Our team had the privilege of speaking with a man involved in Bible translation the other night. All nine of us sat together in a small hotel room with the fan going full force. We listened to him describing a life of travel and labor in the Harvest Field. Much of what he told us would be worthy of writing about, but there is one thing which stuck out most poignantly.
Part of his work is facilitating the sharing of information between the members of a bible translating team doing work in various parts of two different countries. He is also a reader of the translation, helping to craft the words into the language of the heart.
It is his use of the phrase “language of the heart” which most moved me. He used an analogy related to marriage. He and his bride do not share the same “first language”. He said for many years he could not express the depth of emotion he had for his wife – even though he speaks eight languages and she at least three. He told us she understood the words fine, but did not hear or understand the love-meaning, the heart-content, those words carried with them. It was many years before he felt like his wife began to understand, in her own heart, how much he cared for her and how much he was devoted to her.
He used this story in a most remarkable way. He related that experience to the translation of the bible into the mother tongue of the people. In some way the word of God meets a person at a depth only reached by the language with which they grew up. He told us they need to know God as Father and this comes best through the peoples mother tongue.
I confess I was deeply moved by this story for a number of reasons:
- This man was deeply committed to his wife and understood the bible, and the translation of it, better because of his love for her.
- There is something about hearing the Gospel in the same language your mother soothed you with when you were a babe, or your father encouraged you with as a youth which carries great meaning – meaning which possibly could not come through any other medium.
- This man was willing to sacrifice not only to get the “data” into the hands of the people, but also to bring to them the affection-transforming beauty of the word of God.
Pray for this man, and for men like him, who do not disconnect the head from the heart – but who are willing to follow their King to the ends of the earth that men and women might know the love of God in Christ Jesus. AK