Hearing the Christmas Story Again…For the First Time

Following is a story shared with us recently that we couldn’t help but share with you.  Thank you for your partnership that make stories like this possible.

Christmas was coming.  On the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of West Africa, the Cape Verdean translation team was hard at work translating the Gospel of Luke into their mother tongue— Kabuverdianu.  When they completed the first two chapters, they gave a copy to their pastor and asked him to review it.

The first Sunday in December came, and the pastor began his sermon as he always did, asking the congregation to stand for the reading of God’s Word.  This time, however, instead of opening the Bible in the official language, Portuguese, he opened his copy of the verses recently drafted into Kabuverdianu.

“Our reading will be from Luke 2, verses 1 through 7,” he announced.

As the congregation listened intently, he read the passage.  Pausing, he exclaimed, “It tastes so good, it tastes so good!”  Then he started reading again and didn’t stop until he’d finished the entire chapter, reading with the confidence and expression of someone who understood and cherished every word.

The translation team began to sob.  A row of teenage girls stared at each other in wide-eyed wonder and then dissolved into a group hug.  Eyes glistened with tears. As the last word was read, a spontaneous cheer erupted:  “Amen! Hallelujah!”  The service closed with many hugs for those who had worked on the translation.

After the service, a woman who was educated in the official language approached a team member and said that at first she tried to follow along in her Portuguese Bible, but then she decided to close her eyes and just listen as the pastor read in her own language.

“I let the words fall over me,” she said.  “For the first time in my life I felt washed by the Word.  I thought I knew the Christmas story by heart, but I must confess that today I feel like I’ve heard it for the very first time.”

That was Christmas 2000, and since then Cape Verdeans have continued to feel the impact of God’s Word. A man once stopped some members of the Translation Commission on the street. “I have never set foot in a church,” he confessed.  Then he slowly pulled a copy of Kabuverdianu Luke from his briefcase. “But I have read every word in this book.  Thank you! It has changed my life, and I am reading it to my family.” He paused to retrieve another copy from his case, adding, “I bought this copy for my father.” Then he pulled out another and smiled, “I bought this copy for my brother. Thank you very much.”

The Translation Association has grown to include 37 members in Cape Verde and 41 in the Cape Verdean Diaspora, involving four denominations. The government has given them a mandate to develop the Kabuverdianu language and translate the Bible into the two major variants of the language.  They have produced a description of the Kabuverdianu grammar to be published by the University of Cape Verde. They have drafted 40% of the New Testament and published Luke and Acts.  They have also produced a play, tracts, films, Bible story comic books, and booklets on reading and writing their language.  Their young people have put portions of the translated Scripture to Cape Verdean music.

If you would like to hear the story of Jesus’ birth just as the Cape Verdeans heard it that momentous December morning, there is an audio version on their website. Go to http://www.aktb.org/ , click on the box labeled “Stória di Natal,” and then on “Nasimentu de Jizus (Lúkas 2:1-7).”  (Note: The audio will only work in Internet Explorer, not Firefox.)

We hope you all have a blessed Christmas!  As you listen to the Christmas story in your own mother tongue, thank God for your fellow Christians in Cape Verde, and rejoice with us that the pace at which new translation projects are starting continues to increase—2011 may be the year when the number of remaining translation needs falls below 2000!

This post was taken from a Connect US message by Wycliffe USA President Bob Creson.

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