The Egg that Took 40 Years to Hatch
by Victor Schlater
In 1965 I had begun initial translation of the Scriptures into the Waola language of the Papua New Guinea Highlands. The Waolas were a clan of some 50,000 citizens of the Stone Age back in the 1950's, who today have undergone a massive transformation into sons and daughters of the Most High. They all know the God of Israel, His Messiah, His people and His promised return, all from the Word translated into their mother tongue!
For professional reasons all modern translators begin with the Gospel of Mark, and my language assistant and I in those early days had progressed only as far as Mark 1:10.
In Mk 1:10, where the Spirit came down on Jesus like a dove, I automatically began to use the local word for "dove". My translation helper didn't like it. I had drummed into him that we wanted to present the words of God just as the Waola people would say them, and not as a less-than-learned foreigner would fumble through the language. He caught his cues well, and would dutifully correct the "great white papa" as needed.
Here he was adamant that "dove" was the wrong word. He thought awhile and then came up with an "ebeyabuk" bird. Who knows what the bird may be called in English let alone Latin! He explained that they hear its cry as it flies high, high in the sky, but rarely see it. For reasons I didn't immediately know, to the Waola people the bird must have held a strangely mystical meaning. Notably, they did culturally know of a god in the heavens, and had even told me his Waola name. But earth-wise they had been locked into demonic bondage until we brought them the Word. Forty-six years later it's a whole new ball game!
Anyway, back to the ebeyabuk bird: My wife and I visit our believing Papua New Guinea "family" (all 10,000 of them in our circuit alone) about once a year. But due to unforeseen circumstances, we didn't make it in 2005.
The ebeyabuk -- I had never seen one, neither had most of them -- descended from the heavens down into the crowd. It circled around and around and even fluttered directly over the heads of a number of the worshippers. Eventually it flew to the little elevated platform where Pastor Peter had barely begun the first line of his message and perched on the small grass roof directly above his head.
Human words were no longer relevant. Church was out! The Spirit had come, and thousands were on the ground on their faces before the Lord, weeping in His Presence. Such is post-Stone Age intimacy with the Spirit of the Eternal One.
But you must know that Abba has a fatherly sense of irony-or had we better call it blessing? That night Pastor Peter's wife delivered unexpected twins. A single birth had been expected in the following month, but certainly not then, and definitely not two!
In the secular west, this jolt would have been a double whammy both in unanticipated parental demands of time and finance. But in Waola-land, as seal upon the Spirit's daytime visit, it was a double blessing for an evening meditation upon a unique visitation by the Almighty!
Yet none of these details will fly as high and as far as the ebeyabuk bird, soaring high above the once Stone Age mountains of the Waola people.
Victor Schlater is a former nuclear scientist turned Bible translator and current Middle East analyst. He has published numerous books including Where Is the Body? (translated into Russian, Finnish and Dutch); Showdown of the Gods; and Who Told You that You Were Naked?