GUIZHOU, China– To Rev Luo and many Miao Christians, the Miao script has a special significance because it represents the life and sacrifice of Samuel Pollard, the 19th century British missionary to the Miao people. “He exchanged his life for our script. There is a sense of warmth and gratitude when we see and read it.”
In actual fact, Luo says that his wife’s grandfather had learnt the Miao script from Pollard and helped put together the earliest Small Flowery Miao hymnal published in 1949, which he and many Small Flowery Miao Christians grew up singing. However, they do not yet have the Bible in their language.
About the Small Flowery Miao
Today, Rev Luo (right, holding the old hymnal), 46, is carrying on the legacy. Born of the Small Flowery Miao ethnic group, a sub-group of the Miao people in China, he is laboring together with four other co-workers to translate the Bible into the Small Flowery Miao language. According to Luo, there are 300,000 Small Flowery Miao in China out of which 40,000 are Christians.
The various sub-groups of the Miao, which number more than 80, are distinguished by their language, costumes and traditions. The differences can be as great as between a Miao and another ethnic group; hence the need for translation. The first sub-group to receive the Bible in their heart language was the Big Flowery Miao.
What then is the language difference between the sub-groups like the Big and Small Flowery Miao? “Our consonants and vowels are different. We swoop some of our numbers and directions. ‘Three’ in the Big Flowery Miao is ‘five’ in the Small Flowery Miao and vice versa. ‘Upwards’ in the Big Flowery Miao is ‘downwards’ in the Small Flowery Miao and vice versa!” he shares with a laugh.
How it Started
Seeing the need for a Small Flowery Miao Bible, Luo banded together with four other Small Flowery Miao pastors and preachers and started on the translation work in 2002, using the Chinese Union Version as their model text. After 12 years of labour, the first edition of the translation was completed in 2014, painstakingly handwritten by one of the Small Flowery Miao believers, as they did not have the necessary language software then.
Luo says since 2015, with the support of the Guizhou CC/TSPM and its Bible ministry partners, they have completed keying in no less than 10,000 individual words into the language software. The first edition is now being updated based on the Revised Chinese Union Version and going through professional checks and consultations.
Two Decades? All Worth It
Luo and his team have no qualms about giving their live to Bible translation work. “When you are able to express yourself in Miao, worship God in Miao and read the Bible in Miao, God becomes very close. And you will understand that God is also God of the Miao,” explains Rev Zhou, 34, the youngest on the team.
Another key motivation is outreach. “It’s all worth it when I think of the many thousands of Small Flowery Miao who have yet to hear the gospel, for whom my heart aches,” Luo says.
Pray for the Small Flowery Miao Bible translation team for God’s wisdom and guidance as they continue in their labour.
Story: Cynthia Oh
Edited: Angela Teo
Photo: Deborah Yuen/UBS CP
2017 © United Bible Societies China Partnership