Having been in Ecuador almost a year now, one thing I am starting to notice is the longevity of so many missionary families. 10 years or less in the country and you are pretty much still a “newby” by comparison. 15 years, and you’ve been here “awhile,” but not in a jaw-dropping way. 20 plus years, and you’re considered a veteran — but you’re not exactly an anomaly since there are quite a few veteran missionaries around!
Yesterday, I went to the homeschool mothers’ monthly planning meeting. I am one of the youngest moms in the group, with younger kids, just starting out in Ecuador, just starting out on our homeschool journey. Most of the other moms have large families, and years of parenting and missionary experience. As we were sitting around the table drinking tea and chatting, I stopped to silently marvel at the collective wisdom gathered there. How thankful I am to be able to learn from those who have walked this path before me!
Then, tonight, we had Neil and Ruth Wiebe over for dinner. The Wiebes worked as Wycliffe Bible Translators in Ecuador many years ago, translating the Bible into Chapalachi, the language of the Chachi Indians who live on the Cayapas River. They are back in Ecuador for a brief visit, and graciously agreed to have dinner with us so we could pepper them with all manner of questions. They are even going out to Kumanii with Rusty next weekend.
The Wiebes were in Ecuador for 38 years — 12 of them spent living in the jungle on the Cayapas River, and the remainder of the time in Quito. It is hard for me to even conceive of doing the same thing for 38 years. Let’s see, 38 years — it’s longer than I’ve been alive. In 38 years, I’ll be almost 75 years old. Anyway you slice it, it’s a long time. And it’s most definitely a long time to spend on the mission field!
I have the utmost respect for those who do the hard and often thankless work of translating the Scriptures into other languages. They come and they live among a people, often in a remote area. They struggle to learn a language that may not have a textbook, or someone who knows how to teach it, or even a written form. Then, they painstakingly translate the Scriptures, verse for verse, idea for idea, word for word, trying to stay faithful to the original text, trying to make it readable, trying to make the story of God accessible to those who have never had it before in their heart language. Neil was telling the story tonight of struggling with how to translate the word “priest,” because the Chapalachi word has so much religious and cultural baggage due to the heavy Catholic influence. Eventually, they decided to use a phrase describing what a priest does: “one who approaches God on behalf of the people” because they felt like that was a better representation of the idea of a priest, and one that would not immediately connote a Catholic priest.
It is so easy for us to take for granted the fact that we have ready access to God’s Word in multiple forms, in multiple versions. But there are still many people groups around the world who can’t read the life-giving words of the Bible for themselves because it has not yet been translated into their language. I’m thankful for people like the Wiebes, who have spent their lives working to change that — the New Testament, as well as Genesis and Exodus are now available in the Chapalachi language!
But there is still much work to be done. I don’t typically observe Lent in the traditional sense, but this year, I have been working my way through this 40-day e-book devotional called “Jesus Brings Freedom,” with a prayer focus on the Bibleless peoples of the world. Download your free copy here and partner in prayer with those who are working to make “God’s Word accessible to all people in the language of their heart” (Wycliffe’s vision statement).