From Wycliffe Russia
Wycliffe Bible Translators sends missionaries to the far corners of the planet who help with literacy training by communicating with the local population and translate the Scriptures into the native language of these people. This work is quite long and difficult. Many years are spent on achieving this goal. But the result is worth it. And how strong is the joy when you can give people the most precious thing you have – the ability to communicate with God in their own language! The following is a story of a missionary translator that shows what difficulties may be found in the way of translation and how the Lord helps them to overcome.
Caterpillars and Redemption?
In general, translators have no difficulty to find the right words for specific objects such as a bird, house and tree, although choosing the right words can be a challenge. It becomes much more difficult to find the appropriate words for abstract concepts. What words of a foreign language can describe God’s love and faithfulness? How do we explain that Christ has redeemed us? Bible translators sometimes spend years looking for the right word or phrase for some of the key terms of Scripture. After all, it is necessary that the people for whom the translation is done can understand clearly what God is saying.
Lloyd Miligan is a missionary translator. He lived in Papua New Guinea and worked on the translation of the Word of God for the Mangseng people. Lloyd recalls reading a book that explained how God has already given in advance to every culture and every nation, a story, event or belief, which could be the best illustration of what Christ has done for us. Lloyd worked with the Mangseng language for many years before he found a reality in their lives that demonstrated the example of Christ’s atoning sacrifice.
One day Lloyd was talking to his neighbor Moses Voix, in the village where he worked on the translation of the Scriptures. Moses told him of a special form of caterpillars that live on their territory. The locals call these caterpillars the “belt”. When caterpillars are born, they are extremely hungry. Therefore, they immediately begin to eat the leaves of the tree on which they sit. By the time they reach the size of the human thumb, the tree is left completely without leaves. Then the caterpillars begin to spin their cocoons in the branches of the tree. Each caterpillar attaches its cocoon to a neighboring cocoon. When they finish the process, you will see a huge cluster of cocoons of caterpillars in the branches of the tree. But because the cocoons have pores which are quite large, the wind and rain are very dangerous for the caterpillars. If the pores are not sealed, all the caterpillars die.
Moses continued to explain that one of the caterpillars begins to spin a reliable coverage over all other cocoons. This caterpillar is called the “husband” of all these caterpillars, and they, in turn, are called the “bride.” The “Husband” works using leaves, sticks and splinter for its coverage and he does it until all of the cacoons are covered with protective film that is water-resistant and fire-proof. Then, having finished his work, he dies and falls to the ground. After some time, the saved caterpillars turn into butterflies who fly away enjoying their new life.
“What a wonderful story!” exclaimed Lloyd, when Moses finished.
“But it is the usual story about butterflies” Moses said, puzzled by the fact that Lloyd was enthralled by this story.
“Have you not noticed that this is a great example of what Christ has done for us? asked Lloyd. “Jesus also calls us His bride, and He died for us that we may live a new and transformed life.”
Some time later, Lloyd was asked to lead a sermon on one of the Sunday morning worship services for the Mangseng people. In preparation for the message he was helped by a person from that tribe in order to properly use the words of the Mangseng language. After the message, Lloyd was approached by several people and said: “We know all about these cocoons because they live in our jungle. And in fact, they are very tasty. If we find their nest, we collect and eat these caterpillars. But we never thought that the work of the caterpillar-husband is the same as what Christ has done for us. We will tell our friends about it.”
It was a simple story about the caterpillars which showed the Mangseng people the atoning sacrifice of Christ. And this is just one people group of more than 6,800 around the world, for which Jesus died.