The Luang people live on a small island far out in the seas of Southeast Asia and remember what it was like when the Bible was a closed book to them. And they remember when the New Testament was translated and the Book was finally opened.
In anticipation of the dedication day in 2005, they built a concrete monument with four nearly life-size figures. The first figure represents the missionary who first brought the gospel to them in the early 1800s. He is holding a large, red Bible, but it is closed. Beside him are figures of three Luang people — a man, a woman, and a child. The child also holds a Bible, but it is open! And on it are carved two verses in their very own language!
When Wycliffe translators Mark and Kathy Taber, who helped the Luang get those words in their language, came for the dedication, the people told them:
“Long ago Joseph Kam first brought God’s Word to our ancestors, and while some of them received it, their lives weren’t changed because they couldn’t read and understand it. It was a closed book to them, and so their insides remained hard as they continued to live according to their traditional beliefs.
“But now, we, the younger generation, have received God’s Word in our own language and it’s an open book that makes our insides come alive. Now we read it with joy because we know what it means. Now we can follow God’s Word for ourselves and our lives are changed.”
Since the dedication, the treasured words have leaped off the written page and into the Facebook pages and smartphones of the Luang, especially the younger generation.
Mark and Kathy knew that the young people were sharing Bible verses on Facebook. In fact they’d posted the first verses and watched the Luang — many of whom were university students at a provincial capital — pick up the habit. But they weren’t sure what else was happening. So in 2014, they went back to visit, hoping to encourage Scripture use.
They were astonished to find the young people already highly motivated to use the translated Scriptures! They were way ahead of Mark and Kathy in accessing the New Testament on their smartphones and sharing it with each other. They’d also discovered an audio recording of Luang Genesis on the internet that was recorded back in the mid-1990s — a Gospel Recordings production — and they were listening to it on their phones, too.
Young people and older ones who had not yet learned to read and write Luang were catching on quickly by reading Facebook posts and texting each other on their mobile phone. This informal substitute for literacy classes was spreading quickly, and more and more people were now engaging with Luang Scriptures — and with the God of the Scriptures!
Along with the written Word, the Luang liked listening to the spoken Word. So, in October 2014 Mark and Kathy encouraged their Luang friends to record the Gospel of John and they eagerly participated. The young person who read chapter 17 was so moved by Jesus’ prayer for his followers (including her!) that she broke into tears and stopped reading. The recordist encouraged her to continue, and they recorded the passage with all of the emotion she was feeling. Now all of the Luang can feel the impact of Jesus’ prayer for them.
Mark and Kathy came home overwhelmed by God’s goodness. For 18 years they traveled back and forth over stormy seas in small leaky boats, experiencing hunger, sickness, sorcery, evacuation, and the deaths of several friends…all to reach the Luang people with the Word of God in their language. Now they had seen the Scriptures in use, with the younger generation leading the way. God’s Word in the Luang language was making Luang insides come alive. It was worth it all.