If not us, then who?

As a nine-year-old, Ian Kleinig watched a lantern slide show of New Guinean children being baptised under trees and he dreamt of being a missionary.

It was God’s will that from 1948 he served as a missionary in Papua New Guinea(PNG) and that in 1966 Pastor Ian arrived in Madras (now Chennai) in India with his wife Enid and their five children, to start a new life in Orissa (now Odisha) state.

The austere landscape of barren hills and subsistence agriculture that met them was a far cry from the lush highlands of PNG.

There was a pressing need for mission work to the Kuvi-speaking tribes in Orissa but the challenges were many. Few outsiders spoke Kuvi nor was it a written language. In addition, the Kuvis were ‘forgotten’ and outside the caste system. Still, the Kleinigs asked, ‘if we did not go, who else could or would go?’ And Ian said, ‘give the gospel a chance and it will take care of itself’.

God opened doors. A young man, Binod helped with the language learning. Binod had a severe disability as a result of childhood polio but he took an all-encompassing role in the mission work. Today he is the primary translator.

Ian and Enid together observed, listened to and noted words as the locals went about daily life. Little of the language described spiritual concepts as the Kuvis were animists.

But the people were hungry for the gospel. When they met with the missionaries, they exclaimed, “That’s the message we’ve been waiting for’. Whole villages, including local leaders, were baptised.

By the end of 1973, translation and the grammar of Kuvi was becoming established. The Kleinigs had to return to Australia but the work continued and, in 1977, Luke’s gospel became the first book of the Bible translated into Kuvi. A year later, translations of liturgy, the catechisms and a hymnal followed.

Enid and Ian returned to India, eight time between 1976 and 1990. Even after moving into a retirement village, they made six visits, following up on translation work and training Kuvi leaders.

In 2019, translations of the Old Testament and the revised New Testament were completed. They are ready to be published by the Bible Society of India. LCA International Mission is looking to raise $7000 to help with publication costs. This would complete a wonderful story of a family who has committed six decades to serving our Lord and the Kuvi community in India.

If you would like to donate to the publication of the Kuvi Bible, please contact LCA International Mission.

This story was also published in the April 2020 edition of Border Crossings, the magazine of LCA International Mission.