Because I'm Special?

“I really admire what you’re doing. I know I couldn’t. But I’m so glad for people who can, and I’ll definitely be praying for you.” I wish I knew how many times I’ve heard something like that. Even more, I wish I knew how to respond. Often I just smile and change the subject.

What makes you hint that I “can”? Do I dare mention that I think you could, too? Often, I come away with the impression that I’m just special, and so I can. I’d like to think I’m special. I’d like to think that’s why I “can.” But I know better. How many tears I’ve cried over this journey. How many times I just want to do something a little easier. Something I already know how to do. Something a little more normal.

I didn’t always speak three languages. English came quite naturally—but the other two were hard: the occasional headaches, the fear and frustration of being unable to communicate, the shame of feeling like an awful ignoramus with no clue what was going on. I wanted to quit, and probably would have, except for godly mentors who encouraged me to stick it out. Success came through their encouragement, a little elbow grease, and countless mistakes.

I’ve savored the taste of success, but I didn’t succeed because I’m so special.

All the weird things I talk about now—phrase structure rules, bilabial clicks, and orthography—used to be frightening gibberish. Learning linguist-speak took months of schooling, more elbow-grease, lots of dish-washing dollars, and a hefty bit of friendly encouragement. I enjoy linguistic jabberwocky now, but I didn’t get here by being special.

I suppose this is where I should give an impassioned appeal that “Anyone can do this!” And while that is more true than most people realize, I’ve been in training long enough to know that this work often does attract a certain type of person: People who are good at math, enjoy playing with words and sounds, and have an ear for music; people who are disciplined, stubborn, and observant; people who are willing to look and feel very foolish, sacrifice normalcy and familiarity—and choose thankfulness. That sounds a little like me. . .does it sound anything like you?

I really had no clue what I was getting myself into. I didn’t know what all Bible translation involved, or what Literacy was—I heard about it in a roundabout way and felt called to pursue it, so I did. Call it stupidity; call it a leap of faith; call it obedience. I like it here, but I’m not here because I’m special. I’m here because, one step at a time, I’ve said “Yes, Lord. Yes, Lord!” This is what “yes” has meant for me—what will it mean for you?

Ayana Otto
ABT Member in Training

Ayana Otto learned Spanish while working at a children’s home in Mexico. Since joining ABT, she first
focused on Biblical Hebrew, planning to be an Old Testament translator. More recently, Ayana has been
pursuing a translation support role in Literacy—giving oral, illiterate language groups the tools they
need to read God’s Word when it is translated for them.

  • “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17
  • “Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witness of these things.” Luke 24:47, 48
  • “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” Matthew 28:19
  • “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:3
  • “That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel.” Ephesians 3:6
  • “That they all may be one; as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that You sent Me.” John 17:21
  • “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’?” Mark 11:17
  • “Ask of me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance.” Psalm 2:8
  • “Behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes.” Revelation 7:9
  • “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified.” 2 Thessalonians 3:1
  • “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16
  • “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
  • “As cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a far country.” Proverbs 25:25
  • “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” Psalm 19:10
  • “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You.” Psalm 22:27
  • “Truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.” Numbers 14:21
  • “Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.” Psalm 96:3, 4
  • “For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2:14
  • “That all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other.” 1 Kings 8:60
  • “For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; in every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a pure offering; for My name shall be great among the nations.” Malachi 1:11
  • “All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, snd shall glorify Your name.” Psalm 86:9
  • “For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.” Isaiah 61:11
  • "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" Psalm 46:10
  • "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:3, 4
  • "You are worthy. . .; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God." Revelation 5:9, 10