History of Vietnamese Bible, Inc.
At the end of the war in Vietnam in 1975, a number of Vietnamese came to the USA. Among them were four Christian Theologians who had been selected by United Bible Societies in 1973 to translate a Bible for their people.
After these men settled in America with their families, they met with several other Vietnamese Theologians (and scholars), formed a Translation Team and selected Rev. Tran Dao as Chairman. They organized as the Vietnamese Bible Society, and began praying earnestly for the Lord to raise up churches that would fund the translation of this new Bible. Their goal was to translate an accurate, easy-to-read and easy-to-understand Bible from the best available Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek Bible texts into today’s language of Vietnam.
While this was happening, the Lord orchestrated a series of economic events in the USA to bring together the translators with those He had set apart to oversee their Bible translation. Because of increased activity in the oil fields of the Permian Basin in the 1980’s, the Midland/Odessa, Texas area became home to a large number of Vietnamese families seeking jobs. Leon Taylor, a Christian instructor at Midland College, began teaching a number of Vietnamese men and preparing them for jobs in the oil industry. Leon and his wife Evaughn also began an international Bible class in their church for Vietnamese and others. As a result of outreach to these Vietnamese by the Taylors’ church and other churches, a young Vietnamese Pastor, Rev. Thang Minh Nguyen, was brought in to teach and disciple Vietnamese in the Midland/Odessa area. In 1983, Nguyen began sharing with the Taylors the vision he and others had for a new Bible in today’s language of Vietnam. Leon brought Rev. Nguyen to his pastor, Dr. Daniel Vestal of First Baptist Church, Midland. Dr. Vestal and Taylor heard Nguyen’s story and his appeal. They agreed to pray about such a project and to do research into the need for such a translation.
Research through United Bible Societies, the Wycliffe Translators and Christian & Missionary Alliance in the USA confirmed the great need for an accurate and modern translation of a Bible for Vietnam. Rev. Nguyen and three other prominent Vietnamese Theologians flew to Midland (Spring of 1986) to meet with the Taylors and Dr. Vestal. These men challenged Vestal, Taylor and Kelly Brown, a member of that church’s Mission Committee, to provide funds and leadership for this translation. These Vietnamese Linguists understood the urgency of this project. They were the last generation of Theologians who had recently lived in Vietnam and were trained to undertake such a task. There were no Theologians in Vietnam being trained in Greek and Hebrew.
As a result of the appeal of those Vietnamese Theologians, a commitment was made to begin putting together an organization to superintend this translation project. In order for the new translation to be embraced by all the Protestant churches in Vietnam, it was decided that the superintending organization should mirror the Translation Committee by having Board Members from varied church denominations, and a Pastoral Advisory Committee from different Midland Churches. At that time, Taylor was Teaching Director of a multi-denominational Bible Study for men in Midland. He personally challenged seven Christian men in his class, and several Christian women from the area. A group of ten men and women from eight Christian denominations accepted the challenge. They met, formed and chartered Vietnamese Bible, Inc. as a 501(c)3 non-profit entity. Tax exempt status was granted to the new organization in May of 1987.
The Vietnamese Translation Committee was first formed with eight Vietnamese Theologians from varied Christian traditions. To translate the very difficult New Vietnamese New Testament, a Vietnamese Theological Review Sub-committee was established with highly qualified Vietnamese Theologians from five different church denominations. Vietnamese poets, song writers, educators, scientists, journalists and businessmen were enlisted to form a Vietnamese Cultural and Language Review sub-committee. John Banker and Milt Barker, Wycliffe Translators, who spent many years in Vietnam, were named Trainers and Technical Advisors. Dr. Philip Stine, Dr. Gerald Kendrick and Dr. Phil Towner of United Bible Societies worked with the Translation Team, providing technical support and approval of all the final drafts.
Concerning what God has done for the nation of Vietnam, it is clear that Romans 8:28 was fulfilled in this translation project. The Apostle Paul wrote, “. . . we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” This “good” began when these Christians in Midland, Texas came together with the Vietnamese Theologians, who paid their own airfare to fly from different cities in the USA to meet them and dedicate the translation of a new Bible for Vietnam. These four men joyfully thanked the gathered Christians for agreeing to help them translate Vietnam’s first Committee Bible from the Greek and Hebrew texts. Their meeting with these American Christians culminated many years of prayers for a new Bible desired by church leaders in Vietnam.