Season 2 | Episode 10 | Bible Translation | TBN

Season 2 | Episode 10 | Bible Translation

Watch Season 2 | Episode 10 | Bible Translation
November 14, 2019
26:45

Jesus the Game Changer

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Season 2 | Episode 10 | Bible Translation

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  • Bible translation makes the point that God does not have only one language.
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  • We're in the IllumiNations room of the Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.
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  • And what the Museum of the Bible have done, they have collected all the translations of the Bible from across the globe.
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  • There are over 600 versions of the whole Bible and over 15 hundred versions of the New Testament.
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  • While it's a bit hard to know exactly, it takes between 15 and 20 years to translate the whole of the Bible.
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  • So, if we just took the lower figure of 15 years,
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  • if you were to take these 10 translations of the Bible here, that would be 150 years of work.
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  • This wall represents millions of hours of human endeavor
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  • to translate the Bible into people's heart languages.
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  • I can't think of many other things across the centuries,
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  • which means more work and effort to see the message of Jesus go to the ends of the earth.
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  • You and me, we are the result of translation work.
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  • Who on earth got the Latin or the Greek original and read it, and then came to the Lord?
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  • Nobody. Everyone is a result of Bible translation.
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  • You read an English version; the English version was translated.
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  • The beauty and the glory of Christianity is that we believe God works in all different languages.
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  • The act of Bible translation is the act of giving people God's word in their own language
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  • and is really the heart of what Protestant mission has been since the time of Martin Luther.
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  • For Protestants, they wanted people to read the Bible in their own language.
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  • That required several things.
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  • One of them, it required that people had to be able to read, including women and including poor people.
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  • It meant they had to be able to afford books. Books had to be cheap.
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  • Everyone knows about the Protestant Reformation, is the drive of Protestant leaders
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  • to have local lay men and women study, read, incorporate the scriptures into their whole lives.
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  • And that move is of a long standing, very dramatic impact on missionary work.
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  • All of a sudden Protestant missionaries come along in the late 18th century and the early 19th century,
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  • and they start to print tens of thousands of books to try and convert people.
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  • Moveable type eventually made the production of books
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  • not democratic in the modern sense, but much more democratic than it had been before.
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  • Probably we can say that the move from pre-Gutenberg to Gutenberg
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  • is a little bit like the move from pre-television to the modern media.
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  • Then they start to dominate.
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  • When they go internationally, they dominated printing.
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  • In China, the biggest printers were missionary printers, even though printing was developed in China.
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  • They just transformed printing all over the world.
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  • William Carey, when he comes to India, brings with him printing materials,
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  • presses from England, and continued calling for more so that
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  • type can be set in the local languages into which he's translating the Bible.
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  • Over time, that portability of print means that missionary activity is going to be extended wherever there is literacy,
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  • and then often, as we know, as missionaries themselves create literate audiences.
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  • And then most significantly, missionary activity is promoted by what comes from Gutenberg
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  • because once the Christian Bible is translated, it no longer belongs to the translators,
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  • it belongs to the people into whose language it has come.
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  • In Africa, perhaps especially, once people had the Bible in their own language,
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  • they began to read their own story in the light of the stories they found in Scripture,
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  • particularly the Old Testament narratives of Israel as an enslaved nation
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  • a nation that went into an exile, a nation that suffered exploitation and oppression
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  • and yet was chosen by God, and yet was renewed by God,
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  • and ultimately it was brought back into freedom.
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  • Those sort of narratives have been very powerful for the experience of African Christians.
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  • And to translate into their own language means the local people themselves
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  • are bringing their own views of God and of culture and of society and of identity into the text itself.
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  • So even though Western missionaries may have thought they were controlling things
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  • when they translated the Bible, as soon as people have the Bible in their own language,
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  • they are free to interpret it according to their own needs and cultural norms.
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  • And the churches can grow within those cultures without the need of outsiders such as Western missionaries.
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  • The only way that you can reach out to these people is through their language.
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  • So it was so powerful.
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  • So, every time that we got a portion of the Bible, we started writing our songs from it.
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  • We sing. And Africa without songs and without music is like, it is not possible.
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  • So, the connection is so strong.
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  • For Martin Luther, putting the word of God into the words of the people was his life task.
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  • And as Protestants began going out as missionaries, that's what they imitated.
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  • The first missionaries were Lutheran Pietists.
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  • And they go out and they see their first task as putting the Bible into the language of the people.
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  • Once people have the Bible in their own language, that's revolutionary.
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  • That allows social transformation from within, from a Christian perspective.
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  • Where you had greater Protestant missionary influence, you have higher literacy,
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  • higher school enrollment, more newspaper circulation,
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  • more book circulation, more voluntary association membership, higher GDP,
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  • more hospital beds, longer life expectancy, lower infant mortality, lower corruption and greater political democracy.
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  • So, a lot of outcomes that most people think of as positive,
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  • there's a strong association with where Protestant missionaries had more influence.
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  • Tefera, when you were just 2, you lost your dad. What happened?
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  • When I was 2, my dad was killed And my mom, she left. She left the village.
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  • She came to the capital. So, I was left with my grandmother.
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  • In a village somewhere?
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  • Like 700 km from the capital. Very, completely remote area.
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  • And what were your prospects then?
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  • Life was difficult, dark. You just see darkness, no hope.
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  • At that point in time, a Wycliffe Bible translator became part of your life.
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  • What happened then?
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  • That's right. So, when I was a grade 4 student, a white missionary guy from Wycliffe Germany came to our village.
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  • That was the first white person that I saw in life.
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  • And I said, 'What? Is he even a person, like a white man?'
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  • So, he came to our village, actually to our compound.
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  • Kirk, you grew up in Papua New Guinea. What were you doing there?
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  • Well, my parents had left the United States in 1958.
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  • They had this calling to become Bible translators.
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  • They were in college in the States and they met somebody who was joining Wycliffe Bible translators,
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  • and they heard that there was, at the time they thought, about a thousand languages,
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  • minority groups of people who had no scripture, no written language.
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  • And for some reason, they just sensed this calling on their lives,
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  • even though they weren't linguists at the time, they had to become trained to do that later.
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  • And so that's really all it was.
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  • Just this sense that we should go do something about that.
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  • How did you become part of Wycliffe Bible translators?
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  • It was as we were sort of in our early married life searching what the Lord had for us.
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  • Looking at every mission agency that did church planting in France or Belgium, and just no doors opened.
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  • And there was actually a couple in our home church who worked with Wycliffe,
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  • and they wouldn't let us go, and eventually just to get them off my back
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  • I agreed to go along to a Wycliffe weekend.
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  • And discovered there was Bible translation needs in French speaking Africa
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  • that my background as a scientist, my wife's background as a linguist,
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  • it all just came together and we just saw the Lord draw the experiences we had into one.
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  • Who was the first non-western, non-American who became a Wycliffe Bible translator?
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  • Our history, we started in 1942 here in the United States,
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  • sending out Americans and then other parts of Europe, Australia, New Zealand.
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  • And it very much was a western movement.
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  • That was the thinking, that was the culture, that was the structure.
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  • But in about 1968, a Japanese man, Takashi Fukuda, who was a new Christian,
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  • he was a student, he happened to read a condensed version in Reader's Digest
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  • of a famous book at the time called, 'Two Thousand Tongues to Go', about Bible translation.
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  • And he felt a calling, and so he persisted in contacting Wycliffe here in the United States to see if he could join them.
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  • I got interested in the work of Bible translation through reading the Japanese version of,
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  • 'Two Thousand Tongues to Go', which was published by Wycliffe USA.
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  • One of those stories he read was of Jim Elliot being speared and losing his life with several of his colleagues.
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  • Does it surprise you that people would read a story like that and still want to go?
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  • There is something about when Christians are martyred for their faith
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  • that strikes an inner chord in some people, a sense of,
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  • 'That is what ultimate commitment looks like, and I'm willing to do the same'.
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  • In that book they talk about missionaries dying.
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  • Did that not put you off?
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  • No, no, no. But the life of a missionary will be very difficult.
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  • Going to the jungles of Amazon, life is very hard, very primitive.
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  • But learning the language, the unknown language, and the knowledge of that language is nowhere in the world.
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  • You are the first one to go.
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  • So joining Wycliffe, sent by my own church, one of the biggest denominations in Ethiopia,
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  • I asked them, 'Would you be able to send me as a missionary,
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  • a full time missionary, to the village, back to the village again?'
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  • After all my college studies, then I started literacy classes, opening schools, village schools,
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  • and that grew up to an extent where I can start with all my colleagues, Wycliffe Ethiopia.
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  • We were on the Ivory Coast, the Ivory Coast is on the west coast of Africa, sort of facing south.
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  • You go off the beach and the next stop is Antarctica.
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  • And we were just on the edge of the rainforest there,
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  • where the people grew cocoa and coffee, which I thought was great
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  • because they're two things which have given me a great deal of pleasure in life.
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  • In 1977, there were three openings of new Bible translation offered to us.
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  • So, we went to the first one on the list and then decided that we'll be assigned to the Philippines.
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  • There was no road, so we had to hike over the mountains, 10 hours.
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  • There were about 2000 people, half of whom were Kouya,
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  • that's the group we were working with, and the other half were immigrants
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  • from countries to the north who had come down looking for work.
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  • And the richer people had houses made out of concrete block with tin roofs.
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  • Most people lived quite literally in houses made out of mud and sticks.
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  • We had two kids, 4 and 2 years old.
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  • A narrow path, lots of leeches, no electricity, no road, no clinic,
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  • no telephone, no running water, no gas, no toilet,
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  • no shower. You go down to the river to take a shower.
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  • Any time you thought, 'This is not a good idea?'.
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  • No, no, this is where we should be.
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  • And one of the stories my mother tells is when I was a toddler and living basically in the mud and
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  • playing with the kids, my mother made the decision that either she had to extract me from the people
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  • and protect me or she had to basically turn me over to them and trust the Lord to protect me.
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  • And so, she did the latter.
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  • But it wasn't easy, especially when our kids got sick.
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  • No way, just hold the baby or hold the kids and pray.
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  • Do you think in your life now there's any legacy of growing up like that?
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  • There is. It doesn't always mean I might appreciate it or respect it.
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  • But the legacy I think I see very strongly is the fact that I had the privilege of growing up
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  • amongst a group of people that very, very few people have ever heard of.
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  • And seeing the world through different eyes from the outset, seeing people who are not like me.
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  • In fact, I was actually very upset when I was young to discover that I wasn't black like they were.
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  • So all those are privileges. But often you don't appreciate the privileges until you look backwards.
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  • It's interesting reading the history of the early years of Wycliffe,
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  • there were actually many women who went out, single women, Bible translators in pairs.
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  • That was something that was done quite regularly.
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  • You know, there's a reason for that.
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  • And that is that back in the Western church, the church didn't have roles for women.
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  • And yet these were very gifted, qualified, educated women that had a deep calling on their lives.
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  • And what they discovered through Wycliffe's ministry, as well as so many other mission agencies,
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  • is they could go, and they could make a difference and they could do it well and they could be respected.
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  • And so consequently, it was very, very common.
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  • I grew up with many, many single women who were translators,
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  • paired up, and the pairing is difficult because you don't always get along
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  • and those partnerships don't always work.
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  • But it was because they could make a difference.
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  • Sadly, that took a long time to translate back to our own Western culture.
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  • But certainly, in the majority world, they were accepted and given reasonable and very good ministries.
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  • You learn languages by understanding them.
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  • So, getting people to tell us to do things, 'Stand up. Sit down. Go over there. Come here'.
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  • And we would do what they said, and just slowly build it up.
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  • Every night we'd walk around the village and the things we had learned, we'd then repeat.
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  • So, we'd go up to people every night, they got used to us.
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  • We would come up and say, 'Hello, how are you?
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  • My name is Eddie. I've come to learn your language.
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  • This is what I've learned today'.
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  • You don't speak their language, they don't speak your English.
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  • And so, you're able through motions, picking up objects,
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  • starting to learn words and putting together simple sentences.
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  • This is why in those sorts of contexts, it can take 4 years before you've really mastered the language.
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  • And then usually in the translation process, you might start with a simpler gospel,
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  • like the gospel of Mark, it's a little bit easier to translate,
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  • say, than John or even Matthew, which is longer. And that gets you into it.
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  • And then you get to start seeing how's this going? Are you getting the words right?
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  • Because the whole community is involved.
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  • Because obviously you're dealing with a language that has totally different concepts and words.
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  • The Kewa people had never seen a sheep. So, you can't just translate sheep.
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  • You have to use an animal like a pig, but it's not a pig.
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  • It's always difficult trying to find words for something that doesn't exist.
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  • So, the word anchor. In Acts, Paul is in the boat, they throw the anchor over.
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  • Kouya didn't have a word for anchor.
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  • So, we just came up with, 'boat stopping metal'.
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  • They live in a rainforest, they don't have boats.
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  • So, just 'boat stopping metal'.
  • 00:19:15.270 --> 00:19:17.210
  • And then in Hebrews, it says that, 'Hope is the anchor for our lives'.
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  • So you can't say, 'Hope is the boat stopping metal for our lives', that doesn't work.
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  • So actually, in that case, we said it's like the main post that holds a house up,
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  • because it's the same concept of something that holds you secure.
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  • But so, for example, John 1, the word 'logos', which in English we use the word, 'word' for,
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  • 'In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God'.
  • 00:19:44.000 --> 00:19:47.260
  • That doesn't capture the concept of 'logos' very well in terms of the Greek concept
  • 00:19:47.280 --> 00:19:52.230
  • of sort of the ideal form with which things match, sort of like something that underlies all of reality.
  • 00:19:55.170 --> 00:19:58.280
  • But in Chinese, there is a word called 'dao', which we would get the word Daoism from, which means 'way'.
  • 00:20:04.280 --> 00:20:09.190
  • And it's the way of the universe, the way that the universe runs correctly.
  • 00:20:12.020 --> 00:20:16.280
  • And that captures the 'logos' much better, even though it's not exactly 'word', its 'way'.
  • 00:20:28.070 --> 00:20:32.190
  • But it captures the 'logos' meaning.
  • 00:20:32.210 --> 00:20:34.230
  • Very early on we were in church, and this was before the translation was done,
  • 00:20:34.250 --> 00:20:39.160
  • and a guy was preaching on Jesus' baptism, 'And the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove'.
  • 00:20:42.090 --> 00:20:45.180
  • He didn't know what the word dove meant, colombe in French.
  • 00:20:48.040 --> 00:20:52.050
  • And so we could see the thought process going on, in baptism you go under water,
  • 00:20:52.070 --> 00:20:57.010
  • a dove is an animal, so what sort of animal can cover you like water?
  • 00:20:59.020 --> 00:21:03.210
  • And he preached, 'The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a column of army ants'.
  • 00:21:03.230 --> 00:21:08.180
  • You know, a little mistake is funny, but then army ants are really nasty.
  • 00:21:11.020 --> 00:21:15.270
  • We are in the Museum of the Bible in Washington, and we're in the IllumiNations room,
  • 00:21:28.140 --> 00:21:32.140
  • and they have behind you all the translations of the Bible.
  • 00:21:32.160 --> 00:21:36.020
  • And you've got the translation your parents worked on. What is it like to be looking at that?
  • 00:21:36.040 --> 00:21:40.290
  • It's an amazing experience because I know how much work this took.
  • 00:21:42.290 --> 00:21:47.000
  • This is the New Testament, plus some of the Old Testament in the West Kewa language.
  • 00:21:49.150 --> 00:21:54.100
  • And this represents about a decade, or up to about 12 years of work for my parents.
  • 00:21:56.150 --> 00:22:00.030
  • To see it finished, and it was finished in 1973, I was actually a teenager at the time,
  • 00:22:02.040 --> 00:22:06.100
  • and to see it being released to the people was quite an experience.
  • 00:22:08.050 --> 00:22:11.250
  • When your parents did their work, they printed the Bible.
  • 00:22:11.270 --> 00:22:15.090
  • What are the ways that people are accessing the Bible in all these languages today?
  • 00:22:15.110 --> 00:22:19.090
  • Maybe the one that's probably the most exciting right now is how all the translations done so far
  • 00:22:19.110 --> 00:22:24.040
  • have been digitized and are available for free through various Bible apps.
  • 00:22:26.070 --> 00:22:34.080
  • So, they don't have to try to track down the printed copy wherever that might be, it's probably too expensive anyhow.
  • 00:22:37.040 --> 00:22:41.000
  • They can have it immediately.
  • 00:22:42.180 --> 00:22:44.220
  • FEBC has helped people get a copy of the Bible just by reading it on air.
  • 00:22:51.010 --> 00:22:55.190
  • How does that happen?
  • 00:22:55.210 --> 00:22:57.060
  • Well, one day we got word from the defectors from North Korea,
  • 00:22:57.080 --> 00:23:01.280
  • 'If you read slowly, we could write out the scripture,' because there's no Bible.
  • 00:23:04.020 --> 00:23:07.130
  • So, we decided, writing speed, very slowly, every program and they start writing.
  • 00:23:09.150 --> 00:23:12.270
  • And the volume is so big.
  • 00:23:20.250 --> 00:23:25.240
  • They gave us a gift of what they wrote, the Bible, by listening to the radio.
  • 00:23:27.290 --> 00:23:32.010
  • How much of the Bible did they write?
  • 00:23:35.160 --> 00:23:37.160
  • The whole Bible.
  • 00:23:37.180 --> 00:23:40.120
  • There was a guy. His name is Touali Bahi Laurent, and he was the first ever Kouya to become a Christian.
  • 00:23:40.140 --> 00:23:44.190
  • He became a believer in 1958 and he prayed, from then on,
  • 00:23:46.070 --> 00:23:50.260
  • that somebody would come and live in his village and translate the scriptures.
  • 00:23:50.280 --> 00:23:54.180
  • That's from 1958. In 1988 we turned up. He prayed for 30 years and then he got me.
  • 00:23:54.200 --> 00:23:59.130
  • Pray for 30 years, you expect Billy Graham, or the Archbishop of Canterbury.
  • 00:24:02.000 --> 00:24:06.240
  • And the Kouya New Testament was finished in 2002 as a civil war broke out, and so we weren't able to be there.
  • 00:24:09.210 --> 00:24:12.050
  • We'd come home for the kid's education anyway.
  • 00:24:17.070 --> 00:24:19.200
  • But we managed to get a copy up to Laurent, and he had this first copy.
  • 00:24:19.220 --> 00:24:24.160
  • He died a couple of years later, but he'd prayed for over 40 years for this New Testament.
  • 00:24:26.190 --> 00:24:30.280
  • When a very tiny, small language community in Ethiopia, a community called the Kuwegu,
  • 00:24:33.240 --> 00:24:38.220
  • they live in a very remote village down in south Ethiopia. There are only 1000 in number.
  • 00:24:41.090 --> 00:24:46.040
  • When that person hears the gospel in a language that he understands best,
  • 00:24:50.270 --> 00:24:55.220
  • it starts the end of the world. It is all about people.
  • 00:24:57.160 --> 00:25:02.170