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After Translation: A Rendille Portrayal of the Crucifixion

After Translation: A Rendille Portrayal of the Crucifixion

My husband Steve and I had never seen the crucifixion played out so graphically. And that by a nomadic people, traditional camel herders who, until not long ago, had faithfully resisted all foreign influences.

It was March 21st 1993, in Korr, central in the Kaisut desert in Northern Kenya. Nick and Lynne Swanepoel, colleagues, had set up house in this remote small settlement. Here, the Rendille herdsmen would come to water their camels from the deep wells, until you could see the camels lying down with great satisfaction, their humps and bellies full of water. That drink would last them for the next 14 days.

Our colleagues had come to bring water from another well, and now the time had come to celebrate the dedication of the first translated Scripture: the Gospel of Mark.

During the translation some young men had come to understand the Gospel and accept Christ. The Rendille are very expressive in word and song, and these men took the opportunity to graphically display the crucifixion. After that they buried the victim in the sand, and women came, wailing with great gusto.

Rendille CrucifixionNext, these words were read from Scripture:

Mark 16:6  But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid. I know that you’re here looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here—he has risen victoriously! Look! See the place where they laid him.

[The victim got up, wiping the white sand off his body.]

Mark 16:7  Run and tell his disciples, even Peter, that he is risen. He has gone ahead of you into Galilee and you will see him there, just like he told you.”

Mark 16:8  They staggered out of the tomb, awestruck, with their minds swirling. They ran to tell the disciples, but they were so afraid and deep in wonder, they said nothing to anyone. (The Passion Translation).

And that day, in a remote desert location almost  2000 years later, the scene was played out and the people were told everything that had happened. It was new, and fresh, it was in their own language, and it was real.

Now the Rendille have the entire New Testament and there is a thriving Christian community in Korr. Quite a few have gone out to spread the gospel to their own people, in their own outspoken way, in the many small villages spread out over the area where the Rendille and their camels still wander...

By Johanna Pillinger 

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