I spied the dust cloud stirred up by a trio of bicyclists as I sat in front of the hotel in a North African town. As they drew near enough for me to see them clearly, the old man in the center caught my attention. He had a regal aura about him. His face was etched by painful experiences, but his posture was straight and his 70-year-old legs had no trouble keeping up with his two younger companions.
They halted right in front of me. As the patriarch dismounted, the younger cyclists quickly brought him water to drink. When he had finished his long draught, he handed back the plastic cup, then turned toward me. Looking me squarely in the eyes, he grinned as he spoke. “My name is Reuben, and I have ridden 20 miles to talk to you.”
We sat together under a tree while he related his life story. He told of his boyhood hunting wild game with a spear until he was recruited into the army as a youth. He described the days of war and suffering. He recounted how he had learned about Jesus and taken this newfound treasure back to his own people. For 50 years he had preached the Gospel, planted churches, encouraged disciples, and trained leaders. One final vision of his had not yet been fulfilled. With tears in his eyes he drilled his vision deep into my heart: “Before I die, I want my people to have God’s Word in our language. Can you help me?”
My answer was an unequivocal, “Yes!”
Soon thereafter I was able to teach a few literate men how to begin translating their first rough drafts of Scripture. The next time we met, they proudly presented me with four worn and dirty spiral notebooks filled with the divine words in their own language.
Reuben now owns a copy of the Gospel of Matthew in his language. Other books of the Bible have also been published, along with literacy primers and song books. Please pray for the translation team as they continue working to fulfill the patriarch’s vision!