Easter Island | Wycliffe Bible Translators Easter Island | God in Full View

Strengthened by God's Word

How Bible translation is helping to preserve the unique culture and language of Easter Island.



Easter Island is 2,300 miles off the coast of Chile. While its culture is Polynesian, Easter Island is a province of Chile so, until recently, Spanish has been the island’s only official language. But the historic language of the island is Rapa Nui.

Because it was an oral language without a practical alphabet and writing system, there was no way to preserve the language and culture for future generations.

The Rapa Nui language was losing ground.

But then linguistic and Bible translation work began on Easter Island, and things started to change.

Easter Island Map

Spreading the Light of the Gospel

By Richard Greene

Witnessing God’s faithfulness on Easter Island

As the translation project of the New Testament into Rapa Nui got off the ground on Easter Island, Viki Haoa witnessed its immediate impact.

She didn’t have to look any further than her own family.

Viki, a Rapa Nui school teacher and dear friend, closely followed the translation project spearheaded by Bob and Nancy Weber, veteran missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators. “We weren’t very helpful at first,” Viki said. But the Rapa Nui translators and reviewers would return home at night and talk at length about what they were learning from Scripture.


“It was coming alive to us and we were beginning to have our eyes opened to what was really in Scripture,” Viki explained. That included her father. “I saw him meditating on it,” she said. “This was something totally new to us, and we yearned to learn more.”

As part of the translation project, the entire Gospel of Luke was dubbed into Rapa Nui for a film. It featured the voices of local speakers and premiered on the island.

“When my dad saw with his own eyes and heard with his own ears Jesus speaking in Rapa Nui, tears streamed down his face,” Viki said.

Last October, when the New Testament was dedicated in a spirited ceremony, she declared: “We are celebrating the coming of the Word of God in Rapa Nui. This translated work has been brought to us in a book, the Bible, as a gift from God. He sent the Webers here to us as his servants.”

Island Coast
Girls Reading

Bob and Nancy are quick to praise God — and to express thanks to everyone who stood by their side. “We know God wanted this translation done and he had a job for us to do,” Bob said. “It wasn’t easy, but we prayed and asked for God’s direction. By his grace, and by the faithful partnership of churches and individuals who stood behind us with their gifts, prayers and notes of encouragement, we were able to persevere and, then, to joyfully experience the long-awaited day of celebration.”

Nancy echoed that sentiment. “God directed us to Easter Island and made this work possible,” she said. “He took care of us and our family. He provided the people and supplied the finances. He gave us the strength and energy for each day. And we saw him work in the lives of people throughout the project. We give him all the glory.”


Bob and Nancy met in first grade in Peru where their parents were Wycliffe missionaries. “I always had a crush on her,” Bob said, with a gleam in his eye. “But she was never much interested in me.” Nancy laughed.

God brought them together in the turbulent 1960s when both were studying at different California universities. After they were married, the couple sensed the Lord’s leading into missions. They had a passion to proclaim the Good News to people who had never heard it.

Family Picture

Bob and Nancy initially focused on serving in the Peruvian mountains. But in 1977 their lives were uprooted when God guided them — and their young growing family — 2,500 miles away to Easter Island, one of the world’s remotest inhabited islands. Tourists flock to see the nearly 900 monumental statues of carved human figures with oversized heads which were created by the early Rapa Nui people.

While Easter Island’s culture is Polynesian, it’s a territory of Chile so Spanish was the island’s official language. From the outset, however, Bob and Nancy’s goal was to help preserve and strengthen Rapa Nui — the island’s historic native language. That was a huge task since Rapa Nui was primarily an oral language, at that time. Without a practical alphabet and systematized form of writing, there was no way to preserve the language and culture for future generations.

The language, unfortunately, was endangered.


Bob and Nancy were proficient in Spanish but had to learn Rapa Nui. As their language skills progressed over the next 17 years, the couple worked closely with islanders on an array of literacy and education projects. They and their Rapa Nui colleagues began compiling a dictionary and created two series of Rapa Nui school books. Bob and Nancy also trained school teachers and sponsored the first writers’ workshops for Rapa Nui authors. As a result, the couple and their children — Johann, Stefan and Gretel — became part of the fabric of the Rapa Nui community.

“We loved the people there and were comfortable among them,” Bob said.

“We were isolated, separated from Christian fellowship, yes, but perhaps through our upbringing ... God was preparing us for this kind of assignment.”

Their language work was only the first step. The ultimate goal was to translate the New Testament from Spanish into Rapa Nui. So Bob and Nancy turned their attention toward that task. “[Many Rapa Nui] people were happy about that and encouraged us,” Bob said.

Over the next 24 years the New Testament in Rapa Nui unfolded both in print and audio formats. Throughout the translation process, Bob and Nancy saw lives changed as people received the hope of Jesus Christ in their language!

“Wycliffe’s goal of translating the Scriptures for minority people groups is never an end in itself,” Bob explained. “It’s not about checking off on some list somewhere that one more language group has God’s Word. ... The goal is always transformed lives — people becoming disciples of Jesus Christ and growing Christ-like in their attitudes and actions as they look to his Word to guide them.”


When the Rapa Nui New Testament was dedicated on October 13, 2018 — a gorgeous, warm sunny day — one of the translators stood before the large crowd, stepped to the microphone, inhaled deeply and then stunned them with an apology.

“That took a tremendous amount of courage on her part,” Bob said. “She is a woman of very strong personality, and she knows she has a problem of disrupting community meetings. ... Before she said anything else, she asked for forgiveness. Then she encouraged people to read the Word of God.”

Pedro Edmunds Paoa, the island’s mayor, recounted how his grandmother turned to the Bible in Tahitian because she couldn’t understand Spanish and there were no Scriptures in Rapa Nui. “I want to express great gratitude to Nancy and Roberto Weber for all they have done for the Rapa Nui over the last four decades, alerting us to the loss of our language and the need for us to protect it,” he told a newscaster. “But besides their linguistic work, they’re leaving this great gift to the island, which is our Bible translated into Rapa Nui.”

As Bob and Nancy’s work on the island drew to a close, the community prepared a video filled with heartfelt remembrances. One of their friends remarked,

“I thank God that he sent you here because if he hadn’t, we would still be in darkness. Now we have the light.”

Bob and Nancy are currently living in California, wrapping up several Rapa Nui projects. They’re also praying that a small group of islanders who love Jesus will lead to a new local church and make a lasting difference for God’s kingdom.

“We’re thankful God took us to Easter Island,” Nancy said. “It was a privilege to raise our family there. The devil fought this work all the way, but we praise the Lord we experienced his faithfulness.”

Explore the powerful role prayer played in the Rapa Nui project in “God Hears a Child’s Prayers for Easter Island.”

Help people just like the Rapa Nui discover hope and life through Scripture in their own language.