Nestled amidst the lush greenery of jungle and plantations in Southeast Asia stands the Bandi Language and Culture Association Centre (the Centre). Built in 2007 with help from the local community, the building in the district town serves as the nerve centre for many of the translation and scripture use activities of the Bandi people group.
Growing the Ministry
According to Ed, our host, growing the ministry was challenging. As a foreigner, he had to spend the first four to five years just focusing on building relationships with the villagers. During that time, he and his family not only lived like locals within the village, but also served the community with many acts of kindness. He shared how the villagers depended on him on many occasions to send the sick to the hospital which was situated a long distance away from the village.
The Centre has attracted and benefited the villagers through programmes such as computer and language classes. Local village heads and politicians were supportive because of its positive impact and contributions to Bandi culture.
The work at the Centre has evolved over the years. Today, its core activities include the drafting and translation of the Bible into the Bandi language as well as the production of Christian audio and video resources, teaching materials and oral stories in the Bandi language. This work is done with the help of 15 dedicated mother-tongue translators (MTTs). These committed ladies spend at least 20 days a month at the Centre. Their daily routine includes quiet time in the mornings, cooking and bonding over meals.
Growing in Unity
One cannot help but notice many churches within the community. There are five Christian churches of different denominations in close proximity to each other. It was so encouraging to see the leaders and members from these different churches working together in unity, translating the Bible into their heart language. Twice a week, men from the five denominations gather to review the work done by the MTTs.
Growing in God’s Word
While we were there, a video of Matthew’s gospel dubbed in the Bandi language was screened. Men and women arrived at the Centre, eager to view a few chapters of Matthew on video. The video was especially effective in reaching out to those who were not able to read. After viewing the video, the villagers divided into three groups for a Bible study session followed by a time of sharing what they had learnt from the scripture. It was great to see the villagers use the material that they had painstakingly translated.
The MTTs have completed drafting Luke and Colossians, and John’s gospel is about 60% completed. The next step is for external language consultants to formally review the drafts. Other resources developed to help the Bandi Christians grow spiritually include oral stories, music albums, “big books” for storytelling and literacy, cartoons and even a dictionary.
Growing in Outreach
It was wonderful to hear testimonies of family members coming to the Christian faith. A local believer, together with his wife, daughter and grandchild are regulars at the Centre. He shared that he has a burden for the other members in his family and actively reaches out to them. Many other Bandi Christians also reach out to their own family members who may have other beliefs.
The Bandi people have also been working with a few neighbouring people groups. They have conducted a number of workshops to share their knowledge and experience in developing oral stories, creating audio content and producing “big books”. Ed has teamed up with a local pastor and the workshops are supported by a local Christian denomination in the district.
We observed that the Bandi teams conducting the workshops consisted of young people, with most of them in their mid- to late-teens. Many of them have had to leave their villages to come to the bigger towns to study and work. Kudos to these passionate young people for taking the lead to serve!
Alan is a short-term volunteer with Wycliffe Singapore, and is taking the opportunity to see more of the work of Wycliffe. He has had a career in IT and has put those skills to good use for the organisation. He and his wife have 3 children, aged 19, 17 and 13.
* Not the real name.