Last week, I attended a forum organized by the Brazilian Bible Society (Sociedade Bíblica do Brasil – SBB). The theme of the forum was “Bible and Missions”.
Although it was their eighth forum, it was the first one I attended. And it had an impact on me.
They talked a lot about the relation between the Bible and missions, and how it is important to have at least portions of the Word of God translated into the local language when the missionaries go to the field.
Several people talked about their own experiences as translators, working for years in a translation, sometimes of only one portion of the Bible.
They also shared about the difficulty of translating words and expressions that don’t exist in the language they’re working with. They have to come up with a translation that is understandable by the local readers and that remains faithful to the message of the originals.
And they also shared about the joy of the people who, after many years deprived of a Bible in their own language, were able to finally get it, sometimes only the New Testament. But for them, it was reason enough to be joyful.
I have no idea what it is like. We’ve had the Bible translated into Portuguese for many years. João Ferreira de Almeida, who first worked on translating the Bible to Portuguese, published the New Testament in 1681, and finished most of the Old Testament before he died in 1691 (his work was finished by a friend of his after his death).
I had no idea how many missionaries still face the challenge of preaching the Gospel without a translated version of the Bible. Can you imagine that?
I am thankful that God chose to translate His Word into Portuguese and allow me to listen to it ever since I can remember.
I am thankful that I didn’t have to learn a second language so I could understand His Word.
I am thankful that God chose special men and women throughout History to work on translating the Bible to many languages, even when it wasn’t allowed to do so by the earthly authorities.
I am thankful that there are still many people willing to work tirelessly in order to provide new translations for those who never knew what it is like to read the Word of God in their native languages.
Some of these translators payed with their own life for what they did. I am sure that they will receive their reward in Heaven, as we received our reward here: the joy of reading God’s Word.
I’d like to share with you a video that they showed at the forum, and it was for me a perfect expression of the word “jubilant”: it shows the people of the Kimyal community in West Papua, Indonesia receiving the New Testament translated into their language. Pay close attention to the pastor’s prayer when he gets the package, it is so inspiring:
They are so joyful for something I’ve always had. A Bible in their language. I know now how I took it for granted, and I thank God that He showed it to me.
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. (Psalm 119:105)