Since the beginning of time, God has been revealing the truth of Himself to mankind, and He has sought to be with us. He always has wanted His children to know Him, to be in a relationship with us, and for us to work alongside Him in order to take this knowledge and this living relationship to the four corners of the earth. He continues to reach out to His people and calls us into this love relationship of obedience through faith. It is amazing to think that God continuously has chosen to do this by involving His people! The lives of the people in the Old Testament stories show us that God called the patriarchs, the kings, the reformers like King Josiah, the artisans, the wealthy, the socially powerful, the socially weak, the unexpected like Rahab or Esther…each called for different reasons at different times. But what was common to all of them was their obedience to God, through the faith He gave them in their hearts to respond to His directives to build, create, reform, grow, prophesy, teach, sacrifice, and share what they had with God’s people for God’s purposes.
When God first spoke to Moses and sought to create His “residence,” or “dwelling place” in the Tabernacle - also translated as “rest,” “tent,” or “to live in,” - it was to be a place for God and people to ‘meet,’ and for the community to congregate. A place for communion with Yahweh, to receive truth and understand His will. When we take a closer look at how God chose to build the Ark of the Covenant, the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, we can see a picture of how God has continued to work in the global body of Christ. What is so encouraging for every believer anywhere in the world - no matter how ‘small’ or ‘big’ in the Kingdom - God includes us in His purposes on earth. And like the people He called to build the Tabernacle, He assigns roles and tasks for each one according to the grace He gave them and has given us. In Exodus, we can see that God required the people to provide for the building of the Tabernacle:
- Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for Me; from every man whose heart moves him, you shall raise My contribution. And this is the contribution which you are to raise from them: gold, silver, and bronze, blue, purple, and scarlet material, fine linen, goat hair, rams’ skins dyed red, porpoise skins, acacia wood, oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and the fragrant incense, onyx stones and setting stones and setting stones, for the ephod and the breastpiece. And let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them” (Exodus 25:1-8).
As the body of Christ, we are contributors, catalysts, builders and doers in the area God has equipped us to fulfill. We are equal before the cross of Christ. In the Bible translation field, especially grassroots mother-tongue translation, we can see His hand at work through us. Some are pioneers who create an empowering Bible translation approach that equips local nationals to take the responsibility of translating the Word themselves; others contribute by changing their life courses by being trained to become Bible translators; others contribute by taking an administrative role; some feel moved to cheerfully and radically share their material resources with the body of Christ wherever needed; some contribute by pouring their passion for the spread of God’s Word into fervent prayer and intercession. Like the community who established the Tabernacle, God includes us all in His call:
- And Moses spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, “This is the thing which the LORD has commanded, saying, ‘Take from among you a contribution to the LORD; whoever is of a willing heart, let him bring it as the LORD’S contribution: gold, silver, and bronze, and blue, purple and scarlet material, fine linen, goats’ hair, and rams’ skins dyed red, and porpoise skins, and acacia wood, and oil for lighting, and spices for the anointing oil, and the fragrant incense, and onyx stones and setting stones for the ephod and the breastpiece. And let every skillful man among you come, and make all that the LORD has commanded” (Exodus 35:1-10).
Spirit-empowered willing hearts and skillful hands - these are the marks of passionate followers of Christ. Another aspect of this holy call is the faith required to trust God by executing what He has asked of us. In the Bible, many Christians know from experience that there often is risk and uncertainty in obedience. Take the example of a man from Ethiopia who has become a translator. In August, He shared with us what his step of faith involved and how God used other people in the body of Christ to equip him for the call God had placed on his life. While nonstop smiling, he tells the story of how impossible he believed it was for him to become a mother-tongue Bible translator. He said that before he started the TWFTW training, he told Dr. Veroni Kruger that it was impossible! He and the other men said that they could never learn how to translate the Word because of their low education and economic levels. He said that Dr. Kruger then asked all the men to stand up, and he told them that if you stand in the grace of God - and with a little bit of hard work - nothing is impossible. He then invited them to repeat, “It is possible!” ten times. At this point of telling the story, the newly graduated translator burst into joyful laughter and said that Dr. Kruger was right - with God’s grace and some hard work - it has been possible!
What this translator saw previously was his circumstances, which seemed like an insurmountable barrier to him. But God knew, when He called them to heart-language Bible translation work that He had other members of the body of Christ who had the solutions to those problems that the men faced. God knew that He was able to use others to inspire faith and HOPE inside of these men that God would provide a way where there seemed no way. God also knew that He had other children in His family who had the economic and educational resources needed.
These local translators might not be building a physical structure; but they are building within God’s kingdom for God. The men and women who help equip translation work through expertise and sharing of resources may not be building a physical structure; but they are building within God’s kingdom, for God. Each one of us that responds to God’s call for His people to take the Gospel to the nations with joyful, willing hearts and hard-working hands, God includes in His work. Let us continue to trust God for the expansion of the Gospel through mother-tongue Bible translation as we stand in His grace and offer our little bit of hard work. It IS possible!