One Life to Give
We hear the facts over and over again:
- nearly 7,000 languages in the world
- half of those do not have any written form
- 200 million people with no Scripture in their mother tongue
At times I share those statistics with visitors to JAARS, and I anguish over the need. How very impossible it seems to meet that need in the foreseeable future. I am tempted to react like author Frank Peretti when in the 50s a lady in his church was in an absolute dither about eradicating communism. His reckless response to this massive challenge was “OK!!! I’ve got $5.00 and a car! Let’s go!”
Clearly, there are no quick fixes to the colossal challenges of Bible translation! I am just one person, female, weak, no longer young, and not wealthy. What can I possibly do now to reduce those almost 2,400 languages by even one, and in a short time?
My feeble efforts find strength and dignity in the following account*. It was written by Miss Mabel Shaw, one of the first two women missionaries sent out to Rhodesia by the London Missionary Society in 1915.
“They told me a lion had been about.... At last I rose to go...and was just about to mount my bicycle when out of one of the little houses came the old leper headman. He held a spear between the stumps that once were hands, and he went hobbling along the path in front of me. I called to him, and he stopped and looked around.
‘Where are you going?’
‘I am going to escort you to Mbereshi village, you can’t go alone with lions about.’
I smiled at him. ‘But on my bicycle I’ll be there in a minute.’
“He would not have it. It was not fitting for me to go alone. I looked at him, a feeble old man, handless, feet half-eaten, his whole body covered with marks of disease, and his face most pitiful. I said to him half-banteringly, and with a smile, ‘Now what could you do if a lion came?’
“He drew himself up, and with a quiet dignity said, ‘Have I not a life to give?’ I was silent, seeing a Cross. I followed him to the village, thanked him and came home, having met with God face to face....”
Yes, I have that too – one life to give. Edward Everett Hale put it in these words:
I am only one, but I am one.
I can’t do everything, but
I can do something.
And what I can do, I ought to do.
And what I ought to do, by the
Grace of God, I shall do.
Listen to the words of Ira Stanphill in the song Follow Me: “If but a cup of water I place within your hand, then just a cup of water is all that I demand.”
When Frank Peretti, burdened by the spiritual needs of the masses, asked God what he could do, God told him, “Frank, why don’t you go upstairs and write a few more pages on your next novel.” The job will get done, not by anxious thoughts and impetuous schemes, but by God’s grace and God’s power working in us, going forward in our assignments, one by one, one by one.
*Shaw, Mabel. God's Candlelights: An Educational Venture in Northern Rhodesia. Friendship Press 1943 NewYork edition; 194 pages.