When Rev. John and Maila Davies went to live in Salemp, Papua New Guinea, in 1972 to serve as translation advisors with the Kobon people, there was widespread fear of all kinds of spirits, especially the spirits of dead relatives. People felt compelled to follow the customs of their ancestors by avenging a relative’s death. And since no death, except that of a very young child, was believed to “just happen” without someone maliciously causing it, every death of a relative had to be avenged. This involved finding out who was responsible and killing someone from that person’s clan. If they did not avenge the death, they believed the spirit of the deceased would cause sickness and death among them.
This resulted in very destructive dynamics within the society since most of these feuds were not between different language groups, but between different clans in the same language group.
People lived in constant fear. Many men showed John their arrow wounds or told of a relative killed in an attack on, or by an enemy clan. Because they never forgave a wrong, or imagined why anyone would want to do so, there was no concept of forgiveness. The idea was so revolutionary they didn’t even have a word for it!
It was a challenge for the translation team to find a way to accurately and clearly convey to the Kobon the meaning and importance of forgiveness. With God’s help, they were successful, and He is working in the lives of the Kobon today, transforming individuals, families, and communities. “The Word of God is powerful in its effect. It has been amazing to see the change in people as Jesus has come into their lives through His Word,” said John.
The Kobon received their New Testament in 2006. To learn more about the dedication and the Kobon people, click here.