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This Week’s Workshop for Translation Helpers /

We held a workshop this week for Bible translation helpers — five men from three of the language groups here. They told us about their efforts since we last met to start church-based Bible studies with their first drafts and grow the church. Then we carefully taught our topics of the week: “spiritual foundations” (the gospel and Christ-like growth) and “biblical survey,” (the history of the Book, its cultural context, and how it all points to Christ). We’re equipping men who must grow in their understanding of the gospel and ability to handle the Word. They leave to lead their own teams of translators and churches in hard places.

Two stories from the week…

We gave the Bible overview as background for meaningful New Testament translation (and one group is translating the Old Testament now). These brothers were walking through the Bible like in a fog and didn’t know that they were missing so much about Christ. We teachers can’t assume any knowledge. We didn’t think to point out that the Old Testament people of Israel were the same group as the New Testament Jews. When they realized this on our last day together, I imagine all the stories, pictures and allusions came back to mind and understanding dawned on them. They remarked then that they felt like they’d taken a tour to ancient Israel and back.

We also taught that becoming like Christ means that suffering, which was a part of his life, will also be a part of ours. We shared examples. One of these brothers, named “Truth,” told me his story. Truth started to believe in Christ as a high school student. His community was unhappy with his decision to leave their traditions and pressured his family to stop him. His parents forcibly kicked him out of the house. His father threw an axe at him. He fled with his clothes and books to the jungle and cried out to God. In his village he found other abandoned believers and lived with them for three years. He continued to study and pray for his family. His siblings now follow Christ. Truth went on to further studies at Bible college and has started work as a leader in his village’s church and a translator for his language community.

Church Collaboration in Translation This Week /

Translation helpers from 6 language groups came to a workshop here this week. The training focused on a method to involve churches in another part of the translation process. We’ve already experimented with church participation in a translation of Luke, a “crowd-sourced” rough draft. Drafts like this get heavily reviewed and revised but do wonders to promote community ownership and Scripture engagement.

It seems that when you work with translators from different backgrounds and multiple translation agencies, along with outside funders and demanding schedules, the local church gets overlooked.

This time around, we’re sending out the helpers to check their next drafts in the churches, in Bible study. The Bible study method follows common practices in the field: a prepared facilitator asking a fixed set of questions, and encouraging participation and obedience. The method has shortcomings, but it’s appropriate in this situation. This is an effort to test newly translated Scriptures in a way they’re meant to be used. It introduces change with less variables by using an existing method. Scripture testing goes beyond a linguistic check of comprehension to Scripture use and a pursuit of transformation in the community. Brilliant! Call that a win for both Bible translation and church planting.

Over the next month, the translation helpers will start multi-church collaboration teams to see movement of the Scriptures among the churches.