The word is kagin.
Know what this means? Neither did Michael Ersland when he first began serving with the Komba Old Testament translation team in northern Ghana. Kagin is a word he learned while studying the Komba language. And when Michael fully understood it, tears came to his eyes.
“I was trying to understand the word without English being spoken. My language teacher was using kagin in different Komba sentences to see if I would understand it based on context,” says Michael. “I was still drawing a blank, because most of the sentences were making sense apart from this one word. He then described it in English to me. It basically means that you want something very, very much.”
After that explanation, the teacher’s example sentences began to click. Sentences that meant “I want the Bible very much” and “I have the Bible, but you want the Bible very much so I give it to you.”
“I was humbled that he used these particular sentences to demonstrate the meaning of kagin,” says Michael. “It was clear that he really wants people to translate the complete Bible so he can have it. Tears didn’t fall, but they found a home in my eyes.”
“This is real life,” Michael says. “These are real wants and desires of people. Bible translation is not an abstract theory or hypothetical idea that might make a difference. It does make a difference. We are all a part of something beyond our understanding that God is composing and orchestrating.”
For Michael, living and learning in another language and culture is one of the best of all things. “Yes, there are many challenges and frustrations, but there is also beauty beyond reckoning. It is here, as I learn another language and about another culture, that I am growing to better understand parts of Scripture that have been with me my whole life. Depth is added as I see God’s Word from another pair of lenses. I try not to fool myself into thinking that ‘now I understand completely’ because I know that living and interacting in another culture would provide yet a different set of lenses from which to see and experience the world.”
Learning the meaning of this Komba word was more than just an academic exercise. It not only showed Michael how deeply the Komba people want the complete Bible. It reminded him that God wants us very much. He wants us, as He desires us to want Him and His Word.
“God loves us very, very much. He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not die, but have life that has no end,” says Michael. “May we very much want God’s Word, and may God give us all strength in our vocations as we try to help others also have Scripture in their languages.”