Eyes of Light

Soli New Testament to be Released Soon!

Jesus made some pretty profound statements while he was here on this earth. Often times, a simple-seeming metaphor is not just food for thought, but a complex, sixteen-course, dining adventure for your mind! One of the great tasks for a Bible translator is to unravel these complexities and to make them clear in his or her own language and culture.

While working through the Gospel of Matthew, Soli translators working in Chongwe, Zambia got stuck on one such passage. In chapter 6, Jesus compares our eyes to lamps and says, “if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” The Soli words for lamps connotate electricity, wires, and switches, so do we have Jesus talk about turning on and off lights? Do we change the metaphor or educate about Jewish lamps? How can we say the same thing differently? And, the questions are not only about a word, but the concepts too—how can light be darkness? Is this talking about the medically blind or the spiritually lost? What does God want to say to the Soli people?

Well, He not only gave insight to the translators but this passage became a larger metaphor for the project itself. Instead of talking about physical lamps and bulbs, the translators were inspired to talk about “sources” of light and darkness. This took on special meaning for the translators, because the Soli Bible Translation project has been a source of light shining in some dark places and situations.

You see, these translators have been working through a period of drought—physically and spiritually. The Soli are subsistence farmers; life with limited water has increased economic hardship and decreased general health. Even though Soli people and churches have embraced Christ-like values, preaching and counseling against polygamy and ancestor worship, hard times breed temptations to seek help anywhere, anyway, and anyhow. The spiritual darkness that was pushed back when the Soli started turning to Jesus Christ has been creeping back into daily life.

The spiritual battle is not just a generalized one either. Over the course of the past few years, the translation team itself has been beset with tragedy. A founding team member died from health-related issues. Another translator was poisoned while working with local churches—later saying that, “I really felt the big man standing in for me.” Recently, members of the translation committee were involved in a horrible car accident—two persons dying from the injuries. However, the team has faithfully sought after God in the face of these troubles, and have found the peace and strength needed to carry on.

Alongside their work completing the New Testament, and using skills they’ve learned while pursuing Diplomas in Bible Translation, the Soli translators have been able: to release a Soli version of the Gospel of Mark, translate and show the Jesus film in Soli, support radio stations and newsletters with translated Soli scripture; begin to gather support for a literacy program; and support local church ministry endeavors. In so many ways, they have become “eyes” for the Soli community, looking into the Bible and revealing God’s truth in deeply meaningful ways. The translators have become a source of light in their dark times.

Now, with great joy and celebration, we get to announce the release and dedication of the Soli New Testament soon. The Soli Translation Committee has received a truckload of New Testaments, and for the first time in their history, the Soli people—children and adults, teachers and students; pastors and leaders—will have the New Testament in their own heart language.

This is a landmark occasion for the Soli people! When crowds were first able to see and hear the Jesus film in Soli, many were awestruck, saying, “Jesus speaks my language!” Now, with the entire New Testament available, Jesus’ powerful and oft enigmatic words can be heard and understood in new and amazing ways! Yes, Jesus speaks Soli and now the New Testament messages of truth, love, and light are available for the Soli people to understand clearly—in their own language.

Please, pray for the Soli Translation Project. Pray for the families affected by the recent accident. Pray for safety and wisdom for the translators as they continue to the Old Testament. Pray that the hearts, minds, and eyes of the Soli people will be open to the light of Jesus Christ!
If you want to get involved, start here.

Joel Brown