Have you ever noticed how much our lives here in the U.S. revolve around celebrations? It seems like every other day is notable for something – Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Administrative Professional Day. Then there are the personal landmarks, like birthdays, anniversaries, and graduations. For many of us, religious holidays are the focus of our yearly celebrations.
Perhaps you spend the Fourth of July holiday with family or friends, enjoying a picnic, a baseball game, or watching fireworks. Did you ever wonder how missionaries on the field spend their holidays? Obviously, our Independence Day has little or no meaning overseas. Any missionary celebrations would likely fall short of the national festivities we enjoy.
Other holidays, if recognized at all, also take on a different aspect. Thanksgiving is celebrated in other areas of the world, but the traditions followed are not necessarily what we are used to. Christmas and Easter differ as well. Extended family is absent, the dinner menu may be limited, and worship may not be available in English.
Missionaries are able to celebrate one incontrovertible fact all year round – God’s Kingdom is not defined by national boundaries. It does not exclude people based on race, language or culture. Belief and faith in Jesus Christ make us all citizens and heirs to an eternal dwelling place in heaven.
Nations may celebrate the gaining of earthly independence, but there is no greater freedom than salvation from sin and the sure knowledge that God has prepared a place for us that far surpasses anything we can imagine. “Now my people know true freedom. We can enter into the kingdom of Jesus Christ because we now have a Bible we can understand,” said a pastor at the dedication of the Vuté New Testament. He realized the importance of having God’s Word, the inspiration and guideline for citizenship in God’s Kingdom, in his own language.
Millions of people have already experienced that freedom, taking joy in God’s Word, translated into the language that speaks to their hearts. Millions more will have the opportunity to come to faith in Jesus Christ through the 76 language programs in 18 countries where Lutheran Bible Translators currently serves.
Whether listening to a sermon in Nigeria, singing praises in Botswana, or attending a Bible class in the U.S., Christians around the world are united by their faith in Jesus Christ. And they share John’s vision, recorded in Revelation, of the great multitude standing before the throne, from every nation, tribe, people and language. What a great day it will be when together we celebrate the freedom from sin and death that our Lord secured for us through His death and resurrection.