A Translator’s Angst

By Stacey

With over a hundred languages without a Bible translation here in Cameroon, you can imagine that choosing ONE people group was a hard decision. But the decision has been made, we are going to, by God’s grace, translate for the Bakoum people.

And in the meantime, we are living among a neighboring tribe called the Baka….who also happen to be without a translation of the Bible. It is hard to step out my front door in the morning and not be faced with the reality that these people need the Word. Let me share with you two simple stories…

Missionaries are Not Enough
The other day one of our Baka friends here notified us that a woman in a neighboring village had passed away. This led to a conversation about where her soul might be. I briefly shared what the Bible said, that there are only two options of where we spend eternity: in Heaven or in Hell and our only hope for being righteous enough to go to Heaven is to be found in Christ. He listened and then had to go. I was sure that he did not “get it”(it does not help that French is neither his nor my mother tongue). I had a French Gospel of John with me and I wanted to give it to him, but quickly remembered that most of the Baka were illiterate. Alas.
Granted there are a handful of missionaries along with a handful of national believers here, but the people group contains about 50,000 people. Is this group of a dozen or so people enough of a Christian witness? Do believers themselves contain all that is necessary for the life and godliness of their neighbors? I do not think so. Only the Word of God holds that place.
Spiritual Disciplines…without the Bible?
In talking to a missionary friend the other day, I asked about the state of the Baka church and if she thought that it was mature enough to stand on its own without the presence of missionaries. She more-or-less said no. I asked her, “Why not? Can they not feed themselves spiritually?” To which she replied, “How can they feed themselves spiritually without the Bible?” How could I have taken for granted something so obvious and so basic? Of course people cannot grow nor govern a church without the Word of God.
So, all that to say, I am frustrated and I feel like the Baka ministry has run into a roadblock. Yes, there is a small church planted, which is great. But now what? How will the church grow numerically and in maturity? Can the missionaries who planted the church move on or do they need to stay with the church in order to disciple them…indefinitely? What happens when the missionaries die or have to go home to the States? Can a church really be sustained and grow without the Word of God?
Do I feel guilty for not translating for this group of people? No. We could only choose one group, which would automatically exclude all the rest. But I think I am little by little beginning to feel the frustration of my fellow missionaries in trying to build the church without the God-ordained tools.
So Now What?
I do not know what the Lord might do through this blog post, but all I know is that he tells us to “open our mouths for the mute” (Prov 31:8) and that is what I am attempting to do. I think a good start might be if we all would take a minute to place ourselves in the shoes of the believers here and imagine seeking to live a Christian life without a copy of the Scriptures we can really understand. Or maybe imagine what a handicapped state your home church would be in if they only had the Bible in French. And I trust that in these moments, the Lord will put it on your heart, as he has mine, to pray that he would send out more Bible-translating laborers into the harvest.

Send out your light and your truth – Psalm 43:3

Author: Stacey Hare

Stacey is a servant of Jesus Christ as well as a wife, mom, linguist, and Bible translator among the Kwakum people of Cameroon.