The Samburu New Testament and accompanying dictionary were launched last weekend in Kenya and are set to transform how the Samburu people understand and apply their Christian faith to their everyday lives. The dedication took place at the Maralal Stadium in Samburu County in the Rift Valley, and was attended by about 3,000 people.

Up till now, the Samburu have tended to use the Maasai translation. Although they generally understand this translation, there are issues with comprehension, and also some of the Maasai words are offensive or derogatory to the Samburu. This has been a huge contributing factor to the Samburu not fully understanding the Christian faith and therefore mixing it with traditional religion.

‘When the Bible becomes available in local languages, it becomes a tool for evangelism and discipleship,’ says Peter Munguti, National Director of Bible Translation and Literacy (BTL), one of Wycliffe’s partner organisations in Kenya. ‘We believe that having the New Testament in Samburu will transform this region.’

A total of 5,000 printed copies were produced; all have been sold and are already being used by the Samburu people. The initial cost for a copy was 150 Kenyan Shillings, but the Deputy President of Kenya, Hon Dr William Ruto, who has been very supportive of Bible translation work in the country and was present at the dedication, donated towards most of the costs and enabled each New Testament to be bought for just 10 Kenyan Shillings.

The audio version was also available at the dedication, and 162 SD cards with the audio version on were sold on the day. The BTL Scripture engagement team will be making trips this month to distribute more SD cards.

The Samburu are a largely nomadic people of about 160,000 whose source of life is their livestock. The indigenous Samburu Church is quite small with a few local ‘boma/manyatta’ churches (household churches) here and there. Only 10–12 per cent of the Samburu are Christian. As the Samburu move around the country, they may not have a local pastor or missionary who travels with them. Also, the adult literacy rate is only about 20 per cent. So having the audio version as well as the printed version will boost a fledgling church with few church leaders and a low literacy rate.

Julia Leaduma, a Samburu who attended the dedication said: ‘Today is a day of happiness for Samburus because we now have our own Bible. We now know that Jesus understands Samburu language too.’

Translation work began in 2006, and the first Scriptures (the Gospel of Luke) were published in 2014. While Wycliffe workers have contributed throughout the process, much of the work has been done by local Samburu and BTL team members. Translation of the Old Testament is ongoing and the aim is to have a complete Samburu Bible in a few years.

The dictionary is aimed at Samburu people who already speak and read English, and would like to get the most out of the Bible in their mother tongue. Janet Sweet, who serves with Wycliffe, worked on the dictionary and says: ‘The dictionary aims to be a storehouse and reference point for cultural information. It will be used primarily by Samburu people who have been educated in English and would like to connect more with their culture. They will use it as an accompaniment to the New Testament, helping them to understand their mother tongue more deeply and enabling them to look up words they are not familiar with.’

Notes to Editors

1. For further information, call Jeremy Weightman on the Wycliffe Communications Team on 0300 303 1111.

2. Wycliffe Bible Translators seeks to enable all peoples to engage with the Bible in a language that speaks to them best. It does this through a range of activities, including Bible translation, literacy and Scripture use initiatives. Currently, Wycliffe has 363 people from the UK and Ireland serving 486 million people who speak 368 languages in 71 countries. Of the 7,300 or so languages spoken worldwide today, only about 700 have the Bible. Around 1.5 billion people (one in every five people) do not have the Bible in their language. As a result, translation of the Bible into people’s languages is one of the critical needs in world mission, to enable the growth of evangelism and discipleship ministries.

3. Images. You can download the following images to accompany the press release, by clicking on the ‘Image’ link.

If you use a photo, please add the credit: © Bible Translation and Literacy (BTL)

Image 1 – Samburu girls read the Samburu New Testament

Image 2 – A Samburu woman with her Samburu New Testament

Image 3 – An old man with his Samburu New Testament

Image 4 – Holding the Samburu New Testament aloft

Image 5 – Samburu women read a copy of the Samburu New Testament

Image 6 – A Samburu pastor with his Samburu New Testaments

Image 7 – A handful of Samburu New Testaments

Image 8 – Three people gather round to read the Samburu New Testament

Image 9 – The Samburu New Testaments arrive at the dedication by donkey

Image 10 – An old man reads his Samburu New Testament

Image 11 – Samburu women during their performance at the dedication

Image 12 – Holding up the Samburu New Testament

Image 13 – Samburu women perform at the dedication

Image 14 – Samburu women at the dedication

Image 15 – Leaders pray over the Samburu New Testament