Snapshots of Life with the Madara People

In the Field

I stood up to stretch my back and mop the sweat off my face. Stooping and bending to work in the millet field with a sleepy toddler on my back was tiring. I certainly didn’t have the stamina of my neighbors who could work all morning in the blazing sun with only an early morning cup of gruel for energy.

Our family had gone to help our neighbors in their field, spreading ash and fertilizer and working it into the soil with a short-handled hoe. Fieldwork isn’t the most conducive to honing language skills: There usually isn’t much conversation when everyone is spread out over a field, doing backbreaking work. But it is important in building relationships and being part of the community.

Culture demands that food be served to everyone helping with a work project, so we paused midday to sit in the shade of a large tree to eat together. We scooped sorghum porridge with peanut sauce out of common bowls with our hands, the men and women eating separately and grouped according to age. The Madara people do not converse while they eat, so the meal is a silent one. But after the bowls have been licked clean and people stretch out for a brief rest, conversation flows freely.

At the Translation Desk

We sat together poring over the text of Jeremiah, the three translators and I, discussing the meaning of each verse and how to best render it in our language.

Poetry can be difficult to translate. Not only do you need to accurately convey the meaning in the target language, but you need to transmit the vivid imagery of poetry. One difficulty is that some features of Hebrew poetry are nonexistent in the language of translation. Yet if you choose to translate the meaning of the word pictures in order to make it clear in your language, you lose color and life, making the text rather insipid.

Take, for example, a phrase which occurs frequently in Jeremiah: “the daughter of my people.” We spent some time discussing possibilities. In our language, it is not possible to literally translate “the daughter of my people.” It makes no sense; the reader would be left confused and wondering what young woman the text was referring to. So should we simply say “my people,” which is what is what the phrase represents? But that obscures much of the personification that occurs elsewhere in the book, where Judah is pictured as a young woman (e.g., Jeremiah 6:26). Saying something like, “my daughter who is my people” is possible, though it doesn’t sound natural.

Sometimes as a team we come to a consensus and move on. Other times we make a note to return and search for the best rendering later.

—CS, in West Africa


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  • “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17
  • “Repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witness of these things.” Luke 24:47, 48
  • “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” Matthew 28:19
  • “In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:3
  • “That the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel.” Ephesians 3:6
  • “That they all may be one; as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that You sent Me.” John 17:21
  • “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’?” Mark 11:17
  • “Ask of me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance.” Psalm 2:8
  • “Behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes.” Revelation 7:9
  • “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified.” 2 Thessalonians 3:1
  • “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:16
  • “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
  • “As cold water to a weary soul, so is good news from a far country.” Proverbs 25:25
  • “More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.” Psalm 19:10
  • “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You.” Psalm 22:27
  • “Truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD.” Numbers 14:21
  • “Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods.” Psalm 96:3, 4
  • “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” Habakkuk 2:14
  • “That all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other.” 1 Kings 8:60
  • “For from the rising of the sun, even to its going down, My name shall be great among the Gentiles; in every place incense shall be offered to My name, and a pure offering; for My name shall be great among the nations.” Malachi 1:11
  • “All nations whom You have made shall come and worship before You, O Lord, and shall glorify Your name.” Psalm 86:9
  • “For as the earth brings forth its bud, as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.” Isaiah 61:11
  • "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" Psalm 46:10
  • "This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." 1 Timothy 2:3, 4
  • "You are worthy. . .; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God." Revelation 5:9, 10