As our teaching time draws nearer,* we have been looking for ways to help our Iski friends and neighbors engage with, and process, new information. If this seems like an inconsequential thing to you, that’s because we often take for granted the EXORBITANT amount of information we have at our fingertips at any given moment. That’s not the case for the Iski.
In Iski-land there are no roads or post offices. There are no books** or newspapers in their language. To my knowledge, there is no TV or internet. And, since everyone lives off of the food that they grow in their gardens, which is a lot of work, they don’t generally travel too far from home. All those factors add up to mean that the Iski are not confronted with new ideas on a very regular basis. Their most basic assumptions about life – from their social values to their personal moral convictions, especially on a worldview level – have gone relatively unchallenged for most of their people’s existence. This limited exposure to outside thinking means that the process of engaging with new ideas and concepts is, for many, itself a new concept.
To help our friends enter into this realm of critical thinking and worldview reflection, our team has decided to orchestrate a few village-wide movie nights in the community meeting house. We set up a screen and projector, fire up a generator, and let the good times roll. This idea, as you might expect, has elicited a pretty good response from our Iski friends! Movie nights have packed out that big, thatched hut beyond any other meeting that I’ve seen yet! Can you imagine yourself having lived for 45+ years and NEVER watched a movie? Our people are loving it!
We’ve started off with pretty mild stuff so far, just a few nature documentaries, but I’ll be honest, it’s been really hard to resist the temptation to show “Jurassic World” to these guys. I know it would be completely counterproductive at this point in the game, and it’s not really a viable option, but there is definitely a part of me that would just love to see an Iski man’s reaction when he is shown a CGI montage of man-eating dinosaurs! (It’s a good thing my team is here with me to keep me on task.)
The films we HAVE chosen to use, however, have been great tools. They have given our team fodder for questioning Iski origin stories with the people: “Your ancestral stories say that your Iski ground is where all of life came from. Where did all these animals that your ancestors have never seen come from?” It’s been good, too, in giving them a point of reference for future teaching – seeing sheep, goats, camels, lions, bears, etc. will help them be able to visualize these things later when they hear about them in the teaching.
We’re also planning on trying to put together films to show them the vastness of space, the variety of peoples and cultures in the world, as well as something depicting the geography and culture of ancient Israel. It’s a pretty fun aspect of our ministry!
Our teammates, Jason and Andre, are also taking these nights as opportunities to practice teaching in front of a large group.*** Please continue to be praying for our team and the Iski people, as we all get ready for the teaching that is so close in coming! There is still so much to do with language learning (for us) and translation and lesson writing (for everyone else) that it hardly seems possible that we are less than 8 weeks away from the beginning of our teaching!
*We are planning on beginning our presentation of the story of Redemption early on in February 2017. This will be the first time ever that the Iski will collectively hear this message in their language!
**This aspect is changing though! Our literacy school graduates are already working at writing stories and creating post literacy reading booklets for future Iski readers, and a small handful of the students, who were already literate in Tok Pisin (the trade language), have even been able to translate small TP books into Iski!
***If you think normal public speaking is rough, you should try it in a language that you’re still learning new words in on a daily basis!