Translation Update

Watching His Plan Unfold

Gangam Scriptures were among 40 New Testaments and Bibles dedicated this past year, for 16 million people.

This past November, the dedication of the Gangam New Testament was held in Gando, Togo, with an enthusiastic crowd of about 2,000 people. Eager to own God’s translated Word in their own language, 620 people bought copies. Finally, after 30 years, the Gangam people—who number more than 66,000— have the New Testament in the language they understand best.

“I was very moved today to see the arrival of the cartons of Gangam New Testaments,” said senior translator André Gnanlé Lamboni, “because now, at last, the whole population of Gando will know that what we have been doing has been serious and useful work.”

Wycliffe Canada’s Jean Reimer, along with her first translation colleague Bonnie (Walker) Price, from the U.S., began working in the Gangam language in 1981. The Gangam community leaders agreed to a translation project even though the majority of the ethnic group followed the traditional religion.

Over the years, various Christian denominations have started churches in the Gangam region, which overlaps with the neighbouring nation of Benin. Today, more than 30 churches and missions work in the area. When churches were first planted, the only Scripture they had was in French or was translated on the spur of the moment. Neither was adequate for real growth and understanding.

Various people have worked in the translation and literacy project over the years: Paul and Kathy Kelly for several years, then Lee and Shanon Higdon from 1993.

A Gangam man proudly displays his copy of God's Word.
(Photo: courtesy of Marianne Harvey.)

Tremendous Cost

Jean worked on both translation and literacy until 1997. In July of that year, leukemia, which was caused by a malaria prophylaxis, forced her to return to Canada. A bone-marrow transplant led to a total cure; however, it was wiser for her to remain in Canada. So since then, Jean has put her energies into research on the Gangam language’s phonology, tone and verb systems.

Lee and Shanon continued working with a team of nationals until 2003, when a local man—who had been sent to Ivory Coast to obtain an advanced degree in Bible translation—began leading the project.

On the day of the dedication, the Higdons felt a surprising mixture of emotions. 

“We experienced a deep sense of joy and satisfaction at seeing the Gangam people finally gain access to God’s Word in their own language,” says Lee. “But at the same time we were sobered as we realized the tremendous cost to both the expatriates and the nationals who have been involved in the translation process. It’s clear that we were all involved in a spiritual battle.”

Looking back on the work, Jean sees God’s hand in it all.

“Even before our arrival in 1981,” she says. “God was putting many pieces into place to prepare the way for the Gangam people to have His Word in their language. It has been breathtaking to watch His plan unfold.”

Really Clear to Me

Two other Wycliffe Canada members are also celebrating this year with the language group in which they served. Since March 2011, the translated New Testament has been available to more than 100,000 speakers in a sensitive area of Asia.*

“A wonderful answer to prayer is that the New Testament is being distributed by a national organization,” says Canadian member Paul*, who with his wife Cathy*, has worked in this sensitive area of the world for many years.

“In the past, the believers received individual New Testament books or photo copies in their language,” he says. “Now they have the whole New Testament.”

From one of the national workers, Paul learned that believers from other organizations in this area, who had the Scriptures only in the regional language until now, are also requesting copies of this book.

“This is good news indeed.”

One of the language assistants, who worked with Paul for a number of years, read the entire New Testament onto cassette tapes for oral use by his people.

“I have been a believer for many years and always read the Word of God in the regional language,” says the language assistant, who is able to read that language well because he is a village school teacher. “But it is only now, while reading it onto tape in my mother tongue, that the meaning of many passages has become really clear to me.”

The work of the national field workers is also growing, with new believers joining the existing village congregations.

Canadians Made It Happen

The Kenyang people of Cameroon now have their New Testament, which was dedicated on December 19, 2010. This project was financed by Canadians from 1994 through 2009, first through Partners with Nationals, a program of Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada, and later through Global PartnerLink (now called OneBook, an organization that grew out of Wycliffe Canada). Kenyang is spoken by 65,000 people.

Because of literacy work, an increasing number of Kenyang speakers now have the ability to read and write in their mother tongue. The Kenyang Scriptures are also being distributed through various types of media. Listening groups are being set up using Proclaimers, solar powered machines with Kenyang Scripture on them, through the work of Faith Comes by Hearing, a partner organization with Wycliffe.

In the Far North

After nearly half a century, the Western Gwich’in people now have Vit’eegwijyahchy’aa Vagwandak Nizii, or God His Good News in their language. Spoken in Alaska, it is understood by Canadian speakers as well, who live in the Yukon and number 1,300. In Canada it is also known as Kutchin or Loucheux. 

Wycliffe’s Dick and Susan Mueller began the work in 1959, with Pierre and Meggie DeMers joining them in 1979. Mary Rose Gamboa, a Gwich’in speaker, worked on translation with the DeMers for 30 years. Many other Gwich’in speakers have also served as part of the team.

About 9,000 Gwich’in people of various dialects live in 15 small villages that stretch from northeast Alaska, in the U.S., to the northern Yukon and Northwest Territories in Canada. They represent the northernmost First Nations/American Indian group and are part of the Athabascan language family.

Something Belonging to Them

In mid-March, 2011, more than 200 people crowded into a hall in Marburg, Germany, to celebrate the completion of the Sinte New Testament after 25 years of work.

The translators were German Wycliffe members, Armin and Ursula Peter.

“This is our day—the day for our people,” exclaimed Pastor Rudi Walter, proudly holding a book in the air. There are 12 million-plus Roma (Gypsies) worldwide. The number of Roma dialects is unknown, but may be more than one hundred.

The Sinte language is spoken by about 300,000 people, who live primarily in Germany, France, the Netherlands, and the former Yugoslavia.

“We Gypsies are a poor people,” Pastor Walter explained. “We have no land, nor our own government, nor our own currency, but now we have something that really belongs to us: the New Testament in our language.”

*Because of the sensitivity, the real names of the translators and the name of the language group cannot be given.

World Translation Summary

God’s Word, translated with significant Wycliffe involvement, was dedicated in 40 languages, spoken by 16.2 million people, since we prepared our last “Translation Update” report in the Spring 2011 issue of Word Alive. The table below gives a regional global breakdown of the affected language groups, with their populations.

New Testaments

Location                No. of groups                  Combined Total Population

Africa. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11,864,079

Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,519,000

Pacific. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56,690

Americas . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 155,010

Total. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13,594,779

Whole Bibles

Location                No. of Groups                  Combined Total Population

Africa. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 224,000

Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18,000

Americas . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .45,000

Total. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .287,000

Partial Bible (contains a selection of Scripture from the whole Bible)

Location                 No. of Groups                            Total Population

Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,360,000

COMBINED TOTAL. . . . 40. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16,241,779

                                                           •••••

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