After nearly two years, Sharon and I have finally been able to get back to the Institute for Biblical Languages & Translation Jerusalem campus, and to our home in the Galilee. While our wait to return has been much longer than we could have expected, it has led us to trust even more in the Lord’s provision and timing. At long last, we are thankful to be in the land again anticipating the arrival of new students who will be learning to translate the Bible directly from Hebrew.
Most of us have had to live through some kind of waiting because of the coronavirus. Waiting to get back to our homes, or waiting to see loved ones again. For me growing up here, Christmas in Jerusalem was marked by my father singing “Oh Holy Night.” Do you remember the powerful words? “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.” And here where the story began, I am struck by how much of the world is still pining, waiting to receive the full Word of God in their own language. Without hearing the full story of Scripture, many do not know who their Creator is, and who they are as people made in His image, deeply loved and valued by their redeemer.
Marjorie, a young woman in Tongwa, Zambia, showed us the great impact even a single verse from the Original Testament can make in a life. Marjorie and her husband Moses live in a village where women and children are considered mere property, and until recently, practiced human sacrifice. For many years Marjorie did not know her life held any value. But when the Word of God came to them, translated and spoken in their own language, things began to change. Marjorie heard the story of creation, that both man and woman were created in God’s image. “When I heard that I knew that I, too, as a woman, have dignity.”
God’s Word brought transformation in other life-giving ways. Marjorie and Moses had the first Christian marriage in their village. Their love for each other, and their value and care for their son, set them apart, shining light in the darkness of their culture’s beliefs.
Others in the village also came to faith. When they were asked what verse from the Bible changed them, they answered over and over, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” These words from the Original Testament revealed to them who God truly is as their Creator, and gave them new identities as bearers of His image.
As Advent begins and Christmas draws near, we enter a time of waiting to remember the coming of God’s Son, who broke the long silence and brought light into our darkness. For those of us who have the full Word of God in our own language, we know our “soul’s worth” and our value in God’s eyes, and therefore we anticipate the Christmas season with great joy. As you prepare your heart for this time of waiting, I invite you to think of those who speak 90% of the world’s languages who still wait to know the full meaning of Christmas––to learn of their value and dignity in God’s eyes, as Marjorie did.
In this season of giving would you consider a special gift to help us train the translators who make God’s whole Word accessible to those without it?
I am so grateful to be able to serve with you, our incredible partners, who work with us to bring the WHOLE Word of God to people like Marjorie.
Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
May the hope of Immanuel be yours this Christmas season.
David Swarr PhD
Institute for Biblical Languages & Translation
A program of 4.2.20 Foundation
The whole Word for the whole world