Sigmund and Ingjerd Evensen began working among the Umanakaina people of Papua New Guinea in 1980. Their four children experienced life in the village as well as at the SIL Center in Ukarumpa. The completed New Testament was dedicated September 19, 1999. The Evensen family now lives in their home country, Norway.
Before Sigmund and Ingjerd Evensen started translation work in Papua New Guinea, they had little experience with the spiritual forces around them and the influence those forces could have on them and their children. It did not take long, however, before they were personally confronted with this reality and began learning the truth that, “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” (I John 4:4) Ingjerd writes:
It happened when our son Asmund was less than a year old. We had just started working with the Umanakaina, an isolated group of 2500 people living in the Owen Stanley Range in the Milne Bay Province in the south of PNG.
At that time hardly anybody knew any English, so we had a monolingual language-learning situation. There was nobody there who really knew who Jesus was, but most of the people were keenly searching for truth as far as we could see, and they were very open to us and adopted us into their families as real family members. We felt that the only way we eventually would be able to translate the Word of God into their language was to really understand their ways of thinking and their beliefs.
We tried as best we could to become like one of them, being like babies and little children in the beginning and learning like babies learn from their siblings and parents. It also meant observing everything the people were saying and doing, which included being there when they did their magic rituals.
At that time hardly a day went by without some kind of magic being performed. We did not feel it right to deny them doing magic to our own house. Had we done that, we probably would have lost their confidence. However, when we were on our own inside our house, we were very careful to proclaim the protection that we have because of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
The first time we took our second son Asmund to the village, our village father, who also was one of the spiritual leaders of the village, proclaimed Asmund as his namesake and gave him his own name together with the name we had given our son. We did not know all that was involved in this, but we did explain to him that Asmund would continue being part of our family, and in the future he would always be with us.
We knew that traditionally a young namesake is supposed to care for the older one as his helper and supporter in old age. At this point in time, though, it meant that this old man was supposed to care for the little one in a special way. So at times he held Asmund in his lap, carried him around in the village, and also took him into his house and sang to him.
Sigmund and I talked about the fact that this old man might also do magic to our young son. Had the situation been different, we would never have let anybody do that to any of our children; however, in this special situation, we felt it right to let him carry Asmund like he did and trusted the Lord for special protection for our son.
One evening Asmund acted very differently from his normal behaviour. He suddenly woke up from his sleep and screamed in a very special way. It did not sound like he was in pain, but as if he was desperately afraid. There was no way we could quiet him. As parents we made the decision to get his older brother and sister, Per Einar and Heidi, 6 and 8 years of age, to come and join us to pray for Asmund.
We gathered around him and prayed for him, and also proclaimed the protection we have in the name of our Lord Jesus and his blood that was shed for us. As we asked whatever was bothering Asmund to leave in Jesus’ name, we all saw a drastic change in our son’s face; his intense screaming suddenly stopped, and the expression of fear on his face changed into a big smile. Sigmund and I will never forget this expression. Something that is just as much a part of this memory is the expression on our daughter Heidi’s face as she saw the sudden change in her brother in answer to prayer and her joyful outburst, “Mom, Dad, he is smiling!!”
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