Thursday, January 12, 2006

Thru The Bible In Low German

In Bible study Tuesday night, we had the father of our senior pastor come and speak. He basically gave us a short version of his life story & told what he is doing ministry-wise now. It is an amzaing story. This is a much shorter version. I know I will not manage to be near as eloquent as he was. Anyway...

Mr. R grew up Mennonite, speaking both low & high German in northern Saskatchewan. He didn't learn any English until he entered the first grade at age 7. He didn't get to finish high school due to the family moving, but later got his GED. He pastored for 55 years and graduated from Bible college the day before his 70th birthday.

After taking 3 years to translate the New Testament into low German, he was asked to take on the full-time job of translating & recording Dr. J. Vernon McGee's Thru The Bible series into that language as well. It is a 5 year job that he began at the tender age of 81, a year and a half ago.

The translated series is broadcast in several countries but he mainly spoke about Bolivia. There are at least 37 Mennonite colonies down there who are in desperate need of the gospel. They speak low German at home and in business matters, it is the everyday language. The Bibles are all printed in high German and that is the language of the church, God's language. They are actually taught that God speaks high German. Problem is, the illiteracy rate is 87 percent. The children go to school from ages 7 to 12. After that, there is no further schooling to be had. They are taught the 3 Rs - reading, 'riting & 'rithmetic.

The colonies are run by bishops and they are basically dictators. The people are taught that the bishop holds the key to heaven and that if they go against the bishop, he can turn that key and lock them out of Heaven. Any that become Christians are excommunicated and the others aren't allowed to do business with them. The young men are sometimes whipped over a 5 hour time period. The gentleman told of a fellow that had a thriving business selling trees but once he converted, he didn't sell another tree.

Mr. R explained that since low German was not used to talk of spiritual matters, there are no words in that language to use for redemption, salvation, etc. As he translates, he has to come up with a way to explain these terms in a manner that will be clear to the listeners. He often has to substitute an entire sentence for one or two words.

He uses the notes from the broadcast in addition to transcripts that are typed up by several ladies here in the church. He then has to lengthen or shorten it to 22-23 minutes. He said that is approximately 3,220 words, give or take 5. After he has that perfected on several portions, he goes down to a local radio station that donates the use of a studio and records them. He edits them, makes several copies and finally emails them.

The series is broadcast 5 days each week so he has a lot to do simply to keep up. He originally had a 6 month headstart, but after his wife was sick recently, he's down to a 3 and a half month cushion.

I took a few notes of the Scriptures that he used, but I don't have my planner with me so I'll have to update when I get my hands on it.

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