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God’s word in our own language

CMS missionaries Matt and Lisa Pearson have been living and ministering in Kunbarlanja, among the Kunwinjku people, since 2018. Here Matt speaks of the impact of having God’s word in their own language. 

When the Kunwinjku Shorter Bible [1] (KSB) arrived in Kunbarlanja, in the north of Australia, in 2018, it marked several changes in the church and the community. Since then, we have seen Jesus’ kindness in giving the Kunwinjku church what is needed to keep moving towards maturity—for the people of God to become equipped for the works of service which God has prepared (after the pattern in Ephesians 4:11-16). The Kunwinjku church is experiencing a reformation! 

Our friend Lois Nadjamerrek said to us, “We don’t need outside help. It is our time to share the good news in our community. We have God’s word in our own language.” 

What does this look like in this context where God’s word is being translated into the Kunwinjku language? 

Life and ministry in Kunbarlanja 

Lois and the church in Kunbarlanja were already training women and children, so they invited our family to join them in discipling men also, to help ensure that the KSB is accessible to all Kunwinjku people. The following verses have helped guide our thinking as we relate to our community: 

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
(Ephesians 4:11-13) 

We have therefore been involved in Bible studies, reading the Bible with people, recording the Bible, sharing life with people and seeking ways to support the church to do the good works which God has prepared for them to do (see Ephesians 2:10). As people have heard God’s voice with the clarity of their own language, we have seen them become built up into the body of Christ, as recipients of the gifts Jesus has given his church in Kunbarlanja.  

Translation assists understanding 

Being able to understand and commune with God in our first language is a gift many of us are unaware we have received. When you or I access Bible Gateway online in English, we can choose which of the 61 translations suit our preference! 

We know that sharing the good news in our community will happen best when God’s voice is able to be heard and explained in a way our target audience will understand. We have seen this work unfolding and expanding here since the KSB arrived. Every Sunday we read aloud through the next paragraph of a book of the Bible which was previously untranslated into Kunwinjku. At the time of writing, we’re listening to Hebrews 11. As the treasures of God’s word are discovered, mined, and refined through further discussions within the church, people are better resourced to share this precious news with their families and others in the community. 

The work of “becoming mature”, and “attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13) is an un-ending task! We’re very thankful for the ongoing support of the CMS fellowship which allows us to join in this process with our Kunwinjku brothers and sisters in Christ.  

Translation checking session held in the church.

Building Kunwinjku believers 

It takes many years to learn a language and culture. I am currently 35 and still learning new things about my culture, and still learning new words from my English language. So even if the Lord wills and we live amongst the Kunwinjku people for many more years, we will still be learning, and gaining new insights into its culture and people. Therefore, a large part of our ministry in Kunbarlanja is—and will continue to be—praying with people, and for people. As much as we are here to minister with the gifts God has given us,
so also we are here to learn and to pray.
 

As for us, so for other parts of the CMS fellowship, there are many ways to support the church here: by giving as we build long-term relationships, by praying for the church members, and by asking God for a new wave of translation work to be done by Kunwinjku speakers. We need each other. These activities cannot be done in isolation, nor by overlooking the gifts Jesus has given the church in the Kunwinjku people themselves, or by relying on outside programs and initiatives. 

Our Kunwinjku brothers and sisters in Christ (and now us, as part of that community) have work to do—just like every local gathering of Christian people. Together we’re being equipped for the works of service which God has prepared for each of us so that the body of Christ would be built up.  

What an incredible opportunity God has given CMS and our family, together with the Kunwinjku community, to display the unity we share in Jesus. We have the privilege of joining with our Kunwinjku brothers and sisters as co-workers in doing the work he has given each of us. Please continue to pray that God would use all of us together in this equipping of the Kunwinjku community for works of service ‘until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

GIVE

As well as praying, you can support the work of growing mature believers in Kunbarlanja by giving to the work of the Pearsons through CMS. Go to give.cms.org.au and make your contribution there.

 

[1] KSB = Genesis, Exodus, Ruth and the complete New Testament.