The Question That Made Them Laugh


A powerful truth about love emerges from grammer questions during a Hdi Bible translation session. – by Cathy Drobnick

NTMAfricanMen“The verbs for a particular African language consistently end in one of three vowels,” Dennis Farthing writes from the NTM Missionary Training Center. He shares a translation story that a missionary recently shared with him.

“Almost every verb ends in i, a, and u. But the word for ‘love’ was only found with i and a. Why no u?” this missionary wondered.

Dennis says the Bible translation team included the most influential leaders in the local community.

In an effort to truly understand the concept of “love” in this African language, the missionary began to question them.

“Could you dvi your wife?”

“Yes,” they answered, “that would mean that the wife had been loved, but the love was gone.”

“Could you dva your wife?”

“Yes,” they responded, “that kind of love depends on the wife’s actions. She would be loved as long as she remained faithful and cared for her husband well.”

“Could you dvu your wife?”

Everyone in the room laughed.

“Of course not!” they replied. “If you said that, you would have to keep loving your wife no matter what she did, even if she never got you water and never made you meals. Even if she committed adultery, you would have to just keep on loving her. No, we would never say dvu. It just doesn’t exist.”

The missionary sat quietly for a while, thinking about John 3:16, and then he asked, “Could God dvu people?”

Dennis writes that there was complete silence for three or four minutes; then tears started to trickle down the weathered faces of the elderly men of the tribe.

Finally they responded, “Do you know what this would mean? This would mean that God kept loving us over and over, while all that time we rejected His great love. He would be compelled to love us, even though we have sinned more than any people.”

The missionary noted that changing one simple vowel changed the meaning from “I love you based on what you do and who you are,” to “I love you, based on who I am. I love you because of me and not because of you.”

“God encoded the story of His unconditional love right into this African language. For centuries, the little word was there—unused but available, grammatically correct and quite understandable,” Dennis writes.

“This is why we minister here at the Missionary Training Center. This is why we teach grammar to the missionary candidates,” Dennis adds.

God is powerfully at work for His eternal glory in many distant parts of the world through Bible translators.

Read the original article here –

Advice for Short Term Missionaries


Jolene wrote recently and asked for advice regarding a short-term medical missions trip to Kenya.  Here are my two cents for those of you planning trips:

Well, I confess that it has been 20 years almost to the day since I arrived in Kenya – I landed on Jan 6, 1992 as an exchange student from Wheaton College to Daystar University in Nairobi.  Of course, we landed in the middle of an attempted coup d’etat and there were armoured vehicles and soldiers up and down the runway… quite exciting for my first day in Africa.  But don’t worry, that probably won’t happen to you!  But plenty of other surprises will, of course, that’s just how Africa is…

It was hard for me to put all of my thoughts into a few paragraphs that might be useful to you on your trip. I presume that your organization is helping to prepare you, giving you readings on culture shock, and organizing your packing lists and travel details.  Be sure to take your malaria prophylaxis – I can testify that malaria is no fun – and pack your hand sanitizer and Peptobismal, of course.  But really what I would like to say to you and other short-termers is this: 


There are two parts to the “Listen” guidance.

(1) Listen to God.  God has many things He wants to talk to you about during this process, starting now.  He will teach you more about Himself, His way of relating to the world, and the things He cares about.  He will teach you about His majesty, His providence, His mercy, His peace, His justice, and much more.  He will convict you about issues in your own life.  He will change the way you see yourself and the world.  He may call you to something new, different, or just greater obedience.  He will teach you to overcome your fears, and to trust Him.  He will humble you, reveal to you that you control nothing, and simultaneously use you in ways you did not imagine.

Any time you are out of your comfort zone, God has a great deal to say to you.  Listen to Him.  Keep notes, or a journal.  And start reading through the Bible chapter by chapter, so His word has a chance to speak to you everyday.  Let Him change you.

I know you are excited to go, be helpful, and do something for Kenyans.  However, in my experience, the most permanent, significant change that comes out of short-term trips — is in the heart, mind, and worldview of those who went as missionaries — not in the people they went to minister to.

(2) Listen to the people.  Remember that different is not necessarily bad.  Every culture has bright, glorious characteristics that are wonderful… and dark, negative habits that are destructive.  Become an observer… When people do something different than the-way-we-do-it just take note… don’t pass judgment (even if it makes you crazy!).  Be the best anthropologist you can be and figure out what their value system is.  Don’t presume to know anything, always ask why… especially if you have a local person who is a “cultural guide” for you and may be able to explain things in your terms.  Everyone loves a good listener.  And the more you know, and understand, the more credible you will be when you finally speak.

I guess that’s my 2 cents in a nutshell… Probably not the advice you had in mind – but still the most useful thing I can say to you at this point!

If you have time, or a true interest in Africa and its cultures, I would suggest reading Into Africa: Intercultural Insights by Richmond and Gestrin. It’s one of the better summaries of cultural habits and advice for outsiders who travel or work there.