Some words in our language have changed their meaning or take on another meaning as new generations emerge, such as gay, wicked or stoned, while some other words seem to disappear from our vocabulary entirely. Words are not simply how we communicate; they are also a vital part of telling us what is important to our culture and what is not.
So far I have discovered six different
words in the Didinga language for ‘carrying something on your head,’ In English
we don't even have even one, why? Because, we don’t carry things on our head,
therefore it holds no relevance to us.
For a woman in Didinga, who almost constantly is transporting something on
her head, having a word for a carrying a heavy load, or a light one, or for carrying
something for a long period of time is significant because these
words are a part of everyday life to a Didinga person.
As I have studied and asked, I have found missing words here in Didinga.
Some have little to no significance, for example there is no word for dessert
(thanks to the missionaries, it is known as ‘goody-goody’) Also, surprisingly,
there is no word for flower yet there are thousands growing wild.
There is also no actual word for ‘ugly’
in Didinga. What does this tell me? Well, where most the world hangs great
value in clothes, hair and a slim waistline, to a Didinga person, these things are
just not as significant.
Some missing words throw us for a loop and cause a difficult time or a long
time in translation as you cannot simply say the word (as it is not there) you have
to describe it.
Like the missing Didinga word for faithfulness.
I discovered this missing word one day as I was telling a friend about God’s
faithfulness; he turned and translated for me but he used the word
"love." I asked him later how to say ‘faithful’ in Didinga. He said, “Just
use the Didinga word love.” However, feeling strongly that this was not a
proper translation caused me to go on a search for this word ‘faithfulness’ and
yet, I could not find it anywhere. The answer I received from everyone was
"Maybe long ago we had a word that meant this, but we have long since
Coincidently, faithfulness is not only a missing word among the Didinga people;
it is also a missing concept and action. No one trusts anyone with anything!
There is a Didinga saying that goes like this, ‘Keep it in the dark, don’t tell
your wife,’ in other words don’t trust anyone and sadly, it is often said with
One of the ways I explained faithfulness to my language helper was by
explaining faithfulness in marriage (also no word for adulterer). She looked at
me and laughed, yet with sadness in her eyes and said “Impossible, I have never
met a man faithful to his wife.”
This is not simply a Didinga phenomenon, faithlessness is epidemic in the
lives of people all over the globe. Because of my Didinga ‘faithfulness’ word
search I have been studying the Old and New Testament for definitions of faithfulness.
I have come up with so many references in God’s word that it would take pages
to write down the findings, let alone what there is yet to find in its wealth.
I have been challenged.
Am I faithful? It’s hard to tell, as time seems to be a critical test. I
look back at my life and I have been passionate, I have made huge obedient decisions
for Christ but in the every moment with unseen thoughts and behaviors have I
really loved God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength? O God, refine me
so that your faithfulness is also in me!
Please pray with me that I would be faithful in every aspect of life. Pray for
faithfulness in Didinga believers, pray they would let the Holy Spirit do His
work in them and praise God for his unfailing faithfulness to the world!