In this season of thankfulness leading towards Christmas, we would like to pause and take a moment to express heartfelt gratitude to God for the men and women He has equipped and called to heart language Bible translation work.
In our last blog, we looked at the reality that for every translator there is a unique story. It is impossible to generalise what it is like to be a translator - but for every different story, there is also a common thread.
In this time of thanksgiving, it is good to take stock and consider God's faithfulness as He has provided for His work of bringing the Bible to every tribe and tongue.
"Who is wise? Let him give heed to these things and consider the lovingkindness of the LORD." Psalm 107:43
In the Bible, there is a command to God's people to remember and give thanks by actively recalling His mighty actions in the lives of His people. The beginning of Psalm 107 almost erupts with praise, thanking God for his never-ending lovingkindness and His goodness. Like the Psalmist, we lift our eyes to Him and praise Him for His lovingkindness towards the body of Christ within the area of providing skilled heart language Bible translators.
Last time we looked at what it takes to become a translator and we heard about Mubita’s journey to becoming a translator. Although his story is unique, in it we can glimpse something of how God works in each translator's life.
Mubita has shared with us from his perspective how he can see God's hand in his life and how the challenges that he faced growing up were not an obstacle for God. His own family doubted that he could become a translator because they knew that he had not had a consistent education and he didn't have the resources to study further. But Mubita testifies that God created a space for him, and saved his life.
When he was a child his father passed away and his mother did not have an income. Mubita and his siblings could not go to school but when he was twelve years old the Lord provided a way for him to start grade one.
Mubita says, "God stretched out his hand and sent a man that I did not know. This man saw that I had potential academically and committed to paying for my school fees until I finished high school." It turned out that this man was a teacher and a government official, and he was so encouraged by Mubita's thirst for knowledge and his diligence that he took him in to live with his own family for the six years that it took for him to finish his schooling. Those years had some challenges but Mubita kept going until he finished in 2014 and graduated from high school - something he had always dreamed of doing. He testifies to God's provision in the detail of how God made space for him. He treasures these memories and says that he will never forget how God saved his life both physically through the provision of food, housing and clothing as well as academically through the provision of school fees.
It was after this, in 2015, that he met Kapasa who invited him to do some interpretation work. They had already chosen three Bible translators from Mubita's community so at that stage there wasn't space for him. But, after some time one of the Bible translators resigned which created a space for Mubita to begin the Diploma in Bible Translation (DBT) training. This work has changed his whole life and he gives glory to God for it. He explains that his faith journey transformed over that time. He used to go to church previously, but the understanding that he had before joining TWFTW was shallow and he went to church simply because his community did. But through the learning during his training, and reading the Bible and translating it, his understanding of God grew which deepened his faith profoundly. When he started Bible translation work he realised, "God is working in me. God is using me to do His work." He says that God saved him at this time and gave him true faith to put his trust fully in Christ. By then he could see God’s hand in saving him physically before when he was in school, and now God had saved him spiritually.
It was during the DBT course that the Lord helped him realise that He had given him some gifts/talents for the purpose of a particular calling. Mubita certainly is gifted - he is now a polyglot! He speaks over seven languages! As a working Bible translator, he is sometimes asked by people why he doesn't go for higher-paying work and become a teacher or a government official. He replies to them saying that his Bible translation work is more important to him because he truly believes that the Bible is going to save his nation and change many people's lives. He says that he values his work in TWFTW much more highly than a high-status career because of what he sees God's word do in peoples' lives. He doesn't shy away from the reality that it has been difficult at times to see some friends successfully climb the career ladder. However, when he stops and considers how God has grown him and all that God has done in and through him - it is enough for him.
He reports how he observes God's word transforming lives by convicting them of their sin and taking them out of it and drawing them to Him. He can see the fruit because the people in his community are really desperate to receive the Bible in their heart language. He is amazed and in awe when he sees the people read portions of translated scripture in their mother tongue and how they suddenly understand it for the first time and their hearts open to God. He notices a huge difference between that and when people read or hear the scriptures in English. There seems to be no barrier for them when they are exposed to the word in their most natural language.
As the body of Christ, we look to our Lord and are thankful that He calls men and women from all kinds of backgrounds to do this gospel work. Some of our translators are forklift drivers, musicians, theology lecturers, teachers, pastors, bricklayers, politicians, single and married moms, businessmen, professors, young and old. Mubita's story is unique to him, but a common thread that unites all these different men and women from around the world is their passion to bring glory to God by taking the life-giving Scriptures to their communities, as well as a profound sense that God Himself has called them. This is truly a mighty work of our God, and for this we pause, remember, and give thanks. May the Lord Jesus Christ continue to call, strengthen, encourage and bless heart language Bible translators all over the world!