Missionaries to New Guinea

Brooks and Brandon Buser

White pieces of paper floated down through the sky toward the swampy Yembiyembi village. As the natives looked heavenward, Brooks and Nina Buser scribbled notes as fast as they could, tossing them out of the airplane to the people below to announce their imminent visit. After landing at a nearby airstrip, the couple hiked back to the village—a three-day journey through the mountains at temperatures over 100 degrees. The Yembiyembi tribe had not been the Buser’s original destination. But a flooded airstrip had changed their course, directing them toward this particular tribe of unreached people. After a few visits with the tribe, Brooks and Nina had no doubt that this Papua New Guinea village was where God was calling them to bring “the secret talk” of His saving Word.

The Secret Talk

With over 800 language groups in Papua New Guinea, New Tribes Mission (NTM) requires tribes to write request letters for five years to insure they have serious intentions before NTM even considers sending in a missionary. Some tribes have been pleading and waiting for up to 12 years. Because the missionaries’ message seems so difficult to obtain, the Yembiyembi christened it “the secret talk.” Through these wide open doors, brothers Brandon and Brooks Buser and other NTM missionaries are able to bring the Scriptures to tribes who have never heard the Good News.

A Yembiyembi Welcome

“If you are really going to come and bring the secret talk, we don’t want you to come as outsiders,” said the Yembiyembi chief. Paddling canoes across the water to their new home, Brooks and his family were met on the shore by a huge welcoming party. The Yembiyembi, young and old, danced and hollered as they helped the missionaries out of the boat and greeted them in tribal fashion. Members of the tribe rubbed handfuls of sticky mud on the new comers’ faces and showered them with flower petals to make them “pretty.” Within the first two hours, Brooks and his wife Nina were clothed in special wedding apparel and remarried with a Yembiyembi procession of joyous dancing and singing. They were adopted into tribal families, gaining mothers, fathers, siblings, cousins and a huge extended family; they were now officially a part of the tribe.

Papua New Guinea

Located off the northern tip of Australia, Papua New Guinea is slightly larger than California and makes up the eastern half of New Guinea, the second largest island in the world. The country boasts diverse climates and wildlife. The Yembiyembi village is situated on lush, green swamplands with humidity so high that foreigners will sweat through multiple outfits a day. The area is brimming with snakes, pigs, and alligators. Hikers beware: boa constrictors as long as 17 feet have been spotted slithering through the trees. Conversely, the Biem are located on an island off the coast of the mainland where they feast on sea turtles and other ocean delicacies beneath an active volcano.

Call to Missions

Growing up in Papua New Guinea where their parents served the Iteri tribe, Brooks and his brother Brandon were primed for their future ministries. Both brothers were educated at San Diego Christian College (formerly Christian Heritage College) and met their wives on campus. Brooks, a businessman and die-hard Chargers fan, left his rapid success in the corporate world to serve with New Tribes Mission (NTM). He and his family settled with the Yembiyembi in 2004. Brandon, the younger of the two, heard his call to missions during high school and worked through college with that goal in mind. Brandon and his wife Rachel also serve with NTM and, in 2008, moved in among the Biem, a tribe situated six hours off the coast of Papua New Guinea. As NTM representatives, the Busers made four promises to their prospective tribes: to live among them and learn their language and culture, to teach them to read and write in their language, to translate God’s Word into their language, and to teach them “God’s talk.” When the tribes accepted these terms, the missionaries began their work. Before attempting translation, the Buser families spent more than two years immersing themselves in the culture of their respective tribes, learning the language, and building relationships with the people.

Translation

After years of training, testing, and cultural immersion, the Busers began translating the Bible. When Brandon and his team passed their language test, they began developing orthography, or an alphabet, for the language. Letters and symbols were created for the various sounds and pronunciations of the spoken language, constructing a thorough alphabet. Creating a written language is a delicate process, and NTM recognizes the huge responsibility they have to preserve the Word of God through every translation. Each verse is double checked, triple checked, and checked yet again by the translator, the fact checker, local tribesmen and NTM specialists in Papua New Guinea and abroad. Now that the Biem language is visible and tangible, Brandon’s team will begin translating and teaching the Scriptures this year! Translating since 2007 for the Yembiyembi, Brooks and his wife Nina are farther ahead in the process and have about two years left before completing the translation and teaching of the New Testament. It’s astounding to consider that only four years ago the Yembiyembi had no written language. Now they can read, write, and understand much of the Scriptures. Fifty percent have accepted Jesus as their Savior.

Teaching the Word

The Busers teach the Word of God only as fast as they can translate it for the people. When each translated book is complete, copies are sold to the Yembiyembi for a tiny fee, about 20 cents, to preserve the book’s value in the eyes of the tribe. Brooks and his team do not seek a profit, but want to convey the value of the Bible and its truth to a culture that regards free materials as less significant. “It’s the teaching that changes lives,” says Brooks. On one typically humid day, storm clouds gathered in the distance during a teaching session. Brooks and his team knew that as soon as the rain started, everyone would leave the teaching house and hurry to the warmth and protection of their huts. With silent prayers, Brooks continued teaching, hoping that he could keep their attention long enough to hear the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection. As he reached the climax of the Gospel story, the approaching storm cloud split, raining on either side of the teaching house. Their entire structure remained dry as Brooks and his team taught the transforming heart of the Gospel—the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Evidence that some of the Yembiyembi understood the Scripture as absolute truth was revealed amidst an intra-tribal conflict. As Brooks and his team taught through the Book of Romans, some of the Yembiyembi were accusing fellow tribesmen of being mindless followers, taking Brooks’ words as truth rather than understanding the Bible for themselves. But one man met the accusations, saying, “We stand on this Book. When the pages talk to us, we listen, and when Brooks’ mouth agrees then we listen, but if his mouth turns away from the pages, we throw his talk in the river [where they throw all of their trash].” The people were learning to stand on the firm foundation of God’s Word.

Phasing Out

Finally, with the Bible fully taught and translated, the Busers will leave their tribe. From day one, Brooks and Brandon Buser explained to their tribes they will not stay forever. They will leave one day. During their 10-20 years of service they will teach the redemption story from creation to eternity and disciple the people in their individual faith and in church leadership. Their mission is to lay a foundation for the tribe on the immutable Word of God and leave them to build on that foundation. Brooks and his team will complete translation and teaching in two to three years and begin to phase out of the Yembiyembi tribe. They will leave the Yembiyembi for increasingly longer periods of time until the tribe is left to stand entirely on its own two feet. Please continue to pray for the Busers and other missionaries bringing the Word of God to unreached people groups. We pray that more Christian soldiers will heed the call to arms and bring the Gospel to the many more tribes yearning to hear the “secret talk” in Papua New Guinea.