The Word Broken Open

January 18, 2014   Salasaca, Ecuador

When I think of the Quichua community in Salasaca, my heart and mind are flooded with joyous memories from 2008, when I came to Ecuador with a Youth Encounter music team, Kindred.  My stomach growls as I remember the warm rabbit stew that we ate and shared fellowship.  My feet are moved to dance to the music of the kena flute, the bombo deerskin drum, the strings of the charrango, and the singing of Christ’s love in a language other than my own.  My ears hear the chanting of Quichua Christians shouting ‘¿Quién vive? ¡Cristo! ¿Y a su nombre? ¡Gloria!’  (Who lives? Christ! And to his name? Be the glory!)

The Kingdom story-song has never sounded so bright, so clear, so beautiful to me than on Palm Sunday of 2008 when we were asked to help lead music for the local Quichua congregation, Diosga C’uyimi (God is Love).  I remember seeing villagers greet one another, women braiding each other’s hair and men adjusting their black ponchos.  Some had traveled over ten miles on foot.  As we stood to hear the Gospel lesson for Palm Sunday to be read from the Spanish Bible (the Quichua’s second language is Spanish), something unexpected happened.

Holding a tattered book in one hand and a microphone in the other, Pedro stepped forward.  He opened the book and began to read aloud his recently handwritten translation of the Palm Sunday narrative in Quichua:  ‘Hosanna in the highest!  Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!’

It was the first time this community had heard this Scripture in their very own language.  For the first time, the story of Christ’s victorious entry came to life in their own tongue.  Tears streamed down my face as a roar erupted from the Quichua women and men who surrounded me.  They applauded and with loud cheers escaping their lips, they shouted over and over again, ‘¡Amén! ¡Amén! ¡Alelúia!’

In 2008, in Salasaca, Ecuador, I saw the story of Christ break open over an entire community.  I saw the Word that took on flesh in a particular community, in a particular dialect, in a particular corner of the world, come to life for a whole village.  It was in that moment I felt called to tell the Story…

Six year later, Pedro leans in and speaks in Quichua to two of his Salasacan translation team members.  The three are stumped as how to translate 2 Corinthians 7:3 into Quichua since there is no conditional tense in their language.  After re-working the sentence for about an hour with no solution in sight, a communal coffee break is declared.

Pedro, and his wife, Cristina (who are both from the United States) and dozens of local Christian Salasacans have been laboring for about 25 years to translate the New Testament into the local Salasacan dialect of Quichua.  The Incan language of Quichua is spoken in many areas in Ecuador; however, the dialects differ as much as from Spanish to French or Spanish to Portuguese.  Although there is a translation of the Bible into the academic ‘Universal Quichua’ grammar, the Salasacan translators say that it is unrealistic for a community with a completely different dialect to utilize a translation in Universal Quichua since much of the vocabulary is so different or even non-existent in Salasacan Quichua.

Once 2 Corinthians is translated, Pedro’s and Lorenzo´s teams will move on to translate Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and the smaller Pauline letters and so completing the New Testament.  Lorenzo’s team rejoices that their finished translation of Revelation is ready for publication.  They tell me how people from all over the village came to get their copies of the published translations of Luke/Acts and the audio recordings of the Gospel of Mark in Salasacan Quichua just a few years ago.  The team speaks to me passionately about the village’s desire to have the New Testament in their own language. 

‘‘One woman came to me a few years ago,’’ Pedro says to me, ‘‘and told me that she wanted to start learning how to read so that when the complete New Testament came out she could be able to read it on her own.  There is a desire here to have God’s word close to them, in their language.  There is a lot of hope that comes from being able to read and hear God’s promises in your own language.’’ 

Crisitina adds, ‘‘The message of forgiveness and radical acceptance is a message so needed here in Salasaca.’’

The team’s faith in Christ, diligence in their work, and love for the people here is absolutely inspiring.  I am a blessed witness to them as they work alongside the Holy Spirit who aches to sweep into the broken places of our lives and fill us with resurrection and restoration.

Cesar buries his head into his Bible as he prays aloud in Quichua.  Rolando leans against the wall as he sips his coffee and gazes at Volcano Tungurahua outside the window.  Coffee break winds down and the team gets back to work to complete their rough translation of 2 Corinthians chapter 7 before revisions.

‘Make room for us in your hearts…I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you…’ – 2 Corinthians 7:2a-3a

As the Word is spoken, the Spirit makes room in our hearts to receive the beautiful truth that God loves us and has revealed that love in the life, death, and rising of Christ.  As the Word breaks open over us again and again, we are reminded that God’s heart has been opened for us – all of us.  As the Word breaks open and is poured out for us, as we believe the truth about who we are and whose we are, we are made free to make room in our hearts for those around us and the stories that they bear.

Basking in the Word Broken Open,

Rachel Ringlaben

Sitting with two of the team’s native Quichua speakers and holding a newly printed Quichua translation of Lukes and Acts.

Pedro and Cristina’s team of translators.

Women gathering in front of the church downtown.

The scene from our band, Kindred, playing at the church downtown on Palm Sunday 2008.  That’s me on the far left with acoustic and vocals, Danielle on djembe, Ludvigs on acoustic and vocals, Kami on vocals, and Ronnie on bass.  This was moments before the Gospel reading from Luke was said in Quichua for the first time.

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