Rebecca Sharples writes about experiencing the all-day celebration of the launch of the Oniyan New Testament in Senegal.
In a region called Kedougou in the southeast of Senegal, a few hundred people gathered together to celebrate the completion of a very special book: the New Testament and Genesis translated into the Oniyan language. This language, sometimes referred to as Basari, is spoken by the 20-30,000 Beliyan people living in Senegal, the Gambia, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau.
The event began at 10am (only an hour behind schedule!). Locals, SIL staff, funders and guests flocked into the Kedougou stadium dressed in all their colourful Senegalese finery and found their seats in one of several large marquees that had been set up just a few hours before.
From start to finish the event was hosted by an animated Oniyan speaker who gave the announcements, introduced the speakers and got everybody warmed up for the music and dancing (not that it took much!).
The speeches were given by people from around the globe whom God has brought together for his mission of getting his word to the Beliyan community. The speakers included the funding manager of The Seed Company (American), the director of SIL Senegal (Swiss), Pastor Nicodème (Senegalese), and two long-serving missionaries (Canadian and American), among many others. The speeches were given in either French or Oniyan and always with a translation from one to the other.
In the midst of the speeches a car pulled up carrying the precious cargo: the New Testaments had arrived! They were carried in boxes into the stadium before being paraded and presented by members of the Beliyan community. It was a tear-jerking moment to see these New Testaments arrive which, after several years of dutiful and diligent work (especially by the chief translators Nicodème Biesse, Paul Boubane and Jérémie Boubane) can now be held in the hands of Oniyan speakers and read aloud in their homes in their own language.
But the printed New Testaments weren’t the only Scripture material being celebrated and shared. The Beliyan community were also able to take home an SD card containing the dramatised audio recording of Genesis and the entire New Testament, performed by local voice actors.
In the year before the launch, members of the Beliyan community and several local staff members also worked together in workshops to create, perform and record Scripture-based songs written in the Oniyan language and performed using traditional instruments. These recorded songs were then added to the SD cards, just in time to be made available at the launch.
Now the Oniyan community can not only read God’s word, but they can also listen to God’s word and sing songs about God’s word in their own language.
Could there be a better reason to rejoice and give thanks?
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