The Lindrou Bible Translation Project

The Lindrou People of Papua New Guinea


Lindrou [LYN-drow] is an Austronesian language spoken by approximately 4,840 people (2000 census) on the west coast of Manus Island in Papua New Guinea (Maps). The Lindrou people themselves spell their language name Nyindrou and pronounce it [NYEEN-drow]. The spelling "Lindrou" is a convenience for those who do not speak the language and is the spelling we use in our web pages. A simple greeting in the Lindrou language sounds like this.


The Lindrou people live in ten villages scattered around the coastal areas of the western end of Manus Island. The climate is tropical making it warm and humid all year around with 4,000 millimeters (150-200 inches) of rain per year. With all that rain, the soil is thoroughly leached of most nutrients and too poor to do much gardening. Most Lindrou people build their houses of "bush materials" which include timber cut from the jungle and sago leaf thatch. The Lindrou do most of their traveling by dinghy or canoe, since the closest road is about 60 kilometers (35 miles) away!


Although Lindrou people supplement their diet with rice, canned meat, and other store bought foods, their main died consists of sago starch, fish and tropical fruit. They also love to catch fish using nets, spears and fish lines.


During our years living and working among the Lindrou we have learned much about the Lindrou language and culture. Bible translation work requires a good knowledge of the target culture in order to adequately communicate the message of the Bible cross culturally. In the process we have come to appreciate their way of life and love them as our dear brothers and sisters. Over the years we have also witnessed how much they need God's Word to rule in their hearts and in their lives! One of the concerns of the Lindrou people is the preservation of some of their traditional customs. Many are also concerned with how to better relate their Christian faith within their cultural context.


Although Christian missions began working in the Lindrou area in the 1930s, churches were not established until after World War II. With 30 language groups in Manus Province alone, the missions working in the Lindrou area were understaffed and not able to engage in Bible translation work. However, as the need became more apparent, Lindrou community school teacher Samuel Bolaubeu prayed earnestly for 10 years (1970-1980) that God would somehow cause the Bible to be translated into his Lindrou language. Although the Martins didn't know that it was God's plan, he was preparing them during those years that Mr. Bolaubeu was praying. In 1981 the Lord led the Martins to start working among the Lindrou people. Mr. Bolaubeu was starting to see God answer his prayers for his people.

Role of the Martins

It has been our life-long commitment to see God’s Word translated for the indigenous peoples of the world. We began our overseas service in Papua New Guinea in 1980 and surveyed the need among the Lindrou people in late 1980. The Lord led us to begin working among them and help them to establish the Lindrou Translation Project in 1981. What an encouragement it was to us to find out that people like Samuel had been praying for "us" for more than 10 years before we got there!

Bill's Work

From the beginning of the language program, I have functioned as trainer and advisor, mentoring Lindrou nationals in the areas of Bible translation and literacy. I assisted and advised Charles Kowak whom we trained as a national translator among his own Lindrou people (see Lindrou Translators below).  I am also a translation consultant and serve in that role assisting other Bible translation projects within Papua New Guinea. I am currently gaining more skills in software development in order to help with the development of the Adapt It computer program.

Lenore's Work

In the earlier years Lenore home schooled our sons Joel and Jason. While assisting Bill in many ways, Lenore also works in the area of caring ministries. In that role she actively intercedes for the needs of others on the field, and uses her gifts to encourage them in their walk with the Lord. Lenore is currently in a study program to complete her undergraduate degree and plans to acquire more skills in the TESL area (Teaching English as a Second Language).

Work Locations

We maintain two households in Papua New Guinea. The Lindrou people helped us build our "bush" house in Lessau Village, where we lived while we were leaning the Lindrou language and culture. Our sons Joel and Jason also spent most of their growing up years from 1981 to 1991 with us in the village there. Now, we return to the village for short visits to test the translation and help with training courses. We also maintain a house at Ukarumpa in the Easter Highlands of Papua New Guinea which is where our translation center is located. At Ukarumpa we can get technical and practical assistance in the translation work and work on the translation without the distractions of village life. Charles Kowak also spends part of his time working with us at Ukarumpa. Joel and Jason attended Ukarumpa International School there from grades 7-12.

Lindrou Involvement

From the beginning of our assignment to the Lindrou people, we have sought to involve them in every aspect of the Bible translation and literacy programs.

Language teaching and analysis

The Lindrou people worked hard at teaching us their language. They would tell us, "The other languages of Manus Island are difficult to learn, but Lindrou is easy - look, your sons Kadok (Joel) and Bwaneh (Jason) already speak it perfectly." Well, it was easy for Joel and Jason. They soaked it up like sponges in a few months time. For Mom and Dad it took a bit (i.e., lot) longer. As we progressed we involved the Lindrou people in the analysis of their own language. They were excited to see that their language had complexities that rivaled those of any other modern language. In the process they helped to produce a practical phonology, grammar and an extensive trilingual dictionary (Lindrou-English-PNG Pidgin).

Lindrou Alphabet Development Committee

This committee of Lindrou people was formed early on in the project to develop a practical alphabet for their language. Most of the members of this committee were Lindrou community school teachers and others who had a knowledge of English. They worked hard to identify the Lindrou sounds and made decisions about the Lindrou spelling system. We taught them principles of phonetics and phonology and helped them to compare and contrast the sounds of Lindrou with English and PNG Pidgin. They wrote many Lindrou stories and made note of any difficulties and inconsistencies they experienced when attempting to write their own language. We discussed the issues in light of what they had learned, and they applied it in developing a practical alphabet and spelling rules. The goal was to develop a writing system that was practical enough for them to use easily. Our job was to help them be complete and consistent.

Lindrou Translation Committee

This committee of Lindrou people was also formed early on in the project. Their main role is the reviewing of the translation for understandability and naturalness. They also oversee the some aspects of the administration of the translation program and the selection of candidates for training.

Lindrou Translators

We have trained a number of Lindrou people over the years as national translators. Some of those are involved in village testing and revision of the translation. The primary translator we are currently working with is Charles Kowak. Charles was a community school teacher and was one of the members of the original Lindrou Alphabet Development Committee. In 1993 he retired from teaching and was trained at National Translators Courses. He has been working full time on the translation since 1995 and saw the translation through to its completion in early 2001. He is now focusing on Scripture promotion activities and plans to continue translating the Lindrou Old Testament. Charles also looks to the Lord for his financial support needs. See Special Projects for more information about Charles' support needs.

Lindrou Literacy Workers

We have also trained a number of Lindrou literacy workers. One of the most prominent is Bernard Laban who is a key man on the literacy team and was a member of the original Alphabet Development Committee. He is also one of the first people in Manus Province to start a vernacular prep school in his village. In spite of some serious challenges (he is crippled from polio and has dyslexia), he excels as a prep school teacher. Read more about his work and Bernard's Pilgrimage to faith in Christ.

Lindrou Literature Development

One of the problems that previously unwritten languages have once they have established a writing system, is gaining a body of literature. To help provide for this need and to help train writers, the Lindrou literacy team holds periodic writers' workshops. In these courses village people exercise their skills in writing and produce story books in the village using silk screen technology.

Translation Progress

At present the Lindrou team has translated 100% of the New Testament and Genesis, Jonah and Ruth in the Old Testament. The team completed the revision and testing of the Lindrou New Testament in the year 2000. This Translation Progress Chart presents a record of the progress of bringing each book of the Lindrou New Testament to completion. The team typeset the New Testament in February and March 2001. The proofs were sent to the printer March 26th and the printing and binding process was complete by September 2001 when they were shipped back to Papua New Guinea. A dedication ceremony was planned wholly by the Lindrou people themselves and took place on July 26-27, 2002. See glimpses of milestones in the Lindrou translation program here.

Literacy Progress

The literacy members of the Lindrou team were the first to start village-level prep schools in Manus Province (an area with 30 language groups!). They desire to see the Lindrou Scriptures widely read and used in worship in the churches. A popular event which has motivated many Lindrou people to learn to read well is the reading contest, in which people gather together in groups and compete for prizes. Vernacular literacy education in Lindrou elementary schools has been operating under the Manus Provincial Education Department since the mid 1990s.

Infrastructure Development

In addition to the training we have provided for the members of the Lindrou translation and literacy teams, we have also provided consultant and training help for the Papua New Guinea Bible Translation Association (BTA), an indigenous group of Papua New Guineans committed to the recruitment, training and support of national translators and literacy workers in all parts of Papua New Guinea. BTA has also established a local chapter of its organization in Manus Province.

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