‘This vision is not just about Bible translation, but about who we are, what our lives are like. We need to reflect what we translate because in the big picture of reaching others, our lives count!’ – Ngbugu translator
- Country: Central African Republic (CAR)
- Language: Ngbugu
- Start date: 1994
- Projected end date: 2022
Across CAR you find rainforests, grasslands and semi-desert. The Ngbugu language is spoken in the grasslands in the south of the country. The main sources of income for the Ngbugu people are subsistence farming and fishing. Since 2013, CAR has been in turmoil following a coup d’état, meaning that life is often riddled with violence and uncertainty.
Although Christianity is the majority faith in the region, there has been a lack of effective discipleship and the Bible does not yet exist in the Ngbugu language. As a result, traditional beliefs are still strong. Literacy rates are also very low, which means many people haven’t yet been able to engage with Scripture. Over many years of translation the team has seen people growing in faith though, and the New Testament is now almost ready to be launched in the community, but there is still progress to be made before they can have access to the full Bible.
Although the project started in 1994, the team has suffered many setbacks, including sickness, death and political unrest. They have also all had to vacate the local area and work from the city of Bangui. Despite this, the translators have persevered with their goals in both translation and literacy. We praise God that they have now completed the New Testament, which is on its way to be printed!
Whilst the team awaits the arrival of the New Testament, they continue to translate portions of the Old Testament, equip churches to engage with Scripture and produce literacy materials.
Join in praise and prayer for the Ngbugu people:
- Praise God that CAR seems to be more peaceful since the coup in 2013, although there is still unrest in many parts of the country.
- Give thanks to God that the Ngbugu New Testament is complete and will soon be in the hands of the community.
- Pray for the translators to be able to put into practice all they have learnt through training and continue to improve their skills.
- Ask God to grant the team and their families good health, strength, wisdom and insight so they can achieve all that is planned for the next year.
- Pray that the armed groups in the local area will be totally disarmed and demobilised so that the Ngbugu team can return to their community.
- Pray for the Ngbugu people to put their faith in Christ alone as they read about him in the newly translated Scriptures.
A marvellous milestone
It is with great joy that we can share the news that the Ngbugu team has reached a huge milestone by completing the final stages of the New Testament, which has now gone to print.
The final stage of typesetting did not, however, go quite as expected, but the team could clearly see God at work. In the third week of the typesetting, lead translator Tychique was suddenly taken very ill, but after a few days of rest he recovered and was able to continue with the work. They also overcame the connectivity issues they shared in their last update; after previously having only limited communication, they were able to hold multiple internet calls and screen share. This was vital due to the need to work with an overseas consultant to complete the typesetting process. We praise God for bringing the team this far and that the Ngbugu people will soon be able to hold what they have been patiently waiting for, over many years.
Nyë wä la mômô, nyënyê ndə̂ nyê kɨ angêta, q bëte Ndjapä âtroadje ngûla nyê!
Rejoice, you who cry today, for God will wipe away your tears.
Matthew 5:4 in Ngbugu and the translation back into English, shared by the Ngbugu team as an encouragement.
To increase the reach of Scripture and the message of hope that comes with knowing Jesus, the team has been using creative resources.
The team has now completed translation of the script for a mini film series called Walking with Jesus. Over five sessions the series aims to help new followers grow in their relationship with Christ. This is done through depicting common life scenarios and modelling committed Christian discipleship.
As well as the mini-series the team has also been utilising the JESUS film, which takes viewers through the life of Jesus. Unfortunately, the team’s latest screening of this in the town of Bossongo did not go quite to plan. Roughly 500 men, women and children turned up to watch the film, but just before Jesus’ crucifixion the film cut out, and no call to commitment could be issued. Unable to resolve the issue, the team instead prayed with the audience and is aiming to organise another screening.
Before the launch of the New Testament can take place, there are a number of hurdles that the team needs to overcome. With violence still a threat in the area, they need to make sure that they have adequate security in place, and committed volunteers to help run the event. The team also needs to raise awareness and encourage people from across the region to attend.
Because of these challenges, the team is hoping to collaborate with leaders from different strata of society. The plan is to run a workshop for leaders so that they can find solutions collectively. Local churches have also been working together and have set up a committee to help plan the event.
Persevering through Covid-19
A number of restrictions have been introduced in CAR in light of Covid-19 which has changed the way the team is working. All team members are well and still able to go into the office, but are taking turns to do so to avoid interacting with too many people. All activities in the community are on hold, which will limit progress in some areas.
In the wider community social distancing is difficult as many people live in cramped conditions, rely on going out each day for food and have limited access to health information. Churches have also been closed and gatherings of more than 15 people are banned, something for which church leaders were unprepared. Local partner organisations are looking for ways to equip churches with resources to enable them to care for their congregations during this time.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- connectivity issues being resolved ensuring that typesetting could take place
- God’s protection over the team and their families during this difficult time
- churches coming together to support the project
- God sustaining the team over many years and the completion of the New Testament.
Please pray for:
- the Ngbugu area to be protected from covid-19 as it could have a catastrophic impact
- printing to go smoothly and the New Testament to soon be with the community
- the team to continue to make progress on Scripture resources
- wisdom as leaders meet with the team to plan the launch of the New Testament.
The final hurdle
After many years of faithful, painstaking work, the Ngbugu team have now finished the final spelling and consistency checks on the Ngbugu New Testament. All stops are now out to begin typesetting in the next week– the final stage before it can be printed and put in the hands of the community!
Translation centre staff member Nate is currently working hard to ensure a good enough wifi connection is in place for this to happen. MiDi Bible, a Swiss ministry with a vision for publishing the Bible for populations with no access to the Bible in the language they understand best, has stepped up to partner in the work of typesetting and publishing. As they are based in Switzerland and the team are in Bangui, the capital of CAR, it is important to build good communication. The Ngbugu team have already had some good interactions with the typesetters.
Love one another deeply
Despite the logistical challenges of having to travel 500km to the Ngbugu communities, late last year Scripture engagement coordinator Pastor Mathurin went with the Ngbugu translators to Alindao to share the vision of how churches and individuals can use the Scriptures in their day to day life. Pastor Mathurin was warmly welcomed by the community, who wouldn't stop feeding him, sometimes he even had to eat five meals a day!
The time was an encouragement to all and has resulted in a stronger bond of love forming between the community and the translation team. It is this which we read of being the fruit of having the living and enduring word of God:
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God – 1 Peter 1: 22-23 (NIV)
Despite the warm welcome received by Pastor Mathurin, people were initially discouraged by his teaching on the sobering reality of spiritual ‘malnutrition’. They realised this was exactly their situation, as they don't read or use the Bible as they should.
The next morning people were coming up to him to say that they had started searching the Bible that night for help with particular issues they face. They were amazed at how God had spoken to them and said they must have the New Testament in Ngbugu!
The Ngbugu team have already seen excitement building among the community for the launch of the New Testament, even from those who aren’t yet believers.
During a visit to local villages to build awareness of the need for Scripture, a shop owner of
another faith said he wanted to be the first to order Bibles and donate money right at the moment because he was so excited that people could get to know God better through the New Testament.
Alongside this, the president of a local church denomination in the region was so struck by what he heard that he gave money up front for a whole box of Ngbugu New Testaments to be given free to all the pastors in the church.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- God sustaining and equipping all involved in the work so far
- the Gospel partnerships and deep love between the translators, local churches and believers
- spiritual hunger for the living and enduring word of God among the Ngbugu.
Please pray for:
- good communication and internet connections so that typesetting can begin and progress well
- plans for further training of pastors and Bible Institute students on using the Bible to come to fruition
- increasing spiritual hunger so that when the New Testaments arrive they will be put to immediate and effective use.