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May 15, 2021

Hello! I’m sending this update to you from Jakarta, where I am in my third day of five in quarantine after arriving here. This audio update is for any of you listeners to the Daily Bible Reading Podcast who would like to hear about my work as a Bible translator. This is not one of the Reader Take Note series where I discuss various topics in God’s Word. 

For those of you who are new DBRP listeners who don’t know much about our ministry as Bible translators in Indonesia, here is the back story: Gale and I came to Indonesia as aspiring Bible translators in 1983. After learning the Indonesian language for 6 months, in mid-1984, we chose to work among the Orya language group. That project lasted for 21 years. The Orya New Testament was dedicated in 2005. But even before completing that project, I was convinced that Indonesia’s national language needed a better Bible translation. So in that same year, 2005, we started what eventually was named the Plain Indonesian Translation. In order to publish a Bible translation for Indonesia’s national language, I found it necessary to start a non-profit Bible translation organization. The OurLanguage Bible Organization (which I will refer to as Albata) was started in 2012. Then in 2014, the Plain Indonesian Translation NT was published in its first edition.

Skipping to the present: It is not fun to have to wade through the list of requirements to do international travel these days. One bright spot, however, was that this time the planes were quite empty. All the passengers had extra room on the 12 ½ hour flight from Dallas to Narita (Japan), and the 7 hour flight from Narita coming here. Once on the ground in Jakarta, all the passengers were herded through 8 different checking stations. Normally it would take me around half an hour to get through the immigration check and pick up my luggage. This time it took 2 ½ hours. At the end of the line, in a process supervised by the police, all foreigners coming into the country have to quarantine in a hotel for 5 days at their own expense. During the 5 days I will get two PCR Covid tests. At least, as one fellow passenger observed, the good thing in all this is that Indonesia’s government is trying their best to limit new strains of the Covid virus from entering the country.

So here I am on the 16th floor of a 4-star hotel, all alone, getting 3 very good meals per day, and finding it hard to stay awake and even harder to force myself to exercise in my room.

In November of last year, I started working with four members of our translation team here to revise our Plain Indonesian New Testament. I finished my main part in that revision process just before starting this trip. I am looking forward to what God will do through his Word in this new edition and ask for your prayers.

  • For the first time ever, in this third edition, the New Testament will be published using high quality Bible paper and with a more durable cover. Instead of looking like a fat paperback book, this time the New Testament will look like a sacred book should look.
  • I am certain that readers will enjoy our more concise and more precise translation with added footnotes.
  • Much enthusiasm for the Plain Indonesian Translation has come through a partnering group called the Good Seed Network, which is challenging people to read the whole NT in 90 days. People have been participating from all over Indonesia. We will be giving away thousands of New Testaments this year to people who are in this program.

About a month ago, Balazi, the director of our organization here in Indonesia, brought it to my attention that many Indonesians use the KJV as their final authority when confused by Indonesian Bible translations. Two things have bothered me about that:

  • Indonesian students of the Bible need better tools to be able to discover what the Hebrew and Greek source texts actually say. The source language of the Bible is not the English of the KJV.
  • And secondly, students of the Bible in Indonesia need better information about how we got our Bible, including information about how the original language texts were preserved for us and what happened in the history of Bible translations, including the far-reaching influence of the KJV.

So I started writing a short history of Bible translation which is now about 80% finished. I have enjoyed discovering so many things I never knew about all this, and I hope to share them with you in one or two Reader Take Note series podcasts, sometime after I get back home (at the end of June).

If you have listened to this so far, I ask you to pray for my time in Indonesia. Here are three prayer requests:

  • In four to eight years our Bible translation organization here (Albata) will be able to publish the Plain Indonesian Bible with a complete Old Testament. I hope to live to see that day. But our six team members here are looking farther into the future and asking, “After that, what will we do?” We will be having meetings starting next week to discuss that topic. The answer to that question will tell Albata’s leaders what they need to do in the next few years to prepare for the future. My main concern now is to set operating principles and establish an organizational culture that will help Albata continue as a ministry that the Lord will be pleased to use in the future. Please pray that the Lord will give us his wisdom.
  • One of our partner organizations is called Faith Comes By Hearing. They do many of the audio Bible recordings all over the world. They have given us 100 audio Bible players (called Proclaimers) that are for the Orya people. I look forward to being among the Orya people when we start distributing those in June. Now FCBH have promised to give us 400 more Proclaimer units which we will give to people who are unable to read or those who have vision problems. I hope to be present when we distribute a few of those during my trip. The solar powered Proclaimer units are expensive, and we never would be able to afford so many of them. We are so grateful for FCBH’s support! Please give thanks to the Lord for the gift of the 500 Proclaimer units, and pray that the Lord will lead us to those who need and will cherish these.
  • Please pray for me in many divine appointments, that I can be the Lord’s representative, speaking with the help of the Holy Spirit.

In family news, our daughter, Hannah, with Brandon and three kids will soon be leaving Jakarta. Brandon has accepted a job directing a ministry to refugees in Greenville, SC. I will only get to eat dinner with them a couple of times before they leave.

Gale will travel from Arkansas to Greenville to see them shortly after they arrive there. Then Gale will drive a rented car from there to visit her Mom in Georgia. Her Mom has been under hospice care for over 6 months now. She is so ready to be in the presence of her Savior.

Thank you for praying for us, and we pray for you that 

the Lord will bless you ‘real good’.

Phil