Thursday, January 12, 2012

“I thought I knew the Christmas story by heart, but....”


“A row of teenage girls stared at each other in wide-eyed wonder and then dissolved into a group hug. Eyes glistened with tears. As the last word was read, a spontaneous cheer erupted.…”

That scene occurred on the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of West Africa during my final Christmas in Africa.

What had caused such amazement, such jubilation?

It was the first Sunday in December, and the church pastor began his sermon as he always did.

“Our reading will be from Luke 2, verses 1 through 7,” he announced.

But he had a big surprise for his congregation.

Instead of reading the Christmas story in the nation’s official language, Portuguese, he read from a copy only recently translated into the congregation’s mother tongue, Kabuverdianu.

A highly trained translation team from that very congregation had worked hard to make it ready for Christmas.

“The translation team began to sob,” says Bob Creson, President/CEO of Wycliffe U.S.A.

“After the service, a woman who was educated in the official language approached a team member and said that at first she tried to follow along in her Portuguese Bible, but then she decided to close her eyes and just listen as the pastor read in her own language.

“‘I let the words fall over me,’ she said. ‘I thought I knew the Christmas story by heart, but I must confess that today I feel like I’ve heard it for the very first time.’”

That’s what Bible translation all about: providing people with Scriptures in their own language—their mother tongue, their heart language, the language they understand best.

And that’s why my husband and I moved to Africa. We played behind-the-scenes roles but, in our own small ways, we helped make it possible for Bible translation to happen.

Would you like to hear the Christmas story just as the Cape Verdeans heard it that December morning? Click here to listen to an audio version on the AKTB website. Click on the box labeled “Stória di Natal” in the top left corner, and then scroll down and click on “Nasimentu de Jizus (Lύkas 2:1-7).” (PC users: use Internet Explorer as your browser, rather than Firefox.) You’ll also get a good look at the Kabuverdianu language in writing.

Information for this story is courtesy of the Cape Verdean Translation Association.


  1. What a touching story! I'll have to come back a bit later and listen to the translation :-)

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Penny. Such stories always amaze me. Try as I might, I cannot fully grasp what it must be like to have access to the Bible in only my second or third language. That motivates me to be involved in some way in Bible translation.


  3. What an amazing thing to witness and to be a part of!

  4. So true, Melissa, so true. We had an amazing opportunity to play a very, very small role.