Kamea Literacy in PNG – Formerly Unwritten Language

Cherith began literacy work among the Kamea in 2009 as a single woman. Today, she continues that ministry along with her husband, Jason Ottosen. She wrote the following report of their ministry during the early days.

The four Kamea primers were finished, and I, Cherith, was introducing and testing them in local villages where they had never seen their language written. Two men, Nicodemus and Lazarus, immediately became immersed in the excitement of reading the primers. I started them both in primer one and left to visit some other villages. When I came back several hours later, they were still reading. They made it to primer three before they headed home.

As the day wore on the women got closer and closer to me. Eventually, I was able to pull out the primers and explain that the purpose of the primers is to teach them to read so that they can read the Bible. At first, they did not respond. But then I started reading to them and asked them to help me make corrections if I said anything wrong. Page after page, they got more interested, delighted in the black and white drawings and thrilled that I was speaking their talk. Every time I stopped they would say, “anta fi”(some more). They finished my sentences and often would retell the stories to new ladies walking up.

That night as we sat around the fire, Rosalyn, the pastor’s wife, spoke with tears in her eyes, “The men will learn how to read, my sons will learn to read, but who will teach the women to read their Bibles?” As she continued, I thought through a typical Kamea woman’s day—work the garden, carry heavy bilums, fetch water and firewood, fix dinner, care for the many children, do laundry, etc. Pray the Lord gives us a way to implement reading for the ladies that will make it achievable. Before heading down the trail the next morning, I sat with Rosalyn for about a half hour and told her that she could learn to read. When I opened the primer, an irreplaceable smile swept over her face. We worked through the first five pages, and if you had asked Rosalyn, she would have told you that she was learning to read.

Winter 2020-21