God’s Word Still Setting the Barai People Free
‘Mangoe! – it is good that Jesus set us free!’ Twenty years after Wycliffe’s 400th worldwide translation was completed, this cheer – heard frequently today among the Barai people of Papua New Guinea – is a stirring testimony of the power of God’s Word to radically transform societies.
When Australian Wycliffe members Peter and Bev Evans completed the Barai New Testament in 1995, they could only hope that their years of dedication and perseverance would result in people engaging with Scripture and putting its teaching into practice. They laid the foundation on which their son would later build on to get the Barai people into the Word.
After the Barai New Testament had been dedicated and distributed, YWAM (Youth With a Mission) worker Mark Evans ran the first of several BELT (Biblical Education & Leadership Training) seminars with 46 eager leaders. As the people received culturally relevant Bible training which taught them how to apply the Scriptures to every area of life, stories of change resulted – for individuals, families, churches, and even entire villages.
Twenty years on, the tangible impact of Scripture on the everyday lives of the Barai people is unmistakable. The case of the Barai proves that God’s Word has the power to:
End suicide: Suicide used to be a serious problem in the village. Someone who was shamed saw no other way out than to take their own life. Since revival came to the Barai in 1999, these suicides have ceased and have not resurfaced.
Release women into ministry: Ministry roles for Barai women had always been limited in the past, but now women are being empowered. Barai men have begun to recognise that women, too, have been gifted and called by God to serve the church and community. Women are being released to lead Bible studies, correspondence programs and community health programs, among others.
Eliminate sorcery: In the past, the Barai people resorted to various forms of magic in order to protect themselves or get ahead in life, such as using magic digging sticks to help crops grow. But, in response to the teaching of God’s Word, the community held a ceremony to burn their magic amulets, and they are no longer afraid of their former enemies (the neighbouring Musa tribe, who long practised sorcery against the Barai) who are now also becoming believers as a result of Barai missionary activities.
Draw people into closer relationship with Him: It is now quite common to see regular morning village-wide devotional times. Clans come together in different parts of the village to study the Bible together and encourage each other to follow God’s ways. A group of prayer warriors also meets weekly to pray.
Raise up workers with a heart to serve: Younger leaders have begun to discern God’s voice and heed His leading, which has resulted in initiatives among the youth and throughout the community. Some of the younger Barai people have also become healthcare workers and teachers in their community as a result of hearing God’s call.
Equip and refresh: Pastors are being better equipped for service as they gain a deeper understanding of the Bible’s teachings. To use a PNG metaphor, these pastors whose machetes were dull (meaning they did not know what to preach) have had their machetes sharpened so they can slash through the jungle again.
Compel people to fulfil the Great Commission: A Barai man whose life was radically transformed by God’s Word felt compelled to preach Christ to a neighbouring tribe known to poison people. He then began a missionary society dedicated to reaching the remaining 5% unreached people groups of PNG. This team of 12 trust God for their daily provision, their health, and their safety, as they evangelise and disciple those yet to hear the name of Jesus.
These significant changes attest to the power of the Word to bring transformation to every sphere of life. The Barai people, once bound by Satan’s lies, are now free because of the truth of God’s Word. And they will not cease to proclaim the freedom they have found – all because God sent faithful servants who responded to His call to shine the light of Christ into the darkness.