First African-American woman completes New Testament translation

By January 30, 2008

Philippines (MNN) — Jacquiline Huggins worked in the Philippines for 20 years translating the New Testament into the Kagayanen language. Now that it has been completed, three milestones have been marked.

Huggins is the first African-American woman to ever complete a New Testament translation. She is also the first African-American with Wycliffe Bible Translators to ever complete a New Testament translation. Finally, she is the first African-American to complete a New Testament translation since the early 1900s.

Huggins said that translation required her to adapt in a few ways. "In the early days, there was no electricity on the island where I lived, so you want to use all the light from the sun that you can. So you get up really early and do your devotions, and your shower, and your eating. And everything is in the dark so that when that sun comes up, you're ready to jump in and work." 

She also learned how to ask the right questions of Kagayanen speakers who feel that they are being tested or insulted when asked a question. The bulk of the work is asking Kagayanen speakers the meanings of certain words. Some words have no meaning, or zero meaning.

Huggins estimates that there are 35,000-40,000 Kagayanen speakers. Having the New Testament will bring the Bible to life for them. A recently-dubbed film on the Gospel according to Luke will also help. Huggins said, "That's going to help people get into the Bible even more when they see the stories that they're familiar with. Or maybe they didn't know that much about it, but now they're going to get the whole story and then be able to say, 'Now this is found in this particular place in the Kagayanan New Testament which you now have.'" 

The translation actually began in 1976. Huggins joined the couple who was doing the translation in 1986, ten years later, with another woman.

"It feels really good. And at the same time, you feel like a load is off you because you're under a lot of stress  to make sure that you've rendered the translation as it was originally written," said Huggins.

She continued, "You want it to affect people's lives as the Scripture has affected my life. I want to be able to say that other people will be affected the same way when they read God's Word, the Truth, that it will transform their lives. That's a really heavy responsibility."

Huggins says April 19th is a special date for dedicating the Kagayanen New Testament. Wycliffe is inviting African-American pastors to visit the Philippines for the dedication as well as for ministry there. To find out more, go here.

African Americans are "not very well known to Philippinos. A lot of time they don't know that I'm an American because I'm African American. So they think that I'm from maybe Africa. But that will be an exciting thing to be able to minister to the people and so they can get to know each other." 

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