VITAL is a multi-language project taking place in Milne Bay. Its primary purpose is to train and equip members of different language groups to do Bible translation in their own languages. During the VITAL modules, the translators are reminded to take into account the whole story so they can fully understand what a passage means. This advice is proving helpful not only with the translation process, but it is also changing how people view God and study the Bible.
After translating portions of the book of Acts into the Buhutu language, Joyce took the passages home to be village-checked. Elders of the local church gathered with others to hear the reading of Acts 7:49 where Stephen quotes God saying to the prophet Isaiah, “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.” They also heard for the first time in their own language the account in Acts 16 where Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns while in prison. When the church elders heard how God sent an earthquake to free the apostles, they visualized God moving and pounding the earth in response to Paul and Silas’s joyful praise.
One of the elders said, “Oh! I stopped people from smiling and being joyful. I thought it was not okay to smile in church because God is holy. We understood holiness in a different way. We thought holiness was being quiet and serious, but now I see it’s a joyful thing.”
Joyce asserts that sharing ideas about the larger picture behind passages like this has helped people to really see who God is. She’s always excited to bring a draft of her translation work to her mother so she can read it. Joyce encourages her mother and the Buhutu people to visualize the big picture behind the stories they read in the Bible. She also advises them to read the whole book in order to understand the whole picture. “You can’t just pick out a few verses and see the big picture. If you want to understand what God’s Word says you need, to read the whole story.”