Last year I fulfilled a lifelong dream to attend the dedication of a New Testament translated into another language. On a Sunday morning in the city of Abancay, Peru, I joined hundreds of Eastern Apurímac Quechua men and women, many of whom had walked for many hours to attend what would become a five-hour dedication service.
Of course, ceremony, greetings and multiple sermons were an important part of the event. But it was the other elements that held the crowd’s attention. Organizers had their audience in mind. The service included local folk bands, leading shrill songs of worship and celebration that were distinctly Quechua. Their musical style sounded almost Asian, involving stringed instruments and even an accordion.
But it was the dramas that imprinted my memory. Children pressed to the front to observe a group of kids acting out the parable of the sower who scatters seed among thorns, rocks, beaten path and fertile ground. Such agricultural references easily hit the mark for these weathered farming folk.
At one point, I noticed a stir at the back of the room. A man wearing tattered clothes and waving a bottle snaked his way down the crowded main aisle, grumbling and muttering to himself. Finally he teetered onto the stage and a well-targeted drama unfolded. While I couldn’t understand the words, the plot was very clear: a drunken man abusing his kids, a wife pleading with him and then taking his wrath.
It was a somewhat familiar story to those of us from North America. But how would the Quechua audience respond? Women leaned forward in anticipation, taking in every word. They snickered at the jokes somewhat self-consciously, almost afraid to show they resonated with the portrayed scene. This play was hitting extremely close to home. Most of these women knew this scenario, and they were anxious to see how it could be resolved. The wife found a pastor to speak to her husband, and he used the Scriptures in the man’s mother tongue to soften his heart. God entered a desperate situation and redeemed this husband and father. The crowd loved it.
A couple of days later I attended a school where a young Quechua woman taught a group of Grade 1 students (similar to the one pictured above) that God had created them unique and special, and no adult should ever be allowed to violate them. My throat went dry as I realized that young, beautiful children like these can experience abuse.
Celebrating a completed New Testament is only the first step. We desire to see mother-tongue Scriptures put to use in the church, in the home and in the public square. We long to see churches growing and marriages, families and communities transformed as God’s life-saving words cut to the heart.
There is an irony to a group of pastors coming down from Canada to participate in this celebration. The Bible does not enter conversations in the public square or in kitchens and living rooms of our country, as it once did. In some ways, Canada (which some may consider “post-Christian”) and the growing Eastern Apurímac Quechua Church are going in opposite directions.
But maybe that’s why it’s so important that we learn from each other. In some ways, we are meeting at the crossroads. Could the Quechuas’ hunger for the Bible inspire a new movement within Canada? Could we learn from their efforts to take the Bible into every corner of their community?
God’s Word provides answers to the desperation and desolation common to both of our cultures. The Bible gives hope to the poverty of our spirits. As Peter said to Jesus in John 6:68 (NIV): “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Like what you’re reading? Then don’t miss an issue. Subscribe to be notified when the next issue is published.