How Do You Carry?
Training complete! (At least the first one)
Our whole family just wrapped up 2 weeks of intensive training at the Wycliffe HQ in Orlando, FL. The kids were given official certificates and the title of "missionary kid". They loved it! They learned all about what it's like to be a missionary and heard some fun stories from life overseas.
Meanwhile, we made a ton of new friends that are also in the process of joining Wycliffe and learned so much about how Bible translation is impacting people groups around the world.
Let me tell you a little about it:
If you were like me, you grew up singing songs like, "Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so." Well, the thing we so often overlook is that there are over 2,000 languages in the world without a single verse of Scripture and no project started.
For those people, the Bible hasn't told them so.
So, our goal is to give people a Bible that speaks their language...that can speak to their heart. What that means is learning their language to the point that we're not just giving them foreign literature in the right words. We're giving them something that seems like it was written to them and for them. This is no small task.
Here's an example...
We live in a culture that highly values the written word. That comes out in our language, because we can nuance the word "to write" in a lot of different ways. If I say to handwrite a note, there are things about the final product that you can deduce. It will probably be on a nice card and you need to think about using your good handwriting. But, if I say to you, "Jot this down," you understand that a scrap piece of paper and a crayon are sufficient tools for the job. In our modern world, we even understand that "to type" is simply to write with the aid of a computer.
Similarly, in the Tzeltal language in Mexico, a speaker can nuance the word "to carry" in order to help the listener understand what type of carrying is expected or assumed. They actually have 26 different ways to say "carry". And the word chosen will tell a lot about the thing that is being carried.
Some examples include:
bahel - to carry something placed in a container
lup - to carry in a spoon or ladle
chuy - to carry in a bag
cuch - to carry on back or with a strap over the forehead.
Can you see how the word used helps you understand something about the thing being carried?
Look now with me at Luke 14:27. "And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." If we used the word nol in this verse, we would be saying to carry the cross in the palm of your hand. This makes the cross something that is small, easy to carry, manageable. In short, we would be conveying that we don't need Christ and discipleship is simple. However, the word q'uech means to carry on your shoulder. With just the change of one word, the Bible is now implying the weight and burden of the cross. This misstep in translation changes the gospel.
Or look at Galatians 6:2. "Carry each other's burdens..." How can the translator effectively communicate this concept? I believe they used the word cuch, bringing to mind carrying baggage on your back/neck. You're taking the load from a person and putting it on yourself.
The word we use can say so much more than just the word itself. In fact, there are probably going to be parts of the Bible that are better understood in their language than we understand in English. That's just the nature of language. It's exciting to be a part of.
If we do the work, these people can have the Bible in a language that speaks to their heart in a way that seems natural to them. This is how the gospel will reach the ends of the earth. This is the end goal of Bible translation.