Imagine what it’s like for a pastor to preach in a dialect different to that of his congregation. People in Indonesia’s Southwest Sumba region speak Kodi and one church leader actually sees his people tune out when they don’t understand him.
“When I preach in Indonesian or the closest dialect, the congregation mostly keep chewing betel leaf and areca nut (a local habit),” shares this Kodian pastor. But there’s a different reaction when, instead of using the national language, he speaks in Kodi, their heart language. “They are (then) seriously listening to my preaching.”
There’s another reason for the rapt attention. There is no written Scripture available in Kodi, and so the congregation hangs on to their pastor’s every word as he interprets from the national language.
Thanks to the generosity of supporters, Bible Society Australia has helped the Indonesian Bible Society (IBS) start work this year on the first ever Kodi Scripture translation. The New Testament in Kodi is expected to be ready by 2025, and the Kodi community can hardly wait for this precious gift.
In Central Sulawesi, Pak Josep had never imagined he would become a Bible translator. But out of his love for God’s word and his own language, the former carpenter joined the team updating the Bible in Mori. A quiet man, Pak Josep says he is so thankful to be in the team. “I do not have any theological background, but I translate the Bible. What a privilege!” he says repeatedly.
Mori, unlike Kodi, already has a New Testament. It was first published in 1949 and contains many words which are no longer in use. In 2004, the Indonesian Bible Society began work on a contemporary version, and published an update in 2010.
The translation team enjoys working together and praying for one another and for the project. Sometimes, workshops can become heated as they discuss the best word to use, but this debate helps with a better translation.
One man who keeps a close watch on accuracy is Pak Marto, the coordinator. He speaks Mori, and understands the struggle when they cannot find the exact word or phrase to use. To complicate matters, there are 32 Mori subdialects, though work is proceeding in Ngusumbatu, the lingua franca.
Despite the challenges, Pak Marto focuses upon the impact that the translation team can make. “I become enthusiastic when translating the Bible. I imagine that my work with other team members will be a blessing to the Bible in Mori which will be read by our future generations.”