Papua New Guinea | Kobon New Testament (2005)

Kobon New Testament Arrives! 

The Lord alone is Lord and we give him all the thanks and praise!

That was the theme for the celebration in Papua New Guinea upon the arrival of the New Testament to approximately 10,000 Kobon speakers. People walked as far as 35 miles to be there.

The Dedication

People came from all over the Kobon and Haruai language areas to the west and the Ti and Kalam language areas to the east. Children, teachers, parents, and school board members attended from 30 Living Word elementary schools established and operated by LBT associate missionaries John and Maila Davies. LBT associate missionaries Jonathan and Carrie Federwitz also attended with them the family of the SIL Director of Language Affairs.

The huge gathering of people listened intently as Living Word elementary school teachers read the first words from the new Kobon New Testament—John 1:1-18.

The children join in

The previous day, students competed to see which of the four school district teams could say the most Bible verses from memory in unison. On dedication day, spectators watched in amazement as dozens of children recited verse after verse, until only one team remained. Children are already hiding God’s Word in Kobon in their hearts!

The children then sang several songs in Kobon and Haruai to tunes from their own musical systems.

Thanksgiving and greetings

The program included an original song composed by Madelin, the daughter of the school governor. The song gave thanks to the Lord for bringing John and Maila so the Kobon people could understand exactly what the Lord says to them through His Word. More New Testament passages were read. LBT personnel brought greetings in a letter to the Kobon people and praising God for the gift of His Word in the Kobon language.

Into the hands of the people

After the speeches, people cut red ribbons on each carton of New Testaments. Applause and excited cheering erupted as the shiny black New Testaments with large gold crosses on the covers were held high for all to see. People gathered around to secure their own copies. More than 60 percent of the books—975 of 1,600 copies—sold the first day.

After eating together, people returned to their villages. New Testaments hung in wooden boxes suspended from poles they carried on their shoulders. They sang hymns as they went.

 Patrol boxes and forgiveness

When the Davies first began work in the Kobon area in 1972, local Kobon men carried wooden patrol boxes, suspended from poles on their shoulders, containing administrative officers’ equipment, food, and census materials. This is how the law came to the Kobon people. Over time, inexperienced administrators made unwise decisions. They seemingly turned blind eyes to brutalities committed against the Kobon people by police brought in from other parts of PNG. The patrol boxes became symbols of fear.

On dedication day, people returned to their villages carrying the wooden “patrol boxes” containing New Testaments. Transformation had occurred. These boxes no longer symbolized fear of the law. Instead, they contained God’s living Word, symbolizing the arrival of love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and hope. Praise God!

From the Mouths of the Kobon:

“Before we did not understand, but now everything is very clear.” (Saimon)

“This talk goes straight.” (Madelin)

“When people hear the words of Jesus in their own language they will say, ‘Jesus knows our language, he knows all about us, he is our person.’ ” (Lindon)


LBT is seeking Lutherans to serve overseas through the ministry of Bible translation and Scripture Engagement. If you feel that God may be leading you towards missions, LBT may have a place for you.