A British Church, in partnership with an African church, decided to put on a conference. The conference was to be entitled The Nature of God. The name of God in that African language is Nyasaye. Somehow a mistake was made in the publicity material. Instead of promoting a conference on The Nature of God, the publicity put out internationally advertised a conference on The Nature of Nyasaye.
Immediately there was confusion at the church in England. Everyone who received the material was asking ‘what is Nyasaye’? Some said ‘we’ve never heard that name before’. Others said ‘what has that got to do with us’? Others said ‘the people preparing the promotional material must have made a silly mistake’.
Meanwhile, in Africa, people were getting excited. One said ‘I will talk about the history of Nyasaye’. Another said ‘I will explain the derivation of the word Nyasaye’. Another said ‘I will explain what Nyasaye is like’. Another said ‘I will explain some of the things my grandfather, one of the first generation of Christian believers in my tribe, used to say about Nyasaye’. Another said ‘I will explain how the Bible informs my understanding of Nyasaye’. Another said ‘my knowing Nyasaye changed my life — I will tell people how that happened’. Another said ‘this conference will really be ours’!
When the mistake was realised it was corrected on all the official literature. British people went to tell Africans about someone called God, who to the Africans was a stranger.
What’s in a name? What’s in a language?
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