I was blessed to have parents who put me in piano lessons, trumpet lessons and voice lessons from 8 years old on up. It was through early exposure to music that I discovered this amazing language that allowed me to take everything I was feeling and turn it into musical expression. This was especially the case every time my fingers hit the piano keys. If I was feeling angry, I would play a stormy rendition of Beethoven. Brahms and Chopin were my go to guys for a reflective or melancholy mood. I found that as I played I was able to process and reconcile my emotions.
As I got older and entered college I began to recognize that when I listened to music the words and tone of the music completely altered my mood and well-being. In college (this dates me a little) I loved Evanescence and a few other similar quality secular bands. However, when I would listen to them it created turbulence in my emotions. I had to change my listening style completely and fill myself up with music that fed my soul in an uplifting and beautiful way.
Perhaps my own encounters with music made this incredible story from the Wampar people in Papua New Guinea come alive. Like many of the hundreds of language groups in Papua New Guinea, the Wampar didn’t have the Word of God in their language until recently. The Wampar, however, are an incredibly musical people group. They sing as they go about their work and tend to their gardens. Traditionally, the Wampar would sing war songs to get themselves angry and amped up for conflict with neighboring village. Even when there wasn’t conflict they would sing these war songs and have the words fill their hearts with anger and frustration.
“Traditionally we sang war songs, but when God’s Word came it freed us,”
Recently, the Wampar received the New Testament for the first time! Pilots like Wojtek spent years flying Wycliffe missionaries into the village and working with local translators to get an accurate translation in the Wampar language. These pilots were integral in getting the Word of God into the hands of the Wampar because there are no roads connecting the Wampar people group to the missionary bases. After the pilots dropped a load of New Testaments transformation began in the lives of the Wampar people.
As the Wampar began to read and digest the Word of God, they did what every musician does. They converted God’s word into song. This was quite a process. First, they studied the Scriptures in their Heart language. Next, they wrote the Words into the tunes they already knew and sang regularly. Last, they practiced and recorded their music so they could share it with others from their language group.
Instead of using music to fuel their anger, the Wampar are now being guided by God’s Word and use their music to feed their souls. One individual from the Wampar village shared this experience: “Now when we have a singsing, it makes us happy and makes us feel like God is with us.” -Wampar story credited to Karen Weaver
At Wycliffe we talk a lot about the Heart Language. This is the language you think in, dream in, and express your deepest emotions in. For the Wampar, not only was their heart language the Wampar langauge, it was the Wampar language expressed through music!
Statistically translation is a number of people without the Word of God. But each Wampar who received the Scripture was an individual, a family, and ultimately a community that was transformed by God’s Word.
Wojtek and I are excited to be a part of reaching these remote people with God’s Word for the first time. As a pilot, wojtek will be going to the most remote places to touch lives and hearts and bring education and literacy to communities.
In order for us to go to people like the Wampar we need your help. If you’re interested in being a part of this great adventure with us we would love for you to become our partner both financially and through prayer! check out Wycliffe.org/partner/zfamily for more info.