The United Nations has declared 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. This prompts me to write a short series of blog posts about a related topic – the peoples around the world who still don’t have the Bible in their language – the bibleless peoples.
The bibleless peoples and their languages are almost invisible. That is, you only notice them if you look. Unlike the things in life that force themselves into our perception whether we want them or not – potholes, polluted air, loving hugs from family and friends – most of us could live our whole lives without encountering someone from a bibleless people, or not noticing if we did. In this way, the bibleless peoples are very much like the one lost sheep from among the 100 that the good shepherd took pains to locate.
Being an imitator of Jesus means more than responding with love and the gospel to the people and circumstances that we find clearly in our vision. It also means going and looking for cases we don’t readily see. That’s the point of the parable and indeed of Jesus life – he came looking for us even while we were hidden (lost), far away and not looking for him.
We owe a debt to those who have located and made known the bibleless peoples. They embody Jesus’ seeking spirit.
I remember vividly a chief of the Nawuri people expressing how hidden his people felt until they had the Bible. Raising high the newly-printed New Testament in Nawuri, and with emotion in his voice he said:
Politicians don’t know us, but now God knows us.
Jesus said of himself:
For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.” – Luke 19:10
Jesus seeks, actively searches for, the lost. He didn’t and doesn’t wait for them to find him. To be true to Jesus, our mission endeavors should also spend effort searching for those who would normally remain hidden.