“We say the same thing!”

By Rachel Greco

Like David hiding for his life from Saul in the caves of Israel, the H* community in Cameroon sometimes finds itself seeking refuge from an extremist group who pillages or harms anyone standing in their way.

In this intense time of turmoil, the H people can’t turn to Psalm 23 in the language they value most and read, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” or take comfort in other verses David penned in his time of tribulation. The H people don’t have these encouraging verses because the Old Testament has not yet been translated into their language.

They dedicated their New Testament several years ago, but they now crave the words of life in their entirety. And despite the strife in their lives, God is strengthening the H translation team so they are making great progress in having the complete Bible. They aim to draft the entire Old Testament by the end of next year; they’re already 75% of the way there!

Usually, one translation consultant works with a language team. The consultant, who’s knowledgeable in Greek and Hebrew, checks the translated Scripture to ensure the translation is accurate and understandable.

Among the H language group, four translation consultants try to keep up with the Scripture the translation team is churning out—even during such difficult circumstances!

But this crucial consultant checking step couldn’t happen without the help of SIL aviation service.

Brandon fueling one of the aircraft in a village in Cameroon

The H people live in a remote region without stable electricity. They rely on SIL aviation service—the only means of transport right now since ground transport is closed due to COVID-19—to fly them to the capital, Yaoundé, where the SIL center is located. There, they work for weeks at a time alongside translation consultant Drew Maust, and three other remote translation consultants to make sure the Scripture they’ve translated is accurate and clear. According to Brandon Penkoff, a pilot-mechanic who often flies this team, “Right now, our aviation services is really the only way they’re going to get [to Yaoundé].”

The ongoing operation of this flight service depends, in part, the support people like you give to JAARS: “We can’t do what we do here without JAARS support,” Brandon says. “This is a very hard country to work in. There are zero legal aviation companies operating here. We rely on JAARS to provide the major infrastructure for our department and continuous assistance for maintenance and other aircraft related issues, flight training and audits of our operations. JAARS is that silent, foundational partner for us.”

Brandon flying in the cockpit

Drew is also grateful for these flights: “The miracle of aviation is speeding Bible translation along in appreciable ways. Thank you for your partnership!” His work among the H people has shown Drew that their culture has much in common with Old Testament culture; some expressions aren’t as difficult to translate as one might expect. For example, Deuteronomy 11:10 says in the Hebrew, “You sow your seed and water it by foot like a vegetable garden.” While Biblical commentators debate the meaning of the expression, “to water by foot,” the H people make perfect sense of the expression.

The translation team explained, “We say the same thing! It means to fetch water by foot.” In a village without a water company or running water, the H people have to walk some distance to fetch their daily water supply. So if their vegetable garden lacks hydration, it will most likely be watered ‘by foot.’

This language team—with no knowledge of Greek or Hebrew, no commentaries or college degrees—sometimes has a better grasp of the meaning of Scripture than scholars. This is the beauty of Bible translation. As communities gain access to Scripture in the language they value most, the global Church gains a refreshed view and an interpretative voice of previously underrepresented brothers and sisters.

Please join us in praying that the H people finish their OT translation soon and for God’s protection. You can provide the H people and others with crucial transportation support by giving here to our Aviation Solutions. Thank you!

*Name omitted for security reasons