By Richard Gretsky
Maw stood in front of me, holding his Bible. As my Wycliffe colleagues and I were chatting with Liberty University students about Bible translation, Maw was clearly waiting to speak with one of us, but I could tell something was different about him. As one of my colleagues started talking with him, I put an ear to their conversation. I overheard that, unlike everyone else we had chatted with the last couple days, he was actually not a student at the university. He’d traveled to Liberty’s Lynchburg, Virginia, campus from a neighboring state, and when he saw Wycliffe’s booth, he pulled out his Bible and headed over purposefully.
Maw is originally from a country in Southeast Asia that has been quite closed to outsiders for many years. But despite that barrier, when Maw was a year old, a Bible translation project quietly began in his family’s minority language to help the Christians among them get access to God’s Word in their own language.
The majority people group of that country, however, was averse to Maw’s people. Not only were they considered inferior, but they were also forbidden to write in their native language, and most of his people didn’t even learn how to read and write because of this.
When Maw was six years old, his family fled into the jungle. The oppression had become too great, and soldiers had already killed some families in his people group and were threatening others. It was then that they escaped to a neighboring country, where they took up residence in a refugee camp.
There they lived for thirteen years—afraid to leave for fear they’d be deported to their home country, and killed once there. So they waited patiently for asylum somewhere—for a new country to call their own, where they could be themselves.
Finally, the United States granted that asylum, and thousands moved across the Pacific to America, settling in states all over the country.
Through being displaced, living in refugee camps, and moving across the world, many of Maw’s people who hadn’t already trusted in God began to believe that in the midst of their pain, He was there and He’d bring them out of it.
And then, something unexpected happened. Two years after arriving in America, Maw and his people, who were scattered throughout the United States, received a blessing long-desired but improbably delivered. Wycliffe caught up with the groups and distributed the completed translation of the New Testament in their native language, which had been started approximately twenty years before, when Maw was still a baby.
THE BIBLE, GREATER THAN ALL OTHER TREASURES
As I stood there talking to Maw, I couldn’t help but notice how he held his Bible. He clutched it purposefully. It didn’t seem like he was simply toting it, or that it was an accessory. His grasp showed it to be of utmost importance to him.
Why? I’m not exactly sure. I could guess that it was because he has one, and he’s known what it’s like to live without one. Or maybe it was because if something happened to it, he couldn’t go home and grab another one of a dozen more off the shelf.
But whatever the reason, it is undeniable that Maw truly understands the worth of that book.
I can’t now help but think to myself, “How do I hold my Bible? How do we all?”
Certainly, I believe in the truth of the words found in this book that others have spent (and risked) their lives to translate so others could have the gift of reading it. But to be honest, I likely don’t value the Bible as I should, and I venture that most U.S. Christians don’t. If we really believed this book was the Word of God to men, wouldn’t its grip on our life be as strong as Maw’s on his copy of the Bible in his language?
One thing I do know is that of all Maw’s travels throughout the world, the one that is most telling is the one he made when he walked over to say thank you to people he didn’t know. He came simply to show his appreciation for an organization that took the time to provide his people with access to God’s Word in his very own language.
Suddenly, his trip to say thank you didn’t seem so brief. It clearly wasn’t about the steps he took to get there, but about the vast distance traveled from not having God’s Word, to being able to understand it fluently.
Note: Today the translation team continues to diligently work on the Old Testament in Maw’s first language, looking forward to the day when all of God’s Word will be available.