This book was sent to me by the Wycliffe recruiter I have been in contact with over the last few months. The name wasn’t all too intriguing, but having interest in Wycliffe, and this book having been published by them, I was definitely interested.
Sleeping Coconuts is about the story of John and Bonnie Nystrom. John is a Bible translator with Wycliffe, working in Papua New Guinea. The descriptions that I read for this book focused mainly on a devastating tsunami that hit their village, Arop, back in 1998. While the tsunami definitely played a role in their story and their work there, I was pleased that it wasn’t the primary focus.
Most of the attention was given to the work of Bible translation, and how John eventually changed his approach to translation from working with one language, to working with eleven! By listening and observing what was going on around them, and being willing to branch out and try new things outside the parameters of “normal” translation techniques, they were able to accomplish amazing things.
Effective translation isn’t just about missionaries going to a people and translating it themselves. We find in Sleeping Coconuts that training, encouraging, and equipping the natives for the work of translation, and creating an environment of teamwork between groups of related dialects is extremely effective in many ways. We even see in this book how technology improved over time and allowed some great things to happen.
Reliance on God, and his provisions is essential and very much a part of the Nystrom’s story. This book is also a testimony of how God provides in many ways, even through tragedy like the tsunami that completely destroyed their village.
If you want to read not only a great story, but also want a better understanding of what Bible translation can look like, I highly recommend this book. I am not a fast reader at all, but I blazed through this book in seven days and enjoyed every bit of it. I highly recommend it.