April 15, 2009

From Bruchko, an autobiography of a missionary to the Motilone Indians:

Bobby [one of the Motilone Indians] and I worked on the translation of Philippians.  It was one of the most intense, most wonderful times of translation we had ever had together.

As we worked through the first chapter, we came to verse twenty where Paul says that his great expectation is that he will not be put to shame, but that Christ will be exalted in him whether in life or death.

I needed the right word for expectation.  A Motilone expects to go to bed at night, but that word doesn’t have much force.

The center of emotion for a Motilone is his stomach.  To have a full stomach is to have a happy heart.  What was the surest way of having a full stomach?  Probably to have hunted and killed a large tapir.  You eat tapir until you can’t eat any more.

So I took the verb for having a tapir in your possession, and I invented a new tense: I put it in a future tense that has already been completed, then I made it superlative.

I gave Bobby the word.  It shocked him.  “No,” he said, “that’s too big a word.  It’s too forceful.  How can you expect something as much as that?”

“All right,” I said.

He was quiet for a while, thinking, then said, “Bruchko, is Jesus Christ that expectation for you in your life?  Really?”

That stopped me short.  It’s one thing to figure out the right word to use, it’s quite another thing to be asked if it’s true of your own life. I thought of my conversion, and of some of the crises I had weathered with Yukos and the Motilones.  Finally, after a long silence, I said, “Yes.”

Then I nodded vigorously.  “Yes, Bobby.  With all my strength and all my will I want to give myself to the expectation of Jesus Christ.”

Bobby looked down at his feet.  “Yes,” he said.  “It’s a good word.”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

He nodded.


7 Responses to “Expectation.”

  1. dennarr Says:

    Wow – thanks for sharing!

  2. letitia Says:

    Autobiographical accounts of Bible translation are one of my favorite reads.

    This book, Bruchko, has some … but Neil Anderson’s In Search of the Source is my favorite (Wycliffe translator to Papua New Guinea). I think you’d enjoy it! :]

  3. David Says:

    Puts me to shame ………..

  4. Stephen Says:

    Very good Tia. ;-P

  5. letitia Says:

    David: Me, too. By the way, do you have a blog? I only see your email address …

    Stephen: But I didn’t write it!

  6. David Says:

    Hi – yes I did – but I closed it last year (if you look you’ll see why)
    (I’ve kept the “identity” though, so I don’t have to comment anonymously on blogs that need more than an email address)

  7. letitia Says:

    David, thanks for sharing your blog. I’ll be reading bits of it at a time, but the first several I read were deeply encouraging. Thanks for the reminder; you’re right — loved ones asleep in the Lord are just a little ahead, not gone forever.

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