Betty Amon remembers sitting with her family during family devotions, reading the Bible in Pohnpeian, one of Micronesia’s major languages. She could read the words aloud, but she didn’t have the faintest idea what they meant. Her father had to explain each verse.
Young Betty wondered, Why do I have to read someone else’s Bible when I can’t even understand it?
Betty grew up on the remote Micronesian island of Nukuoro. Her father was a hardworking farmer and a church deacon; he was training to be a pastor before he died in his early 40s. Betty’s mother was the first female pastor in Micronesia. And she became one of the instigators of the Nukuoran Bible translation. As Betty began high school, her mother began to pray that her daughter would one day be called into Bible translation.
“By the time I was in eleventh grade, I really believed God had put it in my heart that I should do the Bible translation for my people.”
After high school, Betty enrolled in Bible College in Canada. God confirmed her calling during her studies, but it was a letter from her Nukuoran church that really got things moving.
“The letter said, ‘We have heard that you have finished Bible school, so would you come and start the Bible project?’” says Betty. “I didn’t even know, but the church had collected over $12,000 to publish the New Testament. So it wasn’t just me, there’s a whole bunch of people behind me whom God used to begin this project.”
Betty returned home to pick up the work her mother and others had begun. Much of the New Testament translation was already done, written out by hand. Betty refined the language and typed everything on a typewriter, sometimes all night long.
In 1987 the gospels of Matthew and Mark, the first Scripture in Nukuoran, were published. But Betty’s work wasn’t finished. The church asked her to translate the Old Testament, so she enrolled at Bible college in Israel in order to learn more Hebrew.
When Betty returned home, she selected a team of Nukuoran translators living on Pohnpei, where the Federated States of Micronesia’s capital city is located. In 2005 the new team began work on the Old Testament. From a tiny one-bedroom house in Pohnpei, they translate up to four days a week, around their day jobs. Betty worked with the Nukuoro community to refine the text.
For Betty, now 65, it is all part of an all-consuming, heartfelt commitment to serving her people. “My life is full and rich,” says Betty, “not because I’m somebody, but because of God. God is making it that way.”
Betty hopes that the Scriptures will greatly help this community, which, she shares, struggles with crime, family problems and suicide.
She adds, “Even if I’m not here, the Bible we’ve translated can do what God wants. Long after any of us [are gone], God can still use his book to speak to hearts and bring more and more of our people and family to Him.”
Adapted from an article by Claire M. Smith
Photos by Elyse Patten