Which Tastes Sweetest?
by Ms. Anna Gheen
It was a hot, muggy day along the West Philippine Sea, yet the outdoor basketball court was crowded as believers eagerly awaited the fruition of a dream over 35 years in the making: the celebration of a New Testament in their Bolinao language. According to translator Gary Persons, it was a day that wouldn’t have been possible without Erit, a dedicated mother-tongue translator with a desire to follow God … even though God hadn’t led her life in the direction she had anticipated.
Speaking at the celebration, Erit explained that she wasn’t initially interested in Bible translation. “I was a school teacher,” she said, her words translated into English and displayed across a screen at the front of the court for the sake of non-Bolinao visitors. “I wanted to further my education and get my master’s degree, so I could be a school administrator.” With such an education, she could hope not only to advance her career but also open up opportunities beyond the confines of the little village she called home.
Erit had already wholeheartedly embraced this thrilling vision when Gary approached her to ask whether she would be willing to do some consultation work on the translation into Bolinao, reviewing rough drafts and suggesting alternate wordings. Erit agreed, and it wasn’t long before the part-time calling became a life-consuming passion. Fluent in both English and Tagalog (a major Philippine language), Erit had read the Bible in both languages and placed her faith in Christ, but reading the text in her own language was illuminating!
It was for others, as well. Erit asked Viola, another Bolinao speaker, to review Revelation. “Viola had always seen it as a scary book,” Gary explains, “but when she read it in her own language, she saw something different.” Instead of an account of destruction and disaster, Viola now saw Revelation as full of hope: a story of God’s faithfulness to his people even in the midst of great upheavals. It was masam’it nin reng’en (sweet to hear).
This image of God’s faithfulness was played out at a time of great upheaval in Erit’s life. It gave her hope and played a role in inspiring her own hard work and dedication. Abandoning her dreams of an advanced education and comfortable employment, Erit poured herself into the work, serving as the primary translator of 1 Corinthians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Titus, and Revelation.
“In Bolinao, it’s the educated people who are often most interested in seeing the Word of God translated into their mother tongue,” says Gary. However, every Bolinao speaker, like Erit and Viola, once having read God’s Word in their own language, understands the difference between hearing or reading the Word in a learned language and in their heart language. They can easily taste which is “sweetest” and eagerly seek to make it available to others.
Photo by Anna Gheen
Anna Gheen is a freelance writer and author of Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce. She is currently in the process of raising support to serve full-time with JAARS, a partner of the Wycliffe Global Alliance. In her spare time she enjoys blogging, bicycling, and performing horticultural experiments in her backyard.