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The Firstfruits of Translation!

"Understanding Scripture in a language other than the heart language in which we think and experience emotion is like trying to eat soup with a fork. You can get a little taste, but you cannot get nourished."
- Cameron Townsend

These past couple months, we have been training a group 8 Kwakum people in principles of translation and we have seen them go from getting a 'taste of a Word of God' into being nourished by it. Let me give you an example. 

I (Stacey) was teaching on how we can translate concepts that are unknown to the Kwakum people (i.e. 'snow'). One talk in particular was on how to convert money from the system in ancient Israel into something that would be understandable to the average Kwakum person. We had out our conversion charts and calculators and started to work through various passages in the Bible discussing how we would translate each passage into Kwakum. 

When we came across the parable of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18.21-35) who was indebted to a king 10,000 talents. We read on to see the king’s grace in forgiving the debt. This servant then thanked the king and reveled in his generosity. Even though he was thankful for the gift, he did not however follow in the example of the giver. This servant turned around and found someone who owed him only a hundred denarii and immediately began to choke him, demanding payment. Honestly, reading this parable in French with the words 'talent' and 'denarii' left no lasting result. Most of them had heard the story before, but had never grasped the difference between the two amounts.

We went to work in class, using a chart that I had prepared beforehand and determined that the first servant owed a sum equivalent to 200,000 years of labor!!! Suddenly the forgiveness of the king seemed amazing. Our group of translators then converted the sum owed by the second servant and found that the man being choked only owed the equivalent of 3 months of labor. The exercise was academic, but when the final numbers were calculated a hush came over the room.

People started whispering to each other, realizing that the unforgiving servant had been forgiven a great debt and then choked someone for a comparatively insignificant sum of money. I then told them that we too owe God a sum that we simply cannot repay and that our only hope is his mercy. And yet, if we accept his mercy without forgiving those around us, it shows that we really aren’t following the King of Grace. Our Kwakum co-workers immediately started confessing their sin of cruelty towards one another. 

To really grasp the significance, you have to understand that Kwakum culture is completely graceless. Mothers tell their children to avenge themselves when wronged and this spirit of vengeance follows children into adulthood where people scream in one another’s faces (for hours) simply because neither party will admit wrong and neither party will forgive. 

The Bible is starting to change all that. Our translation team openly admitted that they are quick to see the fault in another and refuse to see their own sin. Only the Spirit through the Word of God can convince a Kwakum person of this. 

This is only one of many stories that I can share. Just for fun, I’ll share just a couple more stories of how God is at work...

GO PREACH! The first person to translate a portion of the Bible in Cameroon was a Jamaican missionary named Joseph Merrick. When our translation team heard this, they said, “We didn’t know that black people could go out into the world as missionaries!” We told them that they were not designed to be just the recipients of the Gospel, but also the preachers of the Gospel to others. A few days later, they started teaching us a beautiful song they wrote which says “Go out into all the world and preach God’s message. Go out into the world and write out God’s message.”  (See this video of our translators performing the song at our recent meeting)

BAPTISMS! Two Kwakum people, Koo and Mami were baptized and have become our beloved brother and sister in Christ.

NO THANK YOU! Mami (mentioned above) was approached by some friends of her ex-boyfriend saying that he wanted her to come live with him in his house on the beach. She looked at them and said, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? I do not seek my pleasure in this world, I seek it in the next. The answer is no.” 

WITHOUT LOVE, TRANSLATION IS NOTHING. After spending a day together in prayer for the Lord to bless the work of our hands in translating the Bible, one of our Kwakum colleagues shared that he now realized that we could translate the whole Bible and yet, if we “have not love, we have nothing.” Our translators stay in our Kwakum translation center overnight and wake up early to pray with one another which is one evidence of how God is already answering our prayer for a spirit of love among our team.

HUMBLE YOURSELVES. The translation team also wrote a song which says, “humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and he will exalt you.” They performed it in a large group of people and one man stood up and asked if this call was for even those of noble birth and those of a high standing in society. One of our translators responded by saying that Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Earth, bent over before men and washed their feet and that he is the one we are called to follow.
 
In light of all that the Lord is doing here, Dave and I realize more than ever that our lives will continue to be mixed with deep sorrow and deep joy all at the same time. I, Stacey, lost my mom to cancer a few months ago and frankly feel perpetually sad, both for that loss and for my Dad who is learning to live alone.

There is also the sorrow of watching most of our children make poor choices and live content in unrepentant sin. There is the frustration of wanting to do so much more Kingdom work here than we have time to do. We are also teaching in both French and Kwakum and so we feel like we are staying at low levels in both languages instead of excelling at one of them. One of our translators, Koo, was diagnosed with a serious, life threatening disease and is only one among many of our friends who suffer.

I do not believe that the joys of watching God work here can be fully enjoyed until after Jesus wipes our tears away in eternity. Until then, there is dancing, singing, and answered prayers all mixed together with tears, hardened hearts, sick bodies, and civil wars. Romans 8:22-23a says it perfectly: 
 
"For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons..."
Please continue to pray for the Lord to work in the Kwakum people: 
  • Pray that God will give us all the desires of our hearts for ministry among the Kwakum (literacy, translation, children’s ministry, evangelistic Bible studies, etc).
  • Pray that we would continue to grow in our ability to communicate in Kwakum.
  • Pray for me to finish a primer designed for people here that are totally illiterate (it’s killing me).
  • Pray for the Lord to soften the hearts of our children to his Word.
  • Pray for a peaceful resolution to a civil war taking place on the English speaking side of Cameroon. 
Thank you so much for keeping up with our ministry. Don't forget to check out our blog (https://haretranslation.com) to get more regular updates. And hit reply and let us know how we can be praying for you too. 

Dave and Stacey Hare
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