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A 100-year Bible dream comes true in China

Author: Simon Bartz, 19 April 2024

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We visited the East Lisu minority community in China to see how they are getting on with the Bible that, thanks to Bible Society supporters, was translated into their dialect for the first time.

‘Trying to reach the remote village in the mountains of South-Western China was like playing a video game where you conquer one level of challenges only to be presented with yet another. It was a nine-hour round trip by car,’ said Arleen Luo, Bible Society’s Manager of Asia and Chinese Mission. ‘Imagine what it must have been like for the first British missionaries 100 years ago.’

The Lisu people are scattered over a wide mountainous area and speak in many dialects. The East Lisu community that Arleen visited previously had no Bible in their own dialect and had to make do with the Chinese Bible, which many elderly people cannot read. That changed when, thanks to your support, an East Lisu translation was published in 2013.

So how are they getting on with their new Bible?

‘Having a Bible in their heart language means this community of people can now engage with the Scriptures on a much deeper level of understanding,’ said Arleen. ‘I saw the big difference the translation has made. There has been a sizable increase in the number of believers, but it’s best we don’t reveal the true figure. Sometimes in China it’s better not to attract too much attention.’

The translation team reunited for Arleen’s recent visit. They worshipped together and then chatted and shared a huge bowl of rabbit stew.

One of them, Liang, is the great-grandson of the man who acted as an assistant for one of the missionary teams 100 years ago,’ said Arleen. ‘Liang’s great-grandfather prayed for Bibles when the missionaries left and many years later his son (Liang’s grandfather) appealed to the local authorities for a Bible in their own language, and the officials granted the request and contacted Bible Society. The final result was the 2013 translation.’

So what’s the next step?

‘We’re now exploring the next steps,’ said Arleen. ‘We are already equipping and supporting teachers who will train pastors, and there is also a Study Bible in the pipeline. A translation project for a minority language in China is multi-faceted. It doesn’t end with a translation, as what we are looking for is Bible engagement. We’re working on that for the East Lisu and the Wa people (another minority language community in southwestern China) right now.’

As Arleen was leaving, Liang’s grandfather approached and, full of joy, said, ‘I know God loves the East Lisu people because we are among one of the 700 tribes and nations who now have a full Bible. Please thank the people who gave us God’s word in our own language.’

The difference you can make

Holding the Bible in his hands strengthened the faith of Liang’s grandfather. His language group has joined those with access to all of God’s word. Many more language groups are still waiting. You can help bring a long-awaited translation to completion by twinning your Bible today. Find out how.

Twin your Bible

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