Mission stories: Multi-Language Publications

Small gifts, large impacts

David A. Kehl

It is hard to imagine the impact a small book could have or how a seemingly chance connection will change a life forever—unless it is part of your story.

Vivian and I were sitting at a café after watching dragon boat races. I had remembered some of Vivian’s story from previous conversations but was curious about the rest. She was here in Hong Kong that week as a student in Dr. Ernst Wendland’s translation course. She was working on an Associate of Arts in Theology and Translation degree at Asia Lutheran Seminary here in Hong Kong.

It was quite a journey to get here, and I’m not referring to the train ride from inside East Asia and the MTR subways in Hong Kong. Vivian grew up like the rest of the children in East Asia with no time to play. Weeks were filled with schoolwork and weekends with music and other lessons. Like all the rest, she was also taught that there is no god, the country’s official teaching. “I still had the impression that God existed and was afraid of hell after I die,” Vivian remembers.

A little unexpected gift started changing that for her.

Vivian’s father loved music. He would leave home for several months at a time to play trumpet on the ferry cruises in an area popular with tourists because of its spectacular scenery. “On one trip down the river,” Vivian recalls, “a Singapore couple gave my father a Bible devotional book. My father then wrapped it up and gave it to me as a birthday present when I was about 12 years old.”

For years she eagerly read the stories and came to realize there is a beautiful place called heaven. The Bible verses gave her comfort and answers to many questions she had. Sometime later, her aunt, who had recently become a Christian, shared the gospel more clearly with her.

But it was when her mother, a non-Christian, told her about a Christmas party where she could meet other young people, that things really started to come together for her. Her mother found out about the party from an old school friend whose son was going. There Vivian met some WELS teachers who put on a play about Jesus. “It wasn’t like parties I was used to seeing,” Vivian told me. “This one was full of Bible verses and Bible stories.”

She also met Jonathan, the son of her mother’s school friend. He invited her to come to worship at an apartment where they met as a group. It was just what she had been praying for, since she longed to know more about Jesus.

After the first Sunday, they took her through the basic parts of a Bible information course. The next Sunday she asked to be baptized. Soon she found herself playing piano for their gatherings. Each of these connections drew her deeper and deeper into what it meant to know the love of Jesus and be among the fellowship of his followers. She is now a part of a growing network of people in house churches in East Asia who gather to express and grow in faith.

Vivian also now is part of an network of WELS Multi-Language Publications (MLP) translators that spans Asia in counties such as Nepal, Japan, Indonesia, and Korea. It had been her dream since primary school to study languages. At the urging of her new Christian friends, she started translating English Bible story material into her native language for their Bible study groups.

In 2015, Vivian quit her job to devote herself to translating. She attended the first translation course in June 2015 and the subsequent modules, all co-sponsored by WELS Multi-Language Publications and Asia Lutheran Seminary. In order to grow in theological depth, she also regularly spends a week each month traveling to satellite courses of Asia Lutheran Seminary to learn theology together with the seminary students. Today she helps MLP translate resources that can end up in the hands of others and hopefully start or continue them on their journey of faith too.

The gospel is a power that often works in its own quiet way, just like it did for Vivian. What God gave us appears to some to be a small gift—but it has an unlimited impact. He gave us his Son who came into this world to cover our faults with his perfect obedience and serve as our substitute in suffering the judgment of divine justice for the sins of the whole world. His resurrection gives us new life and is a story that we all can tell. It is our story.

It is the intention as Multi-Language Publications to make sure there are print and online resources that can connect millions more with the story that will change their story forever.

Don’t forget the resources in your hands and the connections you have that can that lead others to knowing Christ. In his own quiet way, God too can use you so that he may become a part of someone else’s story.

Dave Kehl is the Asia regional coordinator for Multi-Language Publications.

For more stories about MLP translators and their work, see blogs.wels.net/missions. Learn more about Multi-Language Publications at wels.net/mlp.

Multi-Language Publications

Year began: 1996
Purpose: Promotes, supports, and coordinates the development of confessional Lutheran materials for outreach in many languages.
Number of publications: 700
Number of languages: 47
Number of items printed: more than 2.9 million
Unique fact: MLP’s goal is to reach 100 million people with the gospel in the next ten years.


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Author: David A. Kehl
Volume 103, Number 9
Issue: September 2016

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