What It Takes To Be a Translator
November 14, 2022

God Created a Space For Me

"I see how God created a space for me. When God first organized my life so that I would meet Mr Kapasa, who told me about mother-tongue Bible translation, I was given the task to be an interpreter because they already had chosen translators to train with the DBT [Diploma in Bible Translation]. They didn't need me as another translator; but, God used this situation to build good working relationships with TWFTW, and they could see that I was serious and committed. Then two of the trainee translators fell away, and God made a space for me."

Meet Mubita Kalalo. Today, he is a Bible translator of the Luyana language in Zambia. He says this opportunity is one of the things that God did in his life that he will never forget - sovereignly orchestrating his practical involvement in mother-tongue Bible translation work. This work has empowered him in profound ways (see Mubita’s testimony of the training at minute 2 of this video) and he says it even has been part of how God has saved his life! **Teaser Alert: You won’t want to miss the details of Mubita’s story in next month’s blog! **

For as many mother-tongue Bible translators, there are equal numbers of unique testimonies of how they got involved in and experience their work. To answer the question, 'What does it take to be a translator,' we can say in short - God creates space for them. In the next few blogs leading up to Christmas, we would like to invite all those in other parts of the Body of Christ around the world to join us as we learn more about the privilege and responsibility our translators carry to fulfill God's call on their lives.

The first thing that is required in order to become a translator is training. They commit substantial amounts of time and effort to deep and thorough study. They make space in their lives for Bible translation because they long for their communities to have the Bible in their most natural language. Many translators add translation work to everything else they already do to make a living and work in their communities.

They begin with TWFTW’s Diploma in Bible Training (DBT) program which gives them a chance to have something that is accredited. The program itself is made up of part linguistics, part biblical studies and part anthropology. Many of the courses include projects and assignments that are integral to the early work of starting a Bible translation project that will include sociolinguistic surveys, translating a short book, language development, and implementing literacy programs.

This diploma especially is helpful for people who haven't had access to secondary school education. They embark on this journey because they have a passion for their people, a desire to develop their language and bring them the Bible in their own tongue.

They make some sacrifices to receive this training and build the professional skills needed to do the work of translation. We will talk more about their sacrifice in the next few blogs; however, essentially it relates to their other responsibilities needing to continue. Generally, the community agrees to and supports the need for each Bible translation project, so when a man who is a farmer needs to travel into the local town Monday to Friday for training and to do the translation work, others on the farm have to pick up his duties there. Or, if a translator is a pastor of a church, others in the church will need to make the home visits the pastor would have done Monday to Friday so that he/she can be freed up to do Bible translation work.

Practically, in many places, the training program is organized over 3 - 4 years of annual or biannual training events. The training events are about a month long and held in capital cities or centralized locations. There are usually groups of 20 - 60 translators who will stay away from their families for that entire month to do this training. While they cheerfully sacrifice time away from their families because they know God has called them, they face challenges such as their kids getting sick, their houses broken into or other problems back home while they are away at the DBT training with no ability to physically help.

Despite these challenges, they see this education as a great opportunity, and it has attracted a lot of people to the work of translation. Some see the training as an opportunity to become educated and better their lives and their families' lives. Most translators see this education as a God-given means to enable them to serve their communities as well as enrich their own lives.

When you put the whole picture together of translators working towards language development, literacy and Bible translation, you get a team of translators who are the FIRST people in their language to read the Bible in their heart language. They become the first people to engage their own people with the clear, accurate, and understandable truths of the Bible. Our translators are and become true servant leaders as they walk a path of understanding God's truth and love in His Word.

Mubita is an example of how God has used him to become a servant leader in his own family because of the Bible translation training work he is doing. He says that when he started Bible translation work his family could not believe it! They couldn't believe that someone with his education level, his story of having lost his father and living an impoverished childhood could do this type of work. He hadn't been able to have consistent schooling because of lack of funds for the school fees. But today when his family reads this Word of God in Luyana, they are amazed and blessed! Mubita remembers his uncle, who sadly passed away last year, and the life-changing impact the Bible in Luyana had on him. He said to Mubita, “I can hear God speaking my own language. Through you, Mubita.” That Uncle continued encouraging Mubita to carry on in this calling right to the end of his life, because: "We need this work and we need this Bible."

Join us again next time to take another step into the everyday lives of our translators.

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