By Evelyn Gan
The idea of having Jesus Film in the languages of Peninsular Malaysia was planted in our hearts and watered by invitations, requests, realizations, partnerships, funds and hard work… and lots of food and laughter.
We witnessed and experienced God’s hand as He put together a jigsaw puzzle of people, dreams, calling and schedules. During the time of no travel because of Covid 19, I had attended an online workshop on Oral Translation Strategies. Jon, a staff of JesusFilm.org introduced a software called “Revela” – it enables oral translation of the Jesus Film script. (Traditionally, the Gospel of Luke is translated first before doing the Jesus Film, but with this software, one could straightaway translate the Jesus Film.) Then I was asked by another organization that only does Jesus Film to check their Jesus Films.
Early this year, a staff of JesusFilm.org for South East Asia contacted Wycliffe Malaysia to ask if we could help in a Jesus Film project in another country. While this project has not happened, the seed was planted in prepared soil.
Why Jesus Film now? Well, most of our Wycliffe Malaysia members assigned to the home office have orality training and experience which fits well with the oral translation approach used in Revela. It is a short-term project with an end product that pastors can use to teach and disciple. And it will help the language community and churches to decide if they want more Scripture in their language.
After a flurry of emails and several Zoom meetings, we began a partnership with JesusFilm.org to train translation facilitators and it was Jon who came with his team to train not only members of Wycliffe Malaysia but also members of other organizations in Indonesia and Singapore. After the training, we travelled to Kuantan to launch 4 Jesus Film projects in the Kenyah, Semelai, Jakun and *Tekun languages.
The translators that came are a diverse group of people; the youngest is 17 and the oldest in the 40s, some had primary school education and others university degrees. Amongst them are pastors, job seekers, content maker, pharmacist etc. – all giving up their time to translate the Jesus Film for their people. In spite of their diversity, they were all united in wanting to get the job done. Some had, when introducing themselves, said that they were forced to come, but there weren’t any hints of reluctance when the workshop started and all throughout the 2 weeks.
We, the Wycliffe staff, were very blessed by the translators who showed us how the body of Christ is. Each playing their part, the strong encouraging the weak, we were certainly reminded of the Unity and diversity of His Body in 1 Corinthians 12.
Each day started with devotions based on a scene from the Jesus Film. We learnt and explored the scene until we became familiar with it using different techniques such as retelling as a group, drama etc. We were actually also digging into His Word and learning more about our God as we discussed together guided by questions from the devotions leader.
In the first week, we had teaching sessions on doing translations, using the computer and the software. The staff modeled each and every step of the translation process, showing and repeating, and the teams started working on their translations with their facilitators. There are 72 scenes in the Jesus Film; some shorter, others longer, some easier to translate and others more challenging. The teams started on the shorter and easier to translate scenes.
In the second week, the team spent most of their time working in their teams on the translation. Some of the teams had the opportunity to check their translation with people from their village. Then each team had to fill in a timeline document which includes how much translation they plan to do in the months following the workshop, when they hope to complete translating and checking all the scenes, when they plan for the consultant to come check their Jesus Film and also when they are ready for the recording of the voices of 22 actors who will lend their voices to the Jesus Film.
During the second week also, several translators took turn to lead devotions using scenes from the Jesus Film. While devotion isn’t new to them, the oral approach and engaging everyone in the group were ways that were unfamiliar. The pastors were excited that they now have a different way of getting their people to learn about God. They did struggle in holding back from telling and being the ones with the answers, but instead the pastors learnt to give opportunity to others to share what God was teaching them in each scene. This oral way of doing devotions can be done in Bible study using audio Bibles or passages of orally translated Scripture and Bible stories.
On the last day of the workshop was spent with reminders of the translation process, the homework that the teams have to do, a debriefing of sorts and a big lunch. It was a little sad to say good bye, but it was obvious that everyone was glad for the two weeks of fellowship.
Now the teams are back in the different places and back to their own ministries, jobs, studies and job search. All will have to work hard at translating while being busy with their other responsibilities.
For the Wycliffe Malaysia members, we give glory to God for the opportunity to learn and to be a part of these different language groups as they translate the Jesus Film. We thank God for each other and the opportunity to work together as this is the first two week workshop with so many of us involved. We are excited to see God’s plan unfold as Wycliffe Malaysia continues to partner in more translation projects to bring God Word in the heart language to more people groups.