18 Mar Trail of Obedience to God – Bible Translators
In a church in the village, there was a visiting preacher who asked the people to raise their hands if they had read the Bible that day. Even though they were believers for few years, they did not raise their hands because Bible is not available in their language. According to the Wycliffe Global Alliance 2012 document across the globe the full Bible is in 518 languages. 1275 languages have New Testament and 1005 languages have some portions of the Bible. 4071 languages across the globe don’t have the Scripture.616 languages are identified in Asia which needs Bible Translation.
In which 100 + languages are in India. There is a thirst to know God’s Word among the people. Natu Bhai who cannot read and write worked as a supervisor where they made bricks. One of the young boys who worked under him was a literate. So Natu Bhai who had the thirst to know the Word of God would do the young boy’s work of carrying hot bricks for some time so that in turn he would read the Bible for him. He walked miles and worked for others just to hear God’s Word. In our times God has lead his children to take the trail of obedience for His ministry of Bible Translation.
Sudharshan Thomas is a Bible Translator in Haryanvi language. He shares “Soon after I came to know the Lord in my thirteenth year in a Friends Missionary Prayer Band (FMPB) meeting I was overcome with an intense desire to share the love of Christ with my class mates. By the time I was fifteen I had started participating actively in my church’s outreach efforts and the conviction to commit my life full time for ministry kept growing in me and I yielded to it realising it was a God given one. To prepare myself to be a career missionary I started visiting mission fields during my holidays for exposure. As a college student I was also actively participating in UESI’s programmes at the local level and attended the Missionary Training Camp at Dohnavur in Tamil Nadu way back in 1982. Those were the days I was also seeking to know the kind of ministry God was calling me to. In one of the sessions two girls just out of university and having committed themselves to Bible translation ministry shared about their call. This set me thinking in that direction as I had a year earlier heard about Bible translation in minority languages of our country from one of the pioneering Indian Bible translators in hitherto unwritten minority languages.
On completion of my masters in English Literature I worked with UESI-TN as an interim measure as I was convinced that my call was to a cross cultural ministry in a rural milieu. Bowing to my parents’ wishes I joined a Bible College in Pune before embarking on a missions career. My parents financially supported me through my three years of study. While a student there I decided to use my internship year to get to know more about Bible Translation and so stayed with another of the pioneering Bible Translators working among the Konda Dora people of Andhra Pradesh in a remote area bordering Orissa. My stay with them and experiences of living in a cross cultural situation among a people whose language I could not understand and the three month long basic linguistics course I attended in Nasik that very year confirmed my call for Bible translation. Soon after my passing out of the Bible College I applied to FMPB and after a year of training was assigned to the Haryanvi Bible Translation project. My wife Lydia and I are continuing to work on this project and hope to finish the drafting of the New Testament by 2015.”
I, Christopher Thomas, was born and brought up in a Christian family. But I accepted Jesus as my personal saviour in the Youth Camp arranged by FMPB during my 3rd year BA. Soon I forgot the decision I had made to follow Jesus and went back to my old way of life. Again the Lord gave me a chance and He warned me through a God’s servant who spoke in a convention from the life of Judas. That day I rededicated my life and followed the Lord. For about 7 months after I finished my college studies, I was working in a finance company. By then my brother who was undergoing missionary training motivated and urged me to join the mission explaining the need for people who can learn Hindi and to serve in North India. As I was contemplating over this, and praying, one day the Lord spoke to me through Isaiah 6:8. On that day I committed my life for full time ministry and joined FMPB.
After finishing my missionary training, I was sent to Rajasthan as a missionary. After hearing to the preaching of the Gospel in Hindi of a senior Missionary who is my co-worker the women folks begged us not to compel them to do family planning. They misunderstood us that we were promoting family planning. That day it dawned on me how important it is to speak the mother tongue of the people for better understanding.
Later I was transferred to another mission field where an unwritten language was spoken by the people. So our mission arranged for a language learning course lead by Dr. Alichamy Paul in which I did well. So he recommended me to attend an intensive three months linguistics course, my performance in that course was very good so the staff who taught encouraged me to become a Bible Translator. But for me to become a Bible Translator was unimaginable because of the calibre and skills a Bible Translator requires seemed extremely difficult for me to achieve. The Lord first spoke to my wife Vasanti to involve in Bible Translation. But she prayed, “Lord. If it is true, convince my husband” without disclosing to me what the Lord told her. Just before the end of the course, one day as I was taking my morning devotion, the Lord spoke very clearly from the Word of God that He needs me for this ministry. So leaving all my hunches about the requirements I committed my life for doing the Bible Translation ministry. We were sent to work among the Chodri language which is spoken by not less than 300,000 people in south Gujarat. The Lord helped us publish the New Testament (NT) in the Chodri language in 2006 and currently we are doing the OT translation in this language.
The Lord enabled Rajendran and Leela to publish the first NT in Vasavi Ambudi in December 2006, then NT in Vasavi Dehwali in January 2011. Now they are involved in the translation of the NT in Vasavi Khandesi (Maharashtra). He shares how they were challenged to become the Bible translators. In order to effectively learn to speak another language, FMPB arranged a language learning course in March 1979 in Bharuch, Gujarat.
Dr Alaichamy Paul and Dr Mrs Christeena Paul were our teachers. They were the first translators in FMPB who translated the Scriptures in Kukna language. Their commitment to Bible translation was a challenge to me. Then we attended Linguistics course where we also learnt about the need for Bible translation in many unwritten languages in India. It was an eye opener for us. It is there that I committed my life for Bible translation ministry. My wife Leela also encouraged me to take up this ministry. The administrators of FMPB sent us to work in Vasavi language since February 1982.
Immanuel Iraipitchai who hails from Thiruvanamalai of Tamil Nadu, grew in the Lord through the ministries of UESI – TN. He committed himself for ministry in the Tamil Nadu state conference of FMPB. Immanuel regularly prayed for the missionaries and also for the Bible translators with the help of the magazine of FMPB (Araikuval) and his desire to become a missionary and Bible translator grew in him. He also attended an elective seminar on Bible Translation in UESI-TN’s triennial conference (1990) which was led by Mrs. Selvi Michel (Bible translator in Durwa Language of Chattisgarh). This gave him some details about Bible Translation.
He also pondered in his mind that Bible Translation would fit his quiet personality and felt that he would work near Gujarat. He never shared this with his parents but after two years one day during the family prayer, his father, George Athisayaseelan asked him, “What will you do after your studies (M.Sc.)?” He answered that he would go as a missionary with FMPB. His father said, “Why don’t you consider Bible Translation….” This confirmed his desire to become a Bible translator. He also attended the missionary training camp of UESI-TN. During the two by two sharing, he met a Bible Translator who clarified certain things about Bible translation. He said, “As a Bible Translator your name will not be mentioned in the translated Bible and you may not grow in wealth and career like your friends.” Even after knowing this, Immanuel joined FMPB as a missionary. He was sent to work as a church planter among the Maltos in Bihar (presently Jharkhand). He prayed for a life partner and God gave Jane. Immanuel and Jane prayed that the leadership of FMPB should send them for Bible Translation ministry. In the year 2000, they were sent to work among the Pawra people group in Maharashtra (near Gujarat). They have completed the first draft of the New Testament translation except 2 Corinthians and Revelation.
We praise God for the above lives. Will you join them in obeying God with all the cost?
About the Author