The Way to Micronesia

Do you ever wonder how God weaves all of our unique experiences together for his purposes?  Read this story from my trip to Micronesia in May of 2013 to learn about one families experience. 
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For Peter and Robin Knapp, the way to Micronesia has been long, with many unexpected twists and turns. The paths of those who choose to follow Christ are never dull, as Peter and Robin can readily attest.

Peter Finds His Place

Knapp Family

When Peter, who grew up in Germany, was nearing high school graduation, he decided to pursue the study of theology. But he faced a problem. He knew pastors delivered sermons once a week, but he didn’t know what they did the rest of the time.

That night as he prepared for bed, he prayed, “God, if you’ll show me what it is [pastors] need to let people know, I will study theology. Otherwise I’ll study something else.”

At that time, everyone in Germany was being drafted.  Because Peter was a conscientious objector, he did alternative service at a Christian retreat center run by the Liebenzell Mission. He heard the gospel as he had never heard it before, and it puzzled him.

He decided to pay a visit to the center’s counselor. There Peter committed his life to Christ. “I knew I had new life. And I knew then what it was that other people needed to know.”

Peter applied for seminary in Switzerland and soon found joy in studying the Bible in its source languages. But Peter still did not believe he had the ability to pastor.

He heard missionaries speak about Bible translation and wondered if somehow that could be a place for him to fill. Could he somehow help missionaries with languages?

Soon after he attended a weeklong seminar presented by Wycliffe Germany. After the regular sessions, they taught people how to learn the sounds of languages and how to learn unwritten languages and develop alphabets for them.

Peter knew he had found his place. He applied at once to Wycliffe and was accepted.

Robin’s Road

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Far away in the north-central US, Robin attended church regularly with her parents. At six-years old she decided she needed to become a follower of Jesus.

Robin’s family then moved to the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific for five years because of her father’s employment. During that time they met some missionaries to Micronesia and had Micronesian friends.

Years later, at about age 16, Robin went to Ecuador as an exchange student. At that point, God had already been speaking to her about serving in another country.

While Robin was in college, she began dabbling in languages, graduating with a BA in Spanish. She also learned some French and Russian.

After reading a book about Wycliffe’s founder and hearing a Wycliffe pilot speak at a nearby church, Robin decided to join Wycliffe USA. She went to study linguistics at SIL in the south-central US. There she met Peter.

At last their paths had dovetailed, and Peter and Robin began on the next part of their journey as husband and wife.

Siberia

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Robin Knapp with a Khakas friend from Siberia.  Photo courtesy of Peter & Robin Knapp

For the first seven years of their ministry together, Peter and Robin worked on a translation in Siberia. A friend from Khakasia (a small province in eastern Siberia) urged them to translate the Bible into her language.

As the Siberian work progressed, the Knapps’ friend would periodically tell them she’d been applying what she’d been learning from scripture. She said, “I think these principles are actually working!”

From Snow to Sand

When the Knapps’ work in Siberia came to a close, they were not sure where to go next, but God opened a new door. The SIL* Pacific Group was establishing a minor in Bible translation at the Pacific Islands University (PIU) in Guam, and Peter and Robin were invited to serve as instructors.

“It never dawned on me that I might go back to Micronesia,” explains Robin. “…for me it was like returning home.”

Peter Knapp teaching at Pacific Islands University

On the same day Peter and Robin agreed to join PIU’s staff, the SIL Pacific Group director forwarded them a request from the Mwoakilloa language community.  They were asking for someone to help them with their Bible translation program. Peter and Robin agreed to be their advisors.

“That just blew my mind,” Peter says. “They could have started their project on any day, but they started it the very day we called to accept positions at the university.”

Since arriving in Micronesia in 2012, the Knapps can see how, even years ago, God was weaving Micronesia and PIU into their lives.

“I thrive on seeing students begin to understand,” Peter says. “This is the best thing I can do.”

Robin agrees. “Scripture is the only thing you can ever really leave someone.”

Article by Kristel Ortiz
Photos by Elyse Patten and Heather Pubols

SIL International is a faith-based nonprofit organization that serves language communities worldwide.

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This story was written for the Wycliffe News Network.

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We want a Bible in our language, too!

We want the Bible in our language, too!

After visiting with the Nukuoran and Kapingamarangi Bible translation teams who are just finishing translations of the whole Bible, we visited two other language communities who are just beginning their Bible translations.

The Mokilese and the Pingelapese communities live on Pohnpei Island have begun translation projects into their languages.  Each project is being led by a committee of volunteers formed by their local churches.

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The Pingelapese committee is currently working on translating the book of 1 Corinthians.  It’s challenging book, but they seem very excited about what they are doing.

When I talked with Podus, the chairman of their translation committee, I asked him what he would say to people from other language communities that are still waiting for the Bible in their language and aren’t sure if it is worth all the time and effort. After a brief pause, he looked at me, and said with passion, “They MUST do it!” He went on to share with me about how important they feel this work is.

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Dais (on right in picture), who is the chairman of the Mokilese Bible translation committee, eagerly shared that their committee has decided that the scope of their translation project will not just be scripture portions or a New Testament. “We have decided to do a translation of the whole Bible,” Dais shared.  Their committee of volunteers has already begun translation work and continues to distribute new assignments among their team.

* Photo of Dais and Mihner Lorrin by Elyse Patten

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God’s Timing – The Blessings of Waiting

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For still the vision awaits its appointed time;
    it hastens to the end—it will not lie.
If it seems slow, wait for it;
    it will surely come; it will not delay.
– Habakkuk 2:3 ESV

God’s timing doesn’t always feel perfect.  Speaking for myself, I think I can be the queen of impatience. I like when things happen now; I’d rather not wait.   And yet, God has shown me over and over that when we have patience (yes…when I have patience), things can come together in unexpected ways – better ways.

We’ve been meeting with people in the Kapingamarangi community over the last few days learning more about their Bible translation program.  The theme I’ve been hearing in our interviews is God’s perfect timing.  This community waited a long time before they began their translation project.

It was the Nukouran people who first introduced the Kapingamarangi to the gospel in the early twentieth century. It was also the Nukouru who helped them begin to figure out how they could do a Bible translation.  The Kapingamarangi asked a Nukouran man to help them contact someone who could help them get their translation project started.  Thus began more than ten years of dialogue with people involved in Bible translation work in the Pacific…and lots and lots of waiting.

Caleb, who leads the Kapingamarangi translation committee, shared with us that they  “waited, waited, waited.” But, he went on to talk about God’s perfect timing. “Sometimes God says you need to wait. God had a time for us to have it.”

While they waited, they prayed.  God began to work in hearts.  When the first requests for help went out, not everyone in the community was sure this was the best thing to do.  While they prayed, God brought unity.

Caleb shared with us that the work ahead of them to translate the Bible into their language seemed impossible, but while they waited and prayed he learned “that nothing is impossible with God. With him anything can be done.”

Several years passed.  Finally, someone experienced in Bible translation work was available to work with them as an advisor for their Bible translation program.  The time was right. The whole community had gained interest in the project during those years they waited, and when the project began more than 20 volunteers from the community were ready to begin translation and about 100 volunteers were available for checking.  In just four years they completed a translation of the New Testament in their language! During those years they waited they also raised funds through copra production and the sale of handicrafts.  It was enough to cover the costs for printing their New Testaments.

They went on to translate about half of the Old Testament, but by then a couple of other communities in their other region became interested in starting translation projects, too.  Instead of continuing on, the Kapingamarangi community released their translation advisor and also raised funds to help these new project begin.

When those new projects had their own translation advisors assigned, the Kapaingamarangi translation committee started up their translation work again. Now they hope to complete a translation of the whole Bible into their language by the end of the year.

Praise God for his timing!

Learn more about the Kapingamarangi Bible Translation project

* Photo of members of the Kapingamarangi Bible translation committee by Elyse Patten

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Born for translation

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Some people are born for translation.  Well, at least in this case, that is actually sort of true. Betty (back left) leads the team translating the Bible into the Nukuoru language.  Her mother was the first one in her family to be involved in translation.  She helped the team translating the New Testament into Nukuoru.

Betty shared with us that when she was young she sensed that God wanted her to work in translation like her mother had done.  After years of education including Bible college and coursework to learn biblical and modern Hebrew in Israel, Betty continued the translation work for which her mother had been involved.  Now, Betty and her team hope to complete the Old Testament so that the whole Bible in Nukuoro can be finished by the end of the year.

The team works from the island of Pohnpei were many from the community have settled.  Their home island is a boat-ride away from Pohnpei and is still inhabited by a few hundred Nukuoran people.

* The photo of the Nukuoran Bible translation team was taken by Elyse Patten. 

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Flying over the islands

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Our flight today took us from Guam to the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).  The view from the plane was amazing.  I’ve never seen islands like these.  Many of them had bright aqua-blue rings around their shorelines making them visually pop out of the endless dark blue of the ocean.  I’ve never seen anything like it.

Several of the islands together with reefs formed atolls.  According to Wikipedia an atoll is a ring-shaped coral reef including a coral rim that encircles a lagoon.

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This is a view of the Nukuoro atoll from a satellite in space.  More on Nukuoro in another post.

We saw several  islands like this through the clouds from the plane.  It is incredible how many little islands like this there are. Thinking about how people made their way to these islands by canoe blows my mind.

Our next six days will be on the island of Pohnpei, FSM. We’ll be meeting with Islanders involved in four different translation programs.  Should be a good week!

* Top photo of island by Elyse Patten

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