The Mission Imperative - William Carey and others

‘We hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.’
(Acts 2:11)
'Preach the gospel and use words if necessary,' might have become something of a TLM mantra. It's good advice but it does highlight the dual ministry of preaching and healing to which our Lord commissioned the twelve.
Leaders in my early days with TLM often mentioned William Carey, the 'father of the modern missionary movement' who underlined the importance of a supporting organisation and background prayer. The Baptist Missionary Society resulted from his challenge in 1792. And of course prayer features strongly in the life of TLM. A natural with languages himself, India and the world owes him a great debt with another major contribution with translation of the New Testament and the Bible into Bengali.
In the 1960s, six months study of Zambian Tonga at London's School of Oriental and African Studies stood us in good stead for our twelve years at Chikankata, where local teacher, Ken Maguswi, followed on as language tutor and mentor. During those years we appreciated meeting Cecil Hopgood, author of our Tonga grammar. He told us how, after a day's work in the classroom at the nearby Kafue Secondary School, he'd sat up late into the night with a paraffin lamp, translating the Bible. Sometimes he had to create ideas rather than words that conveyed meaning. We had a similar experience when sitting in on a working group led by Jake Loewen working on the Tonga equivalent of the Good News Bible. Participants ended the session at the bottom of our garden, looking at an early-flowering tree with strong resemblance to an almond tree. No wonder they decided it should be incorporated in Jeremiah 1:11.
I'm no linguist myself, but understand the importance of communicating the truth accurately, so my prayer would sometimes include a request for 'the gift of tongues' - so that, as on the Day of Pentecost, people would understand. In later years, my late wife, Margaret, served as international literature secretary with The Salvation Army, sometimes collaborating with organisations such as the International Bible Society or The Evangelical Literature Trust that became Langham Partnership. She often reminded us that she was aiming to distribute Christian literature 'in the language of the people at a price they can afford'.
And now I'm on a list of prayer partners with Johan Velema, one-time Director of TLM's Evaluation Unit. In more recent years he has been involved in a massive undertaking. He is managing a programme that encourages theologians from the global south to write Bible commentaries for their own context and in their local language. It is sponsored by the Langham Partnership and teams from different continents are involved. The first volume on the first 11 chapters of Genesis was published in 2022. The author is from Bangladesh. He wrote his commentary in Bengali, showing connections between the Biblical text and local mythology and beliefs.

I suspect William Carey would approve.

October 2022