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Understanding God’s Heart through Scripture

April 30, 2019
The village chief of Agbo, Nigeria

The village chief of Agbo, Nigeria

Jonathan Barnhoorn

“About two weeks ago I was so happy. You know what happened?” asked the village chief of Agbo, Nigeria. He smiled at  Jonathan Barnhoorn, a Resonate Global Mission partner, before answering his own question.

“I wrote a letter in my own language to one of my assistants, and he did what I asked him to!” the chief exclaimed.

“This probably doesn’t sound like much,” noted Barnhoorn, “especially to those of us who write things every day—but to this village chief, this was the first time in his life that he had been able to do such a thing. Ten years ago, it would not have even been possible.”

The Importance of Heart Languages

Nigeria is a land of nearly 500 languages, and most of them, says Barnhoorn, have only ever been spoken, never written.

The people of Agbo speak the Nyankpa language in their homes and in conversation with their friends and neighbors, but there has never been a translation of Scripture available in their language. When they go to church, worship is usually conducted in the more widely spoken language of Hausa.

“Not everyone understands [Hausa] well,” said Barnhoorn—and that makes it difficult to understand Scripture, learn more about God, and grow in faith.

That’s why Resonate partners with Barnhoorn, who also works with Wycliffe Bible Translators Canada and SIL International.

“As members of the CRC . . . being part of Resonate here helps us to feel more connected to our church. It is a great community,” said Barnhoorn. “And it reminds us that we are all part of a bigger community of Christians all over the world. No one person or organization is an island. We all need each other . . . we can’t do it alone.”

Understanding God’s Heart

Partnerships with organizations such as Wycliffe and SIL enable Barnhoorn and his team to collaborate with the Nyankpa people. Together they’ve adapted the spoken language of Nyankpa into a written language, translated the New Testament, and developed materials to help people learn to read and write in the language they understand best.

“People in the village of Agbo are starting to be able to read the Scriptures and understand the gospel,” said Barnhoorn.

“Translating the Bible into these mother-tongue languages is transforming, deepening our grasp of the depth of God’s love,” added Ron Geerlings, Resonate’s regional mission leader for West Africa.

“Unlike [storytelling about] the faraway, high god in traditional African religions, the translation of Scripture introduces people to the God who took on our flesh and speaks our language.”

As the Christian Reformed Church works together with other denominations and organizations, it is able to pool resources and join skills to do more to equip God’s church globally.