Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Earthquake disrupts Solomon Islands Bible Project

I find it amazing when I read of the destruction of the work of those who have dedicated their time, effort and resources to furthering the kingdom and the knowledge of God Why? Why did God allow the product of many years of work to be destroyed?

It took Richmond theology student Alpheaus Zobule nearly a decade to make the New Testament available to the people of the tiny South Pacific island where he grew up. But in one April day, a magnitude 8.1 earthquake dealt his work a powerful blow.

Zobule, a 38-year-old son of subsistence farmers from the Solomon Islands, came to the United States in his 20s and earned master's degrees in linguistics and theology, all so he could find a way to make the Bible available to fellow islanders, whose language had no written form.

There are many Christians in the Solomons -- a nation of 1,000 islands -- but most of the 5,000 people on Ranonga have only a basic literacy level and are unable to fully read the Bible. Those who can read and write do so in English and another regional language but not in their native tongue, Lungga.

Zobule, a doctoral candidate in biblical studies at Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education in Richmond, became something of a celebrity in the Solomons three years ago when he found a way to make the Bible accessible to people in their own language. It took him six years to figure out how to write Lungga, analyzing people's speech patterns and creating two fat books on grammar. Then he translated the New Testament.

With funding from the Bible Society of the South Pacific, Zobule took 2,500 copies of the New Testament in Lungga to the Solomons in 2004. The project included using the Lungga New Testaments to teach people to read and write, in their own language and in English.

But since the April 2 quake, which killed 50 people and destroyed 6,000 homes -- including the two where Zobule's library was -- the fate of his religious and literacy materials is not known.
Maybe so that it could be rebuilt?
Since the earthquake, churches across the United States have been sending donations for Zobule's Richmond church, Grace Covenant Presbyterian. As of Friday, the church had received $16,500, Associate Pastor Christopher J. Thomas said.


Donations can be sent to Islands Bible Ministries, a development organization Zobule founded in the Solomons, via Grace Covenant at: 1627 Monument Ave., Richmond, Va. 23220. Questions can be answered by Zobule at agzobulegrace@hotmail.com or Grace Covenant at thomas@grace-covenant.org.

I think that maybe the process (preparing to serve the Lord) is as important as the finished product. It helps us to understand that we are serving God, not ourselves.