Work

I never thought I’d be working full-time in a Bible translation ministry

Janice Tay // September 11, 2020, 5:56 pm

FULL TIME IN A BIBLE TRANSLATION MINISTRY

While Janice has had experience with missions through the regular trips she makes to Cambodia (pictured here, second from left), it was only this year that she learnt about Bible translation work. All photos courtesy of Janice Tay.

In 2018, I decided to quit my job in the education sector to study in a seminary because I desired to serve him in full-time ministry. After graduating in 2019, I wanted to explore serving in church or in missions. That’s when my uncle asked if I was interested to find out more about Bible translation. 

He brought me along for two trips to Indonesia and Malaysia where I met with Bible translation partners and givers. In Singapore, I also joined the team meetings to get a better feel for the work.

It shocked me to learn how Bible translation is key to fulfilling The Great Commission

I should share that I’m not a Sunday Christian. I go on regular mission trips to Cambodia, attend Bible study classes and lead a small group. You’d think that I know a lot about the faith. But surprisingly, I had never been exposed to Bible translation until this year.

I discovered that that are 7,000+ languages in the world today, and over 4,000 languages have little or no Scripture. Also, 745 of these languages are in East Asia, South Asia and South East Asia. The numbers blew me away! 

Hearing about testimonies also touched my heart – it made me realise the power of the translated Word.

As the Communications Lead for illumiNations Asia, much of Janice’s work is now online due to the pandemic.

For instance, a translator in Nepal shared about an old religious leader who was never open to hearing the Scripture in Nepali, the official language of Nepal. However, one day, a pastor approached him and wanted to share with him the gospel in his native tongue.

The religious leader agreed and spent four hours listening to the audio gospel in his heart language. At the end of it, he asked the pastor how he could become a Christian. Then he said the sinner’s prayer and was saved.

Saved! For the first time, he learnt that Jesus is not a foreign god, but the God who died for everyone, including him. 

When I heard this, I was immediately reminded of the parables of the lost sheep and lost coin in Luke 15. Our Father rejoices over the saving of just one person. 

Questions like these started popping up in my head:

  • How many more people need to hear the gospel in their heart language to be saved?
  • What am I doing to help save souls for Christ?

Can you imagine life without the Bible?

Even after being saved, the next step is to be discipled.

But how do we “make disciples of all nations” if people groups do not have the Scripture in their language? How will they know God’s commands and be taught to obey them?

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

Over time, I came to understand that we each have a language that speaks to our heart.

Even if we can understand the official language of our country, it may not be the language we deeply connect to. Being able to read, listen or watch God’s Word in our heart language can bring our encounter with Jesus to a whole new level!

I got so excited. Hence, when my uncle asked if I wanted to serve in the Bible translation movement, I agreed.

God doesn’t call the equipped, but He equips us to serve.

Five months ago, I started my role as the Communications Lead at illumiNations Asia, serving alongside my uncle who oversees, fundraises and collaborates with Bible translation partners regionally.

illumiNations is a collective impact alliance of 10 global Bible translation partners and resource partners working together to see every person have access to Scripture in a language they think, dream and pray in – and to do so by 2033.

Our goals are for:

  • 95% to have access to a full Bible.
  • 99.96% to have access to a New Testament.
  • 100% to have access to at least some portion of Scripture.

In my work so far, I’ve helped to launch the Pentecost Give a Verse Initiative and Imagine Life without the Bible.

But honestly, it has been a huge learning curve. A lot of my job scope had to change because the ministry has moved online due to COVID-19.

Through this journey, I’ve learnt that God doesn’t call the equipped, but He equips us to serve. It has really been humbling and I’ve experienced His grace.

To some extent, I think God has prepared me for this role. As part of my involvement with Love-A-Village, I bring mission teams and school groups to Cambodia regularly and also work with the locals to do outreach. Interacting with the Cambodians has given me the experience of cross-cultural work and helped me be open to how other cultures work and play. 

Janice was in Siem Reap, Cambodia for a trip with Love-A-Village earlier this year.

In my role, I’ve also connected with the larger body of Christ in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. It has been so inspiring for me to see the time, energy and money that they give. It really showed me that Bible translation is a movement of God and there are advocates throughout the world!

However, I’ve seen mainly older folks serving in this ministry and wondered where are all the young people.

Perhaps many of us are at a stage of life where we are focused on building our careers, family and life. Or perhaps we might not have even heard about Bible translation.

It’s my heart’s desire that younger Christians will step up and be involved in this ministry. How can I raise more awareness of Bible translation among the young? That is a burden of mine.

Personally, I’ve been inspired by young women like Jessica Tanoesoedibjo. Her passion for taking the Word to the lost and her ability to bring likeminded people alongside her has made me want to do more too. 

If you’d like to find out more about the Bible translation movement, come and listen to Pastor Francis Chan and other leaders talk about it!

Simply register to view this 30-minute video at your own time. Here’s a sneak peek of what to expect.

THINK + TALK

  1. What does The Great Commission mean to you? How are you living with it in mind?
  2. Who can you give the gift of God’s Word today?
  3. Where might God be equipping and calling you to serve in?