A Milestone in Missions

  • February 15, 2017
Jacqueline works at her desk

In Puerto Princesa City, history was made on April 19, 2008, as the Kagayanen people dedicated their New Testament! This celebration marked the first New Testament translation completed with the help of an African American woman — Jacqueline Huggins.

Before she met Jesus, Jacqueline never imagined that one day she’d be a Bible translator, much less that she’d make Christian history. She’d been hurt as a foster child in a home where abuse and religion seemed to co-exist. Her young heart decided to shut God out. How could he be real if he allowed such things to happen?

As a young adult, Jacqueline became an “anti-evangelist” who went around trying to persuade others that there was no God, and the Bible couldn’t possibly be his Word. The philosophy she preached excluded God and any need for him. When a chance came up to go to a Bible study, she saw it as an entire audience of poor, misguided Christians that she could set straight.

But she didn’t make it to the Bible study that night. Without warning, her cat got sick and died. The event made Jacqueline wonder, “Wouldn’t it be something if there really was a God, and I’m the one that’s wrong?” She decided to try talking to him.

“Here I am. If there is a God, it’s just you and me now. If you exist, you ought to be able to see me now; you ought to be able to hear me. If you’re there, prove it!”

A voice in her mind answered, “Go get your Bible.”

“I don’t have a Bible.”

“Yes, you do. Remember the Bible your friend’s aunt gave you a month ago for your birthday?”

“But I threw that away!”

“No, you didn’t.”

Jacqueline tore through her house and finally found her Bible.

“Okay, here I am with the Bible. What am I supposed to do with it?”

“Look in the back. Look up the word ‘repentance.’”

“What’s that?” Jacqueline didn’t understand the word, but she looked it up in the concordance, which led her to read Romans 2:4 — “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” (NLT). When Jacqueline read those words, she repented and entered a new life with Jesus.

And so the “anti-evangelist” became a lover of God who delighted in telling others about him. After she started ministering in the prisons, nursing homes, hospitals and juvenile detention centers of Philadelphia, Jacqueline finally heard God say, “It’s time to go to the uttermost parts.” After a time of searching and training, she began sharing God’s amazing Word with others as a Bible translator. After all, it was the Word God used to rescue her.

After over two decades of missions work, history remembers Jacqueline as the first African American woman to finish a New Testament translation! But she’ll be the first to tell you that she didn’t do it alone. Scott and Louise MacGregor started the project in 1976. A decade later, Jacqueline and her translation colleague, Carol Pebley, were assigned to the Kagayanen on Cagayancillo Island.

Despite being legally blind, Carol holds a master’s degree in linguistics. Eventually serving remotely from Manila, she faithfully worked on the translation for over 20 years. Kagayanen team members included Richard, Merly, Menzie, Nerie, Darlie, Nida, Eufemia, Yumi, Marifi and Sarah*. God also brought Michael Wan (from Malaysia) and Josephine Wan (from Singapore) to serve as support workers for the team, taking care of administrative duties and financial matters.

The Kagayanen New Testament dedication was an incredible time of honoring the entire team’s work and glorifying God — the God who chose a wounded foster child and a blind woman to provide his Word in “the uttermost parts” of the earth.

*Last names of Kagayanen team members are withheld for security reasons.