Last week I was in the beautiful mountain village of Soba in Papua for the dedication of the Hupla Bible. For the first time the 6000 Hupla people have the whole Bible in their own heart language. It was a time of great joy and celebration. It has taken more than 25 years work to translate the Bible and the main translators Mathias, who is a Hupla, and Sue, who is from Ireland, rejoiced in the completion of what, for them, has been a labour of love.
Sue first arrived in Papua in 1978 as a young nurse and for 19 years lived amongst the Hupla people in Soba. It took her 2 days to walk through the mountains from the highland city of Wamena to Soba. At other times the journey took 15 minutes by light aircraft to the small airstrip that had been cleared in the village. In 1994 Sue joined the Bible translation team.
Before they heard the good news of Jesus the Hupla people, like the other 250 tribes in Papua, lived in constant fear and oppression from evil spirits and the spirits of dead relatives. Fear of these spirits controlled every part of their lives and they offered many sacrifices to appease the anger of the spirits.
There was also frequent fighting amongst the clans within the tribe and with other neighbouring tribes. The practice of revenge and ‘pay back’ killings meant that there was no end to the fighting. Many died and others suffered terrible injuries. The people also practised cannibalism. Although the people lived in very beautiful mountains and valleys their lives were very dark. Now that many of the people know Jesus, things are very different.
In each village there were special places where only the men were allowed to go. If a woman or child entered that place the spirits would be angry and they had to be put to death. One day a little girl, who was looking for her father, unknowingly entered the forbidden place. She was taken to her father who knew what he must do to appease the spirits. He took his little girl to a nearby waterfall and threw her into it. Later when missionaries came to that village and told the people the good news of Jesus the father said, “If you had only come sooner my little girl would not have died!” All of us experience fear, but the perfect love of God in Jesus overcomes all our fears.