The Mpyemo Bible translators were worried. They were far from home, checking their work with a translation consultant in the capital of their nation, the Central African Republic. Their country had been in turmoil for years, and now they were hearing rumors that armed men had entered their home village again.
They tried to call family members but found that cell phone connections weren’t working. What was going on? Had the armed men cut the connections on purpose? The rumors intensified. They heard of fighting in their village, of deaths, and of people fleeing into the rainforest. One translator said, “Why does this have to happen again? Why can’t we just have peace?”
A few days later, they received news that was somewhat reassuring. The armed men were indeed in the village, but there had been no fighting. People had been able to mediate between the groups and keep the peace. Relief! And gratitude for answered prayer!
During this time, the translators and their SIL consultant, Ann Kapteyn, were working on the translation of Matthew 24, where Jesus talks about signs of the end of the age. Reflecting on the latest rumors of war and on the fighting and hunger they’d all experienced during the years of unrest, one of the translators said, “Surely the end is coming soon. We have seen all of these signs.”
Everything has context, including Scripture. In Matthew 24, the context of Jesus’ comments to his disciples was their unsettledness and their questions about his departure. Why was he going? When would he come back?
In an attempt to reassure them, Jesus tells them about times to come, including those things that must happen before he returns. He says that they will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but that they should not be alarmed, the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes and other distressing events. But, he promises, there will be an end to the troubles: “the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14, NLT).
The clear, accurate and natural translation of the Word of God provides a framework and a context for interpreting life. It gives reference points to those who hear and understand it. When the Mpyemo translators interpreted their experience in the light of this passage, they were strangely comforted.
After much discussion, their final conclusion was that God’s people, whatever the circumstances around them, need to always be ready and steady – ready for Jesus’ coming, and steady in their faith as they wait.