YUNNAN, China – After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Amen. (Rev. 7:9-10)
Voices rose. The heavens rejoiced. And history was made as believers from Lisu, Miao, Wa, Yi, Jingpo, Dai and Lahu ethnic minority groups each dressed in their ethnic costumes and headdresses filled the sanctuary and led the congregation in worship of the Lord.
It was an extraordinary evening of joyful singing in different tongues; vibrant dancing by different ethnic minority groups, passionate preaching of the Word and heartfelt sharing by ethnic minority Bible translators.
In what was a rare occasion, close to 1400 people – representatives from United Bible Societies (UBS), American Bible Society (ABS), British and Foreign Bible Society, Finland Bible Society, Netherlands Bible Society and Malaysia Bible Society, ethnic minority language Bible translators and their family members, and believers from churches across Kunming – gathered as a body of Christ to celebrate a historic milestone in Bible translation work amongst the ethnic minorities in Yunnan Province held at Holy Trinity Church, Kunming.
Those privileged to be part of the celebration were humbled and grateful as praises, thanksgiving and honour were given to God who gave His Word not only to be translated into the world’s main languages but also into the mother tongues of the ethnic minority groups in China.
Partnerships in Bible Translation
Organised by Yunnan CC/ TSPM with the support of UBS, the event commemorated the enduring partnership between UBS and China Christian Council/ National TSPM as well as Yunnan CC/ TSPM in the ethnic minority language Bible translation, with the long-standing support given by the State Administration of Religious Affairs (SARA) and Yunnan Religious Affairs.
The result from more than 15 years of cooperation and support is the completion, printing and distribution of seven ethnic minority language Bible translation in Yunnan in recent years since UBS support in the work began in early 2000.
This year is special as it marks the first printing of the East Lisu, Black Yi and Wa Bibles and the reprints of West Lisu Annotated, Big Flowery Miao Bibles and White Yi (NT), totaling 120,000 copies of Bibles. The translation of the seventh language, Gan Yi (OT), was completed last year.
Thanksgiving services and Bible distribution were also held over the weekend at different locations in the rural areas to celebrate the printing of these six languages. Delegates from the Bible Societies had the opportunity to meet and fellowship with the local ethnic minority believers and distribute Bibles to them.
“We thank the resourcing Bible Societies for their support of the translation work, funding the resources and costs of translation – including the construction and establishment of the Bible Translation Centre, renting of offices and rooms for the translators, purchasing of computers and software, office expenses and allowances for the translators, typesetting and printing of the Bibles for free distribution,” said Kua Wee Seng, Director of UBS China Partnership.
People Behind Bible Translation
Behind all Bible translation is a team of Bible translators who labour tirelessly and quietly behind the scenes. Many of them have to juggle between translation work, ministry demands and needs at home. In some cases, their spouses have to bear a heavier burden in caring for the family.
So a highlight of the evening was the presentation of a television set to each of the 40 Bible translators and their families. Their selfless sacrifice had moved and inspired a British Bible Society supporter, who visited the ethnic churches in Yunnan last October, to sponsor the gifts. He also sponsored the travel of the translators and their spouses to Kunming from the rural areas where they live. Due acknowledgment was also given to the spouses and family members of the Bible translators.
After all the celebration, one may ask, what is the value of Bible translation? “We used to be a people steeped in superstition and alcohol. Thank God for the early missionaries who brought the gospel and translated the Bible, giving us God’s Word in our own language – we are now living in the truth and light of eternity,” shared Rev Yexi, West Lisu Annotated Bible translator. Rev Jing Jiuwei, President of Yunnan CC/ TSPM added, “Bible translation into ethnic minority languages helps believers read God’s Word in their mother tongue, understand God’s truth better and defend themselves against the influence of heresies and cult groups.”
Lu Yongyao, Yunnan Ethnic Religious Deputy Director General said, “Bible translation of ethnic minority languages meets the needs of ethnic minority believers to read Scripture in their own language. It also plays a critical role in the preservation and development of their indigenous culture. At the same time, it supports the localization and indigenization of Christianity. This is one of the ways towards the realization of sinicization of Christianity in China.”
Ongoing and Future translation
As the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us, every ethnic minority group deserves to have the Bible in their own language. Since early 2000, UBS China Partnership has been working with CCC/ TSPM and provincial CC/ TSPM to facilitate ethnic minority Bible translation work, as well as providing vital information and support to funding Bible Societies to help them understand and support the needs of Bible translation in China. To date, 640,500 copies of Bibles and NT of 10 different ethnic minority languages have been printed and distributed.
Currently, UBS CP is supporting the Bible translation work of five ethnic minority languages and looking into another eight potential ethnic minority languages for future translation. Together, these 13 languages will potentially reach 42 million ethnic minorities in China, bringing us one step closer to making the dream in Rev.7:9-10 come true! Let’s continue to pray for the provision of more support for the needs of ethnic minority Bible translation work in China!
See photos of the Thanksgiving Service here.
See photos of Bible Distribution at the rural areas here.
Story: Cynthia Oh
Photo: Jared Wong
Edit: Angela Teo
2016 © United Bible Societies China Partnership