‘On the right path’: translation in Timor-Leste

By Deb Fox  |  Wycliffe Today Winter 2022 edition  |

The Australian Society for Indigenous Languages (AuSIL) has one non-Australian family serving with a local translation organisation in Timor-Leste. Peter* explains that an opportunity in 2007 to teach in Portuguese at the national university in Timor-Leste led to where they are today:

During that time, we realised the large number of languages and the translation needs on this little island. We put it all before God, and since then, we have been involved in the language work and translation ministry in Timor-Leste.

Peter’s wife, Maria,* is a translation coordinator and looks after administration and finance. Peter coordinates two language projects and has the enormous task of language documentation and research for more than 20 languages indigenous to Timor-Leste. He shares:

We are producing literacy books and small books in about eight different languages and looking into the production of dictionaries and language material. At the beginning of the pandemic, SIL produced a booklet about COVID-19. We were fortunate to have a great team that could put together this booklet in nine local languages.

The language work among Timorese language communities has been an ongoing task for many years but Peter says he is grateful to ‘see the seeds of our work growing in different soils’. At the end of the checking process for John’s Gospel, Peter was moved by a Timorese pastor who had been involved in the translation for more than 20 years:

This pastor started to pray so powerfully of the Holy Spirit, expressing his commitment to the Word of God and desire to have it fully translated for his own people. Everyone in the room could feel the honour of being part of what God is doing through this project. When we see people using the translations and testifying that they are understanding in a clear and natural way, we can see we are on the right path.

Please pray for:

  • ongoing safety for Peter and Maria and their young daughter
  • the COVID-19 situation in the area to soon be controlled
  • adaptation and creativity in a changing ministry
  • encouragement and strength for the seven local Timorese people on the project
  • more people to join the work.   
*Names have been changed for security reasons.

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