Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

Letter from Gary and Martha DeSterke

Written by Gary and Martha DeSterke
Recently we heard from Mary Shaw, the principal translator of the Cubulco Achi New Testament who is now living in the U.S.A. We would like to share a few lines with you:

So youÕre into translation of Genesis, Gary. Good for you! No, of
course that wasnÕt your [original] plan, but itÕs still good to
get into the ÒwatersÓ... ItÕs good to learn by doing. ThereÕs no
way you can wait until you have mastered the language.
Translation would never get done. I translated before I was
ready, and it was good for something. (Whoops, that may sound
like a put-down. It isnÕt.) Be bold to do your best. You can
revise it later (you will!). Other translators are amazed at
their early work, but it was good for something: souls were
saved, preachers had material to work with, translators were
getting better all the time... As I look at our New Testament
now, I see lots of places IÕd like to improve on. ThatÕll now be
your job!

Some of the other translators which I have talked to at the Guatemalan Wycliffe SIL (SIL is the translation branch of Wycliffe, the name which they use for promotion and administration, etc.)have assured me of the same thing. Many are older, highly experienced translators, so I value their judgment.

Nonetheless, this year, D.V., I hope to focus on two other things (alongside a continued translation of the rest of Genesis):

(1) The revision and ÒfinalÓ translation of Genesis 1:1-12:9 (i.e. up to the call of Abram, a natural breakpoint in Genesis) for publication as a separate booklet. Adding the call of Abram will build up anticipation for the following chapters yet to be translated and checked (the longest part of the process so far!).

(1) ÒCapturingÓ vocabulary and grammar notes and coming up with the beginnings of both a descriptive grammar and dictionary.

These will be important to both Leonardo (youÕll remember that he is my full-time language helper) and I in our subsequent translations. They will help us remain consistent in the translation of certain words/concepts, and will be useful for current and future helpers of the Cubulco Achi people--be they working in agriculture, business, medicine, literacy, translation of helpful books, etc.

There is nothing like speaking to people in the language of their heart: impassive faces light up, youngsters begin giggling with broad grins on their faces, polite and appreciative smiles appear on the faces of adults. You can imagine the difference of how they are going to respondÑ-receive, understand, pay attention to, and remember-Ñwhat you say to them!

We are doing our best to make these ÔdreamsÕ of a clear understanding of God their CreatorÕs good news to us His fallen creatures in this painfully fallen world. I think that in this context and that of Mary ShawÕs letter I would like to share a little more of what she wrote us. (I believe that things would be different if we treated our family members in as frank and earnest a manner today in the midst of the current politically ÒcorrectÓ culture that also invades our perception of reality):

Speaking of the ShawÕs and Christianity, I am reminded of a
letter by my great, great grandfather, Moses Shaw, to his son
John (1859). He spoke about the weather, the crops, and the well-
being of friends and neighbours [a man in the world...]. And then
he said: ÒOld John Boyd died last spring without hope in Christ,
the result of procrastination. I mention this, hoping that if you
have not made your peace with God, you will take warning and make
Christ your refuge, lest it be your fate... Oh my son, remember
the exhortations of your poor old father, lest it be that I may
never write you again; this may be the last, but if you do forget
my warnings, and forget me, do not forget God. Remember His mercy
and His love, and fear His wrath. Be careful that you do not have
to bear the awful wrath of God. Read the eleventh Psalm and see
what God says is the portion of the wicked and of the

Mary later mentions how she is looking forward to meeting her great, great grandfather in heaven. The man apparently could not write, so he dictated his correspondence to a friend, a certain Mr. A.H. VanHouten, who added some comments of his own:

It is a great blessing that God has given you a praying father;
you should begin to praise God for this great benefit, one not
bestowed on all mankind. Your heart would break to hear your
fatherÕs prayers on your behalf. I hope you will heed his
counsel. Remember, ÒToday is the accepted time; now is the day of
grace...Ó I feel that your father is a parent to me, as it is he
who kindly advised me to seek pardoning grace... I hope that you
will answer this shortly with the good news that the love of
Christ has found its way into your heart...

It would probably be a good idea, even belatedly, if we all as missionaries to our families make a serious attempt to incorporate something of this attitude into our New YearÕs resolutions.

We wish you all a blessed 1997 and ask you for your continued prayer for the Cubulco Achi translation project.

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