Made in Papua
Ruth Mimosa recently retired as literature
coordinator with the Evangelical Brotherhood Church of Papua New Guinea, Inc. A Swiss missionary, she helped to pioneer annual writing workshops for
local writers. Here she describes this ministry to MAI intern Lindsey Boothe.
Q: How did you get started working with writers in Papua
For many years we saw the need to train nationals in writing. In
2000, we finally began writer workshops. Since then we’ve put on workshops almost every year. We also train trainers to run workshops. About
seven nationals help run these workshops.
Q: What is the biggest challenge
for the writers you work with?
There are more than 800 different languages in PNG. Schools are conducted in English, but for
many people it’s hard to read books or the Bible in English. PNG has a lingua franca called PNG Pidgin. We mostly publish in this language,
since most literate people (about 60% of the population) can understand it. A challenge for our writers is that they cannot write in their
vernaculars; they have to write in their second language–Pidgin, or in English.
Q: Describe a typical writing
Our workshops usually last three days and are run by missionaries, teachers and pastors. We have an A and B course.
Graduates of the A course may go on to the B course. We run yearly courses in three different areas of PNG.
In an A course, we walk writers through creating a very simple
story using a given format, and if possible a testimony. A trainer explains each activity, and we give as much time as possible to practice what is
taught. Participants learn about topic selection, structure, style and some editing. They always discuss their work together. We encourage
participants to go home and write as much as possible. They have the option to send in their writing for comments.
In course B, participants work on a devotional or short article. We
hope to eventually expand to C and D courses as well.
Q: Tell us one of your success
Not long ago a little booklet was printed with 30 devotions ‘PNG made.’ These were written by people who
attended our writer workshops.
Q: What difference do these devotionals make in the
The culture of PNG is very different from Western culture.
Animistic beliefs, clan thinking and tribal fights are just a few problems people face living out God’s word in everyday life. Illustrations in
imported devotionals don’t always speak to our people, whereas examples from “PNG made” devotionals show much better how to adapt
God’s word to everyday life. They are relevant to the readers and speak clearly to them. Speaking from a PNG heart to a PNG heart is what makes
the difference–a very important one.
Q: What advice do you have for other trainers wanting to
Start where people are. There are people who haven’t had
much schooling but are clever and pick up very quickly. Have an open mind and help them to improve. Don’t rely on your own strength and wisdom,
but know that the Lord is more than able to help you.