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Mary's voice took us by surprise
Before P.J. and I (Doug) left to record the New Testament from our former translation project, we had been convicted of the need for an audio version, but didn’t fully grasp its importance. We’re not just saying that to be dramatic either. You see, we’d been telling people that only about 30% of nationals can read, and I really had images in my head of those people studying the translated Scriptures and reading it to others. But when we got there and started working with the cast of readers that had been lined up for our multi-voice dramatized recording, I began to see first-hand how limited their reading skills actually were.
You’ve probably been in a Bible study where the passage to be studied gets read a verse at a time around the circle. Maybe you are that person who dreads reading because you can’t make it flow well like the others. Well if that describes you, then you would have been one of our better readers for the New Testament (NT) recording project. Many of the readers read haltingly and with many mistakes. Sometimes we read a verse over and over again up to ten times to get the perfect recording. Unlike those people in the Bible study who say “pass” when their turn to read comes, these men and women were put on the hot seat, having come six hours by bus to play the part they were assigned. It took great courage on their part to stick with it and to read and re-read until all was captured perfectly by the microphone. One church leader had learned to read French in school but was never confident reading in his mother-tongue due to the unfamiliar characters. But after reading through several NT books with us, his reading improved greatly and now he will read the Scriptures both in church and in his own study of the Word.
When the time came to record the voice of Mary, we had a young woman who was not able to read and had never been to school. I read the words phrase by phrase and she repeated them. Mary’s first lines were in Luke 2, where she is told she will be the mother of Jesus. I prompted her to say “How will this be since I am a virgin?” And in reply came a shrill and child-like voice saying, “How will this be...” I found myself fighting back the tears. This was what Mary really sounded like, a young uneducated girl whom God chose to be caretaker for His Son. Thank God that these voices now bring the incarnation closer to the Fulani people!
During the recording process, watching the skilled technicians edit out the mistakes and patch things together, it became clear that this was going to be a masterpiece. Not just another media form of the Scriptures, but a way for it to be read better than even the best reader could do. Even if it took ten tries to get a particular verse right, that tenth try would be living on in perpetuity for every future listener of the recording. Two of the readers were not professing Christians but became so excited about the recording that they kept asking when it was going to be released. One called to say that he was telling his neighbors about it and wanted to know when they could listen too.
You can pray for the man who was the voice of Paul. The day after we finished recording with him he was in a motorcycle accident and broke his leg. Rarely do such breaks get the proper medical treatment and physical therapy to heal correctly, so we ask for special prayers for him. He is a Christian and hopes to be involved in the distribution of the audio devices when we have them available.
We thank you for your prayer and financial support that enabled this trip to take place. The security situation was a bit stressful and we had to change our plans several times because of travel restrictions in the places we needed to be. But in the end, God’s Word triumphed and all the obstacles were overcome. We are happy to be back in the US until our next trip at the end of March. In the meantime, we are excitedly preparing for Henry and Kaitlyn’s wedding on March 11!
Partners in the Gospel, (Phil 1:5)
Doug & Priscilla Higby