Steven Ttopoqogo - Language Programme Coordinator for Highlands-Morobe Area

I am the oldest in my family of seven children: four sisters and three brothers.  I am married to Betty Sakama and we have six children: Cedar (20 September 1999), Tehillah (12 July 2000), Simeon (13 December 2002), Brent (18 September 2006), Jacob Israel (10 June 2009) and Bryant Finney (27 February 2012). 

Three generations of my family (including me) have been involved in Bible translation work. I remember watching my father and his father as they did several different tasks related to Bible translation. The whishing of the duplicating machine as it printed Scripture portions for checking and the click clacking of a typewriter both became normal sounds of my childhood.

In 1957, SIL translator Ernie Richert came to our language group to translate the Bible into our language. My grandfather was a great hunter and when Ernie Richert asked for a helper, the elders of the village said to each other, "Get that hunter (meaning my grandfather) to help Ernie.”  Soon my grandfather was involved in the work of Bible translation, and eventually he became chairman of the Guhu Samane translation team.

My father joined the work in 1965.  He was recruited while serving in the Lae Police Barracks for a couple of months.  The village elders sent word to Ernie Richert that he should request that my father be pulled out of the Police Barracks in order that he, along with his younger brother, could help as his “mangi master” (white skin boy helper.) After some time in that capacity, he was asked to help at the translation table.

I gave my life to the Lord in 1989 at an Easter camp in Finchafen.  Later, on 16 October 1993, when I was working for Department of Works, God spoke to me again in a special way. At that time my younger brother, Smith, and I were having our evening prayer meeting. During our prayer time, I heard the LORD calling me to work for Him. As I responded, I looked at my watch and saw it was exactly two minutes past ten.

In 1994 I tried to join YWAM-PNG but I was late for the orientation time. I went back to my village and returned to join YWAM-PNG in 1995. Then in 1997, I went back home to do some fundraising with the aim of continuing my work with YWAM.  While raising funds, I was also attending a weekly prayer meeting for the Guhu-Samane Bible Translation team. We were asking God to send, before the end of the year, one educated Guhu Samane person to help my father, Mumure Ttopoqogo, with the translation process. 

One Saturday morning in November 1997, we were praying when one of the youth got up and read Isaiah 6:8: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I, send me!’”  The he added, “We've been praying for a whole year and no one has responded. Now the LORD is asking those in this prayer meeting - who of us is ready to respond like Isaiah did?”

In that moment, I had the same experience I had had back on 16 October 1993 at 10:02PM.  Though I had every intention of returning to my work with YWAM, God impressed upon my heart the need to help my father translate the whole Bible into my language. Instead of working with people in other language groups, I would be helping my own people have access to God’s Word in the language they understand best. I responded to this call of God.

Having the Bible in our language brought a change to my people. In 1911, the first missionaries had come into the area and taught people to read and write in the local church language, Kâte.  They preached and taught in this church language for many years but it was difficult for my people to understand. The method that was used in those days was oral Bible story-telling, a method that is being advocated around the globe today. However, when the Guhu Samane New Testament was dedicated, it sold two thousand copies within two months, and two years after its dedication, a mass revival broke out. The whole area was changed because my people could now read the Bible in their own language. They now understood it, and practiced what they read. 

Currently, I am still part of a team of nine, including my father, Mumure Ttopogogo. We are all translating the Old Testament into the Guhu Samane language.

Aside from my translation work, I also manage the Ukarumpa regional office. In the beginning of 2012 the Highlands and Morobe region under PNGBTA got separated as two different regions. Being the Language Program Coordinator, I oversee the language programs and field workers in Morobe Province. I also assist as a Chaplain at the Translator Training Course. In between TTC, I cover most of the Principal role, attending meetings with SIL Training, answering TTC’s related question on the two way radio or passing information and inviting nationals who can help teach or help in the course. This is exciting because I am able to train Papua New Guinean translators from the other language groups so they can  translate God’s Word in their language thus helping them growing spiritually. Sometimes I help run One Book Workshop in villages to prepare them to come to the TTC.