I asked Aaron to write a little bit about his trip back to the Solomon Islands a few weeks ago. Here are his thoughts:
When the Bible is translated into a language that has never had it before, two extremes tend to guide our hopes or drive our fears. On one hand the worst case scenario is that the Scriptures are produced, and either they sit in a box in some closet never used, or they are bought and treated as show pieces collecting dust on household tables. One the other end of the spectrum is the great hope that the word of God will be read, understood, and begin to transform the life of the reader.
Praise God, this latter case was story I found on my recent trip back to Solomon Islands. After being away from the Russell Islands and direct contact with the translation work in Lavukaleve for sixteen months, I was not sure what I would find when I returned. I was not surprised to learn that the translation committee had basically not been functional the whole time I was away. I was more saddened to hear that two of the translators had also slowly slipped away from the translation desk.
In contrast, what joy I felt when I heard that one of the translators, Ezekiel, had remained faithful when all others seemed to fall away. Not only this, but God was providing him encouragement and support from a couple of school teachers in a nearby village. Together this small band was meeting regularly, working through the text or the gospel of Mark, questioning each other and learning from God’s word and about their language. God provided for, and help together His faithful remnant. What an awesome God we serve!
Late in my visit, Ezekiel came by and we had an opportunity to catch up. I asked if there was any report on the translations that exist for Ruth and Jonah. Ezekiel told me of a man named Ambrose in his village. Ambrose is a village elder. For a series of Sundays, Jonah was part of the Bible readings in church. Ezekiel was a strong encourager for the village readers to use the Lavukaleve translation of Jonah when the time came.
After one of the readings, Ezekiel asked Ambrose what it was like to hear the reading in Lavukaleve. Ambrose indicated that hearing it in his language was much better. He mentioned that he could understand the reading when it was done in English or Pijin, but at those times, the words just hit his head. When he heard it in Lavukaleve, it was as if the words went straight to his heart.
Perhaps a week later, Ambrose came excitedly to see Ezekiel again. This time he told Ezekiel that he had heard Jonah. He proceeded to retell the whole of chapter 3. At the end Ambrose looked at Ezekiel and confessed that he was just like those people in Nineveh and that like them he felt he too needed to repent!
When I face difficult days, when we feel isolated and far from friends and family and the familiar of the US, when we are not sure anything we do ever makes a difference...this story about Ambrose is why we are doing what we do. God’s word, offered in a way that the people can understand best, transforming lives.