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Ian’s on a mission

Monday, 15th October, 2018

Long-time resident Ian Hutchinson standing in front of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, where he has acted as a Lay Reader and Pastoral Assistant for years. PICTURE: Callum Marshall Long-time resident Ian Hutchinson standing in front of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, where he has acted as a Lay Reader and Pastoral Assistant for years. PICTURE: Callum Marshall

By Callum Marshall

Ian Hutchinson, a long-time resident of Broken Hill and member of Saint Paul’s Lutheran Church, will soon be leaving for Papua New Guinea. 

Mr Hutchinson will be part of an International Mission for the Lutheran Church of Australia in partnership with Wycliffe Bible Translators. 

He said he will be helping to produce recordings of scriptures that had been translated into many of the local languages.

The recordings will be much more engaging for the locals than what had previously been written down and translated for them, Mr Hutchinson said.

“A few years ago, the translators that I worked with said there was such a need for the scriptures to be recorded because they were not being used. 

“The people were just not into reading in the villages. They’re an oral culture and they need to have it recorded so they can listen to it. 

“It was the missionaries themselves who had been there and learnt these languages and provided the locals with a written alphabet, literacy materials, scriptures and other health and cultural books.”

Newer technology would help make the process much easier to use, said Mr Hutchinson. 

“With smartphones where you can put in special apps and other devices where you can put in an SD card, locals will be able to listen to the scriptures,” he said.

“There are apps available for people to hear it in English and many of the other world languages, but it’s quite a job to get these people up to speed as far as their reading is concerned, so you need to get a quality recording.

“My work will involve helping to produce that so the ‘word can be heard.’”

Mr Hutchinson supervised literacy programs in PNG from 1980 to ‘84 for Wycliffe, and said this experience had been eye-opening and that there was deep respect between the missionaries and the locals.

“At that time, I was hiking around with a rucksack, sleeping in the villages but supervising literacy classes” he said.

“The missionaries had organised and trained teachers so that the translations they were about to produce in the local languages could be read.

“There are 800 of these languages in Papua New Guinea and the people are thrilled to have the scriptures up there. 

“However, once those literacy programs stop (though), it’s very hard to get people to a satisfactory level of literacy.

“Also, prior to the missionaries coming, there was always fighting between the villages. Many times they would say to me ‘we’re so glad the missionaries came because it was just too dangerous before, but now we know what peace is like.’”

“But there’s wonderful people in Papua New Guinea. They’ve got a great respect for the Australian administration which they had before they became independent in 1975. 

“They (also) say that Australia is the ‘Papa of Papua New Guinea.”

For Ian, faith played an integral part in his life and helping to translate scripture for people in PNG was a big part of that.

“I’m a great believer in the importance and power of God’s word. I believe it’s for all people for all time,” he said.

“Jesus said ‘Heaven and Earth will pass away but my words will never pass away.’ The scripture says of itself ‘your word is a light to my feet.’

“So it shows us the truth about God and the truth about ourselves. That’s what I want to get back into.”

Having taught at Willyama High School from 1992 to 2011, Ian said he had greatly enjoyed his time in Broken Hill.

“I did a Special Education degree at Flinders (University) and came to Broken Hill in 1992. I’ve had a very happy 26 years here,” he said.

“I’ve certainly got many wonderful memories of the people I’ve worked alongside in Broken Hill and the students.

“It’s always good to see how the students are going these days and to see that different ones are established in work and families which is terrific.”   

As for how long he’d be spending up in the highlands of PNG, Ian said for as long as was needed.

“I’ll be there for as many years as I can. But the thought is I’d be up there for ten years helping to produce recordings of ten New Testaments which will take a lot of work,” he said.

“It would take a year to do one probably. But that’s the goal, exactly how we go about it will be worked out once I get there.”

Ian said he’d be arriving in PNG on October 30. 

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