A THOUSAND WORDS ARE WORTH A PICTURE

There is one story from my childhood that stands out head and shoulders above all my other stories as you will see in a minute.  This is probably my mother’s favorite story, and I smile too whenever I think about this one.  It has to do with my love for reading.

My mother had read books to all of us as we were growing up in the family and from her I learned that books could be exciting to read.  They say, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  And when you are a beginning reader that is probably true, for you look at the big picture, you see the few words underneath, but the picture helps to transport you to another world.  In time, you switch from looking at the pictures to reading more and more words.  But the idea remains the same, the story opens up all kinds of possibilities in your mind.

So when I was just turning 6 in Grade One, one of my favorite places was the school library.  There never seemed to be enough time to read books at the school, so I would sign out a pile of books each weekend and read them all by Monday.  Each story would take me to places that fueled my imagination and increased my thirst for knowledge.  It was a wonderful experience…..until the day I discovered there was a restriction.

One day, when I went to sign out some books, the librarian asked me, “Aren’t you in Grade One?  You are only allowed to check out books on that one shelf.  All the other books are for older children.”

Needless to say, I was totally broken-hearted at this news.  And when I got home and my mother saw how distressed I was, she had me tell her the whole story.  “Well!  You and I are going to have a talk with the principal on Monday about this,” she said.  At the same time, I was excited to think we could find a solution to my situation, and scared to think I would be going to the Principal’s Office on Monday.

Sure enough, on Monday we talked it over with the principal.  And guess what?  The three of us marched over to the library and the principal duly informed the librarian, “Mrs _____, I am here to inform you that this young man is now allowed to take out any book he wants from the library.”  Wahooo!!!  I was so excited, I immediately started into the Grade Two section and kept on taking out books and reading anything I could get my hands on.

I want you to know that I still have this passion for reading today.  I probably have anywhere from 3 to 5 books on the go at a time.  But the book I keep reading again and again is God’s Word.  It is still the Book of Books.  In many ways, it is my love for reading, and my love for God, that has combined to lead me into this profession of doing Bible translation.

And you know what?  The same thrill and joy I used to get when I read children’s books so long ago, is the same kind of thrill and joy I see in people of minority languages when they get their hands on Scripture in their own language.  Even if it is only a small portion of the Bible, or even a children’s level story book of Bible stories, the people will make great efforts to get a copy and try to read it themselves.

I will never forget the time I announced that the plane coming to our village to bring some brand new story books in their language was going to be delayed.  But I said, it should be here tomorrow by midday.  Well, the next morning came, and people started to gather around our house next to the airstrip.  I asked what they were waiting for, and they said they were waiting for the plane, waiting to get the new reading books.

Hours later, the plane finally arrived.  By this time, close to 80 people had gathered and waited the whole time.  We got the boxes from the Cessna plane, plus other supplies.  As soon as the plane had taken off, the people gathered around the book boxes and eagerly laid their hands on them.  I think there were 50 copies each of 10 simple story books that had been translated into their language.  And then the next thing was amazing.

No sooner had a person gotten a story book, but he or she just sat down right where they were and started to read.  By our house, under our house, on the airstrip, they all sat down and tried, slowly and carefully, to read the stories written in their language.  The only time they moved was when they got up to trade a booklet with someone else.  And they did that for the rest of the afternoon until finally the sun had set and they could no longer read.

Now remember, these stories made up into ten or twelve page booklet form, were either small Bible related stories, or nice cultural stories.  But the people ate them up as if their lives depended upon it.  Just imagine what it is like when they get a full book of Scripture.  (The book of Mark was finally made available in 2003.)  Then picture the excitement and joy when they will get the entire New Testament in their language.  I have heard of villages putting on celebrations that run a whole week long, there is just so much joy at receiving God’s Word in a language they can understand, they can’t contain their joy to just one day.

“Dear God.  Thank you for the ability to read.  And thank you so much that we can read about You and Your great love in a book called the Bible.  Help us Lord, to continue to get more of Your Word translated and made available to those who have not had the Bible in their language up until now.”

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