The constant tick, tick, tick of computer keys provides the backdrop as Don Patrick and Rith Jaya compare notes on flickering laptop screens. The men also swish the pages of a dictionary as they work together.
The ticking and swishing have comprised the soundtrack of the past two and a half years during which Patrick and Jaya have been translating the New Testament and the Pentateuch for a people group of 290,000 souls in Southeast Asia. With half the Bible still needing to be translated, the pair has at least two years of work ahead of them.
Jaya, who is from this people group, recounts how he became involved with the translation, saying, "I started reading the Bible, but I couldn't understand [the Gospel] clearly."
It was only after Patrick shared one-on-one that Jaya grasped the power of the Gospel and surrendered his life to Christ.
"This work is important for my people,” Jaya says, “because many [people around the world] already have access to a Bible. This [is a] Bible my people can read and understand. Until now, they did not have one."
Both Jaya and Patrick embarked on this project to provide access to the Gospel for those who have yet to know Christ. Having worked on the translation together for more than two years, friendship plays a major role in driving the project forward.
Village Bible study
Sputtering in protest, the small truck quiets to a stop, refusing to start. Patrick opens his door and pops the hood. Examining the engine, he tries starting the truck one more time before Jaya walks over and hops in the driver's seat.
Jaya turns the key and the engine reluctantly begins churning. Smiling, a laugh escapes as he pokes Patrick in the arm and says, "Let me show how to fix a truck. You pray first!"
The men climb back in the truck and whiz down the dirt road, destined for a village where believers lead small house churches in their communities.
As the truck shifts into third gear, Patrick and Jaya are lost in conversation. With one hand on the steering wheel, Patrick gestures often as he gives updates on believers and then listens as Jaya discusses his herbal medicine classes. Aiming to help other believers, Jaya uses his herbal medicine materials to provide medical aid to those who are too poor or too far from medical facilities.
Upon arrival at the village, Patrick parks the truck while Jaya hollers a greeting to a young believer, Balin Nhek*, who owns a roadside shop and shares Bible stories with customers as they come in his store.
Nhek invites Patrick and Jaya into his home, located directly above his shop. Strips of bamboo separate home from shop. Soon, three more believers arrive for the Bible study.
Tapping his Bible on its deep green cover, Nhek says, "I'm happy to have this Bible. It's something I can cling to. It's something I can refer to."
Another believer, the leader of a house church, offers his own testimony: "Don [Patrick] has taught us many lessons, but sometimes it is difficult to remember them all. Now that we have the Bible, I can remember the lessons [better]."
Conversation continues between Patrick and Nhek as Jaya listens to the health problems another believer is experiencing. Jaya, a certified acupuncturist, suggests a session of acupuncture might help. He asks the man to lie down on a mat as he prepares the materials needed for the treatment. After the session ends, Jaya places his equipment in a small backpack and follows Patrick out of the house.
On their way to the truck, someone asks if Patrick and Jaya could visit a sick woman living nearby. Examining the woman, Patrick calls his wife, who is a nurse, to hear her suggestion. She says the woman might have Hansen's disease, a bacteria skin condition more commonly known as leprosy. Fortunately, there is a nonprofit clinic nearby where she can receive treatment.
Back on the road
Red dust swirls behind the truck as it moves over the bumpy, clay road and the village fades in the distance. Jaya steps out of the truck, stretching and yawning. He walks over and sits down at a local restaurant. Patrick soon plops down next to him and they look over the menu, deciding to order two baguette pizzas.
After a night’s rest, the final leg of the trip will take the men through two more tropical provinces before they return home. Whether sleeping on hardwood floors in villages and comparing who snores the loudest or sharing a meal of popcorn and peanut butter sandwiches while praying over their families, Patrick and Jaya approach every day as brothers in Christ.
Jaya says, "We have been like one family, it's not an American family and Southeast Asian family. We're all together and care about each other."
Giving Jaya a bear hug, Patrick says, "I love this guy! He's great!"
In praying for Don Patrick and Rith Jaya:
Pray for God’s continued guidance as they continue working to complete the translation project.
Pray for their wives during the times Patrick and Jaya are on the road. Pray God will give them strength and patience for the additional responsibilities of caring for their families.
Give thanks to the Father for placing families like the Patricks overseas so God's message of hope can be shared among all peoples in their heart language.