“Did you know your job exists because of sin?”

My friend’s question over lunch still causes my mind to lurch in astonishment as much as it did the day he asked it.

“The Tower of Babel. If it wasn’t for their sin and the dispersing of languages, you wouldn’t have a job.”

At that time, he had turned back to his lunch, chasing a stray tomato with his fork, and dismissed the discussion without a further thought. But it hasn’t left my mind. As a linguist and Bible translator in Papua New Guinea (a small island just north of Australia), I can’t afford to let it.

A small village church in Papua New Guinea

John Piper says, “Missions exists because worship does not.”

It’s easy in our task-oriented, checklist culture to be excited by concrete goals, such as communicating all 31,000+ verses in the Bible in an unwritten language or trying to label every “unreached” people group so we can “accomplish the task.” But such math is not the point. The purpose of Bible translation, whether for the very first time in a remote language of Papua New Guinea or the latest and greatest English translation, the purpose is never to merely translate the text and leave the manuscript on a shelf.  Rather, it is to bring people into a true worship of God. My job is about people, not words. It’s about eternity, not alphabets.

There are only two things eternal in this earthly world: people and Scripture. Bible translation impacts both, as the Lord knew it would long before the disobedience at the Tower of Babel threw up linguistic barriers.

From the chaos, the Lord brings beauty, and even through the confusion of languages He is glorified. For, in heaven, rather than all speaking one exalted language, Revelation 7:9 proclaims that people from every tribe, nation, and language will stand before the throne praising God: a multitude of voices worshipping the Lord in a multitude of tongues.

My job won’t be needed. And I can’t wait.

 My Role in Bible Translation in Papua New Guinea 

As a linguist/translator, I work alongside national Papua New Guinean translators to bring transformation to the community through the Word of God. In many cases, this starts with development of a written alphabet! Although new strategies and technologies have sped the process, translation projects can still take anywhere from 8-20 years!

I also assist in the linguistics office on center, helping provide training to both expatriates and nationals to better equip them for their assignments in this country.