Since childhood, Lee’s* life has always been engaged with Scripture. He is 40 years old and belongs to the Karen people, which is a minority people group in Southeast Asia. Growing up with Christian parents, Lee heard Bible stories and the teachings of Jesus since he was a child. The Bible was translated into his language more than a hundred years ago. He has always heard God's Word in the language he understands best. But he realises that it is a privilege not everyone enjoys.
At the age of 25, Lee graduated from a Bible school and became a pastor. Ten years later, he completed a Master of Ministry degree and worked with the Bible League as an administrator. Then in March 2010 Lee decided to become more directly involved in Bible translation.
He wanted to share Scriptures with those who are still without God's Word in their own language. However, rather than being a Bible translator, he chose to become the coordinator for a Scripture engagement (SE) team. He and his team help people to apply translated Scripture to their everyday lives.
FOR LASTING IMPACT
“SE is basically helping people to use the Bible,” Lee explains.
He says that many people misunderstand Bible translation ministry, believing that once the Scripture is translated, the work is finished. However, SE is essential for translated Scriptures to make a difference in people’s every-day lives.
“We focus not only on the product, but the actual impact on people as well,” says Lee. “The process doesn't stop when the Scriptures are translated. It lasts until the Scriptures…impact the people.”
In his country there are more than a hundred minority language communities. While they all need more help with Scripture engagement, currently his team serves in only about 30 of them. They are looking for opportunities to serve more.
Lee and his team visit Bible schools, churches and communities. They introduce SE programs and encourage church ministries, such as Sunday schools, to share with their students about how to use and apply the Scriptures. Through these activities Lee and his team hope to get more people actively using and engaging with Scripture in their languages.
USING MULTIMEDIA IN ENGAGEMENT
As Lee is on the job, he sees how multimedia is an indispensable tool in Scripture engagement. He points out that nearly all minority language communities traditionally have oral cultures. It is often more natural for them to listen or watch than to read. Therefore, Bible stories crafted in audio or visual forms are often more easily understood. Additionally, multimedia tools help language communities preserve and develop their traditions, culture and language.
Lee believes that multimedia is essential for people groups that already have the Scriptures in their own language, because it helps with continued learning. And, for those who do not yet have the Scriptures, multimedia brings the Gospel in accessible forms. Recordings of music and videos with simple picture stories are examples of multimedia that oral communities often enjoy.
“We can use multimedia skills to reach out to people groups without the Bible in their language,” explains Lee. “With the skill of doing audio recording now, we're planning to use CDs, cell phone and small devices as a means to share the Scripture. Electricity is now available in our rural areas, and even if it’s not, we have solar batteries and generators. The people can watch TV and Video-CDs easily.”
Some churches among minority language communities in his country are hesitant to use multimedia in Christian education or Sunday school. They feel that they do not have enough money and manpower. However, Lee has found a way to meet this multimedia need as well.
“I've learnt how to produce media tools in cheaper and easier ways,” he explains. He also hopes to host training workshops to share his knowledge with others.
A PERFECT FIT
Because Scripture engagement has only been an organised activity in his country for a few years, there has been no example to follow. Lee’s team has found it important to advance cautiously. For this reason, Lee completed a 10-week training course on Scripture engagement. And, he continues to learn on the job without being deterred by the challenges.
“I like preaching the Bible, and I have the passion to share the Gospel... [But] I don't see my potential to be a Bible translator. Scripture engagement fits me better!” he says with a smile.
An outgoing and lively personality together with excellent training help to make Lee a perfect fit for Scripture engagement. What’s more, those years in Bible school and serving in a church have helped him build a strong network with many church leaders, which is essential as he visits churches and communities.
Chew Tong, who was involved in training Lee how to use multimedia, affirmed Lee’s performance: “Lee is a person with the big picture. He is able to plan well. He is also good at coordinating people.”
FOLLOWING THE PIONEER
Lee is thankful for the support of his family and his church for his participation in this ministry.
“They regard it as God's work,” Lee shares. “Even though they feel that they are small, they see this as a way that they can be part of God’s work.”
The example that he and his team have set for committing themselves to Bible translation ministry is influencing others. For example, a young man working in Lee’s office is praying about becoming a Bible translator himself one day.
In 2013, the churches in Lee's country had celebrations commemorating the missionary who translated the Bible into their national language 200 years ago. Before Lee became a Scripture engagement coordinator, he only knew facts about what that missionary did – writing their grammar, compiling their dictionary, and translating the Bible into their language. Now, after serving in Bible translation himself, he sees clearly why the work this missionary did was truly significant for his people.
“Now I understand, and I want to do the same, too,” shares Lee.