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Aug 4, 2008

We can't wait!

Written by George P.

George with Nyakyusa pastor George with Nyakyusa pastor
(Mbeya Cluster - Tanzania)


My wife Wendy and I left Mbeya and were headed for Tukuyu, a town about an hour away. I had been invited by a pastor there to come share ‘whatever God puts on your heart.' We had never been in this part of the country, so we were busy  watching for landmarks to make sure we were going the right direction.

All the while I was wondering what I would say. What would be most beneficial to them? Where to begin?

Of course I had prepared a message, but was it what God would have me say? As we went along, I was trying to make good time so we wouldn't be late. All these thoughts bombarded my mind, making me tense.

The countryside was lush and green from months of rain. We saw all types of greenery, from trees to grasslands to farms. It was a peaceful setting, but my mind was so cluttered I almost missed it-and Him. And the message He wanted me to convey.

Then I remembered Jesus' words, "Don't be anxious about what you will say when you stand before men... for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you." Though I did not want to take this verse literally and throw my notes out the window, the passage calmed me and reassured me that the Lord was with me.

The church was surrounded by farms growing a variety of crops, mainly bananas. We wound our way through banana groves, past homesteads and to the clearing where the church sat.

The service had already started, but no one seemed bothered that we were late. As the worship team led us through Swahili choruses, the Lord's words became clear to me. "Tell them what you know, what you love." That meant our work, Bible translation.

I was the consultant who had checked the first half of Mark in the Nyakyusa language a few months before, and since Tukuyu is in the heart of Nyakyusa land, it made sense for me to bring a copy of the translation portion along.

I began sharing some of our early experiences in East Africa. They began to warm to my words. Now the time was right to mention Bible translation.

I told them that, in order to translate, you have to first understand what the message is. Then once you know that, you can say it in another language. But understanding the Bible is not so easy, even with familiar passages.

We looked at Mark 1:4, which says, "John appeared as he was baptizing in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the removal of sins." I asked a volunteer to rephrase John's message in his own words.

He said, "John told people to repent and their sins would be forgiven."

I asked, "Can anyone explain what ‘baptism of repentance' means?"

No one could.

Then I asked the pastor to come read the same verse from the Nyakyusa translation. It reads like this, "John appeared baptizing people in the wilderness and preaching to them that they should repent, be baptized and God would forgive them of their sins."

Then he translated it into Swahili so all non-Nyakyusa speakers could understand. "Did we leave any information out? Did we add anything that shouldn't be there?" They replied, "No."

I asked, "What strikes you about this version?"

The pastor replied, "It was so clear, so easy to understand!"

He turned to go sit down, but halfway there he stopped and turned toward the congregation. A huge smile spread across his face. He went to sit again, hesitated, then stood upright, his smile beaming on. Finally he couldn't contain himself any longer. He raised his hands, started clapping and shouting, "Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!" The congregation joined him in his excitement, praising God for the new clear translation.

Then the pastor declared loudly, "We can't wait to read Mark in Nyakyusa when it is finished!"

And neither can we, I agreed. Neither can we!

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