We laughed and cried throughout our three-day visit with the Shuar and Achuar people in the Ecuadorian jungle. Our daughter Linda enjoyed the whole experience as much or even more than we did. She helped steer us quickly around the seemingly endless airport concourses and steadied us carefully over the rough walking trails between our sleeping quarters and the Shuar church meeting place. For her it was like returning to her happy childhood and growing-up years with us and the Indians. The Shuar welcomed us with hugs and handshakes and many fast-moving accounts of those who had died and of all the children and youth in their present families.
It didn’t take long before Frank was again talking their language right along with them. Linda and I listened attentively to the many ladies who spoke of the faithfulness of God in keeping them and their children well and growing to know more about Him. They asked about our other four children and if we had grandchildren and great grand children and where they all were. Most wondered also how old we were now!
We were thrilled to hear the Shuar church leaders and the Bible translators as they read and explained passages from God’s Word and then dramatically presented the newly arrived Bibles. While over 150 community Shuar and guests from other places sat or stood in the open yard by the church, the Shuar church leaders read names of the Levites picked from Nehemiah 8. At the sound of each name each of the translators stepped forward and stood before the congregation until 12 or more were in place.
They praised the Lord with the antiphonal reading of Psalm 136.
“Give thanks unto the Lord for He is good!” forcefully read.
Then the group of translators responded in unison,
“His love endures forever!”
Then another church leader shouted,
“Give thanks to the God of gods!”
And the translators in unison repeated
“His love endures forever!”
What joy filled our hearts to hear the whole psalm presented in this powerful manner! Then the two groups began to play their guitars and sing one of their original Shuar hymns. Forming two lines they marched along the right and left sides of the congregation. They came together at the back and moved to their former places on each side of the front platform. The president of the Shuar Association of Evangelical Churches directed our attention to the large boxes containing the new Bibles. He praised God for His Word now written in Shuar. Cutting open one of the boxes, he took out one of the Bibles, and held it high above his head for all to see. Everyone clapped enthusiastically! Speeches and presentations of Bibles to various individuals followed. It was afternoon when all were finished and a very special meal was served by the Shuar women.
Before we left home to attend this wonderful celebration, some friends asked if we had taken part in translating the first Shuar New Testament printed in the 70s. But we declared we had not. In 1948 when we first began establishing our home in this area called Makuma, hardly any of the Shuar knew how to read. Besides, there was nothing printed in their language. They communicated by talking, talking, talking. Stories of their history and ancestors were constantly repeated and taught orally to the young. Local news as well as culture and traditions including their animistic religion were all shared orally. Current and local events, as well as those from the farther corners of the jungle always spread rapidly by visitors walking and walking and walking their muddy, rough trails. So we had to learn to talk, talk, and keep talking in their language and also walk, walk,- and walk with them.
One of the single ladies (the late Miss Dorothy Walker), who came to Makuma shortly after we did, devoted herself to accurately translating the New Testament into Shuar with the help of young newly converted believers. In the early seventies missionaries Jim and Norma Hedlund began to work with Walker to train Christian Shuar to form a team to lead the work of translating the Old Testament. The Hedlunds have continued steadily teaching and helping review the resulting translation at the slower pace of the Shuar themselves. Now the major part of the work is printed in this edition of the Shuar Bible. The Shuar team will continue working on the remaining portions.The Latest Feedback From Norma Hedlund ……..
The best word we have heard yet about Bibles is this: Domingo Najamtai,
youngest translator on the team and from Kuchants, had to come back to
Makuma last weekend and told Jim, “I have put my Spanish Bible away. Since I
started reading the Shuar one, I realize that I do not really know Spanish,
as this is so clear in Shuar.” Wow, and that from a University graduate,
who is also a Bible Seminary student and a pilot so you know he has studied in Spanish. What a great statement and may others discover the same. Thank God with us!