What’s a Namkeli and why would I be interested in an update? Namkeli is a fictitious name for a very real people who live in a dangerously contentious area of western Africa. They are a tribal group almost 200,000 strong who have never had a single verse of scripture in their language. Last September Graceway raised approximately a quarter of a million dollars to crank up Phase One of the Namkeli translation, beginning with Luke/Acts.
Here’s the update: The first two chapters of Luke have been completed and audio recordings are being distributed (many are illiterate). Chapters 3-7 are scheduled to be checked by consultants in March. Drafts of chapters 8-11 are waiting. Momentum is building among 20-30 Namkeli churches. The chief translator is still divided 50/50 between being pastor of a church and translating, and is praying about devoting full time to the translation. A Norwegian mission is interested in coming online and sending a couple to assist. Through this process the resources and accountability have been good.
Our partner in this project is The Seed Company, an offshoot and partner of Wycliffe Bible Translators. Taking the wonderful experience, legacy and knowledge of Wycliffe, TSC utilizes mother tongue speakers as translators, training and equipping them to translate the scriptures into their native language rather than depend on foreign workers to come and spend years learning usually at least two additional languages to even begin translation. By doing this they dramatically cut costs and time and also deliver what is normally a better end product. Instead, foreign translation specialists do the training, supervision,coaching and editing. Great concept!
You might remember that during September we used the book of Jonah to speak of what I called the ultimate injustice issue – that many people hear the word of God repeatedly while millions have never heard it once. Almost 2,000 languages are still waiting to see a single verse of scripture. Meanwhile, with all of our obscene resources in America, we sit on a pile of over 900 different translations of the Bible and portions, obsessing with ministering to ourselves in every way possible. We see an endless proliferation of hip, boutique churches of every size, color, shape, smell and persuasion imaginable. When not obsessing with ministering to ourselves, we argue and divide over things like Calvinism and Reformed theology versus everything else, nuances of spiritual gifts, tweaks of methodology, how we “do church” and which Bible version is the best, while almost half the world’s population sits in darkness. (Go ahead. Ask me what I really think).
Good doctrine and good Bible translations are obviously important. And as Jesus followers we should be committed to doing justice in a world of injustice wherever God grants opportunity. But, what of the almost 2,000 languages that cannot even enter into the discussion because THEY HAVE NO BIBLE – not a single verse!
Graceway is part of the same materialistic, consumer-driven, superficial culture as other Americans. I do not want to pretend that we are better than anyone else and immune from these serious issues. However, I pray that we can move in God’s direction and against the direction of the world system. We can’t do it all and we can’t even do as much as we would like all at once. What we CAN do is take good, solid steps in the right direction one at a time. Thanks, to your giving and prayers, Graceway, last year the New Testament in a tribal language of Mexico was dedicated and is in full loving use. Another Mexican language has been finished and awaiting dedication in the near future. Yet another Mexican language sponsored in part by Graceway is progressing strongly toward completing their Old Testament. We are also partners in working toward the completion of the New Testament in one of the Kurdish languages.
I call the lack of scripture in so many languages the ultimate injustice because without God’s truth all of our valiant efforts to confront all the other injustices from poverty to human trafficking to various forms of oppression are simply not sustainable. We can put forth amazing efforts, but only God’s truth can transform lives from the inside out.
Finally, to call the absence of scripture in so many languages the ultimate injustice does NOT mean that we simply ignore everything else. It also does not mean that we have to struggle to achieve some sort of balance between one and the other. The mandate of scripture is clear. We have the obligation to do both. Period.
Toward this end, I am going to spend the entire month of March on Luke’s depiction of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. We will do our best to educate the assembly in the biblical responsibilities involved in learning to love our neighbor well and make everyone aware of some of the wonderful partners we have in our own community to address issues of injustice and need. And, we will roll out some very exciting new initiatives and opportunities that have some pretty astounding potential impact. Pray with me about all this. And, if we would do this, we need all the help we can get. Use your social network to get the word out.