The legacy of a 60-year friendship and Scripture engagement
Dr Joseph Havel is a retired forestry officer now living in Western Australia. He has been a faithful supporter of Bible translation through the years, giving in various ways to Vision 2025 projects, Next Step Development projects and Wycliffe members, including friends, Richard and Aretta Loving (d). Dr Havel shares the story behind the deep friendships he formed in Papua New Guinea that gave him a heart for Bible translation:
By Dr Joseph Havel, Western Australia
My contact with Richard and Aretta Loving started rather informally but it lasted for 60 years. Back in 1957, I was working as a forestry officer for the Australian administration of what was then the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. I was working at Bulolo, a gold mining and timber town.
The project employed several hundred local workers, mainly hired in the highlands for a period of 18 months at a time. Some of the people we employed were from the Awa language group. On Sundays, I used to drive up to their camp in the rainforest above us, to run an adult Sunday school class. This was only possible because of an Awa translator and foreman, Yeda.
I used a New Testament in Neo-Melanesian (now called Tok Pisin)—a trade language used for contact between locals, administrators, traders and missionaries. I would read the lesson and make comments on it in Tok Pisin and Yeda would translate it into Awa.
A few months into our lessons, I had a visit from a rather tall American, not unlike Abraham Lincoln in looks, who introduced himself as Dick Loving. He explained that he was involved in translating the New Testament into the Awa language and he wanted to know who was running the Awa Sunday school class. When he found out that I was theologically sound, Dick gave me a partial copy of the Awa NT translation, and showed me how to read it phonetically.
After the translation for the Awa New Testament was completed, the Lovings moved around PNG before eventually heading to East Africa. By 1997, they were back in Papua New Guinea at the Ukarumpa centre, working on a revision of the New Testament translation. We continued correspondence and I supported them through Wycliffe.
I kept my contact with the Lovings afterwards until replies stopped in 2018. It was only recently that I learned that they passed away to be with the Lord ahead of me. I am grateful for the contact I had with them. Our friendship opened doors for me to experience firsthand the power of people receiving God’s Word in their own language. My connection to Wycliffe over the years has influenced my understanding and appreciation for mission and how we can all play a part in God’s work.
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