Hello my name is Terry Wildman, the author of this project. My wife and I have been actively involved in the lives of Native Americans since 1998. Together we are the music duo RainSong, you can learn more about us at rainsongmusic.com.
The idea for this project began in 2002 while Darlene and I lived on the Hopi Indian reservation in Northern Arizona. We were looking for ways to tell the story of the Bible to Native Americans, in a culturally relevant context.
After a season of research, we were convinced that no one had yet attempted this. Further research discovered that even though a few Bible printing organizations had put “Indian” covers and art on “easy to read” Bible versions, no one had made any English speaking translations specifically aimed at Native peoples. We found the very small print and formatting in these bibles made it difficult to read for many of the men in our drum circle gatherings.
The need for an English version was highlighted when we discovered that most Native Americans do not read the Bible that has been translated into their Native languages. They did not have written languages and most no longer speak, let alone read in their language.
With this in mind, I began to write a condensed version of the Bible story. This was done with feedback from Native American Christian leaders and others. The result was our CD The Great Story from the Sacred Book. The feedback we have received from this CD has been overwhelmingly positive from Natives and non-natives alike. This CD won the Native American Music award for “Best Spoken Word” in 2009.
Additional feedback was asked from Native Americans young and old, traditional and modern, male and female, some of whom are followers of Jesus. Many have told me they are touched deeply and drawn into the “story” in ways that traditional translations fail to accomplish.
Often, I have been asked if I was planning a translation of the Bible. To be honest, I have been overwhelmed at the idea and did not even want to consider it. But, over the years, I have felt a consistent nudging from the Holy Spirit to say yes to this.
The word “translation” doesn’t really describe this project; it is more of retelling of the Scriptures in the tradition of the storytellers of oral cultures—some might call it a paraphrase. It is similar, in concept, to The Message by Eugene Peterson or The Living Bible by Kenneth N. Taylor. But, it is different in the sense that it attempts to convey the rhythm and feel of an oral storyteller.
The FNV is not intended to replace standard translations but to present the scriptures with word textures and choices that relate in a general way to Native Americans and other First Nations English speaking people. It is also not intended to be culturally or tribally specific.
My intent is to retell, in the tradition of the oral cultures, the story of the Bible. In doing so, I draw on the 15 years of experience I share in relationship with many Native Americans, and also from the 30 years of ministry experience which has included in depth bible study and theological reflection. In the eyes of many this may not qualify me, but I am not looking for the praise of people or their opinions. However, I am open to constructive critique from others.
This retelling is personal, as it reflects my own experience and perspectives. Stories are traditionally told in ways that are unique to the storyteller and meaningful to the listeners, drawing from history, tradition and experience. A storyteller will insure the essence of the story is preserved without the need to present a strict word for word recital.
All four of the Gospel authors present the story of Jesus this way. They were inspired to re-order some events and details and to emphasize aspects of Jesus’ teachings, all in different but complimentary ways, to fit the purpose of their telling. Even though I would never claim divine inspiration for this paraphrase, we do consider this to be a sacred task, given to us by God.
Several English versions of the Bible are consulted and when needed I also consult the original languages. From there I attempt to find ways of phrasing the narrative to relate to english speaking First Nations people. We plan to create a written and oral (audio) version of this project. The written version will be formatted for easy reading, using comfortable paragraph and font styles that lend themselves to reading aloud.
We would like to have the opportunity to dedicate a significant amount of time to this project. Most of our income comes from when we travel and share our music and storytelling at our “events”. This includes churches, powwows, conferences and more. This takes up most of our time and energy and leaves us with small time periods to write and record our music.
Will you join with us financially to…
★ Paraphrase the 4 Gospels into one combined narrative and publish in book form.
★ Produce an “audio book” of the completed 4 Gospel combined narrative.
★ We estimate a paperback version in 12 point font to be about 300 pages or more.
If you don’t want to donate with a credit card you can send a check or money order made out to Rain Ministries. Send it to Rain Ministries, PO Box 1500 Maricopa, AZ 85139. Rain Ministries is a non-profit corporation based in Arizona and a 501-c3 federally recognized non-profit. You gift is tax deductible.