A Thanksgiving Celebration at East Lisu Taogu Village Church
It was the day before the thanksgiving celebration but East Lisu Christians were already streaming into Taogu Village from different regions. Taogu Village, the birth place of the East Lisu church where the first missionaries came to live amongst the people in 1906. The East Lisu translation team had also used this village as a meeting point from 1998-2001 for translating the East Lisu New Testament.
Before me, I saw a breathtaking scene: a church in the clouds standing at 2000m above sea level, enveloped by occasional mist. Surrounded by mountains and greenery, the church stood tall among village houses made of mud bricks. While I was looking up at the church, I found myself humming a song of praise spontaneously. God has been so faithful and good to His people! It was indeed an ideal place for us to celebrate and give thanks to God for giving the East Lisu people the New Testament in their own mother tongue.
I met a group of people walking towards the Church on the dirt road. As we exchanged greetings, I found out that they were a group of 50 East Lisu choir members who had walked all the way from Yuanmo County Church since 6 AM that day. They had been on the road for 12 hours, passing through the Yangtze River and cutting through the mountainous terrains to get to Taogu Village.
They Came to Celebrate
All came to the thanksgiving service — young and old – dressed in their best garb, the traditional East Lisu costume. The elaborate designs and vibrant colors of their traditional clothing added so much life and joy to the occasion. Some could not get into the Church and had to sit outside. Others even brought their own stools and benches. At the thanksgiving service, they heard for the very first time, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24 read to them by one of the translation team members, Yang Haiou, in their mother tongue:
“Be joyful always, pray at all times, be thankful in all circumstances. This is what God wants from you in your life in union with Christ Jesus. Do not restrain the Holy Spirit; do not despise inspired messages. Put all things to the test: keep what is good and avoid every kind of evil. May the God who gives us peace make you holy in every way and keep your whole being – spirit, soul, and body – free from every fault at the coming our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you will do it, because he is faithful.” (GNT)
One of the translators, Pi, in his introduction to the East Lisu NT said, “Thank God for His grace. Today is a day of great rejoicing in the history of the East Lisu Church of more than a hundred years.”
Then the choir sang. In one of the songs, the lyrics went like this, “Over a hundred years and our faith has never changed.” Mo Aimei (25 years old), a farmer and member of Yuanmo County Church choir sang her heart out. She received her New Testament and had no problem reading it for the first time. Ji Ailan (62 years old) walked three hours to get to the Church. She was pleased to read to me Matthew Chapter 3 in her mother tongue.
Rev. Yong Haiwen (41 years old) is a East Lisu pastor. He represents the fourth generation of Christians in his family. Visibly moved to be able to hold the NT in his hands, he said, “I am now holding the New Testament that for generations my ancestors had hoped to see.” Rev Yong had also helped in the translation in 2006. I asked him to give me an example why reading God’s Word in East Lisu is different from reading in Chinese. Rev Yong said, “In the course of translating God’s Word, I am particularly fond of Luke 14:15-24, The Parable of the Great Feast. To read this parable in East Lisu speaks volumes than to read it in Chinese. The parable spoke about throwing a great feast, marriage ceremonies; buying a field and oxen…etc. We can relate to the above activities as they are close to our East Lisu custom. ”
Hundreds came that day to Taogu village to meet distant relatives they rarely get a chance to meet. Eating together was a rare but important family affair. Watching the 500 people in the courtyard sitting on short stools and eating together at the round tables – this community spirit was heart-warming to me.
It was indeed a great celebration for the people – a celebration long awaited for more than a century! Please pray for the translation team as they continue to plough on to translate the Old Testament. May God grant the East Lisu people the whole Bible translated into their mother tongue soon!
Ms. YEO Tan Tan, Program Manager
United Bible Societies, China Partnership