We had arrived in the village of Arilo, South Sudan, in the homeland of the Tennet people. Our short stay (four days and three nights) was certainly very warm, but it was not simply the climate. Our hearts were also warmed by the people we met. We came away with many strong impressions: the deep commitment of the pastors and Bible translators to give their own people the Scriptures in their mother tongue; the women’s dancing during the lively church service; the squeaking of the pump as women and girls filled their jerry-cans with water for the long trek home each morning and evening; the faces of new friends (old and young); feasts of maize-meal and roasted goat; and listening to Tennet songs and stories outside in the evening darkness, under a small new moon.
Perhaps the highlight was sitting in on the first checking session of the newly-translated Gospel of Matthew in the Tennet language. About a dozen men (mostly pastors, elders, and school teachers) gathered to listen to the Scripture read aloud—a short section at a time—and to discuss it. The goal: to ensure it communicated the true meaning accurately, completely, and naturally, in the Tennet language. The verse, “I will make you fishers of men,” caused much lively discussion and laughter from these inland people who raise cattle and goats in a very arid climate, and never go fishing! But they thoughtfully considered the true meaning from all angles, and then very carefully crafted just the right wording in Tennet. It was hard and deliberate work!
When we boarded the MAF plane yesterday to fly back to Juba, the pilot handed us each a small, cold bottle of water from a cooler bag. Amazing sensation in our dry, dusty hands. Jerry downed his in one glorious swallow. But I just held mine against my cheek first. Doubt I’ll ever think of cold water in quite the same way again. . .
Praying that God’s Word here in Arilo will be just that: “a cup of cold water” to thirsty souls. Already the Tennet Church is alive and well. But they need more of that life-giving water of the Word—in the language of their hearts.
Jerry and Kathy—in South Sudan