Old as dirt. We, Rick & Anji, are going to be old as dirt by the time our job is done. At the current rate of progress it is going to take us 30 years, and we’re not spring chickens anymore. What is our job? We are partnering with a mature tribal church body, to reach another unreached people. Our main job is assisting them in the things they cannot do, do not have the resources to do, in this case translate the Bible into the Lusi language.
People ask us why we’re attempting to translate the whole Bible and not just the New Testament. When we were young missionaries in training, we thought, “Hey, PNG has the whole Bible in the trade language, so we only need to translate the New Testament into the heart language.” We have since needed to repent of that.
Why? Because as we worked with mature believers (who have 20+ years of being Christians under their belts, who have the New Testament in their heart language and often put us to shame with the way they have memorized and can quote scripture), they would come to us with the trade language Bible, and ask us, “Here in the Old Testament, what does this passage mean?”
We would look at that passage, and answer, “That is a good question. Let me grab my English Bible and find out.” You see, the trade language Bible wasn’t speaking to them and it wasn’t speaking to us. Not that it is a bad translation. Not at all, it is a good translation, but it is limited by what the trade language can communicate clearly. So we would look at our English Bible and then explain the passage in question. This didn’t happen just one time, but over and over again. We may be slow, but we began to see the need for the whole Bible in the heart language.
Then this last year we were translating the book of Romans. What does Paul say in Romans 15:4? “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (NASB) Was Paul talking about the New Testament? No, there wasn’t a New Testament yet. He was talking about the Old Testament, which lays out so many foundational things about the Messiah, the source of our hope.
The Old Testament tells us that in the beginning Our Creator made man from the dirt and breathed life into him. The Old Testament lays out God’s plan so he could be in relationship with mankind. In the New Testament Jesus is revealed as the fulfillment of that plan. So today we as Christians are kind of like dirt, small and insignificant in and of ourselves, in decaying bodies, but God formed us all together, into the body of Christ, a very alive and life-giving thing.
So what does dirt and the Bible have in Common? Two translators who think that if we get to be as old as dirt, it won’t be a bad thing, because, Lord willing, that means that the Lusi people will have all of God’s Word in their language.