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I almost dropped out

“I really need to spend my free day catching up on work that’s piled up during the conference.” “Better yet, I need to talk with my family.” “I’ve never biked down a mountain before.” “There’s torrential rain!” All of those excuses crossed my mind before I left the dry comfort of the hotel and throughout the looonnnngggg drive up the mountain in the back of a songthaew in May. It wasn’t long before the rain was joined by a distinct chill. But I was committed, and so I sat shivering on the bench in the bed of this pickup truck weaving its way up to the top of 5500-foot Doi Suthep.

As we neared the top, every time the road forked, we took the narrower option until we finally stopped in thick woods. My doubts flared in the downpour, but it was too late to escape. So I suited up with protective armour on my shins and forearms, and a relatively-worthless poncho over the top. Then I tested the disc brakes on my rented bike, tamping down its nasty tendency to try to send me over the handlebars. The group set off. Good, because it was the only way to stay warm.

Thankfully, we had a chance to get comfortable with our bikes by sticking to a road for the first couple of kilometers. As we left the road, our brilliant idea to wear sunglasses (or even swim goggles!) proved worthless in practice; the mud quickly blocked all visibility. Seeing where you’re going is a high value in mountain biking. But this mud was strangely familiar to me; who knew they had Georgia red clay in Thailand? It brought a perverse comfort to ride in the orange slop.

In no time at all, it was time for our first stop, a tea house clinging to the side of the road. Some good, strong fresh-made Thai coffee was just the thing to take the edge off. I entwined my numbed fingers around my steaming cup, attempting to retrieve feeling and bloodflow. I was partially successful by the time I had to shove my fingers back in my cold, wet cycling gloves.

As we wove down the mountain in terrain that resembled every Vietnam movie I’ve ever seen, I gained confidence in myself and my bike. I came to enjoy the rain, preferring it over the alternative: intense heat and humidity. The trip was peppered with short breaks to let everyone catch up while we treated ourselves to the abundant lychee orchards. I also enjoyed the friendship of this ragtag group of Brits, Poles, Swiss and Americans who occasionally had trouble communicating with each other but could rally around a shared experience.

On the gentler slopes, we had an option to try single track mountain biking. The majority chose the narrow path through the woods while one stout rider chose the “safer” route along the muddy road. When our trails converged, guess who was caked in mud from head to toe? The narrow path made all the difference. As our speed picked up near the base of the mountain, the flinging mud found both my eyes within a five-second timeframe. I was grateful for a good, wide, straight stretch to allow me to cruise to a stop.

The bottom was a real treat. We swam in the lake before enjoying some good Thai food on a floating hut along the shore.

And to think, I almost missed the highlight of my trip to Thailand.

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A long journey

In May, I had the privilege of going to Asia for the first time. I attended Wycliffe’s global conference along with 500 people from 67 nations — a picture of the breadth of the global Bible translation movement. We saw some excellent examples of servant leadership, spiritual authority and unity among a very diverse and divergent collection of opinionated leaders. The highlights for me were the opportunity to meet with 21 Canadian leaders who attended, and the opportunity to play hookey.

Yes, you read that right. I had a chance to get away from the meetings twice to visit with two language projects, one of which is in its twentieth year. In a small urban house, we met a young American named Amber and a remarkable mother-tongue translation couple who have been the one constant on this project. The following is their story.

In the early ’90s, Duang Tip found himself assisting a Bible translation project. While it wasn’t his heart language, it was a more widely-used dialect with similarities to his own. His expatriate mentor noted his ability and suggested he translate the New Testament into his own related language, spoken by about 20,000+ people just in Thailand. Duang Tip knew enough about the translation process to count the cost. He prayed for three months before committing to the challenge.

Duang Tip and Dawk KaewThe project never seemed to go smoothly. For years, the team struggled as each stage in the work took longer than it should. An attempt was made at one point to speed the work with a larger team, but that just added to personal tensions. Finally their language program coordinator made the difficult decision to slim the team down to four. As Amber and her Thai husband Upai worked alongside Duang Tip and Dawk Kaew, the project began to pick up steam. At this date Luke, Acts, Philemon, Titus, 1 & 2 Timothy are completed. Seven books are awaiting consultant checking.  Six books are going through the Team Checking and Community Checking stages. In short, the end of the New Testament project is finally within sight.

So, what’s next? Retirement? Duang Tip can’t imagine that. His people need the Old Testament.

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