King's Business - 1942-04

April, 1943



Today, with the eager help that Juan and Carmen have come to our house fo give, Marianna Slocum and ,1 are working on “text”—taking down from dictation in phonetic script the Tzeltal language as it is spoken in stories, conversation, and the relating of personal experiences. Marianna sits across the table from me, courageously continuing Bill’s work in the power of the Lord. She is taking text from Carmen, who is a rich repository of folk-lore. His supply of goatrand-rabbit, tiger-and-snake, and Chicken Little stories is inex­ haustible. Juan looks up from our side of the table in time to see Carmen sniffing along the table, illustrating a dog in pursuit. Carmen has no in­ hibitions about reenacting the story he is telling, to make it clear. Juan, with a shade of disdain in his voice, says softly, “Puro cuento [pure story]!” His heart and mind fired with a desire to get the Word quickly to his own people, Juan cannot quite grasp the importance of spending time in the extraction of pointless stories from his brother. We have to remind him that the analysis of ordinary nar­ rative conversation is necessary as a mold into which we can pour the pure gold of the Word of -God. Teals in the Workers’ Hands The history of the Christian church has shown the absolute necessity of haying the Word of God in the every­ day language of the people if it is to produce fruit in daily living. The Bible in the vernacular is essential to the permanence of any mission work, par­ ticularly if persecution comes to the native church in the absence of the missionaries. Because of the peculiar difficulties of learning an unwritten aboriginal language, the p i o n e e r

Christ's Sake

shining of the glorious gospel of Christ. In 1938, William C. Bentley, burdened with the urgency of trans­ lating the New Testament for the Tzeltals, went to Chiapas, the south­ ernmost state of Mexico, to work among them. He was the first repre­ sentative of the Wycliffe Translation Group* to go to Chiapas. Previous to his coming, no Indian in that entire district had ever been evangelized in his native Indian language by a white missionary. Work in the Spanish lan­ guage or through an interpreter can­ not possibly reach the great mass of the Indians of Mexico, for their lim­ ited Spanish vocabulary barely en­ ables them to carry on trade with the neighboring Spanish-speaking popu­ lation. And it is obvious that the spiritual truths of God’s wonderful plan of salvation cannot be conveyed through a few score of words which only a few of the primitive Indians are able to use as they barter their goods. Bill Bentley had been praying— praying for a prepared instrument through whom the Word might be given to the Tzeltals. Thus’ when Bill . found Juan, a deep longing was satis­ fied, and an earnest prayer was an-s swered. Through the unfolding of the Scriptures by Bill’s faithful ministry, Juan learned the deep meaning of the cross, and the consequent responsibil­ ity of making known the death a n d _ life of the Lord Jesus to his own ped^i^ pie. A first-draft translation of the Gospel of John was made. Then came the summer of 1941 when Bill left Chiapas for Pennsyl­ vania, to take for himself a bride, Marianna Slocum, who was to be his helpmeet in the completion of the *A group of Christian translators who concen­ trate on the task of translating the Scrip­ tures for the fifty-one Indian tribes of Mexico, reducing the languages to writing. Work is under way at present in only twenty of these languages.

translation of the New Testament in Tzeltal. But God had ordained that another translation should be first completed, for on August 24, six days before the scheduled date for his wed­ ding, Bill was taken into the presence of his Lord whom he had faithfully served for three years among the Tzeltals of Mexico. Now he knows the full glory of the One with whom he walked in Close fellowship when the shadows of earth intervened. Truly, he “walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.”

Tarascan Indians Phot 9 Courtesy of National Railways of Mexico

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