Stained Walls and Hurting Hearts
BY DAVID HUNT
As the people read aloud from a Bible in the Quechua language, one person responded, “What’s wrong with my heart? My heart is hurting. What’s wrong?!” The people cried out as they heard Jesus ask in Quechua, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ (Mark 5:30). They wept at his tender welcome of the outcast woman: ‘Daughter your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease’ (Mark 5:34). At that moment, listeners were rediscovering their worth as they encountered Jesus through the words of a Bible in their local language.
Since their 16th century conquest at the hands of the Spanish, oppressors dismissed the Quechua as worthless, primitive and unclean. Now, for the first time, they hear Jesus’ welcome in their native language, see him pause and stand still, his attention focused entirely on a woman who in significant ways shares their experience of exclusion. And the living word of Scripture touches – even ‘hurts’ – their hearts and opens the way for them to have the courage also to reach out to Jesus and trust his welcome.
This intimate moment in a tiny church in the Altiplano of Bolivia illustrates a profound reality about missions among the disempowered. Nothing can make as significant an impact as having the word of God available in your language. Hearing the words in a heart language begins to thaw hearts like frostbitten fingers coming back to life.
Do you know that most believers in the developing world long to own a personal copy of the Bible? I have had the privilege of handing a Bible to many individuals over the years in prisons, schools, and humble thatched churches. They are always received with eagerness.
I remember delivering Bibles in a closed access country and watching tears flow down the pastor’s face. He said to me, “Do you see how the walls in this room are stained dark? That is from the sweat of the people who fill this place hungry to worship God. None of these people have a Bible. Thank you so much.”
One time I travelled to conduct a training session for leaders in Africa. At the beginning of the course, we provided Study Bibles from Partners International donors. The excitement and rejoicing were so palpable from the rural pastors that I smiled at my fellow trainer and said, “Well, we might as well go home now. Nothing we can do the rest of the week can compare with this!” The identical reaction happened when I provided digital copies of Bibles donated by Canadians to 80 pastors in a certain communist country.
People are desperate for the Word of God. And the Bible lifts the human heart particularly profoundly when people read it in their heart language. Stories come alive. It is like Jesus is speaking to them personally for the first time. What a gift to give!
They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” – Luke 24:32