What Does Stained Glass Have to Do With Translating the Bible?

~Notre Dame Cathedral


I am writing to share with you about an exciting new phase of life for our family as we seek to begin full time missions and Bible translation. You can read a very brief account of the 2.5 year back story here.

Lord willing, I will be using my artistic talents and my experience as a semiotics professor to translate God’s Word into artwork that will be used to share the Gospel with oral cultures who have not had a written language for long and therefore have low literacy and, currently, limited access to God’s written Word.  

This might sound a little strange but if you think back Christians have often used artwork to share God’s Word. For example, it is estimated that during the Middle Ages less than 20% of the European population could read, and even people who could did not have access to Bibles in their language. Church services were even held in a language almost no one understood! But the people COULD see and understand the redeeming work of Christ through richly painted iconography and vibrant stained glass that filled the churches.  

Those works of art might seem odd to us today, but they were crafted specifically to be understood by ordinary people in that time and place. They were packed with symbolism and meaning and could be “read” by all—a visual language.  

This is exactly what we’re trying to do for a people group called the Kwakum in Cameroon, Africa. We are partnering with World Team, a non-profit mission agency, to assist Dave and Stacey Hare in their efforts to translate the Bible and plant churches. The Hares are currently working to translate Bible stories into Kwakum for the very first time. These stories will be compiled into a type of Kwakum Storybook Bible. When this Storybook Bible is complete, they will begin a full Bible translation in Kwakum. 

Our goal is to create images that communicate key Gospel principles for this Storybook Bible. Like the visual translations of old, my intention won’t be to make cute Bible story drawings, but intentionally crafted illustrations packed with Biblical concepts and built with local, culturally relevant symbolism. There are many words and concepts in the Bible that are completely foreign to the Kwakum. One way in which this project will help the Kwakum is to give them visual context for these unknown ideas. For instance, the Kwakum do not have a word for a bush. The translators have come up with a way to communicate the way that God spoke to Moses without a word for bush, but an image will greatly help the readers to get an accurate understanding of what actually took place.  

After completing the illustrations for the Storybook Bible, I will also begin creating animations which will have Kwakum audio and can be shown to the many Kwakum people who do not know (and more than likely will never know) how to read. 

Amanda & I plan to go to Cameroon, Africa in April 2022 to meet the Kwakum people. Will you join our family in prayer for this Great Commission work? Please sign up to be a prayer partner here.

For the next 12-18 months our focus will be on training and partner development. Translating the Bible is a monumental task and requires the help of multitudes. In order to transition to full time missions we will need faithful partners who will lift us up in prayer, who will share our mission and goals with their friends, and who will support our efforts financially. If you would like to find out how you could partner with us in bringing God’s word to the Kwakum, you can email us dave(dot)ernst (at) worldteam(dot)org or amanda(dot)ernst (at) worldteam(dot)org. Financial gifts can be given to World Team directly (account # 14139) on their website.

You can also be praying for us in three ways:  

  1. That God provides a faithful base of prayer partners.  
  2. That God, through the generosity of His people, provides the financial support to allow us to transition to full-time ministry.
  3. That we are able to responsibly balance family, work and ministry responsibilities, especially through the months of training and sharing our vision with others, all while David maintains his full-time job.  

And we have praises too:  

  1. God has already begun changing the hearts of Kwakum people through Bible stories.
  2. We have received (and accepted) a formal invitation to join the Cameroon team.
  3. Our church leadership has publicly affirmed our Calling. 

Please let us know how we can be praying for you as well!  

Thank you. Love, 

– The Ernst Family

For more about the Hare’s ministry, see their blog: haretranslation.com