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Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada

Summer 2016

Seeds for
a Harvest
Wycliffe Thai Foundation cultivates
the soil to spread Bible translation
across Southeast Asia.

App Builder Makes Translation Accessible + What Really is Translation Accuracy? + Waging Love on Islam
Summer 2016 Volume 34 Number 2
Word Alive, which takes its name from
Hebrews 4:12a, is the official publication
of Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada. Its
mission is to inform, inspire and involve
the Christian public as partners in the
The Hub for Southeast Asia
worldwide Bible translation movement. Dwayne Janke, Editor
Editor: Dwayne Janke
Designer: Cindy Buckshon

Senior Staff Writer: Doug Lockhart or five decades, Wycliffe Canada has challenged and assisted the
Staff Writers: Nathan Frank, Janet Seever
Staff Photographers: Alan Hood, Church in our country to engage in global Scripture translation. We
Natasha Ramrez wont be stopping that anytime soon.
Word Alive is published four times annually What has changed over the years is that partner organizations similar
by Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada, to Wycliffe Canada operate in many other countries, assisting the Church
4316 10 St NE, Calgary AB T2E 6K3. Copyright there to join the worldwide Bible translation movement. This includes the
2016 by Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada. Wycliffe Thai Foundation, the focus of this Word Alive issue.
Permission to reprint articles and other Led by its dynamic director, Tharawat (Wat) Suebthayat, the Wycliffe
magazine contents may be obtained by written
request to the editor. A donation of $20 annually Thai Foundation sees itself as a mobilizer in a strategic place.
is suggested to cover the cost of printing and I want to build up Thai Christians to be the champions for missions in
mailing the magazine. Donate online or use the this Southeast Asia region, says Wat. Thailand is the centre of Southeast
reply form in this issue. Printed in Canada by Asia. And the Thai people, I think, can very easily connect to the people in
McCallum Printing Group, Edmonton. Southeast Asiain terms of language, culture and life adjustment. We can
Member: The Canadian Church Press, easily learn neighbouring languages and adjust to their cultures.
Evangelical Press Association. Wycliffe Thai Foundation, which Wycliffe Canada helps financially
For additional copies: sponsor (see back page), is connecting with local Thai churches. Staff engage Thai believers in all aspects of Bible translation, literacy and
To contact the editor:
Scripture use, seeing Thailand as a hub to reach several hundred
For address updates: We step language groups in Southeast Asia nations still without Gods Word in
out to their mother tongues.
Wat, who comes from the minority Hmong people, is well aware
help the of the need in ethnic hill tribe communities in his own country and
surrounding nations.
Church to I understand the importance of having the BibleGods Word,
Linking the Canadian Church with the world's
minority language groups, to see community understand. he says. I think that among people that do not have Gods Word in a
transformation through Bible translation, use language they can understand, the Church will be very difficult to grow.
of translated Scriptures, mother-tongue literacy And then Even in Thailand, only one per cent of the population is Christian,
and education.
immersed among highly influential and dominant religions.
Canadian Head Office: 4316 10 St NE, Calgary we help the Nonetheless, those several hundred thousand Thai believers can play a
AB T2E 6K3. Phone: (403) 250-5411 or toll free
1-800-463-1143, 8:30 a.m.4:30 p.m. mountain Church to key role in advancing the Kingdom in the region.
time. Fax: (403) 250-2623. Email: Jesus commanded His disciples to go and make disciples among
French speakers: Call toll free 1-877-747-2622 or step in. the nations, says Wat. So Im sure He commanded His Church, not
email Wycliffe organizations.
Cover: Farmers harvest their rice crop on the We step out to help the Church to understand. And then we help
outskirts of Chiang Mai, Thailand. Ministering the Church to step in.
in a primarily-Buddhist nation, Wycliffe To find one or two people to serve in Bible translation, Wat says
Thai Foundation is preparing for a spiritual
ingathering across Southeast Asia.
at least 100 people in the Church must first be engaged with the
idea of missions. To do this, Wycliffe Thai Foundation offers prayer/
Photograph by information evenings; outreach events to share missions with university
Alan Hood students; missions training courses for entire congregations; and mission-
exposure trips for pastors to restricted nations.
In doing so, Wycliffe Thai Foundation is driven by a sharply focused
In Others Words ultimate goal: ensuring Bibleless peoples have Gods Word in their
All of us, having come to faith in Christ heart languages.
the Lord of the nations, received the We hope that in the future the [Thai] Church will say, OK, this is our
Scriptures . . . and now enjoy them, task. We will complete it.
reading them aloud in the churches May it be so.
and keeping them at home.

Theodore of Mopsuestia (350 ~ 423 A.D.), bishop

of Mopsuestia in Cilicia

2 Word Alive Summer 2016



Stories by Nathan Frank
Photos by Alan Hood

6 Seeds for a Harvest Wycliffe Thai Foundation

cultivates the soil to spread Bible translation across
Southeast Asia.

16 Taking the Baton A passionate young couple lead a

Bible translation effort for a persecuted language group in a
Southeast Asian country.

24 No Longer Alone A Wycliffe Thai Foundation

member stands strong as one of the first Christians from
her village.

32 Miraculous Touch A local evangelist uses Bible

storytelling to prepare a Buddhist woman for God's healing.

16 2 Foreword The Hub for Southeast Asia

By Dwayne Janke

4 Watchword Scripture App Builder Makes


Translations Accessible

37 Beyond Words What Really is Translation Accuracy?

By Danny Foster

38 A Thousand Words Reaching For More

39 Last Word Waging Love on Islam

By Roy Eyre


Word Alive Summer 2016 3


Scripture App Builder Makes Church Growing, but Huge Job Remains
Translations Accessible in Brazils Amazon

W ycliffes main partner organization, SIL,

has created a simple, cost-effective way
to distribute portions of translated Scripture
he Church of Jesus Christ is growing rapidly in the
Amazon among the various language groups scattered
across the jungles of Brazil.
on Android smartphones and tablets. Obeying Christs Great Commission, these Christians are
Called Scripture App Builder, the free software enables reaching out to those who live deeper in the rainforest.
users to build customized Scripture apps. Users can specify However,
the Scripture files to use, the app name,
the fonts, colours, 150 language
box information, audio and icons, and Scripture App Builder communities
packages everything together. The app can then be installed in the South
on an Android device (a version for iPhones and iPads is American country
envisioned for MYANMAR
the future). It can then be passed to others by
BANGLADESH still need a
Bluetooth or a microSD memory card, or published to app translation of
stores on the Internet. the Bible. Not
Bible translators, such as Paul Federwitz of Lutheran Bible surprisingly, two-
Translators, are excited by the app. thirds of these
On the same day that we dedicated the printed copy of the
have had little or
Komba New Testament, we were able to distribute the Komba no exposure to
New Testament app! he said. We are now looking forward the message
to recording the audio and including it in the app to make of Jesus.

Alan Hood
Scripture even more accessible.

Dictionary Making Advances Worldwide MALAYSIA


T he dictionary and lexicography services team of SIL

International, Wycliffes key partner organization, is helping
language groups begin building their own dictionaries.
Led by Wycliffe Canadas Verna Stutzman (pictured below),
the team most recently supported workshops in seven INDONESIA PAPUA NEW GUINEA

countries for nine languages, from Bissa Barka in Burkino Faso

to Rapoisi in Papua New Guinea. Port Moresby

To advance dictionary making, the team is multiplying its

efforts by mentoring new facilitators and training in
various locations.
Dictionaries, which are often part of Bible translation
projects, provide many benefits. SALT Touches PNGs Amele
They are a student resource
for unfamiliar word meanings,
a reference for writers, a guide
G od moved powerfully at a recent Scripture Application
and Leadership Training (SALT) course for the Amele
people of Papua New Guinea.
to standard spelling, and a About 500 men and women from multiple denominations
reference for a communitys attended the two back-to-back SALT courses. Many gave
traditional knowledge of local their lives to Christ and turned from sinful practices upon
plants and animals. A dictionary hearing Gods Word proclaimed in their mother tongue.
can bolster a communitys pride During the course, about 450 Amele New Testaments
in its language, and compiling were sold and many people learned how to read their
the words and definitions language for the first time.
provides a tangible goal for The Amele, who number 5,000-plus, live in about 40
mother-tongue speakers to hamlets in Madang Province. They received their New
work together. Testament in 1997.

Photo by Oxford Media Factory Oxford University Press

4 Word Alive Summer 2016

Whistling While They Work

A mong many of the 6,500 speakers of the

Sochiapam Chinantec language in southern
Mexico, conversations are carried on in
whistle speech.
Practised by all men, but not the women
(though women may also understand it), the
whistle speech is used over a distance, such as
from one field to another. Whistle speech, based
on 31 tone-stress distinctions, is preferred over
Sarah Halferty
shouting, which is rarely done by Sochiapam
Chinantec speakers. It is also used for fun in
Wycliffe Partners Celebrate Anniversaries situations where regular speech could be heard.

T wo Wycliffe partner organizations marked significant

milestones in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Chad this
past year.
Different whistling styles are used to
communicate at different distances, from close-by
conversation of up to 10 metres, to whistling with
The PNG Bible Translation Association (PNGBTA) celebrated fingers in the mouth, which can be heard more
(pictured above) 35 years of serving in the Pacific nation, than a kilometre away.
home to the worlds largest number of languages (800-plus). To hear a whistled conversation in Sochiapam
Tony Kotauga was officially installed as the agencys new Chinantec by two men in different fields (with
leader. I want to see PNG money [used for] translating translations in Chinantec, Spanish and English),
PNG languages, he says. Thats not to say that we dont visit
need overseas support, but weve relied too much on it, and Do a search for whistled conversation.
forgotten that our nation can take ownership. Icon made by Yannick from
Meanwhile, in Africa, representatives of local language
communities, several government agencies, the University of
N'Djamena and church partners celebrated 25 years of service
by SIL Chad.
Over the years, SIL staff have helped develop writing
systems for Chads previously unwritten languages, and
Word Count
published reading and math resources, Scripture translations,
traditional local stories and health-related booklets. Working 374
with government agencies and others, SIL has also provided Canadians furthering Bible translation as Wycliffe
training in mother-tongue literacy in many of the countrys personnel at home or overseas
125 languages.
Trauma Healing Introduced in Iraq Wycliffe Canada personnel who raise their own
financial support

B ible-based trauma healing programs, first created and

used in Africa by Wycliffe personnel in Bible translation
projects, have recently benefited people in Iraq.
Average annual financial support received by each
Millions there are living in sub-standard temporary of these personnel
housing and have lost family members. Others (especially
children and Yazidi women) are still in captivity, held as
slaves or child soldiers by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria 124
(ISIS). Some have escaped or been bought back with cash. Number of additional Wycliffe personnel who serve as
Scripture-based trauma healing programs are being unpaid volunteers
received well and impacting many, some of whom are
putting their hope in Jesus. Workshops are showing Gods
heart toward those who suffer, how He Himself experienced Source: Wycliffe Canada Annual Report 2015
suffering and how He wants to comfort and heal their
painful memories.

Word Alive Summer 2016 5

Seeds for a Harvest
Wycliffe Thai Foundation cultivates
the soil to spread Bible translation
across Southeast Asia.
All Feature Stories by Nathan Frank
All Feature Photographs by Alan Hood

A group of attentive children in the tiny northern

Thai village of Mae Tien gather for Sunday school in
the entryway of their new church. In this mountain
village three hours drive southwest of the city of
Chiang Mai, virtually the entire community have left
their animist religion behind for Christ.

6 Word Alive Summer 2016

Word Alive Summer 2016 7
8 Word Alive Summer 2016
We help the Church, we educate
the Church and we hope that in
the future the Church will say,
OK, this is our task.

A group of school-aged girls sit cross-legged on the cold tile
floor of the Mae Tien Church in northern Thailand, three
hours drive southwest of the city of Chiang Mai. Giddy
and laughing, the girls hold hands while facing each other, sharing
secrets during a break in the Saturday night worship service. They
appear to be in their own world, despite being surrounded by
U.K.most of the 100 residents of their tiny mountain village.

If the girls are following the instructions of the evenings

speaker, Tharawat Suebthayat (Wat), who is the director of
Bel. Neth.
Wycliffe Thai
Foundation, Swedenthey are discussing the analogy he told Thailand: At a Glance
Lux. the congregation: that a rich man entering the kingdom of God NAME: Kingdom of Thailand
Germany is as difficult as a camel going through the eye of a needle.
z. Finland AREA: 513,115 sq. km (slightly larger than the Yukon)
Liech. But all things are possible with God, Wat emphasized to the
Austria Czechethnic Poland congregationEstonia of Pwo Karen people. LOCATION: Southeastern Asia, bordering the Andaman Sea
With sensitivity
Lithuania in
Wats demeanor and a gentle wisdom, the and the Gulf of Thailand, southeast of Myanmar.
roatia 42-year-old father of three sons scans the crowd, looking into
GEOGRAPHY: A tropical country, consisting of a central
osnia the eyes of an Belarus
eager people hoping to learn more about Jesus. plain, Khorat Plateau in the east, mountains elsewhere.
These arent a select few villagersthis is virtually everyone in
Romaniathe town. They have left their traditional religious ways behind POPULATION: 67.97 million
entirely. Ukraine
Today, everything socially in the community revolves CAPITAL: Bangkok (8 million-plus)
R u s s i a
Bulgaria around church. Most of the congregation will be back for
PEOPLE: Southeast Asian 81%; East Asian, 11%; Other
activities three more times this week.
cultures 8%
As Wat brings a message of hope to the church, he sees the
power the gospel has had in this community and hes hopeful ECONOMY: Has been affected by the global drop in oil
that Wycliffe Thai Foundations mission can help change lives prices. Has experienced a decrease in its industrial and
elsewhere in Southeast Asia.
Turkey agricultural exports (electronics, agricultural commodities,
s Georgia automobiles and parts, and processed foods).
K a z a k h s t a n
banon In the Dirt Armenia
RELIGION: Buddhist 85%, Muslim 8%, Non-religious 2%,
When Wat explains his role as the director of Wycliffe Thai
Christian 1%, Other religions 4%. (Half of the Christians are Ja
Foundation, it sounds like a pretty cushy job. M o n g o l i a
among minority hill tribes in three northernmost provinces,
Iraq eating and driving, he says, to summarize the
Turkmenistan and among urban Chinese in Bangkok.)
position that hes held since 2011. I meet people, eat with the
LANGUAGES: 72 living languages, with Thai as the
people and I drive to take them [to minority language groups]
Tajikistan official language
to see language communities.
I r a n
Dont be fooled, however, by Wats simple, understated BIBLE TRANSLATION STATUS: 19 languages have Bibles; 9
explanation of his role. Instead, lookAfghanistan
behind his tinted glasses, have New Testaments, 16 have Bible translation in progress;
a u d i A rinto
a b i his
a deep-set eyes. You will see a responsibility that
5 have a definite Cneed
h i n for
a Bible translation to start; 15 have
encompasses Qatar his life and his role. As he explains it, the work that an unknown need; 8 have an unlikely need.
he and Wycliffe Thai Foundation staff Pakistan do is basically spiritual LITERACY: 96%
planting, fertilizing and harvesting. They are tending to the Thai Taiwan
Church, so it will play its part in the task of Bible translation not Nepal Sources: World Factbook; Ethnologue (19th edition); Operation World (2010); SIL.
only in Thailand, but also in bordering Southeast Asian nations,
a region with 300 minority language groups. Bangladesh

Think about how you grow something, explains theI gentle- n d i a Vietnam
spirited director. Step one: you have to plow the land. Step two: (Burma)
you sow the seed. Step three: you have to nourish the rice, and
step four is the harvest.
(continued on pg.13) Thailand
ia Bangkok

(OPPOSITE) Wycliffe Thai Foundation director Tharawat Suebthayat
(Wat) visits Pastor Romrit Diwang in his village home. Wat shared
that the minority Hmong language, which he grew up speaking, can
now be translated on the Internet through Google Translate intoSri Lanka Brunei

hundreds of other languages. He told Diwang that his mother tongue

of Pwo-Karen could be just as accessible in 10 years. Malaysia

(ABOVE) The Wycliffe Thai Foundation family worships together in their Chiang Mai office. The
foundation hopes to share the profound hope they have in Christ with the majority of Thai
people who are Buddhist. (OPPOSITE) In contrast, a group of Chinese tourists release a lantern
during the Yi Peng Festival of Lights in Chiang Mai. The November Buddhist festival, where
thousands of lanterns are released into the night sky, marks the end of the rainy season. It's also
a way to pay respect to Buddah, release bad memories and make a wish for the future.

10 Word Alive Summer 2016

We cannot just say, Today we want to have Bible translators
and tomorrow we will have them. It will take time.
Wat says that today, Wycliffe Thai Foundation (which, like Needing Workers
Wycliffe Canada, is a member of the Wycliffe Global Alliance) is To advance Bible translation-related work across Southeast
still young, so it is just taking the first step: plowing the land. This Asia, Wycliffe Thai Foundation needs personnel to lead Bible
is done by assisting the Church in Thailand to understand the translation teams. For this reason, a huge part of what the
importance of Bible translation. organization focuses on is recruiting new staff. But this doesnt
We help the Church, we educate the Church and we hope happen overnight.
that in the future the Church will say, OK, this is our task. We We cannot just say, Today we want to have Bible translators
will complete it. and tomorrow we will have them. It will take time, explains Wat.
Knowing that recruitment starts with building relationships,
On Board Wycliffe Thai Foundation runs a number of programs to connect
One Thai church that has committed to supporting Bible with the next generation of Thai Christians. One of them is
translation is Zion Church in Bangkok, Thailands capital. The Caf Wycliffe (which was inspired by something similar started
small congregation saw that one of their own congregants, in Wycliffe Canada by Derryl and Karen Friesen). Held twice
Kanya Johnson* and her American husband Aaron* (see story each year at universities in Chiang Mai and Bangkok, Caf
on pg. 16), were wanting to begin translation work for the Tang* Wycliffes goal is to encourage students that after they finish their
people in a neighbouring Southeast Asian country. Zion got on education they can do more good in the world than they think;
board to support the couple. they can become a part of eliminating Bible poverty in Southeast
Her home church of a hundred people covers our entire need, Asia.
explains Aaron, who thought because he is from America (which Think about God, think about His work, Wat reminds students.
he calls the land of money), that financial needs would be met Other important recruitment programs are Camp Wycliffe and
through friends in his home country. Discover. Camp Wycliffe is a five-day camp where participants
When God did the exact opposite and had Thai people learn about language, culture shock, and literacy by visiting
supporting us to go do this Bible translation process in local minority language groups. Discover is similar, but it's for
Mukdahan, we were so inspired; so amazed. pastors and leaders who are interested in seeing Bible translation
Beyond financially supporting Kanya and Aaron, the church and literacy in local language groups (especially in hard-to-
also promised to send someone to visit them twice every year and access groups in neighbouring Southeast Asian countries) and
committed to pray for them regularly. This small church is taking potentially being involved in the work.
ownership of Bible translation because they had a relationship In recent years, these programs have resulted in recruitment
with one of their own. This is an example of what Wycliffe Thai of 10 staff who are now working in Bible translation and other
Foundation aims to help replicate around the country. language-related ministries. One of these staff members is Malai*,
the literacy manager for the Tang language.
The Time Is Now Malai is a spunky 27-year-old with loads of enthusiasm. She
Wat believes that the Thai Church, situated in the heart of first got connected with Wycliffe Thai Foundation through
Southeast Asia, is in the perfect position to bring the Word of Camp Wycliffe. After her heart was touched by hearing about
God to the surrounding nations. Although Thai Christians are the many Bibleless people groups in Southeast Asia, she applied
a very small minority, making up less than one per cent of the for an internship offered by Wycliffe Thai Foundation to work
population in Thailand, they have a freedom to worship Jesus. in multilingual education with the government. Following
Many Christians in surrounding countries do not have this an 18-month internship, Wycliffe paid for four years of her
privilege because of the persecution they face from rival ethnic education at Ratchapat University in Chiang Mai where she
groups and governments that are opposed to gospel. With great studied international communications.
blessings, Wat believes there comes a great responsibility for the Within Wycliffe Thai Foundations annual budget, finances are
Thai Church for the surrounding region. set aside to invest in young people, like Malai, who are interested
If you think that we [should] wait until everyone in Thailand in committing their lives to Bible translation work and related
become believers, when [will it happen]? asks Wat. The people ministries but need an opportunity.
who are waiting for the Word of God for 2,000 years, do we want
them to wait until we finish the task in Thailand? I dont think so. Breaking Through Barriers
Although Wycliffe Thai Foundation members are active in Bible
* pseudonym used due to sensitivity.
translation in surrounding, difficult-to-access nations, there
is a large mission field within their own borders as well. The
(OPPOSITE, TOP) Since 2011, Wat has served as Wycliffe Thai
challenge to reach a modern culture steeped in Buddhism and
Foundations director. He says one of the foundations most
important roles is to help the Thai Church understand the need
animism is immense.
for Bible translation in minority languages throughout Southeast Your goal is to become nothing, explains Wat, of Buddhisms
Asia. (OPPOSITE, BOTTOM) Giant sculptures of Buddha mark the 31 planes of enlightenment. In simple terms, these are 31 stages
landscape in northern Thailand. These kneeling believers are showing of reincarnation. The peak lifecycle is called the immaterial world,
their devotion and reverence to Buddha, who is considered by where the inhabitants have no physical body but possess just
followers to be an enlightened being, but not a god. the mind. In the Buddhist philosophy, there is no concept of an

Word Alive Summer 2016 13

I want to see that in the future [that Bible]
storytelling will spread like gossip or a rumour.
all-powerful God, and in many minority languages there is no creation to Revelation, giving the listener the context they need
word for God either. to understand the gospel and their need for Christ. Through
It comes as no surprise, then, that those hearing about regular Wycliffe Thai Foundation-hosted meetings and longer
Christianity for the first time find it difficult to understand. They workshops, storytellers practise their craft and are critiqued by
see a radical religion far different than their own worldview. the other participants. As the storytellers refine and memorize
Why do you have to go to church every Sunday, Wednesday their stories, they are encouraged to share them with unreached
and Friday? people often say to Wat. You are very strict. people. The hope is that the storytellers will share Bible stories
Unlike Buddhism, which teaches its adherents to follow a over several visits with the listener and build a relationship as
middle path (the easy path), Christianity is about following a they share Christ.
narrow path. Wat acknowledges that Christianity seems extreme I want to see that in the future [that Bible] storytelling will
and foreign to many Southeast Asians. Because of the steep spread like gossip or a rumour, explains Wat.
learning curve for many Buddhists, Wycliffe Thai Foundation Today Wycliffe Thai Foundation is only in the early stages of
believes strongly in a strategy of evangelism called oral Bible championing Bible translation in Southeast Asia. But Wat trusts
storying (see story on pg. 32). that, just like rumours, involvement in Bible translation will
Its a style of storytelling where participants are trained to spread in the Thai Church, so that the people of Southeast Asia
tell short, two-minute chronological Bible stories ranging from will find a relationship with Christ that brings them joy and life.

(ABOVE) Students attending an introductory Wycliffe Thai

Foundation course on linguistics and culture listen attentively as
their teacher plays a recording on her laptop of different English
accents from around the globe. Wat (seated on the right) says the
course is a way to spark interest in Bible translation and literacy work
in Thai Christians. (OPPOSITE) A teenage girl in the northern Thai
village of Mae Tien quiets herself in prayer during a Sunday morning
service. The traditional white blouse she wears to church Sunday
mornings signifies that she is unmarried.

14 Word Alive Summer 2016

Word Alive Summer 2016 15
TA youngA passionate
couple lead
a Bible translation
effort for a persecuted
language group in a
Southeast Asian country.

(ABOVE) For Aaron and Kanya Johnson, ministry

is life. On top of their roles with Wycliffe Thai
Foundation, the couple is also active in their local
Thai church where they lead several ministries.
(OPPOSITE) The couple prays with their pastors,
Phaithune and Nipapawn, in front of their newly
acquired church in Mukdahan, Thailand.
ts closing time at a modern, brightly lit restaurant in eastern Thailand. Kanya Johnson* and Malai
Kunakorn* laugh together as the two Thai women are shooed out through the restaurant
doors by the waitress. Trailing behind is Kanyas American husband Aaron* and a few
co-workers who are young Tang* people from a neighbouring country.
Suddenly, Kanya and Malai start doing a jig in the parking lot.
Its the cowboy dance, explains Aaron, the Wycliffe Thai Foundation
office manager, who watches as his wife, the 32-year-old Tang Bible
translation co-ordinator, continues to show off dance moves in
the dimly lit lot.
Aaron, a 32-year-old native of Dayton, Ohio, looks
unsurprised by the outburst of energy by his Thai-
born wife, as he waits patiently to drive home
after a long day. For Aaron and Kanya,
and their young team of millenial
staff, fun and games are part of
the program.
* pseudonym used
due to sensitivity.


Word Alive Summer 2016 17

And so is a fearless calling to bring the gospel to the 95,000 Tang
people, a marginalized mountain people in a neighbouring country.

Despite growing up on opposite sides of the planetAaron in
Ohio, and Kanya in Bangkok, Thailandthe married couple of six
years have similar stories of how they met Christ. For both, their
faith journeys began in their adolescence.


Aarons faith was forged as he hit a point of crisis when he
was 12 years of age, searching desperately to find where he fit
in. Looking for answers, Aaron was led to Christ by his Sunday
school teacher, who was also a high school science teacher.
Before deciding to commit his life to Christ, Aaron tested
his teacher, asking him every question he had. Each Sunday,
the teacher would ask for one week to study the Scriptures
for answers to Aarons questions and then would return the
following week with answers. After several weeks, Aaron ran
out of questions and was ready to give his life to Christ. In the
coming years he became a youth group-junkie, finding belonging
and friendship at church.
Across the pond in Bangkok, Christianity was just a minor part
of Kanyas upbringing. She attended church only on occasion with
her mom (who was a Christian) and her sister. Their Buddhist
father stayed home. Then when she was in junior high, Kanya
attended a church that opened her eyes to the Christian faith.
Everybody treated us so well and we could feel the love of
God through them, she says of the Zion Presbyterian Church.
I decided to accept Christ for real when I was 14; got baptized
at 15. Fourteen years later this [same] church sent us to
become missionaries.
Despite growing up in Thailand, where only one per cent of
the population identify as Christians, Kanya found important
fellowship through a small Christian group at her high school and
activities at her church. As she moved along into post-secondary
education, receiving a degree in French studies, God was bending
her heart toward the missions field.
I really have a heart for people who dont have enough
opportunities in life, she told her friends at the time. However,
despite praying sincerely about a future in ministry, she didnt
pursue opportunities in missions, but instead took a job as a teacher.

(LEFT) Toon, an indigenous literacy worker from the Tang people

group in a neighbouring nation, helps develop literacy material like
this booklet for his people. (OPPOSITE) An elderly woman, who speaks
a dialect of Tang, contemplates what Toon (right) and his co-worker
Pong have shared with her about God. (See pg. 21 for more details.)

18 Word Alive Summer 2016

Word Alive Summer 2016 19
Kanya was sitting with a table of fellow teachers during lunch
THAT STORY OF hour at Bangkoks International Community School as gossip
MUKDAHAN AND IVE turned to the schools new, attractive American Bible teacher.
Oh, look at this new guy coming, said one of the young
NEVER FELT SUCH A single ladies.
HEAVY BURDEN ON MY Kanya, looking up at Aaron, a recent graduate from the
Olivet Nazarene University in Chicago, Ill., thought that he was
HEART TO PRAY. cute. But she says today that she wasnt interested in having an
American boyfriend.
I thought having a Thai boyfriend was difficult enough, she
explains. Someone who speaks the same language is already so
difficult because relationships are not easy.
Aaron on the other hand, didnt even consider Kanya because
he wrongly assumed that she was a student.
Which one of the teachers is your mother? he asked Kanya
one day at school. When she replied that she was a teacher, he
thought to himself: Oh, this changes everything.
The two became friends and soon started dating. However,
they still werent sure if each of their strong spiritual callings
lined up with one another. At this point, Kanya had taught at
the school for three years and felt God was calling her to the
mission field. She was planning to resign from her position to
serve God full time.
Working in the international school to me was like a fantasy, They left, believing that if they didnt take the torch from the
like a comfort zone, explains Kanya of her thought process at Millers, no one else would.
the time. Whenever I went to neighbouring countries for short- With a relentless urging in their hearts that they should accept
term trips, I felt like, what a difference. the Millers offer, they took the plunge into the world of Bible
Aaron, though, at the time didnt have a heart for missions translation with Wycliffe Thai Foundation (see related story, pg.
and hadnt considered staying in Thailand full time. Regardless, 6), finishing the Adapt It-assisted New Testament translation in
as Kanya planned to move to Chiang Mai to study linguistics four years.
at Payap University, they decided to continue their relationship
long distance. Often chatting for hours on Skype (the Internet SHARING THE GOSPEL
video chat service), their relationship deepened and solidified This is groundbreaking, says Aaron, as he watches Toon, a young
during the next 18 months. By January 2010, they were married. Tang literacy worker, read a Tang picture book to an elderly
So much for Aaron not staying long term in Thailand. woman. They are sitting on the porch floor of her home in the
northeast Thailand village of Woen Buek.
PASSIONS MERGE Engrossed in the childrens story about the friendship between
Newly married, Kanya was now finished her masters degree at a monitor lizard, a fish and a frog, the elderly lady is seemingly
Payap University and was working part time at the Thailand unaware of the Tang translation team watching with anticipation
SIL office (SIL is Wycliffes key field partner), translating books for her understanding of the story.
and doing administration work, while Aaron was still teaching. Word-for-word comprehension isnt there but most of the
Often interacting with Bible translators from around the world verbs and grammar are strong, says Aaron, with excitement
who visited the office, Kanya heard many compelling stories of about her understanding of the story.
their lives and work. Although intrigued, she wasnt interested in Realizing that the elderly woman understands Tang quite
confining her ministry to just Bible translation, because she felt clearly, Toons co-worker Pong* transitions to reading the newly
the Great Commission shouldnt be so limited. She wanted to do translated Tang New Testament to her. However, with the change
much more. in literature, her countenance changes as well. Now a puzzled
I love youth group, I love student ministry, I love church look appears on her face as Pong reads from the Gospels.
planting, she explains of her desire for holistic ministry. She doesnt know the words for God or faith, says Aaron,
Then she and Aaron found the opportunity they were looking explaining why she is confused. In Buddhism there is no word or
for. One day after work at the SIL office, Kanya came home concept for one supreme God and creator.
and told Aaron a story about an older couple in Mukdahan, Now, Toon and Pong tell her about Jesus. In the neighbouring
Thailand. The veteran translators, John and Carolyn Miller, nation Toon calls home, he could be sent to prison for being so
were in their 70s and had spent most of their lives faithfully bold. In fact, thats what happened to his brother. Toon tells her
translating the Bible for more than 80,000 Bru people across about an amazing God who loves her and prays that the God
Southeast Asia. from the story will bless her.
It was discovered that the Bru language had a sister language
called Tang, spoken predominantly in a highly sensitive DANGEROUS FAITH
neighbouring country. Kanya explained to Aaron that a Bible for Without Tang Christians like Toon and Pong, the Bible translation
the Tang people could be translated relatively quickly from Bru work would be severely hampered. Both in their 20s, brave and
to Tang through a special computer program called Adapt It. sold out for Christ, these friends are able to do what Kanya and
However, the Millers, with their decades of experience working Aaron are unable to do in the neighboring country: freely visit
on the sister language of Bru, were looking to pass the baton to the Tang people.
someone else to lead the work. Every time I go, I have to cover myself and just show my
She brought home that story of Mukdahan and Ive never felt eyes, explains Kanya. If I stay at anyones house, that house
such a heavy burden on my heart to pray, says Aaron. I couldnt takes a risk . . . I just feel so bad for them. They have to try so
get Mukdahan out of my head. hard to hide me.
Soon Aaron and Kanya travelled to the Mukdahan translation Each time Kanya visits (Aaron doesnt go at all), they are
office, to meet the Millers and to teach the indigenous Tang staff concerned that she may accidently do something that draws
English and translation principles. When the Millers met Kanya, attention to her presence, prompting the police to detain the
they saw her as the perfect fit to take on the Tang project. locals and escort her to prison, where they may fine her or ban
It would be good for someone to help, Carolyn told Aaron her from the country entirely.
and Kanya. This is just ready to be translated and all we need is The worst-case scenario for them is they put the pastors
people who are interested. in prison for six months to a year and they cant come out,
says Aaron of the government, which has one of the worst
(OPPOSITE) Stacked on Toons scooter are literacy materials for the
reputations globally for persecuting Christians. Weve had
Tang people in a neighbouring country. Staff also transport the Tang
New Testament across the border to distribute to the Tang people. Its
translators die in prison . . . and get terrible diseases.
a dangerous task but a risk this passionate team is willing to take to Although Toon and Pong have yet to be sent to prison, theyre
get mother-tongue Scriptures into the hands of the Tang people. still persecuted in their home country, even by their animist

Word Alive Summer 2016 21

22 Word Alive Summer 2016

neighbours. When Pong led his family to Christ in their remote

mountain village, being the first Christians, they were treated
as turncoats.
They [neighbours] destroyed our properties and belongings,
and reported to the government officer about us, says
Pong calmly.
Despite being attacked, Pong hasnt lost heart. The fire for
Christ runs deep in his heart. He says he cant turn back because
his people need the Word of God.
Only Gods Word can penetrate their hearts, he says.


Since moving to Mukdahan four years ago, its been go, go, go for
Kanya and Aaron. Along with working with her team to finish
the Tang New Testament, Kanya has also been busy training Tang
people (whove come across the border to the translation office)
to teach literacy and the Bible in their heart language.
I can say now that at least 100 people in the tribe can
read the Bible in their language, where before no one could,
says Kanya. She estimates that there are more than 1,500 new
believers since they began ministry.
On top of Aarons day job as office manager of the Wycliffe
Thai Foundation office in Mukdahan, he and Kanya spend
countless hours leading ministries in their church and in the
community. This includes teaching English, and running prison
and hospital outreaches.
We feel that integration with the Thai church . . . is not only
beneficial, its necessary, say Aaron. When we bring . . . the
Tang people over, we want them completely involved in all the
ministries that are going on with the church. We want them to see
the liberty and the freedom that can happen on the Thai side.
Its with youthful energy and a passion stirred by the Holy
Spirit, that the Johnsons focus on their callingand the future.
Aaron already sees the progression.
After Bible translation and literacy, must come evangelism,
discipleship and deeper church missions.

Tang Bible translation staff members Pong and Toon gaze across the
river at the shoreline of their homeland. These two have a fire in their
souls to share the gospel with anyone they meet and to see their
people changed by the Word of God in their mother tongue.

Word Alive Summer 2016 23

Por Dechsri stands in front of the childhood home that her
family moved into after being banished from the northern
Thai village of Pukiham. The Wycliffe Thai Foundation
members story is one of redemption, trust in her Saviour and
obedience to His calling.

24 Word Alive Summer 2016

A Wycliffe Thai Foundation member
stands strong as one of the first
Christians from her village.
or Dechsris father is the centre of attention on a breezy day family was in a sort of exile. Needing to attend school in a
outside of his home in the northern Thai village of Puikham. neighbouring town, Por had to walk the long distance through
Hosting his daughter and a few of her friends, he dominates rice fields and then take a bus from there.
the conversation and stirs laughter with his stories. Especially in the rainy season it was very hard because I wore
I worked so hard to send her to university and then she my student uniform, she explains. Because it was very slippery, I
went off and became a Christian, he tells the group as he [once] fell in the mud . . . but I went to school anyway.
smiles mischievously. With her family life in disarray, Por left for university, still broken
Por is tentative and quiet as her father shares his familys by what her father had done, and in need of hope and a future.
redemption story. At Chiang Mai University, Por enjoyed her studies in political
The 30-year-old project co-ordinator of Early Childhood Care science, but felt an emptiness and meaninglessness that she
and Education (ECCE)a partner program of Wycliffe Thai couldnt shake. In her confusion, she began fervently reciting
Foundationknows the tortured story intimately. Listening to mantras from the Buddhist prayer book.
her father, the pain of the past still lingers. She remembers the One day in Pors senior year, a few ladies approached her and
shame, anger and embarrassment she felt toward himand the some friends, telling them about Jesus and inviting them to
banishment and rejection they faced from their own tight-knit attend an event at their church.
Bisu people. In the past I heard Jesus name, but I didnt really know who
He was, explains Por. Like the rest of her minority Bisu people,
On An Island she had a religious upbringing of both Buddhism and animistic
To tell you the truth, my dad made my friend pregnant and spirit worship. I thought Jesus was just like Buddha.
this was only when she was 14 years old, Por explains. As
punishment, police ordered Pors dad to give away his familys Wanting to Know God
land and house to the teenager and her family. That evening, Por and her friends rode their bicycles by the
Hated and stripped of their home, Pors family moved from church. Oh, I would like to know what they are doing at church,
their ethnic Bisu village to an isolated rice field outside of the she thought to herself. After her friends left, Por let her curiosity
community. For the remaining years of Pors adolescence, the get the best of her. She walked into the church and sat down.

26 Word Alive Summer 2016

(OPPOSITE) When Por (at right, holding spoon) became a Christian,
her mother (on the left) was devastated. She asked Por to go back
to being a Buddhist like before. (BELOW) Now her mom and dad
(holding Bibles in their language) have become devoted followers of
Christ, despite persecution from others in the village. (RIGHT) Pors
father beams as he shares how God has been faithful to him and his
family since he chose to trust Him with his life.

Word Alive Summer 2016 27

28 Word Alive Summer 2016
After a few people shared their testimonies, the pastor asked
the crowd, Who would like to know God tonight?
Without hesitation, Por lifted up her hand to accept Christ.
She was alone; the only one in the crowd that night to raise their
hand. Yet, she says it was an easy decision.
Though the decision came easy, explaining to her family that
shed become a Christianone of the first from her village
would be far from easy.
Seated for dinner with her mom and dad after becoming a
Christian, Por bowed her head to pray, but the heat of her dads
glare interrupted her devotion.
God didnt give you this food, he shouted. I gave you
this food.
More disappointed than angry, Pors mom urged her to
reconsider her conversion, saying that she was betraying
her ancestors.
People already hate us. Dont let people hate us more. Please
come back to Buddhism, her mom pleaded unsuccessfully.

Finding Wycliffe
Once Por finished her education, she had the normal concern
many graduates have: she wondered what was next. Searching
for direction from God for her first job, she asked Him for what
she wanted.
If you are God, show me that you can do everything, she
pleaded, asking God for an entry-level salary and an employer
that would provide her a new laptop. Waiting for God to provide
a job that fit her criteria, she was offered a position by Wycliffe
Thai Foundation doing literacy work. However, it was well below
the starting salary.
I graduated from university so I should get more than this, she
thought. This is not God answering me. I dont want it.
After declining the position, she was offered a job working for
a fuel conversion company in Bangkok. It was exactly what she
asked God for: the position offered her the desired salary, a new
laptop and even a beautiful home.
This is for sure God answering me, she thought.
But it didnt go as planned. Por didnt pass the three-month
probation period because her English wasnt strong enough to
communicate with her Singaporean boss. So, they moved her
to a different position in a department that soon evaporated
leaving her out of work.
During that time I felt that my spirit was very weak, she
explains. I had no friends. I had a beautiful house, but I felt
so lonely.
Out of work, the door was still open for Por to join Wycliffe.
Despite the lower salary, she believed that working for Wycliffe
might be the path God had for her. She began in a volunteer
position in literacy for the first year. This soon evolved into her
leading Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE)a teacher
(LEFT) Children attending a kindergarten class in Mae Tien, a
remote northern village three hours drive southwest of Chiang Mai,
are thriving as they learn in their mother tongue. Early Childhood
Care and Education (ECCE), a teacher training program developed
in 2010, has since provided mother-tongue education for hundreds
of students.

Word Alive Summer 2016 29

training program that has seen 350 students from minority Inside, though, Pors father longed for the relationship with
language groups attending mother-tongue kindergarten in their God enjoyed by the rest of his family. Soon after he started
home villages. praying to God about his problems, the Lord answered him.
Por loves the task God has given her to do. Wed be out of money or really needing money for something
I have a heart for every people group. I want the people and then Id pray about it and God provided, he explains. Seeing
groups that I teach to be a good example for my peopleto Gods provision, he started studying Scripture to learn what sin
encourage them to love their language and their culture. was. Soon he realized that he was a sinner in need of a Saviour.
Since beginning ECCE in 2010, the program has touched 10
villages in northern Thailand. Seeing the impact of mother- Forgiveness and Hope
tongue education, the local government has caught the vision, Por has carried the difficult memories of her fathers sins with her
taking ownership of the work in some of these communities throughout her life. Prior to becoming a Christian, she admits
during the past few years. that she was afraid of men because of his adultery.
Please help me not to fall in love with any man in this city,
Kids Thriving she prayed early on at university. After she became a Christian,
A modest, thin-walled schoolhouse with dirt floors houses however, the true desires of her heart came to the surface.
the kindergarten class in Mae Tien, a tiny northern Thai village I totally changed my prayer, she admits. And finally God
southwest of Chiang Mai that is home to the Pwo-Karen people. gave me my husband.
Here, the benefit of education in the Pwo-Karen mother tongue Seeing her father today following Christ brings with it tension.
is obvious and somewhat surprising. For this small class of six It pushes Por again to look to Christ to help her forgive her
students, learning is like a game. They practise writing their father, whose actions caused hurt.
vowels as if the first person to finish will win a treat. It was very difficult in the beginning to forgive my father,
It was much different for Por when she was growing up. She Por admits, of the complicated feelings she still feels. I think Ive
struggled to learn during elementary school because she was forgiven him [now], but not completely.
taught in the national Thai language rather than her mother tongue She sees that he isnt the same man he once was, and that he
of Bisu. These students, on the other hand, are thriving and are not and her mother now share the same heavy burden of being a
only on-par with other students in the region, theyre ahead. Bisu Christian that she feels. Once hated in the village for his sins,
In a neighbouring village, Paruedee, an ECCE-trained he is now also hated by many in the village for the God he serves;
kindergarten teacher, has seen her students thrive. a God who forgives sin and eases shame.
Theyre eager to get the answer, theyre eager to answer Every day we get chewed out, he explains, saying the villagers
the questions, she explains. When the school sent them to a are jealous and angry that, since turning to Christ, his family has
competition they got the high score; they won the prize. been blessed with a successful rubber tree plantation.
I tell them God gave me everything I have and everything
Letting Go belongs to God. That usually ends the discussion.
While Pors work in minority language groups across Thailand Pors father now has the same trust in God that Por had when
has changed the lives of many young children, her home village she made her easy decision to live for Christ. Although today
has still been a hostile environment to navigate as a Christian. there are only a handful of Christians in the community, Pors
However, with great courage she has confidently stood for Christ father sees hope on the horizon.
and seen walls crumble. I envision the day when theyll accept us as part of the village
Years ago, Por boldy posed a challenging question to her father and no longer cut us off, he says.
(who still likely felt shame at getting a 14-year-old pregnant): Do We still have trust in God.
you know youre a sinner?
Hed been reading his Thai Bible, but he still didnt know what
his daughter meant.
What is this sin? he wondered.
Both Pors mother and her brother had already turned to
Christ, but her dad was still holding on tightly to his vices. Liquor
(OPPOSITE) Growing up, Por visited Buddhist temples like this one
was his main companion as he and Pors mother teetered on the in her home village of Pukiham and also participated in animist
verge of divorce. traditional practices. Since Pors family became Christians, they have
Well, if you want to believe go ahead, he told his wife, but experienced isolation because they no longer pay respect to Buddha
believe on your own. Im not going to. and refuse to pray to the ancestors during annual festivals.

30 Word Alive Summer 2016

Word Alive Summer 2016 31
A local evangelist uses Bible
storytelling to prepare a Buddhist
woman for God's healing.

32 Word Alive Summer 2016

variety of thoughts raced through the mind of
Kriangsak Takham (Yo) as he saw his tiny, 85-year-
old friend Gaew (GA-oh) walking back and
forth across the tile floor of her village home.
I was afraid, he admits. I didnt want her to collapse.
Only minutes earlier, after sharing a Bible story with Gaew
in her mother tongue of Northern Thai, the 39-year-old Thai
evangelist had laid his hands on Gaews deformed legs, asking
Jesus to heal her so she could walk.
The story of the lady with the bleeding problems came into
my head, explains Yo of the healing recorded in the gospels. He
told Gaew that for 12 years the desperate woman had spent her
lifesavings on physicians, trying to find relief for her suffering
but no one could heal her. However, when she touched Jesus
robe she was instantly healed.
Now God can heal you too, he told Gaew, after praying for
her. God will give you strength.
When Yo placed his hands on her legs that day, Gaew says her
pain left and she felt lighter and stronger. After Yo left the room
to use the washroom, she tested her strength, lifting herself off
her bed where she was sitting, and began to walk.
When Yo returned, he was surprised and in disbelief.
Is this real? he asked Gaew, as he recorded her on his
cellphone camera.
Yes, she insisted, telling Yo she had been unable to walk for
the past 14 years.
Oh, thank God that He sent you to me so I could hear the
story and now know that God is holy and can heal, Gaew said.
To carefully verify Gaews story, Yo showed neighbours the
video he recorded of her walking.
Yes, thats the old lady that couldnt walk, they told him.
Yo realized that she was indeed telling the truth and that Jesus
truly does heal.

Gaew first met Yo when he came to her home village near Chiang
Mai, Thailand, looking to share the gospel through a style of Bible
storytelling called oral storying that he learned from a workshop
held by the Wycliffe Thai Foundation (see story on pg. 6). Finding
Gaew and four others in the area who were interested in learning
more about Jesus and the Bible, he returned regularly.
During each visit, Yo gradually introduced Gaew to the
Christian messagefrom creation to Christthrough short, two-
minute Bible-based stories. Yo memorized and told each story in
everyday language.
Afterward, Yo asked Gaew questions: What did she like about
the story? What did it teach her about humanity and God? With
each story, Gaew became more amazed with Jesus and began to
read for herself in the Bible the stories that Yo had shared with
her. She has since finished reading the entire New Testament,
despite limited eyesight that requires her to hold the Bible inches
from her face in order to read.
Sitting in her village home near Chiang Mai, Thailand, Gaew (far left)
shares how her deformed legs were healed when Kriangsak Takham
(Yo) ( seated right) prayed for her. The local evangelist visits her
monthly to share oral Bible stories.

Word Alive Summer 2016 33

34 Word Alive Summer 2016
Youre just praying that
God will open their
hearts and then you
find a time that you
can share a story that is
relevant to their lives.
At the beginning she was still going to the Buddhist temple,
explains Yo. I couldnt explain right away that she couldnt go to
the temple. That would have stopped everything. I wouldnt have
been able to come to her house and share stories of Christ and
God with her.
Yo believes that sharing the gospel through stories is more
natural in the Thai culture than just taking out the Bible and
opening it. (OPPOSITE) Yo (in the background) has seen Gaew and others healed
Youre just praying that God will open their hearts and then after praying for them. He tells of another lame elderly woman who
you find a time that you can share a story that is relevant to their stood up and walked after he prayed. (ABOVE) Participants design
a flannelgraph during an Oral Storying workshop in Chiang Mai.
lives, he says. I think thats very powerful.
Storytellers are trained to tell short, two-minute chronological Bible
stories ranging from creation to Revelation, giving the listener the
EMPOWERED PROCLAIMER context they need to understand the gospel and their need for Christ.
After being healed, Gaew walked around the village, telling her
family and neighbours that Jesus healed her. She even went to
the villages Buddhist temple to tell the congregation about
Jesus, sharing stories about His restoring power. Her neighbours,
though, didnt take too kindly to her boldness, telling her that Shortly after Jesus healed Gaews legs, she had a vivid dream. In
Thailands religion is Buddhism, not Christianity. it she was lost in a village late at night and couldnt find her way
They said they worship the Buddha, Gaew explains, as she sits back home. All around her were strange people whose directions
on the clean tile floor of her village home. Im not angry or mad confused and disoriented her.
at them . . . thats what God teaches us to do: to not get angry, As she searched for her way home, she approached a group of
but to love them and share with them about Jesus. people, who strangely gave her only a cold look. She kept walking
The head of the village doesnt like her evangelistic spirit either. and approached a group of children jumping rope. Asking them
The leader blamed Yo for bringing a foreign religion to the village, where to go, they pointed aheadinto the hollow darkness.
believing that he came to take advantage of her. When she followed their directions, she was overcome and lost.
Gaew said to him that I didnt come to rip her off, says Yo. She Scared, she put her palms together and prayed to Jesus for help.
explained to the head of the village that I am like a representative Suddenly a bright light formed a narrow path ahead of her to
of God and that I came to share the gospel with her. walk home safely. Then she woke up in her bed in the darkness,
Despite Gaews miraculous story, she remains the only believer feeling her heart beating after the vividness of the dream. She
in her family and her entire village. Her friends and family say gave thanks to God, happy to be awake and alive.
they are happy that her God healed her, but also believe that Gaew believes that this strange village in her dream was the
local shamans heal the sick. land of the dead, which is where Buddhists believe they go when
Miracles are very normal, explains Yo. He says animist they die.
godsor what he believes are fallen angelsoften do miracles, Despite Gaews developing faith in Christ, she still has many
and signs and wonders. One man, who Yo recently led to Christ, Buddhist beliefs as well. But as Yo and Gaew visit in her home, she
explained to him that when he was a shaman, those in his shares how her beliefs about the old religion are changing. She tells
community would often bring him people who were possessed him that when we pass away we will be with God in heaven.
by evil spirits and he would cast them out. God prepares everything for us there already, she explains. I
Jesus cast out demons. He (the former shaman) said he used dont have to worry about the old belief that if somebody dies in
to do it too, explains Yo. Fallen angels, they work very well to the community, they have to sacrifice food, water or belongings.
deceive people as a team. She tells Yo that God already provided the sacrifice.

Word Alive Summer 2016 35

Jesus is God,
Hes the only
Son and helps
many people
in this world
to wash away
their sins.

Yo is back at Gaews home for another visit. She
can no longer walk. Four months after she was
healed, she slipped in the mud while working in
her garden, snapping her Achilles tendon in one
of her legs. Despite the setback, she exudes a
calm joy as she hosts her guests.
Sharing a passage from her New Testament,
she struggles to make out the words. Needing
more light, she slides herself toward the
doorway and continues without any trouble.
He healed the sick and even called the dead
to life, she exclaims after she finishes her reading.
Jesus is God, Hes the only Son and helps many
people in this world to wash away their sins.
After a leisurely visit, its time for Yo to leave.
But first, he prays again for the healing of her
Like before, the prayers cause her to rise to
her feet. With a hand from Yo, her deformed
legs slide with difficulty across the floor.
Appearing like her legs could collapse, she takes
about four steps and then stops. She is tired.
Comfortably seated, Gaew has a peace about
her. She realizes that her legs may fail her again,
but also that Jesus has given her something
much greater; Hes given her spiritual healing
that is eternal.
Christ is alive in her soul.

After being prayed for by Yo once again, Gaew

stands and takes a few faltering steps. When Yo
first experienced God using him to heal others he
was surprised. I thought God would probably use
somebody else who is more godly, he explains. I
didnt know it would work with me; God used me.

36 Word Alive Summer 2016

Beyond Words

What Really is Translation Accuracy?

By Danny Foster

A s a cross-cultural worker, one of my greatest frustrations when I served with Wycliffe

in Tanzania, Africa, was having to speak through an interpreter. But it wasnt the hassle
of always having to depend on someone to communicate that frustrated me. The real
problem was the mistakes you start hearing from the interpreters as you learn the language and
then have the constant feeling of being misrepresented.
This frustration has become a strong reminder for me of how important it is to translate
Scripture well. Bible translators stand between God and man, Spirit and flesh. Through language,
we bridge the gap across cultures, time and even worlds. Getting translation right is essential and
that is why Wycliffe Bible Translators is committed to processes that safeguard translation quality.
In this and subsequent Beyond Words columns, I will address individually the four qualities of
good Bible translations: accuracy, clarity, naturalness, and acceptability.
Lets start with the issue of accuracy.
If you ask just about anyoneeven someone with no linguistic trainingwhat makes a
translation good, most people will tell you that it has to be accurate. But what does accurate
mean? Surprisingly, while most people can identify that accuracy is important in translation,
very few understand what it is. Thats because accuracy gets easily confused with literalness, even
though they mean different things. Literalness has to do with the degree of similarity between
linguistic forms (e.g. words and grammar). Accuracy, on the other hand, has to do with the
Accuracy similarity of meaning.
Heres a humorous example that illustrates the difference quite well. Years ago I invited some
gets easily
Tanzanian friends over for dinner. I put the food out and said, Were going to eat Canadian-style,
confused with so come to the table and just help yourselves. All of this was stated in Swahili, but unfortunately,
as a novice speaker, I translated it literally (i.e. word-for-word). Now you may see no problem with
what I said. However, my Tanzanian guests broke out into an awkward mix of laughter and horror.
even though Thats because help yourself translated literally into Swahili has the same meaning as relieve
yourself in English! So, yes, my translation was literal. But accurate? No way! A much better
they mean
translation would have been for me to tell my guests, serve yourselves.
different When we talk about accuracy in translating Gods Word, were talking about meaning and
the rule is: nothing should be added, deleted or changed. But it can be difficult to see how this
gets applied if youre only looking at the words. A good translation will, on the surface, look
very different from its source text. Thats because meaning emerges out of a larger context than
just single words or phrases. The translator must consider that readers bring a whole set of
assumptions to the text.
Think about the Old Testament book of Ruth. At the outset, Naomi loses her husband and
both of her sons. For some people groups around the world, these tragic events would suggest
that Naomi was a witch. Of course, we know that she wasnt, but the Bible does not state
this outright; the author of Ruth had no concern about the Hebrew audience jumping to this
Translators must make every effort to understand the assumptions that people will draw on
to fill in the gaps. They must find ways to ensure that the translated text in the target language
meansas much as is possiblethe same as it does in the source texts (more than one source
text is always used). Sometimes then, preserving accuracy in Bible translation requires making
certain things explicit right in the text itself, or relying on other means, such as introductions,
glossaries, illustrations and occasional footnotes to help readers.
So at the end of the day, the language used will be very different in a translation, but the
original meaning is still preserved. The translation, therefore, is accurate.
Danny Foster is president of the Canada Institute of Linguistics (CanIL), a partner of Wycliffe Canada that trains personnel
to serve in language work, including Bible translation. CanIL operates at Trinity Western University in Langley, B.C. and
Tyndale University College and Seminary in Toronto, Ont.

Word Alive Summer 2016 37

A Thousand Words
In the city of Chiang Rai, the Wat Rong Khun art
exhibit is known by tourists as the White Temple. The
Reaching For More hands reaching out from a crowded lake symbolize
unrestrained desire. The bridge is a reminder that
happiness is achieved by withstanding temptation,
greed, and desire. When visitors enter the White
Temple, they see a dramatic mural that portrays
a demonic fire-tinged scene, interspersed with
diverse images that include nuclear warfare, pop
icon Michael Jackson and the comic book hero
Spiderman. The message? People are wicked.

Alan Hood
Last Word

Waging Love on Islam

Roy Eyre, Wycliffe Canada President

A s Syrian refugees arrive in our country, Canadian reaction is mixed. We all

feel the tension between safety, a sense that we have to do something,
and a desire to deepen our long-standing reputation as a nation that
welcomes immigrants. Many of these reactions are driven by politics, self interest
and fear. But how should the Church react?
Let me start by addressing what this has to do with Bible translation. Wycliffes
heart beats for minority language communities everywhere. For too long, we
have allowed concerns about safety for work in sensitive locations to silence
our advocacy to the Canadian Church for minority languages among Muslim
populations. Wherever a minority language community is ensnared by false gods
and local religion, we have an obligation to bring the light of the gospel and to be
a voice for the marginalizedincluding immigrants to Canada.
The biblical mandate is far more than simply a duty to respond to any
humanitarian crisis. We are to love as we were loved, forgive as we were forgiven
and show grace as we were shown grace. We are to execute justice for the
orphan and widow, and love the foreigner living among us, because we were
We have an foreigners (Dt. 10:18-19).
We are to reject fear, which does not come from God, instead showing perfect
obligation to loveeven to strangersbecause God first loved us (1 Jn. 4:18, 2 Tim. 1:7). We
bring the light are even to think of strangers and aliens as potential fellow citizens and family
members, because we gentiles were once alienated from Jews, and were strangers
of the gospel to Gods covenant (Eph. 2).
and to be a In his book, A Wind in the House of Islam, David Garrison says that when
violence is done in the name of Islam, Muslims are attracted by a God of love and
voice for the faithful Christian witness that turns the other cheek. Conversely, when Christians
marginalized respond to violence in kind, motivated by fear or hatred, Islam begins to look
more attractive.
including The Church has a responsibility to lead the way because so many of these
immigrants refugees are Muslim. I'm grateful then, that many congregations in Canada are
adopting families from Syria and other Muslim countries. But there's a way to do
to Canada. it well, and thats where Wycliffe can share some ideas from its extensive cross-
cultural experience. If your congregation is considering multicultural ministry,
prepare and equip yourselves:
L earn how to reach across different cultures, how to really listen and learn
from each other. Refugees are not a homogenous block; instead, they are
made up of a mix of religions, and indigenous languages and cultures.
F ind a local ministry serving refugees who can then walk alongside you in
supporting these families as they transition to life here.
C onsider how Syrian Christians and Syrian Muslims respond in different
ways to the western Church and use appropriate Scriptures in a form and
language that will be understandable and effective in reaching their hearts.
To learn more, see Wycliffe's collection of language and culture acquisition
resources and links to other ministries at
We have an obligation to wage love when the world urges us to wage war. The
Churchs role doesnt stop with overseas ministry, and this influx of refugees into
Canada is a good example of serving the world as it comes to our door.

Ethan Livingstone

Word Alive Summer 2016 39

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Wycliffe Canada
Featured Partnership
Invest in the
Wycliffe Thai

Y ou can help propel translation of Gods Word in

many languages in Southeast Asia, through your
gift to the Wycliffe Thai Foundation (featured in
this issue of Word Alive). Here are the basic details of
this important Bible translation partnership, which you
can support through Wycliffe Canada.

Name: Wycliffe Thai Foundation

Location: Thailand and bordering Southeast
Asian nations
Language Groups: More than 300 in the region
Overview: Wycliffe Thai Foundation is encouraging,
facilitating and championing Bible translation among
Thailands Christian community. As they engage young
people in all aspects of Bible translation, literacy and use
of translated Scriptures, they are answering Gods call to
the nations around them. The Thai church is key to seeing
missions advance in the region. The director of Wycliffe
Thai Foundation explains, We are Thai. We can easily
learn neighbouring languages and adjust to their cultures.
Timeline: Ongoing
Funding Need: $$77,200
Your donation today helps spread Gods Word
through Wycliffe Thai Foundation ministries!
Use this magazines reply form (fill in the box that
mentions Wycliffe Thai Foundation).
Give online at
Call 1-800-463-1143 toll free and indicate your gift
is for Wycliffe Thai Foundation.