Night after night, the villagers of Gulf Province, Papua New Guinea, welcomed the four outsiders who had sailed from Australia aboard the m/v PACIFIC LINK in 2012 to teach them about the Bible. They met under the cover of thatch-roof huts using kerosene lamps and flashlights to illuminate the pages of Scripture while the foreigners sought to illuminate the themes of the New Testament.
Sometimes the teachers would meet with barely more than a handful of villagers. Other times, dozens would show up. They would sit on the floor of local churches to study the apostles’ writings. They gathered to learn how to understand God’s Word in its proper context — as its writers intended to communicate its ideas to their audiences.
Wendy Nelson was one of the visitors who sailed to Papua New Guinea four years ago to teach the Bible. She was there as part of an outreach from YWAM Townsville, Australia’s Bible Core Course. Her team taught the inductive Bible study method, whose goal is to help readers interpret the Bible based on its actual content and setting, rather than assumptions. Nelson said it was personally rewarding to empower the villagers to study the Scripture.
“It was cool to help them understand more, give them a different perspective and show them how to study the Bible for themselves,” said Nelson, 26, of Australia. “Most of them have never seen the inductive method, and it intrigued them to find out what specific words meant and to deconstruct the literature of the different books of the Word of God.”
Nelson — who recently joined YWAM Ships Kona as a Bible trainer — said the pastors of Gulf Province were eager for any help they could get. Many villages only have one or two pastors for hundreds of people and no elders. It was difficult to teach the inductive study method to them at times because of language barriers, Nelson said. However, most of the pastors and their congregations were learned enough in the English language to comprehend the teaching without the aid of a translator. And the fact that the teaching was conducted in English was part of its appeal.
“They were overjoyed at the thought of not just studying the Bible because it’s the Word of God, but also to continue practicing their English,” Nelson said. “It was a two-edged sword.”
The team spent one or two nights in each village they visited and met with at least a dozen congregations, Nelson said. Pastors helped spread the word that the team would be leading evening Bible-study seminars, which were usually conducted for multiple congregations at a time.
Nelson said combining Bible seminars with medical outreaches aboard PACIFIC LINK is an effective way to serve the Pacific islands.
“I think they link really well together. They’ve got that need for medicine and that need for health care, then we can give them that spiritual health care as well,” Nelson said. “In a country like Papua New Guinea, especially having Christian roots, we were very well received.”