For a little more than 10 years, Tina Chen and her husband, Daniel, conducted mission work in Bali and Malaysia translating languages into Bibles that did not exist.
The couple traveled with Wycliffe Bible Translators, and it took a couple of years for her to learn the language. However, the locals, unfortunately, were largely illiterate.
The group had to distinguish whether the townspeople would learn the language or if the Bible should be spoken and if the translation would even be utilized.
When in Bali, which is a Hindu island, the people use a caste system that distinguishes social order. The highest caste is called Brahmins, which is used by holy men and priests, Satria follows and is used by warriors and kings, Wesya is the next caste that was used by merchants and administrative officials. The final caste, Soedra, is used by peasants and craftsmen, which make up more than 90 percent of the Bali population, according to discoverbaliindonesia.com.
“There were all these variations of the language, which was really, really complicated," Chen elaborated. "And, the Bible had already been translated into the highest language, but less than 10 percent of the whole people could speak that, let alone read that.”
She along with the group translated a Bible that told the story of creation to the revival of Jesus Christ. It was recorded in oral form and taught to evangelists and disciple-makers to be reiterated to others. “We had to leave a lot of it up to the discretion of the teller,” she explained.
The first five years she spent her time educating herself on the Indonesian language and then learned Balinese. She then spent the next five years in Malaysia and shared the gospel there. The Bible was already written in Malay, but the book was not legally attainable for some residents.
Chen explained in Malaysia, the main people groups are the Indians, Chinese and Malay people who control the government and are 99.9 percent Muslim.
“The government has actually made it illegal for Muslims to read the Bible," Chen noted. "On the Bible is a stamp that says, ‘Not for Muslim consumption.’ You can go to jail for handing it to them; they can go to jail for taking it.”
While in Malaysia, Chen focused on getting the online copy available and the creation of a Muslim-friendly website. The group also created an audio version.
In her time overseas, Chen said she was never harassed and described the people as gracious. One of her team leaders was jailed, and she disclosed the reason she left Malaysia and Indonesia is that her visa was revoked.
“Pretty much what the government will do is pull your visa, and so we pretty much lost our visa every year that we were there and had to find a new way to be there until you couldn’t anymore,” Chen said.
Nearly two years ago, the Chen family relocated to Mansfield where she homeschools her five children that were all born overseas. Last year her entire family experienced Bethlehem Revisited for the first time.
“I was amazed by the detail and that they did this every year,” Chen expressed. “I thought it was an amazing experience for my kids to walk through and be in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.”
Chen got in touch with Arlene Hamilton who has operated the dyed fabrics hut for the past 18 years. This year the Chen family helped out Hamilton to learn the ropes with to possibly alleviate the job. Since the Chen children are homeschooled, the mother was able to work the knowledge of the dyes into the curriculum.
The children each created their own character and will share their knowledge with patrons of Bethlehem Revisited.
“Our life-long passion is to follow Jesus as close as we can, and this is a really cool experience to live in this time period where he actually would have been," Chen said. "It’s fun to put ourselves here and pretend a couple of weekends that we are in Bethlehem."
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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450