“Sunday Community Outreach”
On Sunday, Chris went to an Nsenga-speaking church in a village, along with the pastor and three members of the Nsenga Bible Translation Project. The goal was to read some excerpts from the Nsenga New Testament to the church members, and get comments and questions from them that might help improve the translation, while at the same time building enthusiasm and community involvement in the project.
After the service, the committee members and the pastor took turns reading. They read portions of Matthew 4, John 3, Acts 2, Romans 8, and Revelation 1. A church member also read the first ten verses of Ephesians 2.
The readings were very well received. After each one, there was discussion about certain words that had been chosen, and some suggestions for improvement. (Why did you use “cisomo” for “grace”? Couldn’t you use “shuko” instead?) In the Matthew reading, we had made an embarrassing mistake – we had Satan asking Jesus to “throw himself off” of the high mountain, instead of just “bowing (himself) down” to worship Satan on the mountaintop.
We took several of the suggestions from the congregation and incorporated them into our Nsenga draft. One in particular was the word for “sound” in Acts 2 – the “sound” of the rushing wind. Someone in the congregation suggested the perfect word for that idea.
For Chris, the best part was during the reading of Romans 8. The reader was doing a very good job – clearly he had practiced beforehand, and his Nsenga was very nice – and the congregation was just sitting very still and quiet. In other readings, there had been some moving around, maybe some smiles or whispered comments as people interacted with the reading, but not this one. No one was moving, no one was talking. The reader got a little uncomfortable, it seemed, with everyone looking at him. So he stopped and asked, “Are you understanding this? You’re not saying anything.”
It took a second for the people to respond. They had been sitting still, attentive, hanging on his every word. Then they collectively realized how quiet they had been, and laughed. “Oh yes!” people we saying. “We get it!” “We like it very much.” “It’s very nice to hear.”
How wonderful for a group of people who have been straining to understand the Bible in a different language, to finally be able to hear God’s Word in a way that they can’t help but pay attention to, on the edge of their seats, because He is finally speaking in their language too!
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