Translation Update

Singing in Celebration

The Sabaot Bible was one of 31 New Testaments and Bibles dedicated for more than 14 million people, with Canadian involvement, this past year.

(Photo: Courtesy of Rachel Cammell)

Songs and shouts of celebration rang out across the slopes of Mt. Elgon in Kenya, Africa, as a huge crowd—up to 8,000 people—gathered for the launch of the translated Sabaot Bible on Sunday, June 10th.

The participants were jubilant, as they anticipated the sight of the new Bibles, and they were not disappointed. They received their Sabaot New Testament in 1997, but now they have the entire Book in their mother tongue. After a long afternoon of speakers at the celebration, a number of Sabaot people, including a girl of about 10 and a teenage boy, read from the Bible. This Book is now available to 150,000 Sabaot people. Tribal conflict has been part of the lives of Sabaot people for generations, prompting a prayer for peace by the BTL (Bible Translation and Literacy) general secretary, Peter Munguti.

“[I pray] that many of you Sabaot people, who have not known peace for years, will read these Scriptures in your language and know the Lord of peace,” prayed Munguti. “May this book become a uniting tool between [one] neighbour and another. May it bring healing to those that are hurting, restore hope to those that have been devastated by the tribal clashes that have dominated this community for years.”

“If only we had the Bible”

Although the Sabaot people speak Kiswahili as a second language, it was never sufficient for their understanding of God’s Word. During the festivities, the story was told of one frustrated Sabaot man struggling to share the gospel in Kiswahili with his people in years past. In his frustration he called out to God, “Oh, if only we had the Bible in the Sabaot language!” 

“The Sabaot people have great thirst, but the water they have to drink has many impurities,” he went on to tell God. “They need clean water so that their thirst will be quenched. . . . If the message was in the Sabaot language, the people would understand it and their thirst would be quenched.”

The completion of this Bible was the result of a number of partnerships. OneBook, a close partner of Wycliffe Canada, raised funds through Canadian partners across Canada to assist the national translation organization within Kenya, BTL, to do the translation. A new partner, The Gideons Canada, paid for the printing of this Bible. Two representatives from The Gideons Canada as well as two OneBook staff members from Canada attended this very special event.

Because of many years of work and several key partnerships, the thirst of the Sabaot people has now been quenched.

New Testaments for the Bagh* People

The Sabaot Bible, launched in Kenya, was one of 31 New Testaments and Bibles dedicated for 14.5 million people, with Canadian involvement, this past year.

Another group that had a Scripture launch ceremony recently was the Bagh people of South Asia, who number 25,000. Living in villages nestled in a rugged mountain range, these people lead very isolated and difficult lives. Most families subsist on small plots of land where they grow rice, corn or wheat.

Travelling outside of the community is a challenge for the Bagh people, so accessing basic health care and education is difficult. Most children do not complete their formal education; instead, they follow their parents into a life of deep poverty. With no hope for the future, many young people are leaving Bagh villages.

The church among the Bagh is small and dispersed. Although by law, Christians are free to worship, they face much hostility and strong community pressure to conform to traditional practices.

Eager for their families and neighbours to read the Bible for themselves, a group from 10 local churches ventured to the nation’s capital 10 years ago to ask for help in translating the New Testament into Bagh. Now their dream has become a reality with the dedication of the New Testament. This, too, was a project sponsored by OneBook with funding from interested Canadians. 

Believers are now excited to have God’s Word in their heart language. They can use it as a tool to introduce other Bagh people to God and help believers grow strong in their faith. Bagh believers know firsthand the freedom God’s Word can bring.

God’s Translated Word for the Nawuri

Under the supervision of GILLBT (Ghana Institute of Linguistics, Literacy and Bible Translation), team leader John Adinyah pulled together a team of assistants to translate God’s Word and bring literacy to the Nawuri community of Ghana, Africa.

The team oversaw the work that has now been completed and the use of the Word in Nawuri in church services is increasing.

In fact, non-Christian Nawuri sent their children to Sunday school to hear God’s Word and learn to read. However, pastors still need to be trained to use Nawuri texts in church services and Bible studies.

The Nawuri project has undergone many challenges and difficulties since it began, often caused by tensions between various ethnic groups. This OneBook project, begun in 2000, has made God’s Word available for 14,000 Nawuri speakers.

At the grand finale celebration of GILLBT’s 50th year, the paramount chief of the Nawuri people of northern Ghana received the first copy of the New Testament in Nawuri.

“When we go to politicians, we are not known,” he said. “But when we go to God, we are known.” With tears in his eyes, he exclaimed, “We have now been counted among God’s people.”

Other Canadian involvement

In Chad, Africa, the Kenga and Dangaleat New Testaments, dedicated in late November 2012 (as this issue of Word Alive was being designed), brought God’s translated Word to groups numbering 40,000 and 45,000 respectively.

These New Testaments represented years of hard work and perseverance by many people. Canadian linguist Jackie Hainaut worked as a consultant for both New Testaments, and checked about one-quarter of the Kenga New Testament and one-third of the Dangeleat New Testament.

*Pseudonym used due to sensitivity of the religious and political context in the area

World Translation Summary

Scriptures translated with Wycliffe involvement were dedicated for 31 languages, spoken by more than 14 million people, since we prepared our last “Translation Update” in the Summer 2012 issue of Word Alive.

This table gives a regional global breakdown of the affected language groups with their populations.


Like what you’re reading? Then don’t miss an issue. Subscribe to be notified when the next issue is published.

Already a subscriber? Log in here

Next Story

Beyond Words

Translating the Gospel: Part 5 and 6

It is the secondary senses of words that create the most challenges for translators, because they are rarely transferable from one language to another.