Although I don’t blog regularly during July and August, I wanted to post this exciting guest blog from our 21 year-old grandson, Tyler Vanderveen, in which he gives a first hand, eyewitness report of what happens when people hear the Bible read in their own language for the very first time.
Tyler is working with Wycliffe Caribbean in Jamaica as part of the onsite internship with his school, Ambrose University, and the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination in Canada. He works under director John Roomes whom Jo and I recruited when I was director of Wycliffe Caribbean nearly ten years ago. We oriented and trained him to be my successor.
Now here’s Tyler!
While returning with my boss John Roomes from a Wycliffe retreat we passed through the town of Kendall, about 70 kilometres east of Kingston. We stopped to participate in a March for Righteousness gathering in the town square at which John’s brother had asked him to speak. Two local pastors had already preached to the group gathered before the stage, reading the gospel of Luke from the New King James version.
John, however, did not speak in English as the pastors had, but spoke in Jamaican Patois. He also focused his preaching, not at the group of Christians near the stage but at the group of men playing dominoes across the street, at the taxi drivers in the parking lot, and at the people in the market.
Soon a small crowd gathered at the edge of the market, listening intently. In the first minute that John began to read from the gospel of Luke, recently translated into Jamaican, a homeless man ran all the way from the back right to the stage, his face alight with understanding. At the same time, some Rastafarian men who were listening to the event from behind a tree came around to the front to listen.
I had already been told that many people in the rural parts of Jamaica do not understand English well. I had taken that to mean the people in the hills and far from the cities. But on the way back to Kingston, John told me unless a person lives in one of the two main cities, Kingston or Montego Bay, they probably don’t understand English that well. The business people or those who finished high school will speak it better but the poorer, less educated people won’t.
John also told me that the Rastafarian religion split off from orthodox Christianity because they wanted to maintain a sense of their African heritage. They wanted a Bible in Jamaican Patois that they could understand. Most of what they believe is loosely based on a version of the Bible that they can’t really understand.
It seems that every time the church in Jamaica moves toward being more Jamaican and less British, Rastafarians are interested. They are watching and waiting for a church they can be a part of.
John says that when the whole Bible is finally translated into Jamaican and churches begin to preach from it, many Rastafarian people will come to the Lord. They have tried to understand but could not in the English speaking churches, but when they hear the Bible taught in their own Jamaican Patois language, all the truths they gleaned from the old English Bible will be strengthened and the things they got wrong will be corrected.
This is an exciting time to be working in Jamaica. First, God is beginning to use the portions of the Bible that are already translated into Jamaican to draw many people to Himself. Also, during this 50th year of Jamaican independence churches all across Jamaica are praying and working for revival and renewal. Pastors compare the ever present crime, corruption, violence, drugs and gangs as chains that must be thrown off before Jamaica can flourish. These Satanic bonds can only be broken through the power of God’s Word in the language of the people.
Many pastors and church groups are praying that God will make this 50th anniversary a year of Jubilee as it was in the Old Testament. We are praying that the bonds of crime and violence in Jamaica will be thrown off. We are praying for revival. All the things that are holding Jamaica away from God will be removed, as the bonds of the self enslaved man would be removed in the year of jubilee.
Please join in Prayer for Jamaica. Pray that the love and power of Jesus will restore Jamaica, that revival and renewal would come to Jamaica.
Love and Blessings