Shine, Jesus, Shine on the Matigsalug!
by Wayne Freeman, edited by Sue Beguely
Ninety-one people from other parts of the world made their way in two buses from Davao to the small, yet central, village of the Matigsalug people called Sinuda. They arrived around 8.15 am after a two-and-a-half hour trip. A mist was on the nearby hills but it was not cold. At about 8.30 am the parade started up the main road and turned onto a side road past some small shops and typical Matigsalug homes – many of which had a tin roof, flax-type walls and a dirt floor.The truck leading the parade carried Matigsalug singers and musicians in lively fettle and dressed in typical bright red Matigsalug colours. Included among the guests were the McGriff family (translation consultants); the Hunt family (translators); and members of the Wycliffe NZ Board.
Sinuda combined churches choir singing praise song in Matigsalug
When they arrived at the covered outdoor basketball arena, the visitors were given programmes and had Matigsalug necklaces put around their necks. They were then seated behind long trestle tables. The dedication was led by two local Matigsalug leaders, Tano and Rose, who alternated between Matigsalug and English so that the whole audience of more than 600 could follow proceedings. It began with a rousing, deeply moving prayer in Matigsalug by Pastor Bernard. Speeches from local leaders followed along with the dances and music of the Matigsalug. These were a real highlight: Matigsalug of all ages performed these dances and sang the songs that they had written in their own style. The Hunts went up on stage and Robert introduced his whole family. It was evident how much the Hunts had become a part of the people over their 22 years of living and working with them. Robert also called up many of the local people who had contributed to their language learning, and the translation project.
Some of the guest speakers join in the dancing
Early on in the project, the Matigsalug Language Christian Association (MLCA) had been formed and the Board, which had organised the occasion, had, since its inception, ‘owned’ the project. Robert said afterwards, “If you just do the job of translation alone then it can be done in about eight years, but you will just have a New Testament as a product and nothing more. The other twelve years involve living and breathing the culture, becoming true family in Jesus and establishing a permanent link to the lives of the people. This builds a deep appreciation of the local culture”. Scripture was read in Matigsalug from the book of John. The leaders of the people and the Board of the MLCA each held up a copy of the New Testament as the Chairman, Reverend Ruben, dedicated it in prayer. A local choir sang the Graham Kendrick song, Shine, Jesus, Shine in Matigsalug as well as another lovely, local composition. Truly this was a day where God’s heart for the nations did ‘shine’ for the glory of our Lord Jesus, throughout the Matigsalug people!
The newly printed Matigsalug New Testament (Photo by Mila Cagape)
The sun was now really shining too! After the formal festivities and just before lunch, many of the attendees flocked to the tables where New Testaments were being sold for the first time in Matigsalug history. At midday lunch was served to everyone, with guests from many different nations and people groups. Young and old participants alike had a leisurely yet lovely, peaceful time: a taste, perhaps, of what heaven will be like. From about 2 pm onwards people started to leave. Many Matigsalug had come from other areas and faced a long trip home. The visitors on the two buses from Davao left also. Whether living locally or visiting, each person left full of awe at the energetic beginning of a new chapter in the lives and culture of the Matigsalug people. The rain came down in earnest at about 5 pm and at times during the night as well, but the occasion itself had done nothing but ‘shine’!
So now the Matigsalug have the best missionary of all in their midst—a New Testament in their heart language. It never goes on home leave like the other missionaries; it is always there, thanks to the dedication of the Matigsalug people, the Hunts and the McGriffs.
June McGriff had once tried to compliment one of the local women on how pretty her dress was but because she used the wrong sound had actually said how pretty the outhouse toilet was. This caused much laughter!