“We need your help! Can we borrow your translation skills for a project?” The voice of the Lao Adventist Mission publishing director sounded urgent.
“I will have to pray about it since my primary task is editing and preparing our Thai translation of Patriarchs and Prophets for publication,” I answered hesitatingly. “Adding a Lao project would be challenging. What is the project?”
His answer hit me like a thunderbolt. “The Great Controversy!” Having a copy nearby, I quickly discovered that the last page was 678.
Curious, I asked, “When is this due?”
“We’d like to publish it in January of 2024!” He replied confidently. However, I wasn’t so confident.
At about this same time, the team assisting me with editing Patriarchs and Prophets experienced a disruption that caused them to reduce their weekly output. After prayer and getting permission from my supervisors and the AFM office, I contacted the Lao Adventist Mission publishing director to accept the challenge of translating and editing The Great Controversy into Lao by the end of the year or as soon as possible after that.
Living in Southern Thailand with the ultimate goal of planting a church here, some may ask, “If Brian is translating, what is Duang doing? Why is Brian working on translation anyway?”
Duang is holding down the fort, acting as one of the editors for Patriarchs and Prophets, and engaging in friendship evangelism. Meanwhile, I am translating and working online with a team of Lao editors.
One of the reasons for focusing on translation is found in the parable of the talents recorded in Matthew 25:14–30. God expects us to make good use of His talents. On a similar note, Christ tells us that “the night cometh when no man can work” (John 9:4.) As this time draws near, we must leverage the talents God has given us for His kingdom. For me, that means working on translation.
A survey of Christian history reveals that nations with the Bible and Christian literature in their language have shown greater resilience in the face of persecution. Clearly, translated literature has the potential to strengthen the church in an entire country. The books Patriarchs and Prophets and The Great Controversy will equip God’s people in Thailand and Laos to share their faith and to stand through the trials just before us.
People often ask me how I learned Thai and Lao. My standard answer regarding language learning is, “Pray as if everything depends upon prayer and study as if everything depends upon study.” A few weeks ago, I translated Martin Luther’s observation on page 122 of The Great Controversy: “To pray well . . . is the better half of study.”
Two Bible texts guide my translation philosophy. “Then the LORD answered me and said: ‘Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it’” (Habakkuk 2:1 NKJV). “If, for example, the trumpet makes an unclear sound, who will get ready for battle? It is the same for you. If you do not speak clearly with your tongue, how will anyone know what is being said? For you will be speaking into the air” (1 Corinthians 14:8–9 NET). Each sentence must be faithful to the original while making sense and clearly conveying truth. In fact, the goal is for the reader to say “Amen” with each paragraph and to think that the Author was a native Thai or Lao speaker.
God equips His people with the gifts and talents needed for the work He calls them to. I once knew an effective short-term missionary who never learned the local language. The missionary had exceptional people skills yet only knew a few basic words in Thai.
God may or may not give you the gift of tongues, but if you earnestly seek Him and cooperate with His leading, He will equip you with the skills needed for the work to which He calls you—a work for this time, before the night cometh when no one can work.