In the next two or three days we’ll be putting up our monthly-ish newsletter. In the meantime, I read something today, that I had to share!
As you know, the JESUS Film Project is all about translation to bring the Gospel to people around the world so they can hear Jesus speak in their language. One of our partners (and literal next-door neighbors, here in Orlando) is Wycliffe Bible Translators. In their most recent newsletter they talked about missionary translator Lee Barnett, and his work with the Hdi people in Cameroon.
A single vowel became the lynch-pin that has opened up their culture — and specifically within the leaders of this smallish African people-group — to the Gospel!
…one night in a dream, God prompted Lee to look again at the Hdi word for love. Lee and his wife, Tammi, had learned that verbs in Hdi consistently end in one of three vowels. For almost every verb, they could find forms ending in i, a, and u. But when it came to the word for love, they could only find i and a. Why no u?
Lee asked the Hdi translation committee, which included the most influential leaders in the community, “Could you ‘dvi’ your wife?”
“Yes,” they said. That would mean that the wife had been loved but the love was gone.
“Could you ‘dva’ your wife?” Lee asked.
“Yes,” they said. That kind of love depended on the wife’s actions. She would be loved as long as she remained faithful and cared for her husband well.
“Could you ‘dvu’ your wife?” Lee asked. Everyone laughed.
“Of course not!” they said. “If you said that, you would have to keep loving your wife no matter what she did, even if she never got you water, never made you meals. Even if she committed adultery, you would be compelled to just keep on loving her. No, we would never say ‘dvu.’ It just doesn’t exist.”
Lee sat quietly for a while, thinking about John 3:16, and then he asked, “Could God ‘dvu’ people?”
There was complete silence for three or four minutes; then tears started to trickle down the weathered faces of these elderly men. Finally they responded.
“Do you know what this would mean?” they asked. “This would mean that God kept loving us over and over, millennia after millennia, while all that time we rejected His great love. He is compelled to love us, even though we have sinned more than any people.”
I am convinced that God is already active in every culture and nation and language. He’s waiting for his witnesses to come and point out his work there so that his people will turn to Jesus. Here is but one example of a kind of knowledge God’s inexhaustible love — one that no human can possibly have for another on their own — and it’s hard-baked into a language that knows little-to-nothing of the Gospel!
I just want to leave this post with the beautiful truth that was revealed to that Hdi elder:
God kept loving us over and over, millennia after millennia, while all that time we rejected His great love. He is compelled to love us, even though we have sinned more than any people!
Thanks to Sus Schmitt for posting this first, so I could read it.