The year was 1987 and it was our first language survey trip ever. Our task was to determine if speakers of the Tharaka language of Kenya could be served by Bible translations from neighboring languages, or if they would need a translation of their own. We had only the day before met Zacchaeus, a seminary-educated speaker of Tharaka in the town of Meru in the hills near Mt. Kenya, and we were about to drive into the dusty dry region the Tharaka people call home.
As we crossed into Tharaka-land, we noticed a man standing in a tree near the road. He waved to us and called out something in Tharaka. Zacchaeus leaned over and shouted over the roar of the Land Rover’s engine: “What he is saying is, ‘Your name is: One Who Brings Something!'”
The man in the tree was right. Over the course of the next few days, it became clear that the Tharaka language was distinct enough to require its own translation of the Bible, and Zacchaeus, who days before meeting us had been praying for God to reveal his purpose for his life, heard the Lord calling him to the task of providing this gift for his people. Today the Tharaka people have the entire New Testament in their language.
Since that day, you have brought this gift to millions of people through your partnership with Wycliffe. Thank you so much for sending us on to Mozambique and, more recently, to Nigeria, where we have been serving as consultants for the past eight years.
This year, due to circumstances beyond our control, I will be unable to travel to Nigeria. Instead, The Seed Company is sending me to Tanzania to provide consultant help for a language there. My first trip is scheduled for the beginning of October, which will give me time to look at all the work they have ready for checking. It will be like coming home to be back in eastern Africa and working once again with a Bantu language. Even though Barb will not be traveling with me, her insights into Bantu discourse structure will be put to good use.
Over the years, in every language I have worked with, I have found that whatever contributions I have made are nothing in comparison with the gifts I have received, valuable beyond measure, from the experience of seeing God speak into the hearts of people for the very first time. That experience also belongs to you, for all the gifts you have brought to people like the Tharaka, over and over again. Thank you – on their behalf, and for all your partnership has meant to our family.