Jaya was the daughter of a pastor. She went to a Christian high school.
She’d grown up reading the Scriptures — and yet, she didn’t know what most Scripture meant. Because there were no clear Bible passages printed in Jaya’s mother tongue.
So when she read the Scriptures, she only understood a fraction of what was written.
Jaya needed Bible translators.
Jaya needed Grace and Keith McCune.
Made for Bible Translation
Jaya’s predicament is one that tugs at the heartstrings of Grace and Keith. As TEAM missionaries in the Philippines, they help translate Scripture into heart languages throughout Asia.
“The One who is calling us is the same One who creates us,” Keith says. “And if He made us to be a nose, He wants us to sniff.”
And there is no doubt in the mind of anyone who meets them that Grace and Keith that God wants them to translate.
Grace heard the call to work in Bible translation before she’d even reached her teens.
“My father was a Bible translator. He teased me when I was 12,” says Grace. “He called me Dr. Osborn — that was my maiden name — and I laughed. And he said, ‘Oh, you could be a doctor.’ So I thought, Well then, I will.”
And at that moment, Grace set her mind to becoming a Doctor of Linguistics. She achieved her goal years later.
For Keith, the call came a bit later in life.
“I just looked at myself as a new child of God, a new disciple of Jesus at the University of Virginia, and said, ‘What would I do with me if I were God?’” he says. “And then I said, ‘I just love languages. Just insanely love them.’ And I just thought I could be a Bible translator.”
God Brought Them Full-Circle
Grace and Keith met in between college and graduate school at the Summer Institute for Linguistics. Early in their marriage, they moved to the Philippines to work with a national team on a Bible translation project.
But in 1991, the Lord unexpectedly plucked them out of translation work and sent them to Russia.
“For a long time we weren’t in Bible translation,” Grace says. “We started in Bible translation in the Philippines, and then … we were doing church planting and leadership training [in Russia] for 18 years.”
By the time the McCunes thought the Lord might be calling them back to the world of Bible translation, they were past their 30s and already spoke six languages.
They loved translation work, but they were afraid they were too old to learn a new language.
That’s when a mentor suggested translation consulting.
Translation teams often partner with consultants to produce the best translations possible.
Translation consultants are usually seasoned in their knowledge of translation software and linguistic programs, so they don’t have to become fluent in a new language to help the local teams. Instead, they provide helpful guidelines, questions and tips throughout the translation process.
On the advice of their mentor, the McCunes began looking into consultant training. Much to their pleasant surprise, they discovered the next training session was going to be held in the Philippines.
So the McCunes moved back to the Philippines — this time, as translation consultants.
Doing What They Do Best
Grace and Keith work with some people groups that can’t be named because the risk of persecution is so high.
One local translator the McCunes worked with was afraid his father would murder him for converting to Christianity.
The need for the Scripture in places like these is immense. And Grace and Keith are eager to step up to the challenge.
The McCunes do most of their work remotely. But several times a year, Grace and Keith travel to the translation teams they’ve partnered with and work together face-to-face.
“Having the Lord lead us back into Bible translation has been a wonderful surprise. It happened at about the time when our youngest was graduating from high school,” says Grace. “And so, here we were, empty-nesters and both going gangbusters at what we’re best at. And it’s bearing fruit, and we didn’t know this was gonna happen … That’s a great joy.”
In Their Mom’s Language
For Grace and Keith, Bible translation is important in their lives because it’s important to their Creator.
“We are specifically told that on the Day of Pentecost, [the Holy Spirit] enabled people to share the mighty acts of God in the language in which the person was born and raised! Not the language they learned in school, not the language they brushed up on for job applications … but in their mom’s language, that she used,” Keith says. “In that language, the Holy Spirit approaches them.”
Now, people like Jaya all over the world are finally getting access to the Scriptures in their heart languages.
And it’s all because God created noses — and they are happy to sniff.
*The names of the people you’ve helped may be changed to protect their privacy.
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