End in Sight: Bible Translation Nears Completion
"Something thrilling is happening in Africa," write Pat and Harry Miersma, longtime RCA missionaries. The Majang people of Ethiopia will soon have a Bible translation in their native language.
"Almost 40 years ago, as very 'green' missionaries in the Reformed Church in America, we began our mission careers in the southwest rainforest of Ethiopia," they write. "In an isolated setting along the Godare River (a distant tributary of the Blue Nile), we lived among the Majang people. A very isolated and unreached people, they lived scattered throughout the rainforest in open-sided thatched roof huts with dirt floors. They had no written language and only a few Bible stories in their language on tapes that Harry would share with them on solar powered cassette players on his treks from village to village.
"The gospel had first come to the Majang just a few years before when RCA missionaries Harvey and Lavina Hoekstra had ridden on mules into that dense rainforest to bring the name of Jesus to them for the first time ever. Harry had helped the Hoekstras build their mission outpost with a house, clinic, and one-room school. Soon after, as a young married couple, we had the privilege of living on that station to follow up on their ministry after they moved to another work. During our three years among the Majang doing medical, educational, and community development work, we came to realize the most important thing was for the Majang to have the Word of God in their own mother tongue. And so the RCA sent us to a 13-week course in linguistics run by SIL (the field organization of Wycliffe Bible Translators) in Oklahoma. We returned to Godare to make a very inexperienced but sincere attempt to begin that work, but in 1976 we had to leave in the middle of the communist revolution in that country. As Ethiopia closed to missions, God led us into our current fields of counseling with missionaries. In 1980, as professional counselors, we were seconded by the RCA to serve the global team of Wycliffe Bible Translators.
"But steadily, for the next 10 years, we prayed that Bible translators would one day be able to return to take up Bible translation for this baby church with only a handful of Majang believers. Imagine our astonishment in about 1988 when we learned that Wycliffe had placed a translation team among the Majang to begin translating Scripture. And when they went in, they discovered several thousand Majang believers! The church had grown and was now witnessing to neighboring groups of people once considered enemies. And they were longing for God's Word in their own language.
"Over the past two decades, three different Bible translation teams have worked to help the Majang church put its language into written form, and to translate Scripture and teach the people to read and write. Those teams have dealt with severe illness, financial struggles, personal discouragement, and the numerous other trials that face many Bible translation teams in such settings.
"But God's desire for the Majang people to have his Word has not been stoppable, and we are thrilled to tell you that the Majang New Testament is now expected to be complete by 2014! The number of Majang believers is now believed to be around 10,000. God has continued to work among the Majang and now they will finally have his Word to strengthen their faith, help them grow, and bring them all its riches of wisdom and comfort and guidance that many of us have had from birth.
"This story is just one of many examples where the mission work of both the Reformed Church in America and Wycliffe Bible Translators have collaborated and strengthened one another to reach the same goal of bringing the truth of God's Word to all people everywhere in the language of their heart…their mother tongue language. We praise God for the enormous privilege of being missionaries for both the RCA and for Wycliffe."
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