“Maelaanenge ki Twaumase!” (Thanks be to God!) Words repeated during the joyful 3-hour thanksgiving service for the publication of the Ngudradrekai Bible on July 11, 2017 at Kucapungane (好茶 Hau-tsa / Good Tea) Presbyterian Church in the mountain foothills of southern Taiwan. The Gospel first took root in Old Kucapungane village in 1950 when Paiwan Christians shared the Good News with their Ngudradrekai neighbours. Yet translation of the Bible into Ngudradrekai did not begin until 1988. Nearly 30 years later the Ngudradrekai people now have the complete Bible printed in their own mother language.
When Rev Peter Bush (Moderator of the 2017 PCC-General Assembly), his wife Debbie, my wife Mary Beth and I arrived at the new church building, we were greeted warmly with the word “Sabau!” by the Moderator and General Secretary of the PCT’s Ngudradrekai Presbytery. They presented each of us with a floral crown, then our own copy of the Ngudradrekai Bible, its black cover embossed in gold letters, with a Ngudradrekai totem shaped like a band of woven cloth in traditional yellow, green and red colours signifying the land, the environment and human life. Diamond shapes in the totem are reminiscent of the 100-pacer snake considered to be a friend and companion in traditional Ngudradrekai culture, with newer Christ-like meaning in view of Numbers 21:9 and John 3:14-16.
The Moderator of Presbytery told us (in Mandarin) that when one of the older women sitting nearby received her Bible, she exclaimed, “I’ve waited 60 years for this Bible; now I can die in peace!” During interviews that day other people expressed their joy in receiving the new Bible. One man pointed out that, in addition to being God’s Word in Ngudradrekai, this Bible contains Ngudradrekai culture and is a rich source of Ngudradrekai language. A pastor commented that this Bible will be a foundation stone for building a contextual Ngudradrekai Christian theology. A young person observed that when you open it, you can read the Ngudradrekai text in parallel with Today’s Chinese Version (TCV2017).
This will help younger readers who are schooled in Mandarin-Chinese to understand the Ngudradrekai text better or learn for the first time how to read their ancestral language. A member of the translation team smiled with satisfaction when he said, “We’ve come a long way with God’s help over 30 years from handwritten draft translations to this beautifully printed Ngudradrekai Bible.”
Around 300 people attended the thanksgiving service: four of us from the PCC, 40 from Young-Nak PC in Seoul Korea, visitors from other indigenous groups, the PCT-GA and the BSTWN, while the majority were from Ngudradrekai churches. The Presbytery Young People opened the service and led us in a dynamic time of praising Twaumase (God) with all our hearts and voices. We sang “In Jesus we are all one family, today and forever” using Ngudradrekai, Korean, Mandarin and English. Later in his greetings, Rev Peter Bush reflected how we all enjoyed a foretaste of heaven today, singing praises to our Lord using each other’s mother tongues.
Anthems were sung by the Korean visitors, Ngudradrekai pastors and their spouses, and members of the Presbytery’s Seniors University who had composed a new song based on the 66 books of the Bible—yes, everyone from seniors to children needs to learn the names of all the books in the Bible in their own language! Some of the names were quite a challenge for us to translate into Ngudradrekai, e.g. Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Chronicles, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes.
Rev Lee (senior pastor at Young-Nak PC) preached on “Scripture Alone” from 2 Timothy 3:15-17. He made the point that this Bible translated into the people’s own language is yet another fruit of the Reformation which took place 500 years ago. His message was translated from Korean into Mandarin then into Ngudradrekai, while I translated it into English for the PCC reps. Words of tribute and thanksgiving were offered by representatives from Young-Nak PC’s Mission Committee, the PCT General Assembly, and the Board of the Bible Society in Taiwan (BSTWN).
In his tribute Rev Peter Bush pointed out the various partnerships which were created in producing this new Bible, including support from PCC congregations for my work with the translation team over the past five years. Peter quoted an elder from the Dakota people who wrote to the PCC’s Board of Mission many years ago and said, “When we heard the message of the Gospel in our own language, we knew it was from God.” Peter continued, “May the same be true for you, that reading the Bible in your own language you will know it to be the Word of God for you. We pray God will bless the Ngudradrekai Bible so that you will know the promise of Psalm 119:105, that God’s word is a lamp to your feet and a light to your path.” Then he presented the Presbytery with a scroll-shaped plaque from the PCC with words of thanksgiving to God for the new Bible citing this verse in Ngudradrekai.
In my role as the BSTWN’s Translation Adviser for this project the past five years, I also shared words of thanksgiving. Thanks to God who loves the whole world and sent His Son Jesus Christ to be our Saviour. Thanks to God who sent the Holy Spirit so that all peoples could hear and read the Gospel in their own language. Thanks to God that 70 years ago Taiwanese Christians shared the Gospel with Paiwan people who in turn shared it with their Ngudradrekai neighbours. Thanks to God for the first generation of Ngudradrekai Christians who shared Bible stories by word of mouth with their families and villages. Thanks to God who gave people the desire for the Bible in Ngudradrekai. After the New Testament was published in 2001, the translation team was not satisfied, but wanted ALL of God’s Word in Ngudradrekai. For the next 11 years they kept working on a draft of the Old Testament. God guided them and helped them persevere. Sadly, along the way, Korean missionary friends Rev Han Te-sheng and his son Rev Han Yung-lin died from untimely illnesses. We were deeply moved to have their widow and mother Mrs Han at the service. One of our brilliant lead translators Rev Adriu Lai [see my earlier blog about him] also died from a severe stroke without seeing the final fruit of his many years of labour. We remembered them and thanked God for them.
I thank God for the five years I worked together with the dedicated team of faithful and gifted translators. We were more than coworkers; we were brothers and sisters in Christ our Lord. I know the long hours the translators worked. I know the way they humbly placed their God-given gifts before the Lord, then through prayer and hard work, through good discussions and mutual learning, how we trusted in God and did our best to faithfully translate God’s Word into Ngudradrekai.
I reminded people that it’s not easy to translate the Bible. The English Bible has more than 600 years of history with many English translations and revisions. The Chinese Bible has more than 200 years of history with various Chinese translations and revisions. Every translator’s desire is to take God’s holy and unchanging Word and translate it clearly and correctly into their own mother language. Ngudradrekai Bible translation only started 30 years ago. But by the grace of God people can now hold and read this amazing Bible.
In Matthew 4:4 Jesus cites Deuteronomy 8:3 and says:
“Amia kai ku Sisiu, ‘Ku panianianiake ki umawmase kai lri satalu ki akaneane sikakathane,
sataluta ku taiyane ki Twaumase ku vaga patueelre.'”
Thanks be to God! Now the whole Bible has been translated into Ngudradrekai.
We pray that all Ngudradrekai people and churches will daily feed on God’s Word and receive God’s blessing. May people use this Bible to teach their children and grandchildren, to help them preserve their beautiful indigenous language which contains so much of their culture, to help them speak their ancestral language daily, so they may also know the joy of reading, teaching and obeying God’s Word, as they build their houses on the solid Rock (Matt 7:24).
Near the end of the service, Chair of the translation team Rev Tanubake reported that he and the team will keep working in cooperation with local churches, village schools and community centres to hold Bible reading events, competitions and Bible camps. Then he proclaimed in the strong clear voice of a much loved pastor and chief, “Translating is done, reading begins!”
Note: If you click on a photo, you can see it in full size. You can also find more about the celebration service at:
https://www.facebook.com/Drekai.Ciwkai/videos/vb.227945873930381/1532280613496894/?type=2&theater (This is the whole 3 hour service in video. You can move to 2:22 and 3:05 for Paul and Peter’s sharing.)
http://aboriginal.pct.org.tw/news.htm?strBlockID=B00309&strContentID=C2017071400005&strDesc=Y&strPub=&strASP=news (Here is news about our visit to the PCT-GA office on July 14. Click on the short video to gain a quick sense of the thanksgiving service and people’s joyful responses to the new Bible — though reported in Mandarin.)
The PCT’s Taiwan Church News (July 17-23, 2017, Issue 3412) has two news reports in Han characters at
<https://issuu.com/801903/docs/3412> on pages 1 and 3.