Our vision is to assist indigenous tribal churches — beginning with the Jarai — in Ratanakiri province, Cambodia, through Bible translation, teaching, and resource development.
Tucked into the northeast corner of Cambodia are between 20,000 and 25,000 people who speak the Jarai language (unrelated to Khmer, the national Cambodian language). The church among the Jarai people has been growing over the last couple decades so that now, between 5% and 10% of Jarai people in Cambodia are evangelical Christians.
However, the Jarai in Cambodia do not have a Bible translation in their dialect; instead, they use translations made for the Jarai people in Vietnam, whose dialect of Jarai is very different from the Jarai dialects spoken in Cambodia. Because of this, it is very difficult for many Cambodian Jarai to read the Bible. (In fact, some even prefer the Khmer translation of the BIble, in spite of the fact that most Jarai in Cambodia have limited reading fluency in Khmer.)
When an average Cambodian Jarai person tries to read the Vietnamese Jarai Bible, about 1/3 of the words require effort to figure about because of different spelling or pronunciation, and about 1/3 of the words are completely unfamiliar. That leaves only 1/3 of the words that are easy to understand.
Look at this PDF, the first two verses of Genesis in an excellent Vietnamese Jarai translation. The grayed-out words and parts of words are what a typical Cambodian Jarai person would have trouble understanding, or may not be able to figure out at all.
Our first long-range goal is to assist the Jarai church by translating the Bible into the dialect of Jarai spoken in Cambodia. This work will not be a one-man job. Instead, it will involve gathering and training a team of skilled Jarai Christians who can assist with the translation. A Bible translator from another organization has already started laying the groundwork for the translation project.
Our second long-range goal — one that we will pursue alongside the translation work — is to become a part of the team of Bible teachers in Ratanakiri, a group of men made up of missionaries and local pastors. Our focus will be helping Jarai pastors grow in their ability to study the Word and to teach other Jarai.
This translation and teaching work will primarily be Josh’s focus in Cambodia. Amy’s primary ministries will be with our family, in particular caring for our kids and homeschooling them. However, both of us will work to master Khmer and Jarai. Amy will be active in one-on-one ministry and will look for ways to use music and education in ministry.
During deputation, Amy and I will be studying Khmer with a book and CD so that we can make faster progress on language-learning once we move to Cambodia. (I already have a bit of a head start: during a 3-month trip to Cambodia in 2006, I studied Khmer and did research on Jarai. Additionally, I have spent the last few years in graduate school studying the grammer of Vietnamese Jarai.)
After raising our full support amount, our family will move to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. There we will spend about 2 years studying Khmer, the national language. After attaining a basic mastery of Khmer, we will move to Ratanakiri province to begin studying Jarai. By the end of our first term, we hope to have begun the organizational work required for a translation.
We anticipate that each of our terms in Cambodia will be four to five years long, followed by a furlough during which we will visit our supporting churches and friends to report personally on the work. It is our desire that during our second term, a Jarai translation project will be in full swing.