Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ears Have Heard, Now Eyes Have Seen

The following is a Testimony of Bible Translation that was shared with Wycliffe USA staff by President Bob Creson

Nicodeme (at right) and team –
Checking Scripture with consultant Renee Vick

“Our ears had heard about the power of God’s Word, but now our eyes have seen tangible proof.”

Pastor Tama Nicodeme Biesse and his colleagues in Senegal had just completed the final check of the Gospel of Mark in their Oniyan language. This was the first book of the Bible they’d translated, but even before they finished, they’d seen its power demonstrated in their own lives and in the lives of others around them.

“Because we have translated the Gospel of Mark,” Nicodeme said, “we have a clearer understanding of what we have always accepted by faith. We know in our souls a peace and a sense of wellbeing. Our prayer lives have changed a lot. Our thirst for God’s Word has grown so much that we have already done the first draft of the Gospel of Luke in less than a month.”

As a result of his translation experience, Nicodeme began to pray in his mother tongue. His pastoral studies had been in French and his Bible was in French, so he’d always expressed spiritual truths in that language — whether he was talking to other people or to God. But the translation process was all about finding Oniyan ways to express biblical truths. Once he’d done that, he was able to pray in Oniyan, and the result was a new sense of communion with God. He found that what he could never express in French, he could freely share with God in his heart language.

Confident that he could express himself biblically in Oniyan, Nicodeme also began to preach in that language. He was impressed that for the first time, the people in the congregation could clearly understand his sermons. After each sermon, they would review the main points with each other and even share them with their unbelieving neighbors.

Other members of the translation team also felt God working in their lives. Gerard, who is not an emotional man by nature, felt himself becoming more sensitive to the spiritual needs of those around him and more willing to share the Good News. During the checking of Mark, the team talked with a village chief who told them that his heart’s desire was to see his people saved by Jesus Christ. “Please don’t abandon us,” he said. “If you do, my people will be condemned to become adherents of another religion, even though we are convinced that we cannot find truth there.” Gerard almost wept — surprising himself with the depth of his compassion for these people.

Another colleague, Jeremie, who joined the translation team as an unbeliever, met Jesus as his Savior through translating the Gospel of Mark. His life changed so much that members of his family asked him why. His answer was to share the Scriptures with them, conducting a translation-testing session in their home. As the team read from Mark’s Gospel, Jeremie’s brothers, sisters, mother and his father’s second wife were significantly touched. “How can we find out more about this Jesus?” they asked. “We’ve always heard about him, but we still don’t know him.”

So the translation team planned a showing of the Jesus Film. Huge numbers of people came from all around, and several people gave their lives to the Lord, including the chief of a nearby village. As a result, the translation team began holding a service in his village every Saturday. “A new church has been born in this village,” said Nicodeme, “though we hadn’t planned it — at least not this year!”

Nicodeme expresses deep gratitude for his coworkers, especially Jim and Patricia Winters, and for Christians in other places who gave financially so Oniyan speakers could have the Gospel of Mark. He says that because of their partnership, the Good News is beginning to replace ceremonies previously dedicated to evil spirits, and “the Kingdom of God is advancing far into the African bush.”

In the two years since the completion of the Gospel of Mark, the Oniyan team has translated another six New Testament books that are being checked and tested, and they look forward to translating more.

Will you join me in rejoicing with Nicodeme as he says, “Glory to God who makes His Word powerful and effective in our midst, even when the Oniyan New Testament is far from finished!”
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