By Bob and Marilyn Busenitz with Mary Tindall
I will praise you in the great assembly. I will fulfill my vows in the presence of those who worship You. The poor will eat and be satisfied. All who seek the Lord will praise him. Their hearts will rejoice with everlasting joy.
Psalm 22:25–26 (NLT)
As we listened to the congregation singing in Balantak, we remembered the day we arrived in this area of Indonesia nearly 29 years ago. Our mission then was to translate God’s Word for the Balantak people. Now, surrounded by men and women we had grown to love, we celebrated with them as the Balantak New Testament was finally dedicated.
Standing next to us was Nius, a man who had sacrificed much for the sake of translation. When we began working with him in the mid-1980s, he was a young Balantak pastor who longed for his brothers and sisters to have God’s Word in their language, so they could study it for themselves. Nius had been so dedicated to the work that he was even willing to make trips to work with us in the Philippines, where we relocated when we could no longer get a visa for Indonesia, even though it meant being away from his wife and family for several months at a time. Today Nius’ sacrifices had paid off.
Standing beside Nius were our children, Verona, Katie, and Justin. All three were born in Indonesia. Toddling around from house to house, they helped us form friendships among our neighbours in the village. Today they stood as adults praising God for the work He had so faithfully completed.
As we listened to the chorus of voices, we also remembered dear friends from our home church in Kansas, who couldn’t be there in person, but had sent a letter exhorting their brothers and sisters halfway across the world to cherish God’s Word now available in their own heart language.
Nius, our family, and our fellow church members had taken part in a work bigger than ourselves—the work of bringing Scripture to those who had never had it before in their own language.
We were also reminded of the other Balantak translation team members, who were deeply involved in this work. Their enthusiastic participation affirmed the value of their language and culture in a nation where they are often overlooked because of their minority status.
More importantly, they encountered the truths of Scripture in a fresh way. In Luke 14:26, Jesus says, “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.” After reading this verse in his mother tongue, a Balantak man said he finally understood what Jesus meant—that the relationship with Him is more important than any family relationship. Knowing the intent behind Jesus’ words made the Scripture come alive.
After the dedication, we travelled with Nius, meeting representatives of about 60 Balantak congregations and delivering more New Testaments. Within a month nearly 1,400 of the 3,000 New Testaments printed for the Balantak people had been distributed. We believe that as these Scriptures make their way into hearts and minds, God will continue the work He began so many years ago. And as we reflect on three decades of work in Bible translation, one truth stands out: God uses people like you, Nius, and us for His purposes and His glory.
Editor’s Note: Bob and Marilyn Busenitz have worked as translators for the Balantak language of Indonesia for nearly 30 years.