New project is ‘a-o-kei’

By Deb Fox  |  Wycliffe Today Winter 2024 Edition

A cheeky four-year-old giggles and begins pulling faces as I meet with his parents. Joey and his almost two-year-old sister, Katarina, are settling into their new home in Vanuatu and slowly becoming accustomed to the constant flow of ‘hellos’ and ‘goodbyes’ from short-term visitors. Life on a picturesque tropical island may sound like an idyllic childhood but there have been many sacrifices the Mangohig family have made to get there.

Joey’s parents, Paul and Nicola Mangohig, left their friends, family, jobs and church communities in Melbourne and Darwin to fulfil the call they felt to serve God among a language group that needs the Bible translated. Their new home is currently located within the SIL Vanuatu centre in the capital of Port Vila. While the details of their project are still being determined, Paul and Nicola are helping with a number of administrative tasks for the centre, including managing accommodation, visas and forms for new and current workers.

The journey to Bible translation and language development began when Paul and Nicola met in Bible college. When they met at Melbourne School of Theology, a friendship quickly blossomed into romance and a dream of serving God together somewhere in the world. A decade later, that dream is finally becoming a reality.

Paul and Nicola finished their linguistic studies with SIL Australia and began partnership development to raise prayer and financial support as members of Wycliffe Australia. They then took an exploratory trip to Vanuatu to see if it might be a good fit. Despite living through two large cyclones and a few earthquakes, the island nation has won their hearts.

While there have already been 20 languages with portions of translated Scripture, Vanuatu still has more than 50 viable languages waiting for Scripture to be translated. SIL Vanuatu’s Director, Andrea Bryant, was keen to have ‘the Mangoes’ help with the development of a new project in the Akei language (pronounced ‘ah-kay’) on the island of Espiritu Santo. Akei is one of the largest indigenous languages spoken in Espiritu Santo so it was selected as a language with which to begin a language project.

Paul explains:

Since we first visited Vanuatu last year, this language group has been put on our radar. So for the past year, we’ve been praying, researching, and talking to people about the language group. It was an important step to see the villages as a family and get a sense from God if this is the language community he would like us to be part of so they can have the Bible in their own language. With so much to get done, a partnership has been established involving SIL Vanuatu, Bible Society of the South Pacific and its Vanuatu branch and Bible Society Australia. SIL Vanuatu has been making connections with the local villages and doing community consultations for the past six or seven years. We’re going to be involved with translation, Scripture engagement, training the translators, transport and there are a few new things we’re also trialing. I’ll be meeting with the Bible Society to travel to the villages to meet people nominated by the community who may be attending for the Trenem Tingting Kos who could potentially be the translators and checkers for the project.

Nicola adds:

Hopefully there will be a good cohort who attend the TTK training. It will give a good introduction to an overview of the Bible, critical thinking etc. And importantly, it will also allow them to have a bigger voice in the direction of their project. We’re also looking at sending some [ni-Vanuatu] to an OBS (Oral Bible Storytelling) workshop to get them trained in-country as a first step into translation. That way, you’re getting people hearing the Word of God in their language but they’re also talking about it and thinking about it enough to internalise the meaning. When it does come time to translate a particular story or teaching, the speech that comes out is more natural. We know the way ahead will be challenging but we’re really looking forward to seeing God move among the Akei people.

Please pray:

  • for wisdom as the Mangohig family prepares to move to the island of Santo
  • for guidance in finalising the MOU between SIL Vanuatu and Bible Society South Pacific
  • that their accommodation needs will be met
  • for more workers to fill roles needed at SIL Vanuatu, particularly a new Operations Manager.

To hear more about the Mangos and their work with SIL Vanuatu, visit

Thanks for your patience...

Waiting is hard, isn't it. But imagine waiting 2000 years for Scripture in your language! Thanks for your patience. And thanks for your generous support which will help bring the long wait to an end...