There is no easy road when it comes to serving God and His kingdom, and translation work is no exception. But for those who endure hours reading the Bible in one language and transferring it into the heart language of another, the rewards are beyond verbal expression.
One such team is currently in the process of translating the Bible from Amharic to the T’sara language. The procedure was never smooth sailing even from the start when one member of the group, Teshale Kebed, first heard about the need for workers to complete the vital task of getting the Bible into T’sara. Take, for instance, how members of the team had to cross a river to start the process. The simple solution would have been using a boat. Unfortunately, no one had a boat, so one was created by sewing goat skin together, covering it with honey, and filling the waterproof material with air. But there were no paddles, and the men were too heavy to all get on simultaneously, so one person hugged the newly formed flotation device while paddling with his legs, then another member of the team hung onto him upside-down.
Once across the river, the work of translation began. Usually, the process has a degree of predictability with all the translators getting together and talking about the best combination of words. But what happens when a crisis like COVID-19 occurs, resulting in the Ethiopian government imposing travel restrictions? Travel prohibitions happened for the team when going through the book of Acts and Matthew 1-18. They couldn’t meet in person, so once again, the team members didn’t let obstacles get in their way and formed another ingenious solution.
They started trying to use a phone to communicate with each other, but the place they worked had no cell reception. Consequently, Teshale risked injury by taking his phone to the very top of a tree while the other two translators sat at the bottom with their computer. They loudly read the translated material, so the one in the tree could relay the information over the phone to their advisor. Their advisor then gave comments through the phone, and the one in the tree yelled the suggestions down to his colleagues, who then made the necessary corrections. This process would go on, one verse at a time until they finished all of Acts and 18 chapters of Matthew.
The translation is far from over, but already the gospel accounts in T’sara are making a significant impact. Teshale reports how the T’sara Bible translation has brought church-based literacy to his community. He says, “People used to be afraid of reading and writing, because of oppression of the T’sara language, and children could not learn it because it was not being taught in schools. Now through this ongoing church-based literacy, people are learning to read and write in their language.” No longer will T’sara speakers feel like “second-rate” citizens of Ethiopia as they read the Bible in their heart language.
Teshale wants us to remember the ongoing translation process in our prayers as they continue to work through the New Testament and then the whole Bible. He desires for his village to have access to good healthcare, clean water, and electricity.