sharing it with people, getting
feedback and receiving much interest.
Now it is someone else’s job to organise the printing, but
it was a privilege to help the Tigak team get to this stage. As we worked our
way through the book we recognised the English names of many tunes for they
were part of our traditions too. Although sometimes we muttered at the
computers, more often we were found humming hymns, as familiar names came up on
the screen. I take joy in knowing that so many languages around the world can
sing in their own heart language ‘How Great Thou Art,’ and mean it.