When we first heard about Bible translation and the fact that more than half the 7,000 languages worldwide still had no access to Scripture, we were shocked, amazed and hooked. But it looked like the longest mission project you could ever undertake. I mean the New Testament alone takes an average of 12 years to complete and a whole Bible often takes a lifetime to finish. I’m borderline ADHD and usually can’t stick at a task for longer than a few years before I need a change. So I was delighted when a few years later we heard about oral Bible storying projects. These were averaging around two to three years to complete and gave pre-literate language groups access to God’s Word in oral story form.
Fast forward to the present and we are now nearing the end of our oral Bible story project. We have helped to craft 50 stories in our target language and hope to record final versions of the stories by April this year. We will then put them into an app that will give many people access. The storying project will have taken us three years, but that’s not counting the fact that we’ve been in Thailand for 10 years learning the national language and finishing our translation training.
We really like the idea of people not having to learn to read before they can hear about Jesus or God’s plan for humanity. We have already developed a working alphabet in our target language and plan to do literacy development so that these people can learn to read and write in their own language. But illiterate and semi-literate people in our group are already enjoying hearing stories about Jesus and their lives are being impacted.
Our project hasn’t gone quite as we thought it would, but we are starting to see fruit. Before Christmas we had five people come forward at a large outreach and pray for Jesus to come into their lives. We’ve also had another family come to faith just last week, in the village that has the most persecution. So God is encouraging us with new believers who are really enjoying hearing about God in their language and are sharing with us how the stories impact their lives.
The other benefit of doing this oral storying project before written translation is that I know the language and our translation team has had three years of practical training in translation. And now, I’m ready to commit to a further three years to translate Luke and Acts and then get the Jesus movie dubbed into their language. Who knows what will happen after that, but maybe I might have learned enough patience to stick around for the whole New Testament! God is so good. You don’t have to wait until you’re perfect to start this journey into Bible translation. God will take you where you are and lead you step by step into what He has for you.