I came to Canada to study how to translate the Bible. My days were filled with picking apart Biblical narratives and dabbling in dictionaries. I was preparing for a role with a noble purpose – translating the Bible for an unreached people group. But God showed me that he was also concerned about small things.
God of Small Things – Chickadees and Trash
Until I came to Canada, I had never thought it was possible for a wild animal to enjoy the company of a human. Growing up in Singapore, most of the birds I knew were skittish and avoided human contact. Many of them were regarded as pests since they often picked at leftovers in coffee shops and bins. But there in Canada things were different. One of the staff on campus introduced me to the joy of bird-feeding, setting out seeds in her yard for them. When they came to feed and play, she would admire them and praise God.
It was a sunny April afternoon when Pastor, a proud, pompous little chickadee, came to visit. He sat on the balcony rail, facing the street, singing. He was one of the birds that I had hand-fed over the course of the winter when food was scarce, but now, most of my chickadees had left to nest. That was why I was puzzled when Pastor showed up.
“Do you want some peanuts?” I asked Pastor, holding his favourite treats in his direction. He ignored me and continued to sing. His head was tilted towards the sky, his eyes closed, and his little chest puffed up. He looked happy. So he had not come to be fed; he had come just to sing, a joyful part of God’s creation.
In my first term of school, I was in charge of taking out the trash. I would go from room to room to empty the bins into two bags: one for recyclables, and another for waste. After a couple of weeks, I realized that the bag of waste was always smaller than the bag of recyclables. In fact, the bag of waste was always very small.
After talking with my friends, I realized that the students were intentionally sorting their trash and limiting their waste because they were Christians. They wanted to care for the earth that God created. Dumping things that would not decompose in landfills and defacing the earth was not loving. Not sorting trash into waste and recyclables was poor stewardship.
I began to see that the God of big noble purposes, like translating the Bible, was also the God of small things, like recycling and chickadees.
God of All Things
Colossians 1:15-20 reads:
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.
Christ came in a physical body — one that was visible and tangible — that was nailed to the cross, not just to restore the church to Himself, but so that everything that God created would be reconciled to Him. He wanted to make peace with everything in heaven and on earth! Everything, including governments, social systems and the environment.
In Wycliffe, we translate God’s Word because we believe that it brings about transformation. Reconciliation between God and man takes place when God’s Word goes out into the world. When a person is reconciled with God, he is restored and may now be reconciled with other people. The beautiful work of transformation takes over his life. But this transformation is not limited to fellow human beings. God’s word is so great that it seeps into everything, the invisible and the visible, the large and the small. It helps you abstain from that piece of plastic that might otherwise be floating in His oceans. It helps you consider how to be kind to the racoon that has been messing with your trash. It helps you make small changes that build up into systemic changes, the type of change that ushers God’s Kingdom into the world!
Recently, I returned from Canada with even more reasons to translate the Bible. I know that this book has a far wider impact than what I originally thought. After all, the God of birds, and trash, and even Bible translation, is the God of all things in the world.
Erin has just completed her Masters in Applied Linguistics at the Canada Institute of Linguistics. There, she learned about Bible translation and how to run a translation project. She will soon leave to work on a Bible translation project in Southeast Asia.