Is it worth it? What motivates mother-tongue translators?
Jacob* and his family moved to South Asia in 2015 to work on Bible translation projects with four different language groups. Jacob says there have been a number of cultural challenges to overcome, as well as setbacks he did not see coming. He has spent many hours planning workshops and materials required for completing the New Testament but there are often events and circumstances that have prevented timelines from being followed effectively—including the current COVID-19 lockdown. Despite the hardships, Jacob has been encouraged by the faith and perseverance he sees in the mother-tongue translators. Jacob says:
They have given up so much to do the work because they see the value of their people having God’s Word in their own language. The work is hard and it’s not always easy to see results. But they have their eyes on the prize.
These are some of their stories:
Amit is the youngest member of the translation team. He has been involved in his project since February 2017 … despite the fact that he is only just finishing high school this year! Amit wants the Bible in his own language as it is easier for his people to understand than the national language. There is opposition to the project from followers of the majority religion in his village but Amit says it strengthens his own faith.
Sam left a secure job to work full-time in Bible translation and ministry. He has studied a Master of Theology and is passionate about bringing God’s Word to his village. Sam lives with his widowed sister and her children in the family home. Sam firmly believes that only God can unite his people through the reading of the Scriptures in their own language. He says: ‘I love my people. I want them to know more about Jesus’.
Jai is currently studying at university. He believes that Bible translation and literature available in the mother tongue will benefit his people. Jai’s father is the head chief in their village and does not approve of Jai’s Christian faith. Despite the risk of rejection, Jai continues working part-time as a teacher at a Christian mission close to his village and attending translation workshops when he can.
Su loves God and his Word. Yet life has not been easy for her. Travelling from a remote village, it takes two days for her to arrive at translation workshops. She travels with her six-year-old son by walking several hours across rugged mountains to get to the nearest bus stop. She then takes a 12–hour bus ride to the main town, another bus to the next city and then a taxi to reach the centre. Sue does this several times throughout the year because she has a desire to see God’s Word transforming hearts and lives— just as it has done for her.*All names have been changed for security purposes