The former Governor of the Bank of Ghana, stood up in church, asked a question and then answered his own question with “Here, I feel the Gospel in my bones.”
We were coming to the close of a very animated church service in a suburb of Accra. It had already lasted a few energetic hours. I was seated in a section next to a women’s group dressed in the same yellow and green cloth. They were teaching me how to worship. Praise songs (in their language) were sung with gusto, twirling of white handkerchiefs, dancing and occasional trills. I could not help but smile and join in.
Accra is a city of almost two million. In addition to Professor Ansre, many highly educated people attend this church. So it all could have been in English. (Ghana has more than 60 languages. English, the official language, is spoken by less than half the population, and for almost all of them it is a second, third or even fourth language.) But much of the service, and almost all the singing, was in an important language of Ghana – Ewe (pronounced ee vee). In the 19th century, German missionaries first wrote Ewe and translated the Bible into it. It is still widely used in some churches to this day, even by people who could worship in English if they wished.
The education level of the congregation, and hence its economic status, showed in the new, but unfinished building in which we were worshiping. (I thought that the absence of windows and doors was probably an advantage in the humid heat.) It was near the end of the service that the former Governor of the Bank of Ghana, stood. He said that he lived in another part of town, but he drives quite a way to this church. So people ask him why he drives so far. After all, there are churches in the part of town where he lives. His answer, “Here, I feel the Gospel in my bones.”
You see, his mother tongue is Ewe. When he worships in Ewe, it touches him deeply even though he has a perfect command of English.
This is why we translate the Bible into the many languages of Africa. It is not enough to touch the mind. Jesus said that we are to love God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our mind. For that we need the language that touches the heart and the soul – or in the words of the former Governor of the Bank of Ghana – the language that we feel in our bones.