Eyes of Light

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.

Now, with the entire New Testament available in Soli, 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.

Joel Brown

A Soli Celebration!

It is a warm, Friday afternoon—the day before the Soli New Testament Launch—and six of us are tightly packed into a car, traveling through the Soli-lands, east of Lusaka, Zambia. I have never travelled through this part of country after the rains, and my heart is happy to see fields of corn and flowers stretching as far as I could see; all underneath the striking blue and white of the cloudy and endless African sky.

The rest of the day is busy with preparations; meetings with the High Chieftainess, headmen, and Soli Committee; and ensuring that nearly four thousand Soli New Testaments are delivered and secured. As I return home late that evening, I find myself still basking in the excitement—for tomorrow we celebrate something truly special: a people receiving something that is both a result of their own dedication, as well as the generosity of others—something which took faith and hard work—a longed for destination which is also the start of a new journey of discovery and understanding. The Soli New Testament is truly a gift from God, and the Soli are literally and metaphorically about to turn the page, and begin a new chapter in their walk with God.

The program reads as a tightly-packed, two-and-a-half-hour event—but you should know, there is no Zambian celebration that fits into a morning session! Dancing, music, and speeches abound—and we hear stories of victory and loss—of blessing and sacrifice. Throughout the many, varied, and colorful presentations, the heart and hand of God becomes clear—for the Soli people have come, just as they are, and they are loved by Him.

Joel Brown

“Yes, I speak Soli!”

“Yes, there are many things happening in Zambia tomorrow, but here in Chongwe, the day is all about celebration, as we receive the New Testament in our OWN language, and the Soli can read the Bible in Soli for the FIRST TIME EVER! Praise be to God!”

These were the words of one of the Soli translators as he was being interviewed on the radio the day before the Soli launch. The morning of the launch was filled with excitement, but for me, there was one moment that said it all: the first time the Soli Bible was read publicly to the Soli people.

When our lead Soli translator took the stage, with tears in his eyes, a watchful quiet started to rise. The silence gained strength as he opened the Bible and started reading; and when those first Soli words were read aloud, something amazing—reminiscent of Pentecost—occurred. A moment of intense silence instantly stuck the crowd as a palpable spirit of understanding, astonishment, and joy spread like a wildfire amongst the gathered Soli.

Even up to this moment, some were skeptical, asking themselves—Can I ever really understand what’s in this Bible? Can these local Soli men really translate the holy book? Will we be abandoned or forgotten? Does God actually speak my language? It was in this moment that their skepticism was dismissed, and the astonished silence gave way to the most jubilant and resounding cheers of the day as God made it abundantly clear, “Yes, I speak Soli!”

Joel Brown

Jesus Speaks Soli!

This Saturday, April 28th, the Soli people in Chongwe, Zambia will be receiving the New Testament in their own language for the first time! Through difficult circumstances these Soli translators endured it. Limited office space, sickness, deaths of friends and reviewers, and old computers are only some of the trials and challenges they faced while working on the translation. 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. Together with reviewers, consultants, and partners, we are all looking forward to when the Soli people will hold the New Testament in their heart language! Audio Bibles will also be distributed so that everyone will have access to the Word of God in Soli.

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.

Celebrations in Zambia

The launch of the Soli New Testament in Chongwe, Zambia is coming up on April 28! Leading up to this and in preparation for the distribution of the New Testament to the Soli people, we recently had a meeting with the outgoing Archbishop Tresford Mpundu and her Royal Highness, Chieftess Nokomeshya Mukamambo II. The Archbishop said that he would stamp some of the copies of the Soli New Testament, which will then be distributed to the Catholic church members on the day of the launch. The Archbishop will also pray over the New Testament copies before the distribution date. We are thankful that already there is such eagerness and excitement to receive the Word of God in their heart language! Celebrate with us as we lead up to this momentous occasion.