Earlier this month, I received a cryptic text from our national translator, Jake, telling me he would be late for our scheduled call. But it was only when I talked with him the following day that I discovered the grave danger he had been in.
While he was at the local university visiting his brother, a medical student, three gunmen from a radical religious group attacked the campus and killed 22 students. Jake, his brother, and a number of other students hid in a basement room. As a new father, Jake was acutely aware of his wife and child and their vulnerability if something happened to him. But he realized the students around him were trembling with fear and were without hope. So Jake stood up in the room and said he was going to pray for everyone’s safety (not in the usual Islamic way but extemporaneously in his own language). It was after that prayer he sent me his text.
About an hour later they were told that the area was secure. As they left, many of the students thanked Jake for his prayer for safety. But Jake’s brother was angry at him for praying so boldly and visibly as a Christian. Jake was still shaken when he connected online with me the next day and asked for help to get out of the country. Why were we doing nothing for them except praying?!
I understood Jake’s anguish. We do cry out to God daily asking him to give our teammates and their children a peaceful life (1 Timothy 2:2). We pray for peace, but strangely God sometimes does not rescue his people out of dangerous places or conflict zones. Instead he sends them there! Yet He promises to always live with his people. I reminded Jake that God sent our son back into the country after he completed university in the States, and that we too have experienced the pain of losing more than twenty co-workers and friends due to the violence in this country.
So, after some more talking and prayer online, Jake and I got back to the work at hand, which that day happened to be in Titus. A few days later the in-country team decided to meet weekly with their wives for worship, (alongside of the days the men meet for translation checking). In part they decided to follow the principle in Titus that older women should be teaching the younger women in matters of faith and practice. What a beautiful Bible application immediately in the lives of the translators! We praise God that the team is coming together even more than before in these difficult times.
Field story from two World Outreach workers on a Bible translation team. Names and locations have been changed for their safety.
For another look into the work of translating the Good News, read In Search of the Source: A First Encounter with God’s Word. You’ll get a glimpse into the lives of Neil and Carol Anderson as they work to translate the Word into the language of the Folopa people of Papua New Guinea.