God’s Word fosters a strong root system for growing faith.
Native to Africa, the baobab tree (pronounced bay’ – oh – bab) is an incredible sight to behold. Its stubby branches with sparse foliage can reach heights of 60 feet; its trunk can span 40 feet in diameter. Its strong base and root system allow the baobab to grow stunningly tall and significantly old.
Leaders from the Tharaka community in Marimanti, Kenya, believe having the Bible in their first language is much like the presence of this iconic tree. Heart language Scripture provides the spiritual root structure and serves as the base for all generations to thrive and grow strong in a relationship with God.
The word baobab means “fruit with many seeds” and is considered a superfood, which lends to a further illustration of the Word of God as life and sustenance for all who experience it. Just as the children in Africa learn to break open the hard outer skin of the baobab fruit and add milk to the whitish, powdery seeds inside, readers who open and consume the Bible receive nourishment. Digesting God’s Word causes the spiritual roots of our lives to grow deeply into the soil of his love and security. Jeremiah 17:7-8 says, “But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (NIV)
Father Eliud Kimyua, a local parish priest said, “The Tharaka Bible has transformed a number of things in this community. For example, before the Bible, men had two … three … four wives. The Bible says one man, one wife.”
Before the Tharaka Bible
Father Kimyua shared how people struggle to know God without his Word in their heart language. Before the Tharaka Bible, different denominations used different language translations of the Bible. Sometimes even members within the same household used other translations.
“Each family member was going to a different church, each one using a Bible from a different language. When they met in the evenings, disagreements would come up. They were reading the same verse, but each verse was quite different from the other.” Father Kimyua continued, “For example, the English Bible said women should be submissive to their husbands. When we come to the Kimeru Bible, the same verse is said differently.”
Arguments would ensue about the different interpretations. The wife would say her Bible doesn’t say she should submit to her husband, but the husband would say his Bible does say that.
“Having the Bible in our first language has begun to eliminate some of the divisions in the church and is beginning to unify us across denominations,” Father Kimyua said.
“Now they have the Tharaka Bible in their own language. The Word of God in their first language unites them,” Father Kimyua said.
After the Tharaka Bible
God speaking to people in their heart language solved the problem. If God speaks the language we best understand—the language we think, sing, and dream in—then language is no longer a barrier. The Bible in Tharaka crosses barriers that cloud or confuse communication.
Before the Tharaka Bible, “when families came to the parish for counseling, for direction, every person quoted the Bible in the language version they had,” Father Kimyua explained. But, “when you have a common Bible, as we now have, things become better, and some of the problems, we can be able to solve them.”
The Tharaka community has had Scripture since translation of the New Testament began in 1988; it was dedicated in August 2001. On June 13, 2019, the Tharaka community celebrated a landmark event as they dedicated the Old Testament in Tharaka, giving them the full counsel of God in the language of their hearts.
Watch this video of their dedication from that day!
Experience more courageous and inspiring stories of how Scripture has transformed the Tharaka community.