Why this question brought the Hdi people to tears and redemption.
For the Hdi people of Cameroon, love is a three-letter word. But as Bible translator Lee Bramlett pondered the Hdi word for love, it seemed that something was missing.
Lee and his wife, Tammi, had learned that verbs in Hdi consistently end in one of three vowels. For almost every verb, they could find forms ending in i, a, and u. But when it came to the word for love, they could only find i and a. Why no u?
Lee asked the Hdi translation committee, which included the most influential leaders in the community, “Could you dvi your wife?”
“Yes,” they said. That would mean that the wife had been loved, but the love was gone.
“Could you dva your wife?”
“Yes,” they said. That kind of love depended on the wife’s actions. She would be loved as long as she remained faithful and cared for her husband well.
“Could you dvu your wife?”
Everyone laughed. “Of course not!” they said. “If you said that, you would have to keep loving your wife no matter what she did, even if she never got you water, never made you meals. Even if she committed adultery, you would be compelled to just keep on loving her. No, we would never say dvu. It just doesn’t exist.”
Lee sat quietly for a while, thinking about John 3:16, and then he dropped the proverbial bomb: “Could God dvu people?”
The room grew quiet—complete silence for three or four minutes. Then tears started to trickle down the weathered faces of these elderly men.
Finally they responded: “Do you know what this would mean? This would mean that God kept loving us over and over, millennia after millennia, while all that time we rejected His great love. He is compelled to love us, even though we have sinned more than any people.”
Through your partnership with Wycliffe Associates, the New Testament in Hdi is now typeset and ready to be printed. Soon all the Hdi people will discover the true extent of God’s love as they read passages like, “Husbands, dvu your wives, just as Christ dvu-d the church.”
“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”
—Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)