When I was serving as a missionary pastor in a distant community—Ngie, I was the first Baptist pastor in that region in 15 years. I did not speak the Ngie language, so I used an interpreter in church. My work there was very difficult. How I wished that I had the Scriptures available in that language. That would have made my ministry among the Ngie people so much easier!
One day an older Ngie woman stopped me on the road.
“Do you know what your interpreter is translating?” she said. “He is telling us not to listen to you, since you are bringing foreign beliefs. He says we should stay with our old traditions.” She suggested that the next time the interpreter told the congregation something totally different than what I was preaching, she would begin to laugh out loud in church. That would be my cue to challenge him.
One Sunday later, it happened. While I was preaching in church, that woman suddenly laughed. It was my cue!
Stopping in the middle of my sermon, I turned and challenged the interpreter. I told him he was telling the people lies and not sharing what I was preaching. He admitted that he had not always told them what I was really saying.
This event made me think of my own mother tongue—the Awing language. My home area also has many missionary pastors who cannot speak the local language, and so are dependent on translators. What are the interpreters telling my people? Do they pass on the right message? Or are they also fudging the truth?
I made a decision there and then: if I were ever to minister to my own people, I would work with all my strength to help them get the Word of God in their own language.
Later, I was again assigned by my church to serve in my home area. I was very glad to hear that a Bible translation project had started there. So that is why I’m a member of the InterChurch Committee to help the Bible translation in my language to be a success.
How can I not be involved in this translation work?!