I am visiting Papua in Indonesia. Papua is the Western part of a large island north of Australia. It is an amazingly complex society. The people of Papua, who number two and a half million, speak 250 different languages. Many of the people live in remote areas amongst the mountains and valleys of this very beautiful country. In the 1950s Christian missionaries first brought the good news of Jesus to the tribal peoples of Papua. They lived amongst the people, built relationships with them and learned their languages.
The missionaries faced many challenges and dangers. In 1968 two missionaries, Stan Dale and Phil Masters, were killed by warriors from the Yali tribe. Despite this tragedy others continued the work and many of the Yali people experienced God’s love and forgiveness in Jesus. Their lives, and the life of the tribe, was transformed.
One of the first Yali men to come to faith in Jesus was Dongla Kobak. His father, Andeng, was the cult priest of the tribe and Dongla had been expected to succeed him. But Dongla’s life was decisively changed when he became a Christian and he became a leader in the church. He could not read but he learned the Bible stories the missionaries taught the people and then he taught his children those stories.
One of his sons, Otto, came to know Jesus as his Saviour and Lord and worked amongst the young people in the churches. In 1988 he joined the team translating the Bible into the Yali language. He dedicated the next 12 years of his life to this work so that the all the Yali people would be able to hear and read the Word of God in their own heart language. The complete Bible in Yali was published in 2000. Earlier this year, at the age of 50, Otto died of TB.
Otto’s experience of God’s love for him in Jesus transformed his life. Like the Apostle Paul he could say, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Otto’s whole life was committed to sharing the good news of Jesus with others and he died secure in the knowledge that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Now he is in heaven, in the presence of God, and is experiencing his love more deeply than ever before.