Reformation to Southeast Asia: LHF plans Book of Concord translations in 8 languages

Categories: Cambodia, Catechism, East/Southeast Asia, Khmer

September 2015 – In 2002, Rev. Ted NaThalang (LHF’s coordinator for Southeast Asian projects) traveled into Cambodia to see if there were any Lutherans to be found.

“I met with 12 Christian leaders from different denominations. They asked me, ‘What kind of Christian are you?’ I said, ‘I’m Lutheran.” And they asked, ‘What’s that?’ They had never heard of it,” he remembered.

“So then I asked them, ‘Do you know who Martin Luther is?’ and they said, “Oh, you mean that black guy from America?’ They thought that Lutheranism was a cult, a new teaching!” he laughed.

Though Lutheranism was a new teaching in Cambodia, it was one that was joyfully received. A decade later, God has called His people to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cambodia (ELCC), now a body of more than 30 congregations. How did the Holy Spirit do His work? Through Luther’s Small Catechism, translated by LHF into the Khmer language.

While more than 95 percent of Southeast Asians are either atheist, Buddhist or Muslim, the Gospel is being eagerly received by ever-growing populations in countries like Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, China and Indonesia-areas where LHF has expanded its translation work.

Now, as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation approaches in 2017, LHF is undertaking a massive project to continue building a solid foundation for Lutheranism in Southeast Asia: translating and publishing the Book of Concord into the Thai, Khmer, Bahasa Indonesia, Korean, traditional and simplified Chinese, Vietnamese and Hmong languages.

Indeed, Rev. Na Thalang reports, LHF’s books are making an impact far outside of Lutheran circles in Southeast Asia.

“In Thailand, for example, we’ve distributed 10,000 catechisms – but there are only 1,000 to 1,500 Lutherans there. So who is using the book?” he asked. “Some examples are the Baptist and Pentecostal seminaries, which use the catechism as a gift for their graduates because it’s based on Scripture, in their language and easy to read.”

The entire Book of Concord will be equally treasured, Rev. Na Thalang believes.

“We don’t have to sell LHF books; they sell themselves,” he said. “We always go back to what Luther and the Reformation leaders believed. Luther wanted God’s Word to go to all people, not just his small group. We at LHF base our vision on continuing what Luther began: bring the Gospel to all nations and all people, and God will bless that.”

To date, individuals and congregations have already funded three of Book of Concord translations: Vietnamese, Bahasa-Indonesia, and Korean. If you or your congregation would like information on sponsoring one of the Book of Concord translations for Southeast Asia, contact LHF at (800)554-0723 for more information.

Only with your help can this important work continue. Prayerfully consider how you can help support LHF projects.