Tell your Great Commission Story

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I remember the moment when I moved from knowing about the Great Commission to wanting to actively be a part of what God is doing in the world. It became more than a few verses at the end of Matthew’s Gospel to something that required action. Someone shared their Great Commission story with me.

Do people really give their lives to something like this? They are normal people like me, not superheroes! Could God use me to help bring about His purposes like he is using these people? These are all thoughts I had when a cross-cultural church planter shared their story with me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Who are you sharing your Great Commission story with? It just might stir their heart for what God is doing in the world.

How do you translate unknown concepts?

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By Stacey Hare – Bible Translator in Cameroon.

People ask us all the time how we translate a word/idea in the Bible that is not present in the Kwakum language. For example, the word “grace” is an enormous key biblical idea yet we do not have a word for “grace” (or even “gift”) in Kwakum. What then do we do?

Before answering that question, there are a few underlying translation principles that you need to understand:... read more

You cannot translate what you do not understand.

It is very tempting for our Kwakum translators to hear a word in Scripture (like cistern) and rush to provide a Kwakum equivalent. However with a little investigation, we soon realize that the equivalent that they provided does not mean the same thing as the word in the text. For instance, they may provide a word meaning dry well for cistern but this is not exactly the same meaning. Therefore, we emphasize with our team again and again that we first need to understand the biblical meaning of a word in order to then search for an equivalent in the language. In order to help our team understand what grapes were, for instance, we brought them grapes from the capital and had them taste them and then describe how they look, taste, smell, and feel. Once they really understood what a grape was, they were then able to come up with a way to describe it accurately in Kwakum.

Scripture interprets Scripture.

If someone who has not been to church picks up an English Bible and reads Genesis 12 where God makes a covenant with Abraham, they will likely not understand the word covenant. Perhaps they will look up covenant in the glossary (but they probably won’t). However, if they keep reading, then they will see God regularly making covenants with people throughout the Bible. Their first reading of the word covenant will go from a very basic, possibly incorrect, understanding into a rich, biblical understanding of the word. It is the same way with the Kwakum Bible. We understand that in order for biblical ideas to be known, people need to simply keep reading.  

With these principles in mind, there are five options of what we can do what we can do when we encounter a biblical idea without a Kwakum word which expresses that idea.

1. Use a descriptive phrase.

A descriptive phrase basically describes the idea in question using two or more words.

For example, when we translated the Christmas story in Kwakum and ran into all kinds of translation issues. For starters, there is no word for shepherd in the language, so our team has chose to use a descriptive phrase those-who-monitor-the-livestock. It is longer than a simple word shepherd and yet, it is accurate. We also had problems with the word magi, which, as it turns out, I didn’t know what a magi was anyway. We ended up translating the first mention of magi as “guardians of religious rites who look up at the starts to see the things to come.” All subsequent mentions were just “guardians of religions rites.” Another example is that there isn’t a good option for the word Lord in Kwakum. We discussed using the word chief or master or owner but none of these words really captured the fullness of what Lord stands for. We therefore opted to use the descriptive phrase “the one who reigns.” We also came up with descriptive phrases for manger, priest, and more just for this one story!

2. Substitute what is unknown with something known.

Another option is that when you are dealing with stories or comparisons inside of the biblical text, you can substitute the unknown idea with an idea that is known in the culture. We have yet to do this for the Kwakum stories because we have yet to enter into parables or a lot of comparisons. However, I have heard of African languages, who do not have snow, use something else white in their culture for the verse in Isaiah 1:18 which says that “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” When we went over this verse in training with our translators, they said that they could say something like, “your sins will be as white as cotton.” The point of the passage is clear with this comparison: God takes one darkened by sin and makes them pure.

3. Use a borrowed word.

Another option is to use a word that comes from the language of wider communication, which in our case is French. In Kwakum, there is no verbal or nominal form of a word for grace or gift. We have tried words that we thought we close but when we tested them in villages people would say, “This is when you give something to someone with the hopes of getting something in return.” This is not the right meaning. Although we have yet to officially decide this with our translation team, it is likely that we will be borrowing the French words for ideas pertaining to grace.

4. Use a more generic term.

If a specific term is not available in the language, then a generic term can be used. This generic term is often followed by a descriptive phrase in its first mention. The other day, our translation team came up with a term for cup bearer for the story of Joseph. We were all excited that they had this term in their language until they casually mentioned later on that their term was actually referring to a chimpanzee who tasted the food before the other chimps. Not what we were looking for. So, in this story, we just used a very generic description that there was a man who worked for the king who was in prison with Joseph. Right now, we are working on what is equivalent to a story-book Bible which allows us to eliminate some of the details within a story.

5. Use a more specific term.

Sometimes the language requires that you chose a term that is more specific than the term employed in the biblical text. For example, we surveyed a neighboring people group, the Pol, and found that they do not have a general word for brother. Your options are older brother or younger brother. What this means for translation is that you have to do your best to know if someone is older or younger in order to use the term older brother and younger brother rightly.

The goal for a given translation project is to hold four principles in tension: 1) The translation needs to be accurate, 2) it needs to be written in a way that the people speak, 3) it needs to be understandable, and 4) it needs to be accepted by the community. Each of these 4 pillars are considered over and over and over again as we wrestle through how to communicate unknown ideas into Kwakum well.  

So, this blog really barely scratches the surface of the intricacies of Bible translation. I have yet to talk about weights and measurements or proper names. However, I think, if nothing else it serves to show you that you should pray for those you know who are translating the Word of God into a minority language.

Stacey Hare is a servant of Jesus Christ as well as a wife, mom, linguist, and Bible translator. Right now she is working creating literacy materials so the Kwakum people can learn to read and write in their language. She is also working on translating Old Testament stories into Kwakum with her husband and local Kwakum colleagues.

God speaks the language we understand.

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Imagine if you opened your Bible and couldn’t read a single word. That’s what it is like for people without Scripture in their own language. People often ask, “Don’t most of those people speak a national language that already has the Bible? While it’s true some do, God’s Word reaches us all most effectively in our heart language. The national language can be a second or even third language for them.

Why should we have Worldview Awareness?

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How does being “Worldview Aware” help us to communicate and be understood in a different cultural setting? In this article (Part 2 of a 5 part series) James Anderson gives us 5 reasons why we should be “Worldview Aware”.

If you have time, check out the other parts of this series of articles before our upcoming Workshop.

What’s Your Story?

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Over a period of one month, early last year, Trevin Wax wrote a series of articles looking at what the ongoing story of our life is. As we approach our upcoming Connect webinar, where we’ll look at how our story is what lies at the centre of our worldview, you may find it helpful to have a look at these articles and answer some of the questions Trevin asks.

World Watch List 2021

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Open Doors has been releasing it’s World Watch List since 1992, informing the Church what we should know about the countries with the highest levels of persecution, and how we can pray for the believers in those nations. Check it out, but more importantly, consider praying for a country on the list.

What’s Your Ecclesiology?

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Because we might be talking with someone about Church Planting doesn’t necessarily mean we are talking about the same thing. The methodology, end goal and the understanding of what is, or isn’t, taking place may all be very different. What’s important is to establish a biblical ecclesiology, a biblical understanding of what we are talking about when we talk about the big “C” Church and little “c” church.

The way we talk about Church Planting at Connect is by using the W.I.L.D. framework. In Modules 7 & 9, there are over 40 tutorials that help us establish a biblical ecclesiology in a way that practically helps us work with the Master Builder to disciple people individually and corporately to establish healthy churches.

Whether you have completed Modules 7 & 9 or attended some of our recent workshops where we have discussed the W.I.L.D. framework, I think you’ll find this article by Mack Stiles, a church planter in Iraq, helpful as he highlights our need for a biblical understanding of what we mean by church planting.

Let’s Gospel Each Other

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So how was 2020 for you? For some of us it was ghastly. Restricted, isolated, and out of routine. For others, life was less interrupted and actually allowed for some time to rest and reflect. As we all come to the end of 2020 and look to the New Year, the next couple of weeks gives all of us a chance to rest and reflect. As we have applied ourselves to learning, equipping, and thinking about how God is fitting us into His purposes to take the gospel to the lost, we mustn’t forget that the gospel is for Christians too. For you and me, now!... read more

If your Pastor announced that he was going to start a 10-week series on “The Gospel”, how would you react? Does it sound a bit like “Christianity 101”, something that you’ve moved on from? Or would your reaction be, “I can’t afford to miss one of those sermons”?

Why is it important for us to always be hearing the gospel? Paul tells us in Romans 1:16, “It’s the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes … “. We know it is the power of God to save those outside the Kingdom who are perishing, but literally Paul says that it is the power of God to everyone who keeps on believing. That’s right, believing is in the present tense, an ongoing activity of believing not just at the moment of conversion, but throughout the whole of our life, the gospel saves us. Paul makes this clear in 1 Cor 15.1, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand and by which you are being saved…”.

I am weak, frail and I am inconsistent. Like you, I have times of suffering and affliction, I am sometimes discouraged and lose my joy. I get entangled in the temptations of this world causing me to lack in my love for Christ. I need to “keep on” believing and the gospel is the power of God giving me all I need to transform my heart, mind and will. Everything I need is in the message of the gospel. Nothing else in Scripture, except Jesus Christ himself, is described as the “power of God”. The gospel is the ultimate working of the power of Almighty God. Think about all the incredible acts of God recorded in the Bible. Creation, the parting of the Red Sea, the plagues in Egypt, the flood, the conquests of Canaan, none of these are ever described as the “power of God”, but the gospel is. How powerful then must the gospel be to be merit such a title?

So, as we rest and reflect over the next couple of weeks, let’s “gospel” our Christian friends and each other regularly. We need it. To us who are being saved it is the power of God. We need to hear the gospel and believe it every day.

Have a blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year. Keep your eyes on WhatsApp and your inbox for information about our Summer Workshop and Webinar coming up in 2021.