The sound of the Jewish shofar announced the arrival of the complete Bible translated into the San Blas Kuna language of Panama—which is spoken by 57,100 people on the outlying islands, with nearly 100,000 more speakers throughout the rest of Panama. The event, celebrated at Hosanna Church in Panama City on September 20, was one of three observances in Panama (like the one pictured above) in honour of this milestone. A 100-voice Kuna choir sang praise to God. Several Kuna pastors shared their gratefulness to God for His Word. The Bible translation team was gracious hosts to 80 guests from five countries, while 3,200 Kuna speakers attended the event at the Hosanna Church.
Keith and Wilma Forster, from South Africa and Canada respectively, began working on the translation in 1982, after they had already completed the translation of a New Testament for the Border Kuna dialect in the 1970s. They are thankful for valuable Kuna co-translators over the years who worked so diligently with them to complete this huge task.
“Our hearts are overflowing with gratitude to the Lord for the privilege of seeing Panama’s Kuna people holding God’s Word . . . in the language of their hearts,” wrote Wilma. “How grateful we are to the Lord for the wonderful way in which He blessed each dedication.”
Keith and Wilma struggled to put into words what those special days meant to them: “Gratitude! Amazement! Joy! Doxology! Praise! A humble feeling of gratitude to have been given the privilege of having a part in preparing God’s Word for the Kuna people. Even the hymn ‘To God be the Glory, Great Things He Has Done’ . . . which has been ringing in our hearts over and over again, can’t begin to capture the gratitude and praise we want to express to God.”
As one of the guests who went to Panama to celebrate this special event so aptly said, "We can describe the events. We can show pictures of the activities. There is, however, no way to capture the emotion of those days."
Another visitor said, “It was a life-changing experience for me. There is a picture forever imprinted in my mind and on my heart. I watched as a young lad—maybe eight or 10 years old—opened a Bible and began to read it out loud. For the first time in his life, he held God's Word in his hands and he could read it. He could understand it. It was in his own language. I’ll never forget the impact that had on me."
Now that the Kuna people have God’s Word in its entirety, the Forsters are asking people to pray earnestly that the initial enthusiasm for the coming of the Word will not diminish and that Kuna hearts will grow deep in their knowledge of the Word and of God’s claim on their lives.
God’s Word Comes to the Aringa
Elsewhere, in Africa, another language group with a Canadian connection received their New Testament this past year.
What a day of celebration June 24, 2014, was for the Aringa people of Uganda! After many years of waiting, they finally received their New Testament.
Nearly 1,000 people gathered in Yumbe, the main town in their homeland in northwestern Uganda, to celebrate.
Six large tents provided shade around a grassy centre field for the celebration that officially launched the New Testament in Aringa, the mother tongue of 500,000 speakers who live in Uganda and some of the neighbouring countries.
About 500 New Testaments were pre-sold, with more sold on the day of the celebration. Some of the gathered guests were from among the 80 per cent of the language group’s population who are Muslim. Churches also bought copies to use for ministry within their communities. Aringa Scripture is already being used within more than two dozen Bible study groups and in many churches. More than half of the 130 schools in the area now use Aringa as the language of instruction in the first three grades.
Response to the New Testament was enthusiastic. One Aringa speaker said, “It goes to the heart; now I do not need to read and translate. It is powerful to me. It tells us clearly . . . what we are to do."
The New Testament translation began in 2000, and was taken on as a OneBook project in 2007. OneBook, a close partner of Wycliffe Canada, raises funds from Canadians for overseas translation and literacy projects.
Atikamekw Nation Territory, Quebec
The Atikamekw people received their New Testament on September 14 in a ceremony held near Manawan, Quebec. Atikamekw is a language in the Algonquian family of Canadian indigenous languages, with about 7,000 Atikamekw speakers living in south-central Quebec.
The project was filled with heartbreak, challenges and difficulties, but by God’s grace it was completed and the New Testament is now in the hands of the Atikamekw people. Beginning in 1976, various SIL members laboured on the project for varying amounts of time: Tim Stime; Bonnie Stime Geleynse (now deceased; who had continued work on translation after leaving SIL); and Julie and Andy Barlow. Finally Ruth (Spielmann) Heeg, with the Canadian Bible Society, worked with Atikamekw speakers to complete the project. (Ruth previously worked on translation with SIL in the closely-related Algonquin language.)
People involved were honoured with a plaque at the celebration. Andy Barlow, who was at the ceremony, was thankful to be able to finally hold the Atikamekw New Testament in his hands and “see Atikamekw speakers excited about God's Word in their language.”
Tim Stime, in his speech to the group, recognized the great work of more than 55 Atikamekw speakers who helped in the translation and checking process.
The Atikamekw people’s use of their first language remains vigorous, with about 98 per cent of the population speaking the language fluently, while using French as their second language.
World Translation Summary
Scriptures translated with Wycliffe involvement were published in 22 languages spoken by 2.6 million people in 2014. (This is a change from past years when Word Alive presented Scriptures that had been dedicated.) This table gives a regional breakdown of the affected language groups with their populations.