The Walangi Valley is conﬁned between two lofty mountain ranges in the Himalayas. Amid the harsh conditions found between heights of 2130 m and 4260 m, live 23,500 Walangi people in 54 small hamlets generally made up of 25 to 40 houses each.
Two young men trudged wearily into a Walangi hamlet in 2006. Mano and Das had traveled at least 14 hours over treacherous mountain roads from the nearest train station, praying all the way. Would they be permitted to stay? Only God could open this door. Some evangelists had visited the Walangi Valley in 2000. But the wary villagers discovered their intentions and violently chased them out. No one had tried again – till Mano and Das obediently responded to God’s call.
They introduced themselves to the hamlet’s governing body as linguists who would like to live among them to study their language. Could they stay? The committee conferred amongst themselves for a while. Their answer was “yes”. Thus, the pioneering work began.
In 2016, the ﬁrst Walangi from a language community that was 100 per cent non-Christian professed faith in Christ. There is now a crack in the spiritual wall of resistance.
It was 19 years ago when Andy was invited by his girlfriend to visit a local deaf church in Hanoi, Vietnam. He continued to attend the church regularly for a year but did not commit his life to Jesus. One night, Andy saw God in a dream. He recalls,
God showed me Heaven and Hell, and said to me ‘I have chosen you to be a teacher.’ I replied with fear, ‘I don’t even know the Bible and I don’t know how to teach.’ Then, God showed me a flood with many people drowning in the water waiting to be rescued. God pointed at the flood and told me: ‘These people need you.’
Andy woke up drenched in sweat. He knew God had called him. He went to church, gave his life to Jesus and became a Christian. Over the course of time, slowly, and step by step, God brought Andy to the work of translating the Bible stories into the sign language of his deaf community. Andy is now well-versed in both the translation work and the technical work of recording the deaf Bible translation in video. He is now the team leader of the Hanoi Sign Language Bible translation project in Vietnam Bible Society.
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.”