A couple weeks ago i mentioned that i met up with a girl called Ning who's a part of the team translating the Bible into thai sign language over here. I said that i'd tell you a bit more about the project before, so here is....
I first heard about the project here just before i came over to Thailand last year. When i was working at Anglican Media, one of my clients was Bible Society Australia who produced the Auslan Bible (bible in sign language) in Australia. When i sent out an email to all my clients to say that i was going to be coming over to Thailand and living in Chiang Mai, i got a very excited email back from my client who at the time was in Chiang Mai meeting with a group of Thai's who were interested in doing a Thai signed version of the Bible. Australia has essentially been the pioneers of the signed Bible, so when many of the people here in Thailand heard that i was coming over, they were very keen to meet me and pick my brains on anything i knew about the project.
So, a couple months after i arrived, i met up with Chumsaeng - the head of Wycliffe Thailand (a bible translating organisation over here), who explained to me where they were at with the project. Essentially, right at the very beginning! They had only JUST started translating and were still trying to work out how they'd do it, given the fact that there aren't very many deaf christians here, plus there aren't a huge number of hearing people who are able to sign - which doesn't help the translation project as the reason why a signed bible is so important is that sign language is completely different to thai language - so for a deaf person to translate from Thai is like me trying to translate the Thai Bible to english right now with my current level of Thai. Plus it seems that the sign language in Northern Thailand is different from Southern Thailand. Plus something i realised after my meeting with Ning, was how much harder it would be for any deaf Thai person to actually understand Thai, as Thai is a tonal language ie. have the same sounding word said 5 different ways which all mean something totally different. So even trying to understand the spelling of eg names from the 72 letter alphabet (plus tone markers) must be a nightmare. เข้าใจไหม!!! - if you're wondering what that means - you're probably in the same boat as most deaf thai's. So from the outset, it was always going to be a massive project!
My roles in the project in Australia were pretty much after the translation had been done and was in the production of the actual Bible - so filming, editing, DVD authoring. So right now, there's not a huge amount that i'm able to do, except get to know members of the team, encourage them to keep on persevering and hopefully when the time comes to produce the Bible, i can help them with the production of it - whenever that may be.
So it was a really nice surprise to get an email from Ning, one of the girls from the south of Thailand involved in the project. She's a hearing person who only a few years ago (for reasons she's not sure about) decided to learn sign. As she got to know more deaf people, the more she wanted to learn more sign so se could communicate, which meant she ended up being a part of a deaf church here and now she has a huge heart to reach the Thai deaf community with the gospel. It's really exciting to chat to her and hear her passion and desire to make the Bible available to deaf Thai's. However, when i talk to her, it's pretty clear to see how tough the project is for someone who has only been signing for a few years now to take on such a huge task. In one full day, she managed to translate 2 paragraphs of the book of Mark. When there's 16 chapters involved, you can imagine that it may take a while. Since she's gone back home (she was only up in CM for a weeklong meeting - but will be back up every 3 months or so), we've kept in contact by email. She's had a few prayer points to say ask for:
- team unity between the hearing and deaf members of the team. It seems that they are struggling to always understand each other, and it's causing some problems at times
- Pray for perseverance of the team members. Many of them are finding the going tough after only just a few months and are really wanting out already which will make the workload heavier for those who are left
- pray for more team members who might be able to help them
- pray for the funding that's needed for this project
It really is an exciting project which may take up to a couple years for them to translate the book of Mark. Many of those involved don't feel like they're up to the task, but have a huge passion to make the bible known to all people, so please also pray that God will give them the wisdom and skills needed to translate the Bible accurately and in a way that is helpful to those who will be watching it.