“Whose work is this?”

By Tom Castor | July 28, 2019 |

Years ago, I worked as a helper to a cabinet maker. He was a craftsman and the poster child for, “Measure twice. Cut once.”  He was meticulous. I was young. I had volunteered for the assignment, but after a few days, I was becoming somewhat impatient. In one of those moments of second measuring and sanding a microscopic section of an already perfectly smooth surface, I asked. “So, how long does something like this usually take?” He looked at me and gave me an answer that I am certain he had rehearsed with other impatient helpers before me.

“Son, a few years from now, when people look at this table, they won’t ask, ‘How long did that take?’ But they will ask, ‘Whose work is this?’” And, without another word, he turned back to his work.

I first became acquainted with Jonas Vestlund in 2017. He had come across our simple English catechism and wrote to ask permission to translate the book into Swedish. Here is a short section of that first correspondence. 

In cooperation with Gothenburg International Baptist Church, I plan to do a Swedish translation of the catechism Simple Truths during summer/autumn 2017. I did a translation of the New City Catechism during 2014, http://evangeliekatekesen.se/, and value a catechism as a teaching tool. This weekend I am finishing proof-reading of Spurgeon’s Catechism in Swedish.

The easy to understand language of the Simple Truths catechism and the definitions at the end will be very useful in Sweden, both among immigrants and among secular Swedes that do not have a “Christian language”. Well, it will actually be of good use also among teens in my church. It amazes me how our churches often are lacking a modern simple vocabulary for the evangelical truths of the Bible.

That note came two years ago. Since that time, Jonas has been working on the translation, field-testing the questions and answers with a junior high Sunday School class, sharing his work and requesting feedback from pastors who have done additional field testing with people in their churches as well. I do not know if Jonas has read Mark Twain, but I am certain that he agrees with his quip, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter. ’Tis the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Jonas refuses to settle for “close enough.”

Jonas and I have kept in touch over these past 24 months as he has continued to make progress. A few days ago, I received this word.

I had a meeting with a friend after church when he was in Arvika. We did youth ministry together a few years ago when he was youth pastor in one of the churches here. He is trained at North Park University and now works as an author of books for youth and translator of Christian youth and children books.

He promised to first do a reading of the catechism and provide advice regarding style. (We want to use easy-to-read language in modern Swedish). After he is finished, we can do a final proof reading.

Peace and Grace

Simple Truths has now been translated into more than 40 languages. We have taken special care with each of those projects. But this project, when completed, will certainly be one of our most carefully crafted and thoroughly tested. And when someone asks, “Whose work is this?” I want them to know the answer.

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Tom Castor