Sometimes God asks us to give up one blessing for a better one. It’s a pretty easy choice when the new blessing is right in front of us. Perhaps you’re a parent giving up sleep for a precious new baby. Or maybe you’re handing in the keys to your well-loved car in exchange for a shiny new one.
But it’s much harder to let go when God asks us to give up something good, in faith, before we know what the new blessing is or when we can expect it. In moments like these, our deepest fears often bubble to the surface.
Deep down we know that, as Matthew 5:6 promises, when we pursue God and his righteousness wholeheartedly, we will be satisfied. But what will that satisfaction look like? Does God really want what’s best for us? Will we be happy? Will we be safe? Will he provide for all our needs? And how long will he keep us waiting? These are just a few of the questions that race through our minds in these moments of indecision.
Sometimes our fears so overwhelm us that, like little children, instead of opening our hand to let God exchange the new blessing for the old one, we shake our head and clench our fist tighter, unwilling to risk the unknown.
This was the sort of difficult decision that Misriani Balle faced in 2003 when a Bible translator asked her to leave her promising career to help translate the Helong Bible — a job she knew almost nothing about.
To fully appreciate Mis’ difficult decision, you really have to start at the beginning.
Mis was born into the Helong language community on a small island called Semau, near the island of Timor, in eastern Indonesia. When she was as young as five years old, Mis already had a passion for learning.
She remembers that when people would ask her what she wanted to do when she grew up, she’d say, “I want to study!” And that’s exactly what she did.
Although opportunities for education on Mis’ island were sparse, she was able to attend elementary school by walking several miles each day. Then, when she entered middle school, the walking distance nearly doubled, and the other children from her village dropped out. But Mis’ supportive father offered to walk with her each day after that since she was afraid to go alone.
When she finished middle school, Mis’ parents were able to scrape together enough money to send her to high school on a larger island where she lived with her uncle’s family. There God provided even more unique opportunities for Mis.
At that time, the high school had just purchased its first computer. Out of 700 students, only Mis and one classmate were chosen to learn how to use it — a skill that would prove critical to God’s plans for Mis.
Left: Mis’s family is so happy about the way God is directing her life.
Right: Mis has always been passionate about studying.
Although Mis had grown up in a strong Christian home, it had never occurred to her that God might be preparing her to serve in Bible translation. So following high school, she pursued the next logical opportunity in front of her. With the right connections and a great education under her belt, she was able to land a government job with a good income and bright future.
Everything seemed to be going so well. But it wouldn’t be long before Mis would be asked to make the most difficult decision of her life.
Although a Bible translation wasn’t available in Helong when Mis was a child, the Indonesian Bible was an important part of her family’s life. So when a Bible translator began work on a translation of the New Testament into Helong, Mis’ parents were thrilled.
As the work progressed, Helong speakers in various churches on Semau Island helped check the translation drafts to make sure they communicated clearly and accurately. When Mis’ parent’s church hosted one of these community checks, they asked Mis to come home and help. Although reluctant to take time off work, she agreed.
Mis’ role was to serve food to those working on the translation — not to participate in the community checks. But one day as she was listening to them work, they asked her opinion about a particular passage, and she responded with a good suggestion. Realizing that Mis had great potential, the translator later sat down with Mis and her parents and offered for Mis to get more schooling if she came to work on the project.
At first Mis responded with a firm no.
How could she step away from her career to go work with someone she had just met doing a job she knew almost nothing about? It made no sense! But to her surprise nearly everyone in her family and church told Mis she should take the opportunity. Not only would Mis get to pursue a college education, but she would be able to help them get the Scriptures in Helong.
Finally, when the translator’s last morning on the island arrived, he approached Mis once again and asked her to reconsider, saying, “Why don’t you go and ask God what he says?”
Still skeptical, Mis retreated to her bedroom to pray while everyone waited patiently in the living room. As she prayed, questions and doubts swirled in her head but no clear answer came. Finally, Mis’ sister poked her head into the bedroom and asked, “What did God say?” Mis replied, “God said … God didn’t say anything!”
Stepping out of the bedroom with no more confidence than when she went in, Mis heard herself saying yes to the Bible translator’s offer.
But today, she still has no idea what caused her to agree. “I don’t know why I said yes while inside I said no!” Mis recalls, laughing.
The weeks and months ahead were a whirlwind for Mis. The very morning she said yes, she and the Bible translator hopped on a boat to another island where her new role would begin. After getting Mis enrolled in the local university, their first step was to create a dictionary in Helong.
The Helong New Testament
As they worked, suddenly her excitement kicked in. “I was like, ‘Wow, that’s my language! That’s my language! That’s my language!’” she recalls.
Left: Government and church leaders participate in the Helong New Testament dedication on Semau Island.
Center: Everyone is excited to receive a copy of the newly translated Helong New Testament.
Right: Mis and a friend at her recent graduation ceremony.
Over the next nine years, Mis helped to complete the Helong New Testament and finished a college degree paid for entirely by generous ministry partners in Australia. Following the Helong New Testament dedication in 2012, an anonymous sponsor offered to send Mis to graduate school in Thailand, where she’s now finishing up a Master of Arts in Linguistics. With this training, Mis has more confidence and hopes to help with other Bible translation efforts in Indonesia or wherever God calls her.
Although Mis had to give up the security of her career in order to pursue God’s plan for her life, her family could not be more thrilled. For them, nothing is more important than having the Bible in their language. And God has continued to abundantly provide.
“My brain is not on my money — how much money I have in the bank,” Mis says. “It was like that before. Now it’s no longer. How much I can do good things for God, that’s the things that I save now. And God saves the money for me.”
Mis also feels more satisfied with her life today than she ever has before. You can see it in her contagious smile and laugh. “No money from my own work!” she says, “But happy, because God takes care of all of my needs!”
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