I was there as an observer. Up until this point, my closest tie to the Yalunka people was the many prayers I offered on their behalf and the numerous stories I heard about them from our president, Greg Pruett. Now I was privileged beyond words to witness these stories take on flesh before my very eyes as the Word of God came to life among them.
My eyes scanned the crowd of Yalunka men and women, hoping to absorb every snapshot of this historic moment – the dedication of the complete Bible in their language. It was actually the little things that stood out to me.
First there was the man who accepted the gift of a Bible with unbridled joy on his face. He didn’t glance up from the Word for the next fifteen minutes or so, opening the book and immediately beginning to read. He then struck up conversations with those around him, pointing to the text and smiling. Although I couldn’t hear or understand his words, my heart sung with the realization, “He is Bibleless no more!”
Then there were the children, so curious about the many westerners who showed up for this momentous day. They were eager to hold my hands, have their picture taken and catch my attention with a smile. They are the first generation of Yalunka children to grow up with access to God’s Word in their language. As their parents become acquainted with and transformed by Scripture, so too, will they.
I watched the Yalunka church leaders unload the boxes of Bibles in front of the crowd and set them down reverently on the table. They methodically passed them out to each group of visitors according to the size of the church in their area. Some men received one or two, others were given entire boxes of Bibles to take home with them. At the conclusion of the ceremony, I choked up as these same men lifted the boxes to their shoulders and carried them off from the meeting place. I imagined the rejoicing of the saints waiting at home as the Bibles were delivered and could almost hear the sound of pages turning in church on Sunday as the pastor preached from the Yalunka Bible instead of the French.
I then observed one of our veteran missionaries open the Book, awe etched on the canvas of her face. I almost felt like an intruder on her private expression of praise for this long awaited day. She served for years as a literacy specialist among the Yalunka people, daily laboring to teach them to read so they could take ownership of the Scriptures once they were available. She placed her hand palm down on the pages of this Holy Book, closed her eyes and raised her head heavenward. The reverence in her countenance sang with mine, “They are Bibleless no more!”
Finally, my eyes caught sight of a woman standing in the back of the crowd, pulling her ear and looking intently at the ground below. As she dropped down on all fours to look for her earring, I saw Scripture played out before me – the vision of another woman sweeping her entire house in search of a lost coin (Luke 15:8). In that moment, I heard the whispers of the Father, “I am searching for every lost Yalunka soul – every…single…one.”
As songs were sung in praise to God, as introductions of visitors from far away were made, as sermons were delivered and prayers prayed, my love and appreciation grew for the worldwide team who enabled this ministry among these beautiful people. We always describe the ministry of Pioneer Bible Translators as a team ministry, but the reality of this was never clearer to me than at that moment. God accomplished this work – our first completed Bible – through a team of missionaries, support personnel, donors and prayer warriors who each made sacrifices to see God’s Kingdom expand.
Together we look forward to the day when a great multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language will stand before the throne and before the Lamb (Rev. 7:9-10). On that day, none present will be mere observers, but full participants in the coming of His glory.