Westmont Magazine Learning Languages One by One
For over 35 years Marjorie Crouch ’61 has served the Lord and the people of Ghana as a missionary. Despite health problems that have weakened her body, she remains strong in spirit and faith.
Born in Nigeria of SIM missionary parents, she was interested in Bible translation even before attending Westmont. After graduating, she decided to follow her heart until God stopped or redirected her. “He never stopped me — in fact, he kept opening difficult doors all along the way,” she notes. Accepted as a Wycliffe Bible translator, she was assigned to Ghana.
Over the years, she has worked with the Vagla and Dega people, neither of whom had a written language. She helped set up a literacy program for the Valgas, writing teaching primers, training instructors and promoting the instruction. Once the people learned to read and write in their native language, they could study the New Testament the missionaries translated.
“It has been very rewarding to see a church grow up in the Vagla area as people responded to God’s message, which they could now read in their own New Testaments,” Marj notes. “With the Vaglas, literacy and response to the Gospel were a long time coming. But God’s word is powerful and always accomplishes its purpose.”
The Dega already had churches established, but lacked a written language and books. During worship services, they had to use a different language. The missionaries set up a similar literacy program and translated the New Testament into Deg, but spent most of their time convincing the people that speaking to God in their own language was acceptable.
“It has been very rewarding to see churches and individuals coming to a true understanding of what it means to be a Christian — it involves the heart, not just going to church, going to school, taking a Bible name, or any other ’Christian’ practice,” she relates.
Marj now serves as translation coordinator at Wycliffe headquarters in Ghana. Her duties include tracking work in 30 languages, preparing courses, and inspecting translations in progress. Most of the people in Ghana are illiterate, and their languages are unwritten. The translators must do much linguistic analysis when they first learn a language. After they master sounds, they can write primers and post-primers and build up a body of literature. They then teach adults to read and write in their own language, and in turn, teach others.
Marj acknowledges that some will never learn to read, but says they can listen to New Testament tapes. The people are so pleased to hear the scriptures in their own language, they even enjoy the genealogy sections!
When the missionaries read the Bible to people, they encourage discussion of the text. Allowing uneducated people and women to participate in this process is a significant step. In most cultures in Ghana, Christianity is associated with schooling or elaborate religious practices. For many, being a Christian meant little more than adding a few practices to their established beliefs, not a change of heart and mind. Marj explains, “Christianity will continue to be a foreign religion here in Ghana until people hear it in their own language and see that it contains answers to their daily problems as well as a message that brings eternal life.”
Marj has faced personal challenges as well and has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for 35 years. Recently she was hospitalized with pneumonia, and a Ghana Air Force plane flew her to the National Cardiothoracic Centre in Accra. She recovered, and the NCC absorbed her hospital bills in recognition of her selfless and devoted service to God and Ghanaian communities.
Despite her health problems, Marj sees herself staying in Ghana as long as God will have her. “Without relying on God, you can do nothing of any lasting worth. But those who do rely on Him and let Him lead, can do anything through Christ’s enabling. We are never too talented or too ordinary to be used by God. Those who recognize their helplessness and depend the hardest can do amazing things!”