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 Suru heartland is found in the north of the island of Borneo and comprises of about 55,000 people. In the early 1950s, 80% of the Surus who were former animists became Christians on their own initiative. Despite being poor, poorly educated, seriously discriminated against and disadvantaged as believers, the Suru have maintained their faith.
“A group of 40 to 60-year-old women asked me to teach them to read. They had heard that God’s Word was going to be translated into their language and they wanted to be able to read it. Waiting to hear a short snippet read from the pulpit on a Sunday was an unbearable hardship – they were hungry for more. Thus, six to eight of them who had either previously given up learning to read or never had the chance to attend school, began coming together for one afternoon a week for nine whole months. They sweated over their letters and the long Suru words, which even gave them nightmares; they bore with being ridiculed for going to school at their age; they worked doubly hard on their household chores to make time for classes. With much perseverance, they finally succeeded. They bought their own copies of the partial translation as well as a hymn book, and proudly carried them into church one Sunday. Their husbands were astonished; their children who had mocked them now had their interest piqued; their grandchildren were curious too. They bought up the remaining stock of the partial translation and started reading it. This rural congregation became a congregation that read the Word. They became the pillar in their church district, the ones who could be relied on when funding or workers were needed. Reading this Book changed this community’s lives.” – John*, an SIL translator.
In the Hakka community in West Kalimantan, a translation team started to work on the book of Luke and the Jesus Film. One translator shared his experience.
When my wife became involved in the Hakka translation, it was the hardest time for our family. I lost my job and my emotions began to run out of control. Every day my wife and I would fight. I became angry with my children. I blamed everyone else. But what infuriated me most was my wife’s time spent working on the Hakka translation which brought home no money. One day, I was forced to be involved in the Jesus film recording. My part was to be the voice of Jesus, dubbed into the film. I did it with a heavy heart until we got to the episode where Jesus ate at the house of Zacchaeus. My hard heart began to soften. I held back tears while playing Jesus in that recording. When I got home, I gathered my wife and children and cried before them: ‘I am arrogant. I am selfish, I am temperamental.’ At that moment I asked forgiveness from my wife and children for my attitude. We all cried and immediately God restored our family, bringing peace to my heart and to our home.
Today Mr. Amin is one of the primary translators and motivators of the Hakka translation.
God did not stop there. He wanted to unite His church. On 11 February 2019, the Hakka language launched the Jesus film. More than 50 church leaders from various Hakka denominations gathered to watch Jesus speak their language on film. The facilitator of the Hakka team testified, “Last year we were desperately worried—‘Can we continue this work with only one translator left on our team?’ But God was not desperate. He brought together five Hakka church denomination leaders who had never worked together before but committed to do so for the Hakka translation project. They appointed more translators, supported the team financially, provided a facility for the team to work in, and stood behind us in prayer and encouragement. One of the great things we saw God do was to unify the Hakka church in order to complete His mission.”