What it takes to be a translator: “God created a space for me“.

I see how God created a space for me. When God first organised my life so that I would meet Mr Kapasa, who told me about mother-tongue Bible translation, I was given the task of being an interpreter because they already had chosen translators to train with the DBT [Diploma in Bible Translation]. They didn’t need me as another translator; but God used this situation to build good working relationships with TWFTW, and they could see that I was serious and committed. Then two of the trainee translators fell away, and God made a space for me“. Meet Mubita Kalalo. Today, he is a Bible translator of the Luyana language in Zambia. He says this opportunity is one of the things that God did in his life that he will never forget; sovereignly orchestrating his practical involvement in mother-tongue Bible translation work. This work has empowered him in profound ways, and he says it’s even been part of how God has saved his life! (See the video: [Zambia] Paratext Training for Bible Translators – YouTube)

For as many mother-tongue Bible translators, there are equal numbers of unique testimonies of how they got involved in and experience their work. To answer the question, ‘what does it take to be a translator’, we can say in short – God creates space for them. In the next few blogs leading up to Christmas, we would like to invite all those in other parts of the Body of Christ around the world to join us as we learn more about the privilege and responsibility our translators carry to fulfil God’s call on their lives. The first thing that is required in order to become a translator is training. They commit substantial amounts of time and effort to thorough study. They make space in their lives for Bible translation because they long for their communities to have the Bible in their most natural language. Many translators add translation work to everything else they already do to make a living and work in their communities.

They begin with TWFTW’s Diploma in Bible Training (DBT) programme which gives them a chance to have something that is accredited. The programme itself is made up of part linguistics, part biblical studies and part anthropology. Many of the courses include projects and assignments that are integral to the early work of starting a Bible translation project that will include sociolinguistic surveys, translating a short book, language development, and implementing literacy programmes. This diploma especially is helpful for people who haven’t had access to secondary school education. They embark on this journey because they have a passion for their people, a desire to develop their language and bring them the Bible in their own tongue.

Practically, in many places, the training programme is organised over 3 – 4 years of annual or biannual training events. The training events are about a month long and held in capital cities or centralised locations. There are usually groups of 20 – 60 translators who will stay away from their families for that entire month to do this training. While they cheerfully sacrifice time away from their families because they know God has called them, they face challenges such as their kids getting sick, their houses broken into or other problems back home while they are away at the DBT training with no ability to physically help.

Despite these challenges, they see this education as a great opportunity, and it has attracted a lot of people to the work of translation. Some see the training as an opportunity to become educated and better their lives and their families’ lives. Most translators see this education as a God-given means to enable them to serve their communities as well as enrich their own lives. When you put the whole picture together of translators working towards language development, literacy, and Bible translation, you get a team of translators who are the FIRST people in their language to read the Bible in their heart language. They become the first people to engage their own people with the clear, accurate, and understandable truths of the Bible. Our translators are and become true servant leaders as they walk a path of understanding God’s truth and love in His Word.

Mubita (above) is an example of how God has used him to become a servant leader in his own family because of the Bible translation training work he is doing. He says that when he started Bible translation work his family could not believe it! They couldn’t believe that someone with his education level, his storey of having lost his father and living an impoverished childhood could do this type of work. He hadn’t been able to have consistent schooling because of lack of funds for the school fees. But today when his family reads this Word of God in Luyana, they are amazed and blessed! Mubita remembers his uncle, who sadly passed away last year, and the life-changing impact the Bible in Luyana had on him. He said to Mubita, “I can hear God speaking my own language. Through you, Mubita.” That Uncle continued encouraging Mubita to carry on in this calling right to the end of his life, because: “We need this work, and we need this Bible“.

Join us again next time to take another step into the everyday lives of our translators.