Bible Translation Comes to Life

By Karissa Maust

The mission team’s eyes grew wide as Ben, the JAARS tour guide, flipped through a sample Bible. He paged through the Bible once, showing a series of blank pages. He explained to his puzzled audience that those blank pages symbolized some people around the world who don’t have the Bible in their language. 

As Ben flipped through the Bible a second time, the pages displayed line drawings, but they weren’t colored in. He explained that when people have the Bible in their local trade language but not in the language they use every day, they may only gain a superficial understanding of Scripture. Then Ben turned the pages of the book one last time. The illustrations were all popping with vibrant colors, showing what it’s like for someone to have the Bible for the first time in a language and form they understand best. 

When Ben finished this demonstration, the mission team from Loch Raven Presbyterian Church in Maryland shook their heads in wonder. One man near the front of the group raised his hand, asking how Ben had done that. He joked with them that they’d have to buy one of the sample Bibles from the gift shop to see how it worked. This demonstration, among many others, makes tours at JAARS interactive, fun, and enlightening for every participant.

A tour with an elementary group.

The tour began in the Townsend building, with Ben’s engaging demonstration. Next came a video to introduce the participants to JAARS. The tour guide gave them an account of the history of JAARS. Afterward, they entered the lobby, where they saw the collection of completed New Testaments on display. The guide asked a participant to try to read a Bible printed in another language, and laughter ensued. The language was different from English, so the reader soon realized it was impossible without some knowledge of the language. 

The tour continued with a traipse through the Language Services Center (LSC), where the group checked out technology, both old and new. Participants explored all types of technology that JAARS has provided over the years to aid Bible translation around the world. 

Thank the Lord for the computers and software that have replaced earlier technology like shoeboxes! Translators once used shoeboxes to hold file cards on which they wrote words they learned as they interacted with the people. These cards became a sort of dictionary of the language they were learning. People in the tour group groaned in sympathy as they passed the box around and thought of what would happen if someone dropped the box, and the cards became out of order. This system has been replaced by software called Shoebox and then Fieldworks Language Explorer that assist teams in working with language data. 

Next stop: the hangar. Here, the mission team saw some of the practical aspects of keeping aircraft running for the mission field. All eyes fixated on the guide as he pointed out different aspects of the hangar and the planes that our partners and JAARS-trained pilots use to help spread God’s Word and love to the remotest places around the world. This is usually one of the highlights of the tour!

The mission team’s smiles grew wider when they reached the quonset hut where a boat used in CrossVenture|Coastal is kept. The tour guide explained how boats are vital to teaching CrossVenture|Coastal participants maritime skills as well as encouraging them to consider having a future part in sharing the gospel with the unreached.

The mission team expressed how blessed they were to take a tour of JAARS and see Bible translation come to life.

See support of Bible translation in action when you take a tour at JAARS!