George Tafoa was the first one to begin to pursue a translation of the New Testament (NT) into Kwaio.
He felt that it was very important for his people to have God’s Word in their own language and began to pray that God would open the doors for that to happen.
In 2002, Tafoa and other Kwaio men began attending translation workshops at SITAG (Solomon Islands Translation Advisory Group).
With the help of one SITAG member, the Kwaio team did a translation of 1 Timothy to practice translation.
The Kwaio team continued coming to translation workshops, but no other books were translated until 2006.
In 2006, SITAG member Julie Savage was assigned to work with the Kwaio people to help them translate the entire New Testament into Kwaio. George Tafoa, David Fonosimae, and Julie Savage worked together on the translation.
They began by using a computer program to help them adapt the Kwara’ae New Testament, which had been finished several years earlier, into Kwaio.
After they had a rough draft of a book, they would then read through it and make needed changes to make sure that it sounded like good Kwaio.
Then they checked the translation against the original Greek New Testament and a variety of English translations to make sure that the meaning in the Kwaio was the same as the meaning in the original Biblical text.
After that, they worked with a group of ten Kwaio pastors from several denominations to read through the book and make spelling corrections and correct places that didn’t sound like good Kwaio.
At that point, the team sat down with other Kwaio speakers to make sure that the meaning was clear.
The final check was to sit down with a consultant who had a lot of experience in translation and knowledge in Greek and make sure that there were no errors. Only after each book went through these five steps would it be approved.
In 2009, George Tafoa became involved in other ministry and left the translation project, leaving David Fonosimae as the head translator.
David worked hard not only to translate books of the New Testament but also to keep the Kwaio people involved and informed of what was happening in their translation project.
David, Julie, and the team of ten Kwaio pastors began to work faster and better as they became more familiar with the process of translating the New Testament. Kwaio people began to comment on how good the translation sounded and that it was ‘sweet’ to their ears.
This led the Kwaio translation team to go back and revise the books that had been done originally to make sure that they also sounded ‘sweet’.
More and more Kwaio speakers became involved in different parts of the checking process, and people became very excited to realize that they would soon have God’s Word in their own language.
In July 2012, the Kwaio team had finished all of the New Testament books and had taken each book through all the steps of checking. They knew that it was time to begin planning for the completion.
In November 2012, seven Kwaio pastors from different denominations came to Honiara to work with David and Julie to read through the entire New Testament to correct any last thing before it was printed. It took two weeks to read the entire New Testament, but at the end, everyone was very happy.
It sounded like good Kwaio, it was easy to understand, and it was accurate. The Word of God was arriving in Kwaio. The entire team could do nothing but praise God.
In January 2013, Julie returned to the USA with her husband and two children to begin typesetting, the process of turning the Kwaio New Testament into a book.
Due to the generosity of many churches in the USA and many Kwaio people in the Solomon Islands, the Kwaio New Testament was able to go to print. 5,000 copies were printed in South Korea and shipped to the Solomon Islands.
The Bibles arrived in the Solomon Islands and cleared customs on Feb 6, 2014, nearly eight years after the translation was started.
SITAG members, BTLP (Bible Translation Literacy Program), and Kwaio speakers gathered to pray over the New Testaments and to joyfully carry them through Honiara to the place where they will be stored while waiting for the launching of the Kwaio New Testament.
When David Fonosimae held the Kwaio New Testament in his hands for the first time, he said, “I know I’m holding what God has wanted to give us Kwaio speakers for a long time. God speaks to me in my own language.”
When asked about the impact of the Kwaio New Testament, Fonosimae said, “When people read the Bible in Kwaio, it will make a dramatic change in their lives because as they read it, they will really understand it.
The launching of the Kwaio New Testament will be held on April 19, 2014 in East Malaita, Sinaragu Harbor, Gounabusu Village.
It will be a huge celebration to thank God for his faithfulness and to launch the Kwaio New Testament. People will have the chance to puchase the Kwaio New Testaments for a very small fee.
In addition, the Kwaio team has translated an Old Testament storybook that will also be available at the launching of the New Testament.
The Kwaio team is full of joy and thanksgiving to God who made this all possible. It is their deepest prayer that all Kwaio speakers will get a copy of the Kwaio New Testament and read it and let it change their lives. The Word of God has arrived in Kwaio now.