On the occasion of an important event in Wycliffe: ‘Beautiful are the feet of those who bear the good news.’

On the occasion of an important event in Wycliffe: 'Beautiful are the feet of those who bear the good news.'


Early this summer, I stood in a mountain village in the northern Philippines called Debagat—not far from where our family has lived for nearly 15 years—celebrating a moment that had passed 66 years. A moment full of joy and hope, made possible by those who responded to God’s call with a resounding “yes”.

As roosters crowed in the background, and a clear blue sky shimmered above our heads on a damp June morning, three generations gathered under one roof to sing, pray, and praise God for his faithfulness. On that day we dedicated a complete translation of the Bible by Esnaj, the language of the village of Debagat. Five hundred copies of God’s Word have been distributed to community members, and thousands more are on the way. Decades of obedience have brought us there, to a place where the people of Esnag can read the entire Bible in the language they best understand.

What a joy it is to witness yet another group carrying the transformative message of the gospel – the Word of God in the language of their hearts. In my work with Wycliffe Bible Translators, we pray that every person on earth will have access to all of God’s Word in the languages ​​and forms that will best serve them.

But for the people of Debagat, it wasn’t always like this. The Isnaj translation of the Bible was possible because people said “yes” to God’s call more than 50 years ago.

(Image source: Wycliffe Bible Translators, USA)

The Philippines has more than 150 known languages. So, in 1953, when Cameron Townsend, the missionary linguist and founder of Wycliffe, was invited by Ramon Magsaysay, then president of the Philippines, to do a Bible translation, he answered with a touching yes. A year later, it was decided that Debagat was the ideal location to learn the language of Esnage, and in 1956, a missionary named Dick Roe arrived to begin learning the language and translating the Gospel of Mark.

Nard Pujiao was seven years old when Dick arrived at Debagat. But Nard was curious about Dick and his work and began to ask important questions about God. Why does God allow his son to die? Why didn’t God save Jesus? By studying the Gospel of Mark—the first book of the Bible to be translated into the Synagogue—and learning about God’s sacrificial love and Jesus’ triumphant resurrection, five years after Dick’s arrival, Nard’s life is forever changed.

Nard continued to study God’s Word and felt strongly that others should also have this opportunity. He answered God’s call to participate in the translation of the Bible through missionary flying. After his education in the United States, he became a missionary pilot and helicopter pilot and served with SIL alongside his wife in the Philippines. He flew to and from Debagat, the same village where he grew up, providing air service for the translation team. In 1982—26 years after “Yes” Dick—Nard was the pilot who delivered the first 500 copies of the translated New Testament to Esnaage. Now others can read, learn and know God in their own language as well.

The Word of God began to transform those who encountered it, just as it did with Rudy Parlan.

Rudy, a Filipino from Pangasinan, got to know Jesus through a college classmate. Rudy confessed his faith in Jesus, after being convicted under Romans 10:9, and began to live a life where everything felt new. “I had a desire to have the word of God,” he says, recalling how he read the Gospel of John in one sitting. “The word of God was irresistibly attracting me.”

Rudy was studying engineering, felt God’s calling but knew no other way to serve the Lord besides becoming a pastor, and began taking theology classes at night. After graduating and working as an engineer for a year, he says, “I felt like I was in the wrong place,” and quit his job shortly thereafter.

But soon, with no money for a theological education, Rudy was steered toward a job in linguistics and trained in 1971. He arrived at Debagat with one briefcase for what he thought was a one-year assignment, but he learned to love linguistics and soon began preaching and translating hymns into language. attribution. One year became two, two became three, and Rudy, along with Dick, continued the translation business year after year.

(Image source: Wycliffe Bible Translators, USA)

The New Testament was first dedicated in 1982, and its revision, with the addition of Genesis and Exodus, was celebrated in 2006. At that event, Rudy agreed it was time to translate the remainder of the Old Testament and set to work.

More than five decades after its initial move, Debagat still considers it home. Rather than retire, Rudy would like to write Bible studies in Essenaj that show Christ throughout the Old Testament. He continues to work alongside his “spiritually adopted” nephew, Mark Pujiao, who joined the Isnage translation team in 2009.

Prior to this, Mark Pujiao—who is also Nard’s nephew—was a Bible school student struggling with his assignments. Since he had difficulty communicating his thoughts and ideas in English, he had to ask his classmates for help. In contrast, when he meditates on reading God’s word in his own language, he says, “The language of my heart has given me a passion to share my experiences, my faith, and walk with the Lord. I can communicate with (others) very well.”

In 2009, Mark began work on translating the Old Testament into Synaage while Rudy served as a consultant. Of the other available translations of the Bible, Mark says: “Some people don’t really understand other languages.” He can easily talk emotionally about what it means from his personal experience to read, learn, and know the God of the Bible in the language he grew up speaking. It is the same force that reflects the changes that society has experienced.

From a generation that lived most of its life without the word of God, to a generation that was exposed to a part of it, the society of Isnaaj changed. People who previously requested that the shaman come to their homes when they were ill now asked the priest to intercede for them and pray for them. And after one of them dies, they call a minister, whether he is a believer or not. The people of Debagat have left behind their cultural spirituality and embraced the healing power of Jesus. On June 25, 2023, we join hundreds of our brothers and sisters in escaping in praising God for His faithfulness by praying for the next generation—the generation that will never know a time when not all of God’s Word is available in their lives. language.

(Image source: Wycliffe Bible Translators, USA)

Nard, Rhodey, and Mark answered God’s call with an obedient “yes,” and dedicated their lives to bringing the good news to the people of Esnag in the language they best understood. When asked what it was like to have the whole Bible, Mark said, “My heart melts when I read it in my own language. It helped me understand God more, and it made me want to keep sharing God’s word with others.” Other people make up.”

But translating the Bible is not the end of the journey. In fact, it is just the beginning. What took decades to create is now looking forward with expectation and hope. After dedicating the Isnage Bible, Mark shared with me his three-part prayer: that more people would know God, and that God would use them; And for strength and more workers to continue sharing God’s word.

As the Isnage left the dedication ceremony and began the journey home with their own copies of the Bible in hand, I couldn’t help but think of Isaiah’s exclamation in the Old Testament: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of these.” Who brings good news!” For many years, the people of the Philippines were on the receiving end of the missionary work. But now they are on the sending side, the evangelism and discipleship work of the Debagat people, and they spread the gospel using the Esnag Bible.

Dr. John Chesnutt is President and CEO, Inc Wycliffe Bible Translators USA.

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