Imagine having God's word in your language - for the first time

Stop to imagine what it’s like for a pastor to preach in a dialect different to the one spoken by his local congregation in Indonesia. People in the Southwest Sumba region speak Kodi and one church leader can actually see how his not-quite-right words cause people to tune out.

“When I preached in Indonesian or the closest dialect, the congregation mostly keep chewing betel leaf and areca nut (a local habit),” shares this Kodian pastor. But the difference is clear and swift when speaking in their heart language.

“It is a different story if I preach in Kodian; they are seriously listening to my preaching.”

Stop to imagine now what it will be like for the Kodi people to read and hear God’s word … in their own language. They have long prayed for this precious gift. For while the two major local languages in Sumba have had Scripture already translated, Kodi speakers have not.

Bible Society Australia has helped the Indonesian Bible Society start work this year on the first ever Kodi Bible translation. It is expected to be completed by 2025. Also this year, the IBS started the Bible for Children in Kodian.

In the Central Sulawesi region of Indonesia, Pak Josep had never stopped to imagine he would become a Bible translator. But out of his love for God’s word and his own language, former carpenter Pak Josep accepted the responsibility of joining the team updating the Bible in the dialect of Upper Morian.

A quiet man, Pak Josep joyfully shares how thankful he is to be in the team. “I do not have any theological background, but I translate the Bible. What a privilege!” he said repeatedly.

During a two-week translation session, Pak Josep had to return home after his wife became ill. The rest of his team were saddened by the struggles of their friend but, in spite of such circumstances, they enjoyed being together and praying for each other and the project. Sometimes, discussions around translation could become heated with disagreements, but this allows the team to learn more about humility and openness.

“My work with other team members will be a blessing to the Morian [Bible] which will be read by our future generation.” – Pak Marto

The New Testament in the Morian language was first published in 1949. But, 70 years later, there are many words which are no longer used and have vanished. There are two Morian dialects – Upper Morian and Lower Morian (Ngusumbatu). Since 2004, the Indonesian Bible Society has been supporting teams revising the New Testament in Morian and it has already published a Ngusumbatu update in 2010.

Pak Marto coordinates the translation team that Pak Josep is part of. He knows the Morian language and is also a meticulous observer of the translation work. He frankly reported that there have been problems along the way, such as when “we can’t find any synonym or the perfect idiomatic words in Morian. There are 32 dialects in Morian. Thus, we decided to use the Ngusumbatu dialect which is the lingua franca among the Morian.”

Despite the challenges, Pak Marto focuses upon the eternal difference he can help to make through the translation team. “I was glad and become enthusiastic when translating the Bible. I imagine that my work with other team members will be a blessing to the Morian [Bible] which will be read by our future generation.”