Sydney couple Toby and MG will soon pack up their home, farewell family and friends, and take their children back to South Asia.
They are starting their second term as translation facilitators among the Kungka* people of South Asia. Their furlough was longer than usual; not least because of the unexpected news that they were to be blessed with a third child, Trinity, born in June.
Toby and MG were just a young married couple when their interest in missions was kindled, during outreach to international university students.
‘Trying to explain the Bible to Chinese students, I repeatedly faced language and translation barriers,’ MG said. ‘Looking back, I now see the significance of having Scripture in your mother tongue.’
‘It sounded valuable as it was about learning languages, but Toby didn’t think he could do it,’ MG said. ‘By the end of the week, we had swapped: Toby was seriously considering Bible translation, while I thought it sounded hard, and less pastoral than I wanted.’
God sent people and opportunities their way, however, answering MG’s concerns that Bible translation was too ‘impersonal’, and that they weren’t a good fit. ‘He showed us that Bible translation isn’t just an academic exercise. It’s also helping people grow in Christ, know God and glorify him,’ MG said.
After much prayer and exploring sending agencies, they applied to Wycliffe, did a year of linguistic training, and were bound for South Asia.
Their first year was focused on learning the national language. In the second year, they moved to the Kungka village in a ‘stunning’ national park. Once again they were ‘outsiders’ learning another new language.
‘Life became difficult, but it was good to immerse ourselves in the work we had come to do,’ MG said. ‘We were also able to start seeing the reality of people’s situations, to see them as individuals rather than just people needing help.’
Toby and MG’s own faith strengthened while working on mother-tongue literacy projects, and developing a Kungka alphabet. ‘I felt God teaching me things I’d never seen before in Scripture’, MG said, ‘about the spiritual world, which is very real to the Kungka.’
There are 1500 Kungka people in the 4000-strong village, but their language and traditions differ greatly from the dominant culture. The 40 Kungka believers attend services that are multilingual, but have no Scriptures to call their own – a problem Toby and MG are working on.
‘It’s all about relationships’, MG shares. ‘We don’t want to drive our own agenda, but to see what God is doing and be led by Him.’
- Toby and MG and their children, including newest member Trinity, as they prepare to return to South Asia
- Existing relationships on the field to be renewed and strengthened
- The Kungka translation team to make good progress
By Louise Bettison
Note: Since this story was written, Toby & MG have now returned to South Asia for their second term.