Journey of Faith in

Bible Translation

Ministry

Written by Sharen

Around nineteen years old, I was led to Christ and experienced His deliverance. In my final year of university, I received the Lord’s calling to join His mission to the unreached people. After working in the secular world for a few years, I sensed the Lord’s small voice telling me that it was time to move on to the mission field.

When it was time to take that next step, I struggled within myself, doubting my abtility to do the “impossible” mission and I was scared to fail Him. Right then, the Lord assured me saying, “I called you; I will enable you to do what I called you to do.” By faith, I clung to His promise and embarked on “His mission boat”, starting on my journey with Him. I went to seminary to build up my biblical knowledge and then attended a year of Linguistics and Bible translation training. After the training, the Lord directed me to serve in a ‘limited access’ country in Asia. While learning the national language, I started to experience the Lord’s fulfilment of His promise: He put “a fire” in my heart to share the gospel boldly with the students on the campus and to disciple the person that I led to Christ. Later, a teacher found out and made it hard for me to continue discipling the person. After learning the national language, I was assigned to meet the need of Bible translation for a specific minority people group in that country.

In the midst of looking for a valid reason to live among this minority people group, the Lord amazingly opened the door for me to partner with the government to do poverty alleviation projects in the language area. That provided me a valid reason to move to the area living among the minority people. At first, I doubted we could partner with them because I knew these types of projects needed a lot of funding and we did not have it. But then my supervisor told me, ‘Let’s make a three-year plan by faith!’ By faith, I started up with my own savings to embark on the first project – providing education sponsorship for village kids from poor families. Later, truly the Lord provided a lot more funding for us, even through people that I had never met before. This allows us to do bigger projects to improve the living condition of the people.

Besides that, I was also amazed that even before we started the first project, the government agreed to grant me a visa and permission to live in the area to learn the language of the minority people. While I was learning the language, my heart was just filled with thanksgiving that the Lord again fulfilled His promise, i.e., He enabled me to enjoy learning and analysing the language which I had doubted I could do. Indeed, our Lord is faithful. He never fails in keeping His promises to us! What He wants from us is to respond with our total trust and obedience.

As I reflect on my Bible translation ministry journey of the past over ten years, a few key elements came to my mind: call for a lot of prayer, discernment of the Lord’s guidance, faith, and patient endurance for this long-term mission journey. These elements have been very important to keep me on the path of fulfilling God’s calling in my life, though I may not see the fruits during my time with the people group that I’m serving.

After completing the language survey and the language learning phase, I was very excited to start the Bible translation work. I visited one of the main local church leaders to share with him the needs of Bible translation for their language But he did not show much interest. I was discouraged and thought of going ahead to work with a local brother who had indicated his willingness to work with me. But the Lord told me, ‘Wait!’ The waiting was not easy, filled with many tears and praying. About two months later, I went to see this leader again, this time he responded rather positively. In addition, he agreed that I should go to his house church to talk to the members about the Bible translation ministry. At the meeting, he indicated his support for the translation ministry to begin. Along with that, the church members gave their input about such things as to which book to translate first. Later, when we started review committee checking on the translation of the first book we produced, this leader and some other church leaders came to help with the checking. Indeed, the Lord knew what was the best way of working among this minority people group. We needed to discern His guidance and patiently wait for His right timing.

Working with the local church leaders was not without its challenges. We faced different kinds of disagreements; at times the argument became ‘hot’ due to different expectations, lack of Biblical knowledge, and lack of understanding of translation principles. Most of them thought their national language Bible was the original text; they had never heard of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. We needed to patiently explain to them the translation principles that we used such as translating the original intended meaning by the author and not to make it a literal word for word translation.

At times, they felt reluctant to come for the checking session that delayed the work. Along the way, the local translator got so tired of calling them and told me to just forget about them. But, I had to tell him that we needed to keep inviting them back. With much of our persistence over a prolonged period of time, a few of them eventually came regularly and stayed involved for a few years. They were very helpful in improving the translation and eventually they saw the importance of keeping the Bible translation ministry going. As I look back, it was worth our effort of patient endurance and persistence in inviting them to be involved in the translation process because ultimately they would be the ones to use the translation. After we had produced more books, they helped to promote the use of the translated Scripture portions and distributed the recordings to the believers in the villages.

A church leader told me that the villagers were so happy to receive God’s words in their mother tongue! They said, ‘Wah! This material is so good, where did you get it? Do you have more?’ They put the audio player in their pockets and listened to the recordings wherever they went! Another time, when the local translator went to visit a house church in the village and told them a Bible story that had been translated into their mother tongue, the elderly believers responded, ‘Finally, we can understand it all!’ On another occasion, when I played a praise & worship song in the minority language to a group of the leaders, a sister told me, ‘When I listened to the song, my hair stood up! It touched me so deep unlike anything before when I listened to the praise & worship songs in the national language.

Having to work in a country that has no religious freedom, we often have to face the security issue. We never knew whether the news about the ministry would spread; anytime the local authority might appear at our doorstep in the middle of the translation work. As I look back, I realize there was no way the ministry could last so long without the Lord’s protection. The Lord was not only protecting the ministry, He also on many occasions brought a number of non-believers who were very helpful and good in improving our translation. Through this process, these non-believers also got to hear the gospel and God’s teaching. I was very encouraged by some of their responses.

In order to see the ministry move forward, we truly need to call on the Lord to move mightily in the hearts of the people. Without the work of the Holy Spirit, the people are not able to catch His vision, have no passion for the Lord’s work and no hunger for His Word. I believe that the reason I was able to experience so much of the Lord’s grace in this faith journey and able to continue to be engaged in the Lord’s mission is because of the prayers of those behind the scenes, faithfully praying for me and praying for this people group. Your partnership in missions is very much needed and valued.