The Koma are a small group of about 8,000 people living in the northwest corner of the Northern Region of Ghana.
- Country: Ghana
- Speakers: 8,000
- Start date: 2011
- Projected end date: 2020
The Koma villages are in an area sometimes called ‘Overseas’ by their neighbours, as each of the major paths leading to the area crosses rivers that are impassable by vehicles in the rainy season. Their location has not only isolated them from education and other development going on in other parts of Ghana, but has also isolated them from the gospel.
In 1993 there was only one small church. The leader of the church could not read, but had to rely on what he could remember of Bible stories using a picture book. As the team translated the New Testament, they engaged in literacy classes. Since the completion and dedication of the New Testament in 2006, they have also produced the Scriptures in audio form.
The translation team is currently translating the Old Testament into Konni (the language of the Koma people), while continuing with literacy and Scripture-use activities. To date, about 80% of the Old Testament has been translated and almost two-thirds has been consultant-checked. By the grace of God, the Koma people now have the New Testament, portions of the Old Testament, the JESUS Film and the God’s Story video in their language. These are very powerful evangelistic tools, and many people are accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. The area is still isolated geographically, but the people are no longer isolated from the good news about Jesus.
- to complete the entire Old Testament in written and oral form, with the community involved in the work
- to see local churches using and promoting the use of the New Testament and translated Old Testament portions
- to see increasing numbers of Koma people accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour
- to see churches in the Koma region growing in strength and number.
(by Konlan, project manager of the Koma translation project)
Yisifu, a young Muslim man, did not like the Christians in his village, nor the Koma literacy classes they ran, so he did his utmost to disrupt classes and church services. The wise church leader, however, told his congregation to pray for Yisifu and ask the Holy Spirit to turn his life around so that he would serve God.
One evening, as Yisifu approached the church, he heard the Christians singing a Koma song about what their lives would be like without Christ. He decided that he needed to accept Christ as his own Saviour, and did so that same evening.
It wasn’t plain sailing from then on, though; his own father disowned him and even forbade him from coming to his funeral if he died. Yisifu asked the church to pray for the situation, and everyone was delighted when Yisifu’s father accepted him back – and not only that, but now declares that Yisifu is his most trusted son!
Yisifu did not know how to read and write before he became a Christian, and saw no value in the literacy classes. Now he has completed a literacy course, and is currently a Sunday school teacher, sharing his passion for Christ and teaching children from the Koma New Testament! Praise God for his work in Yisifu’s life.
Please pray for:
- churches in Ghana to have the ambition of the apostle Paul: to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that he would not be building on someone else’s foundation (Romans 15:20)
- good health for the team as they work, and also for adequate funding to be able to accomplish all their planned activities within their deadlines.
Project, progress and a milestone!
Following on from the publication of the New Testament in 2006, the Koma team have been grappling with the Old Testament to ensure that the Koma people one day have access to the full Bible. The team has just reached a milestone on this journey, celebrating their completion of the first draft of the entire Old Testament!
Alongside translation, they are also focusing on providing the tools for more people to engage with Scripture, and discipling Koma Christians. The team longs to see local churches grow and more people come to know the love of Christ in the Koma region, an area where the majority follow the traditional religion.
Over recent months the team have made progress through:
- drafting Ezekiel – the final book of the Old Testament needing to be drafted!
- providing literacy classes for 232 learners
- showing the JESUS Film in three villages
- sharing Scripture in audio and written format
- awarding New Testaments to the 70 students who completed their first literacy level.
Proclaiming the good news
Sharing the good news of Jesus can be done in different ways, from the words of a book to broadcasting Scripture on the radio. One visual way to do this is through showing the JESUS Film, which shows the life of Jesus. The team has been sharing this in the Koma language, Konni, among many different Koma communities, most recently in the villages of Tansosi and Yikpabongo.
Among those watching the JESUS Film was Alitu Karim, a Muslim prayer caller. Following the film the team asked if anyone wanted to give their lives to Christ and Alitu, along with eight others, stepped forward. Alitu testified that he had been secretly listening to Scripture on a friend’s audio device and through the film the things he had learnt were reaffirmed. We praise God for these new believers and the many ways the gospel is spreading!
The Koma people are surrounded by the Mamprusis, the Sisaalas and the Bulsas. Their proximity to these large language groups, combined with the fact that the Koma people are a small language group, has resulted in many parts of Koma culture being gradually lost. For example, many everyday songs are sung in Mampruli and funeral dirges are sung in Sisaala. However, with the growing presence of the Church, Koma Christians have grown in confidence and are now composing and singing songs in Konni based on Scripture. This has undoubtedly led to the revival of Koma songs in their communities.
To enable translated Scripture to reach the hands of as many Koma people as possible, a mobile phone app has been developed. The app enables people to read verses of Scripture from their phone and also share these with other mobile phone users. The app contains the entire New Testament and all the books of the Old Testament which have been translated. The aim is to keep updating it as more books are published.
The Koma team reports that they are seeing more and more people accessing and sharing Scripture through the app. They have also been distributing memory cards and audio devices with Scripture on for people to listen to.
The team are overjoyed to have heard news of people coming to the Lord through listening to the word of God, one of whom is Fatawu Karim.
Today you will find Fatawu worshipping alongside his wife at the New Pentecost Church in Yikpabongo, but not that long ago, life looked very different. Fatawu was an alcoholic, but after listening to Scripture in his language, he was convicted to accept Christ as his Lord and Saviour. He had heard about how the death of Jesus wipes away our sins.
After coming to the Lord, he shared the good news with his wife, Helia, and she too accepted him. They have both seen the goodness of Christ working in their lives. Fatawu has stopped drinking alcohol and Helia, who had previously had difficult experiences of childbirth brought this to the Lord in prayer, and gave birth to her next son smoothly at home.
The team are excited to report that this year much progress has already been made:
- Scripture apps, which include the whole of the Konni New Testament and the Old Testament that have been checked, are ready for distribution on phones
- literacy classes have begun in almost all villages that have improved solar lighting
- 83% of the Old Testament has now been checked
Learning through translating
Audio translation consultants Bob and Nancy Schaefer visited in September, spending several weeks with the Koma team. Prior to checking the book of Esther, Bob and Nancy showed the team a short video. They pointed out that God isn’t mentioned by name in the book, but shared their joy of still seeing God at work:
‘It was amazing to watch God work in the lives of the Israelites as we went through the book.’
To help remind the team of all that they had learnt, each member was given a bracelet with the words ‘Watch for God’.
Team leader Konlan, who has been in the area since 1993, shared the importance of lasting and fruitful partnerships. In 2002, two men from the Church of Pentecost arrived in Konlan’s village, Yikpabongo, by motorbike. They were prompted by the Spirit to speak to Konlan and he hosted them for four days. Meetings were held, the gospel was preached, 46 adults came to faith and seven people were healed. From amongst these new believers, leaders were chosen and a church began. Today, 16 years later, a church building and a mission station have been built in the village, which is the base for outreach to the area.
‘In heaven you will meet many dear people who have come to Christ partly because of our partnership in helping get his word to them.’ – Konlan, translation team leader.
Since the Shaefers’ visit, the team has been able to carry out comprehension testing of the book of Micah. They hope to complete translation of all the remaining Old Testament books by autumn 2019.
As well as leading the Koma translation team, Konlan also acts as translation consultant for other local Bible translation projects and trains new translation consultants. Training local people is essential to ensuring the work can continue.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- a productive visit by translation consultants Bob and Nancy
- good health for the team
- the work of the literacy classes
- Scripture apps being ready for distribution
Please pray for:
- wisdom for Konlan to know how best to divide his time between his different areas of responsibility
- sustained interest in literacy classes
- ongoing impact of the gospel among the Koma people.
Konlan’s ‘Overseas’ visit
Since his trip to Israel to complete his Hebrew studies, Konlan travelled ‘Overseas’ to visit the Koma people. He was encouraged to see that the team’s prayers for vibrant churches in the area are coming to fruition as the building of the Church of Pentecost at Yikpabongo is progressing well. There are also plans to build a mission house in Yikpabongo and station a resident pastor there to disciple the people.
Konlan met with a Koma chief named Ali, who asked about his trip to the ‘white man’s land’. When Konlan explained that the land he had visited wasn’t any ordinary white man’s land, but the birthplace of Jesus Christ and the starting point for Christianity, Ali and the Koma elders wanted to know more about Israel. As Konlan showed them his pictures of the Holy Land, Ali exclaimed, ’If you are telling us you visited some of the places we have been reading about in the Bible, it is not just a story book!’ He and the elders then remarked that the Bible must be the true word of God, and that they must rededicate their lives to Christ. (Ali was a Christian before becoming a traditional chief.)
Unfortunately Mbaatima – a very strong, wise and godly pillar of the Nangruma church, despite his double disabilities of blindness and leprosy – went to be with the Lord recently.
Progress of the work
Konlan has completed the exegetical checking of Isaiah, which is ready for comprehension testing. He is now doing the exegetical checks of Proverbs and drafting Micah, and is hoping the team can check Esther before the consultants (Bob and Nancy) return for checking Psalms 101–150 in September.
The team attended a Paratext 8 (computer translation software) workshop in fine-tuning translations ahead of typesetting, however, as this will create more work for the team, Konlan considers it is less suitable for use at their advanced stage of translation work (the team has now translated 81% of the Old Testament and consultant checked 71% – praise God!).
The literacy classes have remained very active throughout the dry season, and are going well, with such hunger for mother-tongue literacy that they have had to order reprints of the primers.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- Konlan being able to successfully complete his studies of the Hebrew language in Israel
- the literacy classes doing well in almost all of the Koma villages, and the hunger for learning
- the good health of the staff and their families.
- Ali and the elders to come back to Christ
- Mbaatima’s family and church as they mourn the loss of this godly man
- sustained enthusiasm for the mother tongue
- continued progress of the translation work, and the health of the staff and their families.
Konlan continues his Hebrew studies in Israel. They are going well, and he is enjoying studying biblical poetry. He has also been studying society and culture of the ancient Near East, which has been giving him fascinating insights into life in biblical times. He has enjoyed visiting many sites of historical and biblical importance, such as the garden of Gethsemane, the Dead Sea and the River Jordan.
In Konlan’s absence, the team has been translating Isaiah, Psalms and Proverbs. Literacy classes have been going well in almost all the Koma villages.
During his Christmas break, Konlan returned to Ghana and checked Psalms with the team and Nancy, their consultant. They report that they have now translated 81% of the Old Testament and consultant-checked 71% – praise God!
Give thanks for:
- Konlan’s opportunity to study biblical Hebrew
- the good consultant checking sessions held in December
- progress in the literacy classes.
- good health for all the team and the consultants
- Konlan to understand biblical Hebrew well, so he can help the translation projects and also share biblical insights with other Christians in Ghana
- Koma churches to continue to grow as people hear the gospel in their own language.
Language of learning
Ghana has, in principle, a language policy that states that from kindergarten to the third year of primary education, teaching should be in the mother tongue of the child. Despite this policy, the government has selected certain languages to be used in schools, which don’t include Konni and other minority languages.
Many Koma people have seen for themselves the positive effects of early mother-tongue education, as children who attend Koma literacy classes do better in school than their peers. They have encouraged their children to attend the literacy classes, even if they themselves don’t know how to read and write. Arachia Ali is different, however. She learnt how to read and write in the literacy classes, and has been teaching her son Timothy herself. Timothy is currently a year three pupil. This is what Arachia had to say:
‘When my son was in class two, I gave him the Koma primer, but he could not read it. So I started teaching him how to read from primer 1 to primer 2. When the literacy classes picked up again this dry season, he joined the classes at primer 3. He came back from school one day to tell me that he is one of the best readers in his class now.’
Clement is one of the Koma young men from Yikpabongo village who accepted Christ after attending literacy classes and reading the Konni New Testament. He is now a leader in the Pentecostal church.
Recent achievements and plans
The team translated and corrected Psalms and Joel, and drafted Isaiah. They were able to check Zechariah, Zephaniah, Amos and Haggai with the consultants.
Konlan heard last month that he had been accepted onto an eight-month-long Hebrew course. He is currently in Israel, studying in classes every morning and practising listening in the afternoons. In addition, he plans to continue overseeing the work in Ghana, setting the translation teams passages to translate, checking them through before they meet with the consultant and inputting the changes recommended by the consultant. Konlan hopes that after the Hebrew course he will have sufficient knowledge to translate directly from the Hebrew. This will improve the accuracy of the Konni New Testament, and help in the work Konlan does with other teams, too.
Praise God for:
- God’s help for the team, which has enabled them to translate about 80% of the Old Testament so far
- the ongoing literacy classes and the fruit they are bearing.
Please pray for:
- good health of staff, their families and the consultants to the team, who are currently in the US
- the completion and comprehension testing of Joel and Psalms 81–150
- interest in learning how to read and write Konni to be sustained among the Koma people
- Konlan to learn Hebrew really well, so that he is more effective in translating the Old Testament.