This week, in our house in a Mexican town in SE Oaxaca State, my desk calendar is open to a photo of a cedar waxwing on a branch in front of its nest that holds four wide-open beaks, pleading for food. I’ve been looking at this snapshot from a bird’s life this week and wondering: Which mouth is he or she going to feed? Which one did it feed last? Since they all act hungry every time the parent arrives with food, how do the parent birds keep track of which one’s turn it is? All four baby birds appear to be the same size, so although it may seem from the open beaks that the little things never experience the pleasure of satisfied tummies, they are obviously growing, each one getting what it needs. Isn’t it amazing the “gifts” God gave this cedar waxwing to keep all of its young ones fed and growing, as well as to the little ones to respond by pleading for food each time the parent arrives? But, if any of the little ones would not open its beak to receive from its parent, it would not be fed, and would grow weak and die.
We are spending this month “in the village” while John and our lay pastor friend work toward completing the book of Romans in the Zapotec language of this town. Meanwhile, now that all four Gospels are among the New Testament books that have been completed and approved for publication, I have been working through them in Zapotec, checking punctuation and spellings of problematic words (some words vary significantly, depending upon the preference of the speaker) and trying to identify complex sentences that should perhaps be rewritten a bit for easier reading.
As part of my work on the Gospels, I’ve been reading through the Gospel of John in Zapotec with the mother of a teenager. They have had an absent husband and father since the teen was little, and the mother, whom I will call Maria, has had to find ways to support her child, along with help from her parents. Since it is hard for women in the village to find steady work, unless they have the resources to run a small store in their home, Maria has spent long periods of time working far from home, sending money to her parents for expenses. A couple of years ago, with the child having entered teen years and not being cooperative at home or school, the grandparents told Maria she needed to come back in order to provide parental guidance. I think Maria sees that this is a better place for her to be—spiritually and in other ways.
About a year ago, Maria came to us, somewhat as a baby bird eager to receive a morsel of food, seeking work. I believe she came not only for income but to be involved in work that would feed her spirit. Though we are not able to employ her in the translation ministry to the extent she would like, we have given her various types of checking projects, which have helped supplement her income, along with other part-time work she finds to do. So she has been able to avoid seeking work far away during this crucial time in her teen’s life.
As we have read through John this week, Maria reads aloud and I follow along in my copy, marking where she stumbles on either the spelling of a word or other complexities. For her, this is the first time to read straight through a book of the Bible aloud in Zapotec. She reads smoothly and with understanding, and often it is easy to see that what she reads from Jesus’ life and teachings touches her heart. Yesterday she picked up the book of John and said: “Do you have more of these? People here need to read this. It should be read in church because many people don’t understand scripture that is read in Spanish. It is clear in Zapotec!”
Along with the picture of the cedar waxwing with its hungry young, observing Maria reading John has given me a mental picture of our village friends, seeking with open hearts as the baby waxwings do with open beaks, to receive from their heavenly Father. They receive the scriptures more easily through their own language, and it has a greater impact on their lives.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6). Thank you, NFC, for all you’ve done through the years to help us minister in this community, so they too may be “filled” by means of God’s word in their own language. Thank you for your prayers for us as we get close to completing the New Testament in G. Zapotec. We face many details and challenges at this stage, but it is a blessing to see hearts open to receive from God and to see how scripture in Zapotec speaks clearly to them.
John and Donna Kreutz serve as linguist-translators with Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL, Int’l. They met in Mexico City in 1983 and were married at NFC in July 1984. They have two married daughters and are proud grandparents of 5-month-old Janelle, who was born in Ecuador. Donna has been a member of NFC since 1971.