A five-hour celebration marked the dedication of four newly translated New Testaments that will enable several ethnic groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo to read Scripture in their own language for the first time.
The celebration was held April 25 in Gemena. The translators, global personnel, and consultants were honored for their work, some of which stretched back nearly 30 years. The Scripture was translated into the dialects of Lobala, Mono, Pagabete, and Ngbandi-ngiri.
About 65,000 people speak Lobala, 100,000 speak Mono, 40,000 speak Pagabete, and another 264,000 speak Ngbandi-ngiri.
Evangelical Covenant Church Serve Globally personnel working with Wycliffe Bible Translators helped make the translations possible. While Wycliffe began the work on each of the languages, the actual translation of each of the New Testaments was entirely done by Congolese translators trained by Wycliffe and SIL International, which helps with linguistic projects.
Ken Olson, a member of Rochester (Minnesota) Covenant Church, moved to Congo (then Zaire) in 1993 to start learning Mono. The civil war in 1996-1997 forced him to leave the country, but he continued working on the orthography, or studying which sounds are represented by which letters, and writing the language. The translation itself was started in 2005 and completed in 2019.
The Congo Covenant Church, Congo Free Church, and the Roman Catholic Church provided funding and other resources to make the translations possible.
“Just as we in other countries have the Word of God in our heart language, our mother tongue, other ethnic groups also need to have the Word of God in their languages so that they can understand it more fully,” said Pete Ekstrand, long-term Evangelical Covenant Church global personnel in DR Congo.
Galen Johnson, former Covenant missionary to Africa who worked with the Bible translation organization Seed Company, brought the Jesus film, which had been translated into each of the languages. He trained leaders how to use “backpack projection kits,” which are transportable and solar-powered to be used in villages.
Pastor Nzongo, who helped with the Pagabete translation, said, “I can’t wait to bring the Pagabete version of the Jesus film out to the village and watch people’s reactions when they hear Jesus speaking Pagabete.”
To read more about the translation process, see the Ekstrands in Congo blog.