Internet connectivity is a major factor while working remotely for this Bible translation project in Walangi (pseudonym). There were times when the team had to reschedule meetings because of poor or disruptive network connections.
The Covid-19 pandemic affected the project schedule of the Tangsa Sangwal Gospel Translation team, especially the community testing of the translation of a few books. The delay had become a major concern for the translation team, since it was encroaching on the dateline. The team sounded out to the project’s committee of village community leaders about the predicament.
Pastor Larry Alentajan who serves in the province of Antique speaks Kinaray-a, the heart language of over half a million people in the Philippines. He uses the translated Kinaray-a New Testament (NT). Pastor Larry is passionate in bringing God’s Word to the whole village in a novel way – through a loudspeaker affixed to the top of a bamboo pole!
At 5 a.m., he would go on the air to recite a NT passage in Kinaray-a and then end with a prayer. High above the rooftops, the pastor’s voice could be heard ‘live’. This daily routine at dawn would go on for months.
One day, the pastor fell sick and realising he was too feeble to read aloud, he did not go on the air. Resting at home alone, he pondered: “Has my public Scripture reading impacted anyone in the village? Is it worthwhile to continue?”
As if in answer to his queries, an anxious fish vendor called him just then. “Pastor! I was expecting to hear your voice. But the loudspeaker was silent this morning. You also kept the trishaw riders at the market waiting by the loudspeaker! Like me, they would not start their day till they have heard your message. What happened to you?”
The testimony in thirsting after God’s Word soon spread like wildfire to the neighbouring barangays (districts). The pastors from those areas began to replicate the idea of reading aloud the Scriptures over the loudspeaker. By God’s grace, the readings blessed and transformed lives among the Kinaray-a people.
Now in his fifties, Hareanton has served in church ministry for 20 years as a pastor and regional head and has also taught at a seminary. He has three children, two grown sons and a teenage daughter. His wife passed away at end-2016. Hareanton was despondent over the loss of his wife and found it a struggle to carry on.
The idea of involving Hareanton in the Dumas Bible translation project was broached to him some months later. The man deliberated on it and finally accepted the offer in 2018. He became the project’s first mother-tongue translator and, in turn, recruited other Dumas speakers to form a translation team.
Hareanton shared that the Bible translation work has helped to mould the character in him. It has provided him a renewed sense of purpose to see his Dumas church flourish. He also hoped that through the project, the Dumas language would grow stronger among younger generations.
Hareanton realised he has a better grasp of understanding the Bible after an intensive and thorough study of the Scripture passages alongside various Bible translations. He would share his insights from the pulpit during worship service. News of the Dumas Bible Translation project has gradually spread throughout the local Dumas churches. The believers welcome it and for the first time, the churches have requested for Bible study materials to be produced in Dumas language. Praise the Lord!
Kalyan Herenj, 47, was raised in a Christian family and is a descendant of the Naguri Munda people group. Together with his wife Veronica Herenj, they have two adopted daughters Fulmani and Nissi.
He has been working as a mother-tongue translator (MTT) in the Naguri Munda Bible translation team for two years and considers it a privilege. He testifies that he drew closer to God from reading His Word and keeps a consistent prayer life after taking on the work.
Kalyan has dedicated his life to spreading the Gospel among the people of his community, who are mostly illiterate and do not understand Hindi well. He has a burden for his fellowmen, friends and strangers alike, and shares with them stories from the Bible. They are encouraged by the Good News and glad to know that they would soon be able to hear and read the Scriptures in their own language.
Kalyan is grateful to God for giving him the opportunity to help translate the Scriptures in Naguri Munda language. He also has a passion for Christian songs, which has prompted him to compose several hymns in his language.
My name is David Ganesh, a mother tongue translator from the Thamne people group. Please allow me to share my thoughts and observations with you.
The Thamne find it a challenge to refer to the Bible in Nepali because they are not familiar with the language. This is especially so during church worship service whenever passages are quoted from the Old Testament (OT).
The people have been praying for the Thamne version of the OT and God heard them. In His time, God enabled the commencement of a three-year translation project which covers five books of the OT – Genesis, Jonah, Esther, Ruth and Proverbs. The project is scheduled for completion in 2022.
To engage the Thamne community in the project, representatives comprising local church and community leaders were invited to second-eye the translated Scriptures.
Recently, I brought translated portions from the OT books of Genesis and Jonah with me to the village to meet the working group. We gathered in a spartan setting to review the text – line by line and word by word. During those evening sessions, work ethics prevailed. I felt blessed to be among such an enthusiastic group, diligently working together as one to further God’s kingdom.
Sign Language (SL) Translation Team Leader David* shares:
Our team found the SL Bible Translation work to be very challenging at first. The odds were stacked against us. Once, we were working with a hearing team member and she insisted that we do it her way. On another occasion, the funding was delayed for a year and we barely scraped through. Although in despair, we did not give up and prayed to God for perseverance.
Then the blessings came, one by one. God sent representatives from the Asia Pacific Sign Language Development Association (APSDA) to help us with the Bible translation. We also networked with the local deaf communities and NGOs.
Our team once travelled to the northern provinces to visit the deaf Christian communities. We brought along the Sisters2 SL materials and training videos. While openly interacting with the deaf group, we noticed some soldiers approaching us. They stood by the side observing our activity for some time. We thought they would arrest us or perhaps confiscate our materials. Surprisingly, they allowed us to continue and left. It was a blessing and brought us relief. God turned the situation around.
At a recent training workshop, a participant named Samuel expressed his interest to be involved in the Bible translation (BT) project. He also offered the project team the use of his house (which was nearby) as an interim office during workshop intervals.
In an exegesis workshop session, the keyword 'repent' was brought up for discussion. As an active steward in his church, Samuel said that he often came across the word but failed to grasp its meaning.
The language facilitator then explained the meaning of the word according to the Scriptures. The only way to repent is to accept Jesus as personal Saviour, he explained. The explanation helped Samuel to understand the meaning of the word. He confessed that he has not repented all these years, and has relied on his own strengths to cope with issues of the day.
Realising his ignorance, Samuel said he wanted to repent and accept Jesus as his Lord and Saviour. Shedding tears, he insisted on doing it in the presence of the participants. To support his decision, the participants gathered around him and joined him in the sinner's prayer. What a joyous moment of celebration!
The TWIG Cluster project has brought the pastors and leaders of various church denominations together to support the team with the Bible Translation (BT) work. The pastors anticipate the translated Scriptures would be a great tool for evangelism among the unreached groups in Nepal.
For the Wanchi team, their project has been an eye-opener. The translators saw the work as very demanding, yet fulfilling. They delve deep into the Scriptures to fully grasp God’s Message. They have become so engrossed in their work that each time a verse or passage was read out during group devotion, some members would jump at the thought of exegeting it!
The Wanchi community accorded respect to the team for their dedicated work. They could not hide their excitement in knowing that the Scriptures are being translated into their language. Also, the community checkers have been very cooperative in answering the call of duty.
The Lilac translation team sought God’s guidance to enable them to focus on tasks scheduled for the quarter.
The project work schedule was hampered by the coronavirus lockdown. Work could not go on as planned. The group had to shelve the task of reviewing the book of Hebrews because they could not meet due to the lockdown. However hapless they were, the team knew they could always count on God for divine guidance. True enough, their prayers led to progress at work!
In the Palan village, Mahir was learning to read and write through a small and simple church in his village. Once he was able to read a few sentences, he requested for a copy of the Angika translated Scriptures, which he had seen in someone’s hands. When Mahir read a few passages from the gospel of Luke in his mother tongue, he was overwhelmed. He started to narrate the story to his friends and everyone he would meet in his community. For a few months Mahir continued to actively share the message of Luke’s Gospel with many people in his community, and they too want to know more about Jesus. A fellowship group was formed with about 20 people new to the faith, to read the recently translated Scriptures and pray together. After a few months of meeting together, the group members decided to be baptised, and 14 out of the group were baptised together. This all happened as a direct result of God’s work through the translated Word and the ministry of the local church.