Anyone who knows me can tell you that I’m a bit of a word nerd. I enjoy learning the history and etymology of words and just for fun will read a dictionary or thesaurus; it can be very enlightening to understand how word usages have changed over the centuries. Often we cut ourselves off from the richness of our language by our lack of this understanding; we limit our depth of expression.
On the other hand, my host culture in Sierra Leone, the Mende tribe, has taught me that sometimes simplicity in expression can be just as rich. By comparison to the English language, said to have the most words of any language, Mende is a simplistic tribal language spoken by a very limited number of people. But even in its simplicity, Mende can be very expressive.
When Mende people part, they simply say, “Malloway,” which translated to English means, “See you again.” I’ve learned that they have a great distaste for our parting salutation, “Good-bye.” In the Mende language and culture they reserve “Good-bye” for only when they are certain that the parting is final. That parting may be in death or in a journey from which it’s believed the traveller will not return. Malloway, however, is used, regardless of how long they feel they shall be apart because they deeply believe that the departing one will, with certainty, return again.
This custom translates beautifully to explaining the Lord’s certain return. Had Jesus been Mende, His ascension to heaven would have been with an triumphant “Malloway!” And now, because of Jesus’ victory over death, we who are in Christ can confidently say a sweet, “Malloway – See you again,” to our departing loved ones because we have been delivered from the bondage of the fear of death and its finality (Hebrews 2:15)
At the end of August, 2014, as we travelled the dusty, bumpy roads of Volunia Chiefdom, making our way to Freetown, adults and children from villages where we’ve taught Bible classes, lined the road, cheerfully waving and exclaiming, “Malloway! – See you again!”
Now, 20 months later, as I leave you to return to them, in Mende simplicity I say – Malloway.