Fifty nine years after beginning ministry among the Guiziga, an 86 year old Pastor holds in his hands, and lovingly reads from, the WORD of God, complete, in his heart language!
As others have often shared, the dedication ceremony of a New Testament or Bible in a “new language” is one of the high points we, as Bible translators, are privileged to participate in from time to time. This was not a translation that Lutheran Bible Translators worked on, but we rejoice in celebrating its dedication with our partners in ministry.
For the first time in our 28 years in Cameroon, I got to taste the climate of the North. It was the warm season, and the thermometer in our car said it got up to 46 degrees Celcius outside. That’s 112 F! We thanked God for AC in the car, showers in the non-AC lodgings, and only about 15% humidity. One just needs to remember to drink lots! I was privileged to be invited as part of the EELC (Cameroon Evangelical Lutheran Church)’s delegation to the dedication ceremony of the Guiziga Bible March 26th near Maroua, Cameroon. This was a very significant event because now the Guiziga have a complete Bible in their mother tongue – including all the Old Testament, and even the Apocrypha in the Catholic version!
In many areas around the world it is a common practice to auction off the first few copies of a Bible to the highest bidder. While it might seem odd to us in the West, this auction can actually serve some important purposes – namely to demonstrate the value of what is being dedicated and to help support current and future translation and Scripture engagement programs. In this case I was witness to four people who paid two thousand dollars or more for their copy of this precious Bible! And a dozen or so more pay hundreds of dollars. The Guiziga Bible was printed in a special edition for the first 20 copies to be sold, and this sale netted more than ten thousand dollars. Not only does this give significant support to the United Bible Society for translation projects, it affirms the value of this Book to the Guiziga people.
But the most powerful moment of the dedication came for me as I was sitting beside an older man, whom I learned as I conversed with him was the Pastor Evangelist who first brought the Gospel to the mostly-Muslim Guiziga people in 1952. That is 59 years ago! As the 20 copies of the special edition were auctioned off, one was bought and presented to this Pastor. I saw him lovingly caress this precious Book, and then start reading a passage. I asked him how old he was. He said he was born in 1925, which means he is 86 this year! And he is reading the Bible in his mother tongue! If you haven’t lived in our part of Africa, you may not know that it is quite rare for people to even live to that age, and I have NEVER seen anyone that old read something!
We praise God for the blessing of His Word that the Guiziga now have written down in a language they can understand. Please pray with us that it would continue to be made available to them in ways they can easily engage with, so that one day all of them can know the same peace and assurance the 86-year old evangelist has. God’s Word is now in their hands and we pray that it will also be on their hearts.
Article written by Martin Weber, Translation Advisor to the Kwanja Translation project of the EELC / LBT in Cameroon, and also Representative of LBT to the EELC.