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Twila Paris's "How Beautiful" In Chinese (Many Other Languages Too!), & Consumeristic Correspondence

Don Ross III/Unsplash

I once had the privilege of working with a talented, Chinese-raised, American pianist, singer and worship leader when serving a multicultural church. Our annual Missions Sunday was approaching, and I wanted her to be able to use her musical talents and her virtually-flawless Mandarin-speaking for the offertory. She had the idea to sing Twila Paris's "How Beautiful" in both English and Mandarin.

A congregant approached her afterwards and spoke to her about how much he was moved by the song. About how it reminded him of the his hard times he experienced as a Christian in his past life in another country, and just how transcendent and "how beautiful is the body of Christ" (as the song's lyrics say).

This congregant was not from China and was not familiar with the Mandarin dialect. This illustrates one of the things I've been taught by mentors in multicultural worship music: You don't need to sing in the exact language of a particular culture to speak to them, because singing in a non-English language can reach many people beyond its native speakers. It's not about consumeristic correspondence.

Chun Kwong Ngan, a worship leader of Hong Kong, has posted this song with lyrics in Chinese and links to recordings in other languages, such as Dutch, French, Hindi, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. She has also posted many other multilingual songs.

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