Translation advisor, Bob Ulfers, and his Karang-speaking colleague, Jacob, had come to the village of Zefatu in Cameroon to test the translation of 2 Thessalonians into the Karang language. But as they approached the isolated chapel at the top of the hill (see the photo), Bob wondered if anyone would show up to help.
A few men did come, and the two began to read the translation to them. When they came to chapter 2, verse 13, they read, “I ba tul fe pay ke sakra nzuk-kan lawri ke-e ya.” (You are the first fruits among those who believe whom God rescued).
The men responded with blank stares.Bob turned to Jacob and said, “We need to make the analogy more explicit.” He nodded in agreement and together they went to work on a clearer translation. They changed the metaphor (first fruits) into a simile (like the first fruits of a crop), and then explained how people were like first fruits (you are the first believers). The result was: “You are like the first fruits of a crop, you are the first believers whom God rescued.”
Bob looked up from the page and saw many smiling faces. They understood now! Telling them they were first fruits was taken literally and made no sense to them, but saying they were like the first fruits of a harvest brought out the analogy naturally, and it was now easily grasped by this agricultural community. And wow, what a crowd! Bob had been too preoccupied with the testing process to notice that one by one, twenty people and a number of children had worked their way up the hill to the small chapel.
Looking down at the translation again, Bob thought, “Will this Word be the seed for the first fruits here in the village of Zefatu?”
In other Karang villages, there are already first believers, who are now being equipped with more translated Scriptures in their language. Bob and Jacob anticipate the day when the harvest begins here, too, as the residents of Zefatu hear more and more of God’s Word in their mother tongue.