In a most unusual but welcome story deep on the inside of The Washington Post's Metro section, Michelle Boorstein reported on how an earthquake set back a project to create a written version of a local language spoken by 5,000 people and to translate the Bible for the people on the small Solomon Island in the South Pacific. (Lost, anyone?) Not only did Boorstein report in a straightforward manner on Alpheaus Zobule -- a Richmond, Va., theology student at Union Theological Seminary and Presbyterian School of Christian Education -- and his decade-long translation effort; she also reported in a sympathetic tone on the tragic day when a 8.1 magnitude earthquake destroyed his work.
Boorstein wrote about Zobule back in January, but unfortunately the story was buried on the inside of the Metro pages and I am guessing most people missed it. I searched briefly on the Post/Newsweek On Faith blog for more coverage of Zobule, but unfortunately did not see anything.
What struck me most about this most recent story was the final graph:
Since the earthquake, churches across the United States have been sending donations for Zobule's Richmond church, Grace Covenant Presbyterian. As of Friday, the church had received $16,500, Associate Pastor Christopher J. Thomas said.
"This disaster is going to impact the translation and literacy project in a very big way," Zobule said in an e-mail. "Community support is an important element in the project we are doing and in the next few years it is going to be a challenge. The literacy program we are running cannot continue under the circumstance."
Donations can be sent to Islands Bible Ministries, a development organization Zobule founded in the Solomons, via Grace Covenant at: 1627 Monument Ave., Richmond, Va. 23220. Questions can be answered by Zobule at email@example.com or Grace Covenant at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When was the last time a newspaper the size of the Post included donation information for a religious project? Yes, there is a huge education angle to the story, but the last time I checked, the only time newspapers published donation information was for the obituaries page and, more frequently, you have to pay to get even that.
Of course this raises the question of whether the Post includes donation information for any religious charity group hit upon by hard times and covered in its news pages.
The next step, I hope, would be for the Post to follow up on this story and look more in-depth at other Bible translation efforts in communities with no written word.