Zaire, Zimmer, and Zimbabwe:
I spent a summer in Africa in 1994, between my sophomore and junior years of college. It was Wycliffe Bible Translators’ Discovery Program, designed to give folks a firsthand look at missions and missionary life. We were in Kenya for the first and last portion of the trip, and four of the eight of us spent the middle in Zaire.
I entered college planning to major in linguistics so as to join Wycliffe as a career missionary.
Wycliffe missionaries go where people don’t yet have the Bible in their own language. In some places, they might have no access to the Bible at all, and in others they may only have a regional trade language version. Trade languages are suitable for the marketplace, but not so great for reading.
Working with locals, the missionary or team endeavors to learn the language, develop an orthography (writing system; usually an alphabet, sometimes a syllabary), teach literacy, and finally BEGIN translating portions of the Bible. This kind of missionary work appealed to me because the task is so definite or concrete, as opposed to a church-planting or evangelistic mission effort.
I went on the trip asking God to give me a clear answer about whether or not I would or should join Wycliffe after college. By the end, I didn’t have a clear yes or no, but it seemed just fine to continue pursuing the idea. Later that year, well, Mark and I started dating.
Pretty early in the trip, my roommate Kim was listening to something on headphones, and let me take a listen. It was the soundtrack to the movie The Power of One, scored by Hans Zimmer and mostly sung by the Bulawayo Church Choir of Zimbabwe.
This music is amazing, with the exception of the title song. Shivers me, most of the time. (We tried watching the movie one time and I couldn’t get through it. But the soundtrack rules.)