In the heart of “Africa’s world war”, Bible translation perseveres

By August 13, 2018

DR Congo (MNN) — The Democratic Republic of the Congo is the second largest country in Africa and home to 83 million people. It is also the stage for “Africa’s world war”. Six million people have died from an ongoing conflict with multiple contributing factors.

It all started in 1994 when many Hutus from Rwanda fled to eastern DR Congo after committing mass genocide. From there, conflict ensued when issues of government representation flared up. It was also made worse by fighting over natural resources. Militia, citizens, and UN peacekeepers still clash in the east today, and an approaching election season is reheating tensions.

Congolese soldier (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

In this hostile, blood-soaked region, is there any hope for the spread of the Gospel?

Wycliffe Bible Translators says “yes”. The ministry is currently working on a translation of the New Testament in the Tembo language. Translators have worked to make God’s Word available in this language for over two decades. But because Tembo speakers live in eastern DRC, the conflict has taken its toll on translation efforts.

Jon Hampshire with Wycliffe says, “It’s a very complicated situation in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. They had to move their office to the town of Goma because of the insecurity, and yet they just kept working and faced really a lot of hardship because the infrastructure in the country had broken down. It was hard to get medical care for their family. And yet, they considered this work so important that they just kept working.

“We are humbled by their perseverance and their dedication to the Bible translation task. They so wanted to have the Scripture in their heart language that they continued to work even when there was insecurity and fighting in their area.”

After two decades, Wycliffe finally had a dedication service for the Tembo New Testament in October 2017.

democratic republic of the congo, DRC

Praise God that the Tembo people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo now have the New Testament in their own language! PRAY for transformed lives. (Photo, caption courtesy of Wycliffe USA)

“They set up a whole system of distribution, which basically involved pastors and other church leaders taking boxes of books of the New Testament to as many villages as they possibly could,” Hampshire shares.

“It’s hard to get stories because the area is a bit cut off in some ways. But we know that the Scriptures are being used in the churches. We know the vice governor has pledged to place Scriptures in all of the schools that have Tembo speaking children in the region. So it’s really being broadly distributed in the entire area.”

The vice governor is not a Tembo speaker himself. However, he was thrilled to learn at the dedication that Wycliffe is going to start working on Scripture translation in his language next as well.

“The translators that worked on the Tembo translation have been asked to assist three other languages right in their area. Since the languages are similar, they can take advantage of those similarities and in some ways jumpstart the translations and make them go a little faster.”

Hampshire adds, “There is still a lot of work that has to be done because every language is different, every language is unique. It’s not like it is an easy process. It will still take time. But it will speed up the process a little bit and actually help make the translations accurate and readable.”

The Tembo community still would love to have the entire Bible available in their language. They currently have Genesis and the New Testament. To accomplish a complete Scripture translation will take more time, dedication, and resources.

“Just pray that God would provide what is necessary for them. Pray that God would guide Wycliffe as far as determining how we are able to assist in them having that Old Testament work.”

He also says, “There are somewhere between 60 and 70 languages in eastern Congo that are still waiting for Scripture in their heart language. So we continue to pray that God would provide resources and people — both Congolese and expatriates, whoever is interested in working there — to be able to address these needs and see that these people have God’s Word in their heart language.”

Click here to learn more about Wycliffe’s work in DRC!


(Header photo courtesy of Wycliffe USA)

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