Lee, a translator, lived life among the Hdi people, learning their language word by word.
He came alongside the Cameroonian community—knowing that God’s love, though unknown to them now, must be evident somewhere in their words and culture.
One night, as Lee worked to bridge the gap, he had a dream about the word "love." He noticed a missing word in the Hdi language and, overnight, he had a new question to ask his Hdi friends.
I, A, and U. All verbs in the Hdi language ended in one of these letters—and each vowel ending gave the verb a different meaning.
But, when it came to the verb “to love,” Lee heard only two verb forms as he soaked in the language: “dvi” and “dva.”
What about “dvu”?
A group of elderly Hdi men were the first audience for his new questions about the word “love.”
“Can you ‘dvi’ your wife?”
“Yes,” the Hdi men affirmed. “That would mean that we had loved her but that the love was no longer there.”
Hmm. Lee moved to the next form he had heard used: "dva."
“Can you ‘dva’ your wife?”
“Sure. That would mean that we loved her right now, but that we might stop loving her if she did something wrong or didn’t do something she should.”
One more form: the missing one, the unspoken word, the last of the verb pattern.
“Could you ‘dvu’ your wife?”
“Oh, no,” the men explained. “If we did that, we would have to love her and keep on loving her no matter what she did, or what she did not do.”
Hearing their eager clarification led Lee to ask next, “Could God ‘dvu’ people?”
Soon, tears gathered in the eyes of the men as the unending love of God settled into meaning that filled their hearts.
More than putting words on a page, Bible translation is about God revealing His love through those words.
Just as the Word is the expression of God’s heart, the process of translating the Word is the process of a team mining, accessing, and reveling in that communicated message—while making it accessible in a new language, for a new group of people.
The generosity of the God who “loved us first” had been embedded in the Hdi identity, in their unspoken words. They didn’t know His love yet, but it was there—present and ready to be uncovered.
God’s love is encountered by a community as linguists, from the community and from abroad, huddle around desks—as academic, surrendered minds unearth heart-impacting truths.
The Word, encoded in the Hdi community’s strings of words, wasn’t clear until a God-directed team worked to put the pieces together.
The translation project didn't need to be completed before the impact began. Instead, God had already begun to reveal Himself—through a small, unspoken word.