Forty years ago, in December 1976, Coral, the first Wycliffe member from Singapore, began her training in Sydney. To mark this milestone in ministry, she shared some of her thoughts and experiences at a celebration event held in her church, Fairfield Methodist Church, and also at the WBTS Annual General Meeting.
After 40 years, one question she is frequently asked is: “Would you do it again?” Her answer is unhesitating: “Yes, I would, all 40 years! The boss is good, and the ‘pay’ is good. Our heavenly father is a good boss, and the church and other supporters have stood behind me.”
Her journey began in November 1976 when she graduated from Bible College. Less than two weeks later, she was on her way to Sydney for linguistics training. During “jungle camp” (an orientation camp for new missionaries) in Papua New Guinea (PNG), she met Liisa, from Finland, and thus began a friendship that developed into a 24-year partnership. At the time, Coral was deciding between PNG and the Philippines as possible places to work, and she recalls being discouraged from selecting PNG as it was considered “too tough for Asian women”!
House in the village; working with the Mauwake
Despite this, she and Liisa decided to partner and work together on a translation project in PNG among the Mauwake people. In April 1978, they moved to Moro village. The day before they moved, they experienced a spiritual attack – Coral stepped on a nail which penetrated one inch into her foot. However, she still decided to move to the village. In retrospect, she says that maybe she should have waited till her foot had healed. The outhouse was, in her words, very “out”, and she required the help of two persons to support her there and back!
She spent the next 24 years working on translating the Mauwake New Testament (NT) and teaching literacy classes. Apart from that, she also trained PNGeans from other language groups to do translation, acted as a translation consultant. Over the years, she has amassed a wealth of anecdotes about her life and work among the Mauwake!
In 1997, the Mauwake NT was finally completed and typesetting was about to begin. Again, the devil made his displeasure known – Coral suffered such a severe asthma attack that she had to be evacuated to Cairns in Australia. One good thing that came out of that was that the Singapore office has since required every member in field to buy medical evacuation insurance! The dedication of the NT was held in 1999 in the village. Remembering that day, Coral said that rather than feeling joyful: “That day, I wept. The Lord reminded me that there are so few people who love him there, and care about his word.”
When asked when she intends to retire, she replies, “I don’t know!” Her current plan is to continue to work for another two or three more years, and help two or three more teams until they finish their NTs, and train some of the senior translators to be consultants. Coral’s 40 years in ministry is truly a wonderful testimony of God’s goodness and a great encouragement for those who come after her. To God be the glory!