Bible, Faith, Following God, God, healing, Jesus, language, self discovery

Translate Button: Does it Work?

Helping others understand who God created them to be transcends language barriers when you have an automatic interpretation. But does is translate exactly as intended? Let’s find out. From my book “Finding My Damascus” Chapter 4 page 49, the last paragraph says, “That night, I handed the pain, shame, anxiety, and heartache over to the only One who could heal me. And He did. He changed me.”

Google Translate interprets the line into Spanish as “Esa noche, entregué el dolor, la vergüenza, la ansiedad y el dolor al único que podía curarme. Y él hizo. Él me cambió.” I copied and pasted the Spanish version into the translate box and it re-translated to English fairly well – minus the heartache – “That night, I gave pain, shame, anxiety and pain to the only one who could heal me. And he did. He changed me.”

I wanted to dig deeper and find a language in which the words may not be interpreted exactly the same. The non-profit I am a part of, MBS4God International, partners with others to create a self-sustaining life through food, shelter, and education. One of the locations we work with speaks Telugu, a native language in parts of India. Here is the Google Translate version along with the phonetic interpretation:

ఆ రాత్రి, నేను నొప్పి, అవమానం, ఆత్రుత మరియు హృదయ నిన్ను మాత్రమే నన్ను నయం చేసే వ్యక్తికి అప్పగించింది. మరియు అతను చేశాడు. అతను నన్ను మార్చాడు.
Ā rātri, nēnu noppi, avamānaṁ, ātruta mariyu hr̥daya ninnu mātramē nannu nayaṁ cēsē vyaktiki appagin̄cindi. Mariyu atanu cēśāḍu. Atanu nannu mārcāḍu.

Reversing the translation back to English, it shows “That night, I handed you to the one who treated me with pain, shame, and anxiety. And he did. He changed me.” A little less clear, but close.

I looked at the African languages and found Yoruba, the dialect of a tribe found mostly in Nigeria, but with populations in other locations including Benin, Ghana, Togo, and Ivory Coast. Greg and I sponsor Walter, a young man in Ghana who speaks Ewe, not a language on Google Translate, so I settled on Yoruba.

“Ni alẹ yẹn, mo fi irora, itiju, iṣoro, ati ibanujẹ fun Ọlọhun nikanṣoṣo ti o le mu mi larada. Ati O ṣe. O yi mi pada.”

The reverse translation is the best one, “That night, I put pain, shame, sorrow, and sorrow for God alone that could heal me. And He did. He changed me.” Somehow, the Yoruba language took “The One” and translated it to “God”. None of the other languages I checked took that path. This warmed my heart.


Jesus had a hard time getting his followers to understand what He was saying, even when it was in their own language. In Matthew 16:1-12, Jesus shows some frustration that the disciples were not getting what He was saying – in verse 11 He said, “How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”  He explained it again and they got it. He found their language.

Don’t we wish we had a translate button when God is communicating with us? A literal sign like Jesus talking to his disciples like, “Hey, stop what you’re doing. You’re interfering in My Master Plan for your life.” or “Turn here, I want you to go down this path.” or “There is no need to worry, I’ve got this handled for you. Just wait and see.”

We do – it’s called The Bible. I can use it as easily as Google Translate, but I have to open the book and open my heart. Sometimes, I misinterpret the message because I don’t want to hear what God is telling me. Other times, it is more clear than if He spoke directly into my ear. Some messages are nudges to make changes, others are affirmations of encouragement and hope. It is a matter of interpretation – God speaks in my language – the one I understand – filled with Love and Grace, and a gentle nudge in His direction.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV

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