Why have you never told me?

By Samuel Chiang

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The New Testament is being translated into the Xamtanga language, thanks to a partnership between the Bible Society of Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Among the 500,000 Xamtanga speakers, 99.2 percent are followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Christianity. Ge’ez, an ancient Ethiopic language, always had been spoken in churches despite the people’s unawareness of the language. Using Xamtanga in a church service once was considered taboo. But that’s changing. Now that some translated Scriptures are being used during sermons, people can hear God’s Word anew.

Rev. Weldat Mekonnen is a member of the Xamtanga Bible translation project’s Reviewers Committee (pictured above). The project already has affected his family directly.

As I arrived home, I found my wife weeping. She asked me, “Why have you never told me how Jesus Christ died?”

I did not know what to say. The story of Jesus’ crucifixion has been told again and again in our church, especially during Easter season. We even have songs that narrate his passion. But like other church services, the crucifixion story is told in Ge’ez and sometimes in Amharic.

Amharic is for the educated. My wife, like most women in our community, is illiterate. Only a few girls go to school, and priority is given to boys.

Ge’ez, on the other hand, is for ministers. We have many ancient religious writings, including the Scriptures in Ge’ez. Trained ministers, whether we know their meanings or not, are expected to recite these writings. We know which passage to read or quote on different occasions and the people know when to stand, sit or even when to say “Amen.” They do not ask questions about the writings, though. Asking is a sign of unbelief.

My wife learned about the death of Christ from the MegaVoice (a solar-powered audio device), which includes audio recording of the translated Gospels of Luke and John, plus the books of Acts and Genesis. I brought it home to distribute to our community. Now, my wife has taken one for herself. She always has it with her. She even takes it to the river when she goes to fetch water.

Praise the Lord! The Xamtanga New Testament project is fully funded. The project impacts an estimated 300,000 people in Ethiopia. Please pray with us that the Xamtanga people will have their finished New Testament soon, and that their Old Testament can be completed soon, as well.

 

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