Response to: Book Throwing and the Mission of God Part 2

Video

John Wilson was a resident missionary in Papua (Irian Jaya) from 1972 to 1991 and wrote his master’s dissertation on ‘Scripture in Oral Culture’ before orality was as trendy.  He was kind enough to add his thoughts to my application comments and I think they’re worth sharing.

Comments in italics by John D Wilson:

We must seek to understand the communication methods of our target culture; we need to have a good understanding of how the people communicate with each other and how their belief and plausibility systems are transferred. I think this point has been made clear by enough people in enough ways that we can no longer claim to be doing responsible mission if we don’t.

This does not mean that people are incapable of learning a different communication method. They may use it in a different way—in terms of logic and structure of thought.

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Book Throwing and the Mission of God Part 2

Vanuatu, Tanna, Oral communication, Unity Movement, Tom Richards

Oral Communication: the Unity Movement, Tanna, Vanuatu

Interaction with Don’t Throw the Book at Them by Harry Box

Chapter 1

I was surprised the first time that I supervised ‘homework’ at college by a low and constant whispered murmur. What was it? Was everyone just chatting rather than getting on with their work? Where they collaborating? No, what they were doing was reading aloud to themselves.

Now, I could put that down to the students only just developing literacy skills, like children who have not yet learnt to read silently, and to an extent that may be true in the sense that they are not ‘literacy people.’ But on the other hand, it indicates a difference in the way that they think about ‘text’ and words, and it is this difference that Box discusses in this chapter.

Surely Box is right when he says that ‘…there are many possibilities for misunderstanding and miscommunication between oral and literacy-oriented people’ (p19), and this chapter is foundational to the book in that it seeks to help us to better understand oral (non-book) people. What I will do is summarise the chapter first, and then offer some of my own comments by way of opening a discussion. What I really want to question is the degree to which the difference between oral people and literacy-based people separates us and how we can best think about those differences and (perhaps) similarities. Continue reading

Response to ‘The Syncretistic Rabit’

Here’s a response to The Syncretistic Rabbit from Bethann Carlson – it’s worth posting in full. Bethann and her husband Greg and three children lived on Tanna for many years while they worked as consultants on the North Tanna (Naka) Bible translation.  They now live in Port Vila and are good friends and a wealth of information and experience.

By Bethann Carlson

I’m so glad you landed in a benevolent position towards my Easter chocolate.  Though I celebrated the Resurrection without chocolate this year, I do love my dark chocolate!  And I agree, given our situation, the Easter bunny isn’t really syncretism, but he is a cute little fuzzy distraction.

Yams, on the other hand, have been a very serious Easter contemplation of my adult life. Today, 2 April, is the “traditional” Nup Wi  for our village.  As always, I pray as I wonder what dramas are taking place there today.  Continue reading

The Syncretistic Rabbit

 

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Credit: Revivals Cakes, via Wiki commons

There are no rabbits on Tanna.  There are also no chocolate eggs in the stores.  That’s cool with me, I don’t like chocolate much anyway.  For those who do, I have been able to get my hands on two packs of Tymos – much like the Australian Tim Tam but better because they come in coconut flavour.  Personally, I would prefer the rabbit itself, but as I said, none of them either.

Eggs aren’t a part of Easter here.  Why would they be?  Even if people did know what a rabbit was, I’m pretty sure they could take a fair guess and say that they don’t lay eggs.  An egg-delivering fur-ball just isn’t part of their past.  But it is part of ours of course. Continue reading

Book Throwing and the Mission of God Pt 1

Interaction with Don’t Throw the Book at Them by Harry Box

The church in VanuatDon't Throw The Book at Themu (then New Hebrides) was first established on the island of Aneityum. Nova Scotian missionaries, John and Charlotte Geddie, arrived in 1848 and by 1849 they had produced the first ‘primer’ and then ‘book after book of literacy aids, scripture portions, catechisms and hymnals, until finally the whole Bible was available in Aneityumese in 1879 after Geddie’s death’ (Miller 1978, 80). In other words, the mission here was founded on a whole lot of book throwing!

This pattern continued on Aniwa, Tanna and many other islands until the work of the Geddies and countless others resulted in the formation of the Presbyterian Church of the New Hebrides in 1949, which in turn became the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu, with whom I work today. And that pattern, as far as I know, has never really been questioned.

When I arrived in 2013, I joined a church that assumes its members will read hymnals and Bibles. It has a written worship book, constitution, rules and documents. Reports are expected to be printed even though few people have a computer and fewer still have a printer – while fewer again have any ink for the printer. I took up work at a Bible College that had its curriculum written on a piece of paper that was … somewhere. Students are expected to have four exercise books and do something with them. If you want to be a church leader you really need to be literate, or at least very good at pretending you are. Continue reading