“The entire village surrounded us with drawn swords,” Mathew recalls, “all shouting, ‘Cut off their heads! Cut off their heads!’”
When Mathew and Susan Varghese began Bible translation work in a small tribal village in northern India, the mostly Hindu population quickly accepted them. The people assumed the Varghese were linguists studying the local language and welcomed them without hesitation.
However, after learning the language, as Mathew and Susan began the actual process of translating the Bible, people became more curious about their work. Before long, the Varghese were the focus of attention. Questions began to arise. As the Varghese attempted to provide answers, they quite naturally shared their faith in Christ. Soon, seven people were saved.
“Until then,” Mathew says, “everyone thought we were just linguists, trying to learn the language.” But when some radical Hindus realized the Varghese were also “proselytizing,” the result was trouble.
“The entire village surrounded us with drawn swords,” Mathew recalls, “all shouting, ‘Cut off their heads! Cut off their heads!’ With only Susan and me in the middle, the whole village was shouting in one voice.
“They said, ‘These people have become a thorn in the flesh of the village. And this thorn must be removed!’
“I lifted both my hands,” Mathew continues, “and I said, ‘You can cut our heads, you can cut our bodies, but the moment you kill us, our souls will go to a place of peace, joy, and happiness. We came to your village to give you the same assurance that we have.’”
Miraculously, one of the village elders stepped forward at this point and defended Mathew and Susan from the unruly mob. “He protected us,” Mathew says. “Otherwise, we would have been killed.”
Why risk your life to translate God’s Word into a local language? The answer: eternal impact.
The result of this dangerous encounter was an even greater interest in their work. People began asking more questions, and soon more people were saved, a church planted. People from neighboring villages came, begging Mathew and Susan to translate God’s Word into their languages.
Today, there are 12 churches in this region that grew directly from Mathew and Susan’s original translation work.
As Mathew explains, “So many thousands are still languishing in different communities, speaking different languages, still under the oppressive spells of evil spirits, man-made traditions, many trying to deliver themselves from the unending cycles of birth by various religious rituals. They all continue to ask, albeit silently, ‘Why are you delaying?’ How long will it take for us to make the message of life available and accessible to these communities?
“Lord, how would they ever clearly hear Your Message of Eternal Love, unless someone goes and lives among them, learns their language and translates the Word in their language…?”
Dr. Mathew Varghese has been with Biblica since 2011. He is currently Biblica’s Director of Translation for South Asia. Mathew oversees projects that include work in Hindi, Chhattisgarhi, Bengali, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, and Telugu—languages spoken by a total of more than 1 billion people.