Today We Do

By Rachel Greco

Recently, a team of Southeast Asians came together for three weeks to learn Oral Bible Translation (OBT) and were pushed to their limits. Faith Comes by Hearing ran the workshop, and JAARS supplied the headphones and laptops. 

This was the first time the participants learned how to internalize the stories in Luke through drama, storyboarding, and other techniques. Early in the workshop, the instructor walked the team through the order of events of the story, explained the difficult phrases, and then, with the team, used storyboarding and drama to deepen their understanding. 

A landscape similar to that where the Oral Bible Translators live

The instructor soon realized that the team didn’t understand the story, so he explained it again, line by line. It soon became apparent that the translators didn’t fully understand the trade language that the teachers were using. It took the team several extra days to record the verses and learn not just to memorize the Scripture, but also to internalize it. 

When they did, God’s Word impacted them. One translator said, “In the village, we hear sermons and the Word of God, but not this way. This style of learning the Word of God is more understandable.” As one of the instructors said, “Internalization is key to OBT and is also a great method to do evangelism.”

At one point, the team had to re-record a section of Luke because the word they used for “prophet” was not understood by the community members who came to listen to the translated portion of Scripture. The team had borrowed the word from their trade language without truly understanding it. The instructor explained to them the meaning again and gave them possible ways they could translate it. The team decided to translate the word descriptively as “God’s spokesperson.” They were happy to find a way to translate the word in their language.

One woman, remembering these and other challenges, said, “I didn’t think we were going to make it. We wanted to give up. Sometimes I [felt] like my brain exploded.” 

When the group was feeling discouraged about their lack of progress, God encouraged them. One afternoon, when the team was resting, the pastor on the team brought over one of the Bible translators and asked Beatrice*, one of the instructors, to pray for him because he wanted to receive Jesus. Beatrice was shocked and excited. After asking him a few questions and explaining what it means to receive Jesus, she prayed for him and taught him how to pray. 

A field near the area where the translation teams live

The pastor had been sharing the gospel with the translator for a while, but the man had never responded until this day, when he heard the Word of God in his language. Praise the Lord! 

There were other reasons to celebrate. 

At the end of the workshop, one translator said: “I know more about the Word of God; I have experienced the deep study of [his] Word.”

Another team member related how he and his wife had come to the Lord when he had a tumor in his brain. The doctor had advised him to have surgery, but he couldn’t because he didn’t have the money. The Holy Spirit led him to Jesus, who healed him of the tumor. “Ever since I came to know the Lord,” the man recalled, “I have been studying the Word of God, and I praise God that we learnt more about [his] Word during this workshop. We understand [his] Word more, and we know how to translate it [into] our language.” 

One translator hadn’t known anything about the Bible, and the letters were too small for him to read. “But now I can listen to the Bible in our language.” 

The woman who had felt like her brain was exploding at times said, “Our dreams have become a reality. We dreamt for 20 years to have the Word of God in our language, and today we do.” 

Praise the Lord that she and the other translators didn’t give up and that they now have the skills needed to continue translating God’s Word into their language! 

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*Name changed for security reasons