As a young Deaf person growing up in a Buddhist culture, Pastraporn Sarakong didn’t know much about Jesus.
“One day at the Deaf school, I saw this book on the shelf in the library,” Pastraporn said. “It was a book with stories and illustrations from the Bible. The pictures caught my eye. I remember opening it and trying to read it, but I didn’t understand a single word. I wondered, ‘What are all these strange names?’ I was curious, so I stole the Bible.”
Back at the dormitory Pastraporn continued to study the stories, but no matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t understand them. Meanwhile another Deaf student wandered by and saw Pastraporn. The student was horrified. Because most Thai families are Buddhist, becoming a Christian means abandoning the family beliefs.
“You can’t become a Christian!” she told Pastraporn. “You have to honor your parents.”
“I’m not a Christian!” Pastraporn insisted. “I just want to understand what it’s saying.”
“Where did you get the book?” the student persisted. But Pastraporn didn’t answer.
When the girl walked away, Pastraporn quickly slipped the volume into her jacket, out of view. Feeling guilty, and afraid she would get caught, the next day she returned to the library and placed the book back on the shelf.
Curiosity Takes Root
Later Pastraporn began attending a hearing culinary school in Bangkok. Although she no longer had the Bible stories, her curiosity about God continued to grow. “There was a teacher there who I learned was a Christian. So I kept asking her questions about the Bible and Christianity. For example, I asked her about evolution. ‘We come from monkeys, right?’ I asked. But she said, ‘No, God made monkeys and God made man.’ So everything I’d learned seemed to contradict the stories she was telling me.”
Initially this caused Pastraporn to doubt the Bible’s truthfulness, but the more she studied it, the more convicted she became.
Then one day the Holy Spirit prompted a missionary to invite Pastraporn to a Christian fellowship. Pastraporn was startled. How did the missionary know she wanted to learn more about Jesus? Within a month of joining the Sunday gathering, Pastraporn decided she wanted to follow Jesus. She was just 19 years old.
“Reading the Bible was still a challenge,” said Pastraporn. “But that same teacher continued to teach me the Bible. She showed me how to draw out the stories so I could understand their meaning.”
Around this time, Pastraporn went to a reunion of students from the Deaf school. While there, a young man named Panuwat Manee struck up a conversation with Pastraporn. Although they’d never talked before, Panuwat finally got the courage to tell Pastraporn he’d had a crush on her for years. Surprised, but pleased, later Pastraporn asked Panuwat if he wanted to go with her to a Christian camp for the Deaf that she was helping to organize. He agreed.
Panuwat wasn’t a Christian at the time, but during the camp meetings, God began to work in his heart.
“The next Sunday, Panuwat raised his hand to become a Christian,” Pastraporn said. “And I was like, ‘What?! You really want to become a Christian? It’s not just because you like me, is it?’ But he said, ‘No, I really want to be saved.’”
As their personal relationships with the Lord continued to grow, so did their relationship with each other. It wasn’t long before they got married.
From Serving the Hearing to Serving the Deaf
Later a friend invited Pastraporn to attend a workshop on the basics of Bible translation. There she and other Deaf practiced what they learned by translating Bible stories from the “Words of Wisdom” series.
During the workshop, one of the translation consultants approached Pastraporn. “Are you interested in working in Bible translation?” she asked. The question made Pastraporn stop and think. The ministry she had been working with was to the hearing. But as a Deaf person, shouldn’t she be helping other Deaf?
“I went home that night and got on my knees and really sought the Lord,” Pastraporn said. “I was really doubting God’s direction. But as time went on, and as I kept seeking the Lord, he gave me peace about becoming a Bible translator.
“So I put in my notice at the coffee shop [ministry where I worked]. My supervisor was surprised. ‘Why?! This is really important work!’ I explained, ‘I’m sorry. Everyone at the cafe is hearing, but I really want to go help my people, the Deaf, because they don’t have a Bible in their language. It’s so important to have one!’ And that’s when my boss understood that God had called me.”
When Pastraporn joined the Chronological Bible Translation team, progress was slow. The team struggled with unity. But Pastraporn was different. Not only was she passionate about the work, but she also brought a lot of new creative ideas.
At first Pastraporn wasn’t sure if her ideas would be accepted, but when the team gave them a try, they were really pleased with the results. They even made some significant changes to the project’s goals and processes based on Pastraporn’s strategic input.
After only a month, the project leader asked if Pastraporn would take over. Startled by the short notice, Pastraporn asked for more time to learn the process. Two months later, she accepted the position as team leader.
Looking to the Future
The team has made great progress since Pastraporn took on the leadership role two years ago. They have found that with a Deaf person leading, the Deaf community is more receptive to their work.
“Many times the Christian Deaf will say, ‘Oh, I’ve read this! But I didn’t know that’s what it meant. You’ve really opened my eyes,’” Pastraporn said. “We also go to non-Christian communities and ask people to watch the stories so we can know if it’s clear. And a lot of times they have questions.”
This feedback from the Deaf community helps the team revise their work, creating a better, clearer translation. It can also lead to deeper conversations. “It gives me an opportunity to explain and share from my heart,” Pastraporn said. “It is like sowing the seeds of the Gospel. I know it takes time for the seeds to grow.”
Although the Chronological Bible Translation project has been around for over five years, in many ways the team is just getting started. The members are young and full of energy. As they continue to plant seeds one by one, and cling to the promise of God’s Word, they’re confident it will produce a harvest.