One evening, in what feels like another lifetime, I stood by myself in front of a bookshelf at a guest house somewhere in Mexico City. My eyes moved over the spines of all of the books, shelf by shelf, from ceiling to floor. As I stood there, somehow, I knew that I would carry this moment with me forever.
I had recently completed a two month internship with Wycliffe Bible Translators as part of my requirements to graduate with a degree in applied linguistics. Myself, and a group of nine other language students had spent that summer in different parts of Mexico learning all things related to Bible translation. At one point during the internship, we were split up into groups of two and sent into remote villages to live with translators and get a firsthand view of the work they do.
The village I was sent to was called Coicoyan, in Oaxaca, Mexico. Another girl and I spent our time there with a family of translators, watching what they do and how they lived. I got the privilege of sitting in on their language sessions with their Mixtec language helpers.
I got to observe how they did life, marriage and parenting while being pretty much the only believers in their village. They did not have a church. They did not have community. There was no Bible, therefore, no preaching. They did church as a family in their own home. I heard their stories of unbelievable spiritual attack and oppression that was almost constant as they endeavored to bring the words of the Living God to a place where He was not known.
I saw the wife labor to make meals where there are no groceries stores from which to purchase food. We stayed in a small home that her husband had built with his own two hands.
We walked dirt roads into the village to visit indigenous people with whom they were working at developing relationships.
After that portion of our internship, we spent some time in a different town called Mitla. We learned more about the translation process and interacted with even more translators from that region. One translator in particular made a deep impact on me. Our team leader had asked him to share a devotion with us one morning. He came in, sat down, and opened his Bible. I don’t remember what he said. All I remember is the way he was holding that Book…the way he read each word. He cradled it in his hands as if he knew that what he was holding was a treasure beyond description. I watched him read, and it hit me that he knew exactly what this Bible was worth. He was in the process of laying down his whole life for it. I had to fight back tears.
At the end of that journey, a day before getting on a plane and flying back to the land where Bibles abound, I found myself alone in the guest house living room, staring at a bookshelf. Every book on the shelf was a Bible in a different language. From floor to ceiling. Every book. I had just spent 2 months seeing the sacrifice. I understood that each one of these Bibles represented lives, whole lives poured out. They represented families, oceans apart. They represented loneliness and spiritual oppression. But they also represented life. Glorious, abundant, eternal life that only comes through the preaching of the gospel contained in those Bibles. In that moment, I had the very real, urgent feeling that I should take off my shoes. I was standing on Holy ground.
Today, in a village in the Andes Mountains, one more Bible is being dedicated. My parents are there for it. It is being released among the people with songs, and celebration. They will hold in their hands the very words of God. It will run. It will spread. It will not return void. It will change lives and generations. It will affect eternity. Today, they too, are standing on Holy ground. How I wish I could be there for it. But I am not. I am here, in a land where Bibles of every shape, size and decorative style often sit unopened on bookshelves.
God has not asked me to go and translate His Word, but He has asked me to read it. He has asked me to love it. He has asked me to live it. He has asked me to proclaim it. He has asked me to use whatever gifts or platform I may have to plead with people to be in the Word. I want us to be like the man I saw holding his Bible as if it was his very life….because it is. Where God’s Words are read and proclaimed there is life and light. And friend, wherever His Word is read and preached and cherished, you might as well just take off your shoes too, because you also are on Holy ground.
*My blogs are written with the assumption that they are being read primarily by Christians. If you want to know more about what it means to be a Christian or about the gospel of Jesus Christ, click the link here: The Gospel