Note from the Minister

Not so much a letter this time as a recently finished poem. It’s a translation of a Christian hymn with an interesting dual heritage. The text is by the Finnish Lutheran missionary pioneer, Martti Rautanen, who wrote it in Ndongan (a dialect of Ovambo spoken in parts of Namibia and Angola). It came to my attention a few years ago when the song was newly set by Sakari Löytty.

Sakari Löytty is himself a Finnish missionary, but also a drummer and ethnomusicologist. When he wanted to record the song with its new melody, Löytty managed to persuade his sister-in-law, Kaija Pispa, to translate it into Finnish. Since I don’t speak Ndongan I’ve used Pispa’s wonderful Finnish translations in my attempt to put the song, and some others like it, into English.

I’ve long wondered whether it’s the unusual genesis of these texts that gives them the freshness I love. Over the course of an album, these songs manage to tell the gospel story with remarkable directness. I felt that it was the sincerity of the text I was working with that made it so moving. Consequently, my challenge as a translator was to capture as much of that as I could – not the easiest task!

O LORD MY GOD, MY SAVIOUR

O lord my God and saviour,
with you I have no fear.
In all my trials and troubles
your help is ever near;
come happiness or sorrow,
whatever time brings forth,
I know your hand will lead me
safe down my darkest path.

O God my heavenly father,
your never-changing love
can turn the tempter’s arrow,
and shield me from above;
I run to you, my father,
and find within your arms
a sure and certain shelter,
a refuge from all harm.

Lord Jesus, by your spirit
my hope is purified;
and fading faith grows stronger
when you are at my side;
be with me now and always,
my pearl beyond all price,
my one and only treasure,
kind master, Jesus Christ.

With love,

Ewan


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