In 1962, two young American women, Joanne Shetler and Anne Fetzer, felt convicted to go the Balangao, a tribe in northern Philippines, to help them write down their language and translate the Scriptures. They were not deterred by the fact that the Balangaos were animistic head-hunters, or that they lived “two-days’ hike beyond the end of the road”!
Joanne worked there for 20 years until the Balangao New Testament was completed. At the Bible dedication, Masa-aw, a Balangao man who had helped with checking the translation, said, Even though we don’t understand other languages, at last a Book as been born that we can understand.
"Even though we aren’t worldly wise, even though we haven’t gone to school, even though we just cook our meals over an open fire in our house, we can still understand this Word of God — because it has come out in our language — Balangao.
… And though we’ve never gone to school, this is even greater than graduating from college; it is the most magnificent of all. For twenty years we’ve been studying this Word of God with nothing added to it to dilute it.
Some people say “Yeah, but when [Joanne] leaves, it’ll be all over.” … That would be true if we were following just people. But if it’s this Book we follow, that won’t happen. It will be our reference point.
And now it’s [the Holy] Spirit who is in each of us, ruling over us. He is the one who works in us, making us steadfast in our faith. It’s not a person that we follow. Therefore our faith will not fade away; it’ll stand true."
Read Joanne Shetler’s account of her years translating the New Testament for the Balangao people.
And the Word Came with Power by Joanne Shetler with Patricia Purvis, Wycliffe Bible Translators, 1992. See more
To learn more, you can also attend the upcoming Culture Meets Scripture workshop conducted by Joanne Shetler.