Celebrating 100 years of the Bible in Chichewa
"Honourable president, esteemed church leaders, guests of honour, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, all protocol observed. It is an honour and privilege to be here today and represent the DRC Cape Synod on this special occasion. Many years ago, when I was still a small boy, my late father and mother were invited by the late president Hastings Kamuzo Banda to visit Malawi as his guests. They returned and told me wonderful stories about the 'warm heart of Africa.' To be here today at this historic occasion feels like the completion of a circle. Greetings to you all from the church in South Africa.
Five hundred years ago, the average person’s ignorance of the Bible stemmed from all holy scriptures being written in Latin, Greek or Hebrew - languages exclusive to the scholarly elite. Now, the Bible is not only the best-selling and most translated book in history, but it tells the story of God who has the power to change lives. God, who transforms the heart.
'If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.' - Nelson Mandela.
Many people perceive God as distant, a foreigner in their culture. But when Scripture is first translated into their mother tongue, they are amazed when they realize God speaks their language. Now, He is no longer only an English God or an Afrikaans God. My God speaks Chichewa. My God speaks my language. He speaks to my heart. Mulungu wanga amalankhula chinenero changa (My God speaks my language). A God who communicates in someone’s heart language no longer seems like a stranger but someone they can learn to know and trust. And it is very important for someone to be able to listen to the Word of God with their hearts, as we see in Hebrews 4:12.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
When you come to God’s Word in faith that Word comes alive within you. He lives and acts in you through his living and active Word.
When the Christian Broadcasting Network visited churchgoers in Mansa, Zambia, earlier this year, the locals were reading and hearing the New Testament in Aushi, their mother tongue, for the very first time. After reading the Bible in their own language, they couldn’t stop singing and dancing.
Today, we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Word of God in Chichewa. For a hundred years, God has been speaking to his Chewa children in their mother tongue. For a hundred years, He has been saying “Musawope” (Do not fear), “mumakondedwa” (you are loved), “mudawomboledwa” (you are redeemed). May the Chewa people and others continue knowing and loving God in their mother tongue. May you also sing and dance knowing God speaks to you, not in a foreign language, but in Chichewa.
Mulungu amakukondani. (God loves you). Zikomo kwambiri (Thank you very much)."
Written by Wilmi Wheeler. Presented by dr. Braam Hanekom at the translation celebration in Malawi.