The Central African Republic (CAR) is located, as the name suggests, in the centre of Africa. Rainforest, grasslands and semi-desert are all found in CAR. The Ngbugu language is spoken in the grasslands area in the south of the country.
- Country: Central African Republic
- Start date: 1994
- Projected end date: 2020
Although the project started in 1994, the team has suffered many setbacks, including sickness, death and political unrest. Despite this, the translators have persevered with their goals, both of translation and literacy. The literacy rate among the Ngbugu is very low, so setting up literacy classes and producing materials for teaching reading has been a priority. They have now translated all of the New Testament, and are checking it with consultants and with Ngbugu speakers. The team has also written several general development booklets.
Wycliffe Bible Translators UK provides 100% of the funding for this project. The money will be used for salaries, rent, equipment, publication and everything else that is needed.
- to translate the New Testament and portions of the Old Testament into Ngbugu
- to increase literacy rates
- to have strategies and resources in place to help Christians use the translated Scriptures
Opportunities and challenges
The translators report, ‘We find that in the majority of Ngbugu churches, especially in the villages, portions of translated Scripture are used and the understanding is so much better than when using the national language. This has created a huge desire for literacy classes in these churches – a positive sign that people really do want to read the Bible in their own language.’
The Central African Republic has been in turmoil since a coup d’état in March 2013. A Ngbugu translator there reports, ‘We testify to the greatness of our Lord God, who provides for and protects the Ngbugu project. This rebellion is not a defeat, but something to make us reflect on what we’ve done before and make a new strategy for the future. The population eagerly awaits the New Testament – and then the whole Bible – in their language!’ Pray for the Ngbugu team to be encouraged as they press on.
- 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
- pray for the translators to be able to put into practice all they have learnt in recent linguistics workshops
- pray for God to give health, strength, wisdom and insight so they can achieve all that is planned for the next year
- pray for the Ngbugu people to put their faith in Christ alone as they read about him in the newly translated Scriptures.
Project and progress
Despite ongoing instability in the region, the Ngbugu team have been hard at work over the last few months focusing on the final stages of the New Testament. They have been working on spell checking and the harmonising of biblical terms and passages that appear in multiple parts of Scripture.
Alongside this the team, who are no longer based in the language community due to the unrest in the area, have been trying to travel home when the opportunity presents itself. This is to enthuse their language communities about the forthcoming New Testament and put things in place to ensure the books and recordings will be used as effectively as possible.
The Ngbugu team discovered earlier this year that some words they were using were not quite what they seemed and how vital it is share translations with the local community. In April the team again visited the Ngbugu–speaking village of Alindao to read aloud translated portions of the New Testament and spend time with their review committee. This is an essential step as it allows teams to check that translations are clear and natural.
During this time they found that some words they had used did not translate quite as well as they had hoped. One example was the word for promise – ‘zama’. While this word can sometimes mean ‘to promise’, in most contexts it means ‘to give an order’. This caused much confusion for those listening but with the help of the review committee they settled on the word ‘bâlâ’, which clearly means promise. Now Romans 4:13–21, in which Paul speaks of the promise that God made to Abraham, is much clearer in Ngbugu!
The team praise God for the warmth of reaction from the community, who were full of joy to see the progress that had been made with the New Testament.
Local church input
As well as gaining input from local villages, it is important for the team to work closely with local churches. This helps to build awareness and gives churches the chance to input in to the work.
Just last month two translators, Tychique and Jesse-Joel, attended a church conference in Alindao where they spent time with local Ngbugu church leaders. With the team nearing the end of the New Testament, Tychique and Jesse-Joel consulted with pastors on the final images and formatting, and began the process of choosing a committee to organise the New Testament dedication ceremony.
Connecting with students
Ngbugu students at a local Bible college, the Elim Bible Institute, recently had the chance to hear the Gospel of Luke read in their own language for the very first time.
Their teacher, Abrouandi Jacob, shared how he first read several different versions of passages in Luke before ending with a passage from the Ngbugu translation. This was met with amazement by the students, who declared:
‘Through this text in Ngbugu we understand the passage more than all other previous versions we have heard.’
All lessons using Luke are now done using the Ngbugu translation which – Abrouandi praises God – is now available.
Literacy classes remain on hold due to travel and security still being difficult in the region. The team are instead focusing efforts on the final phases of translation but do aspire to restart this area of work in the future using the Ngbugu materials that have been produced.
The final layout
After many years of translation the Ngbugu New Testament is almost ready for the final phase of translation before it can reach the hands of the Ngbugu people – typesetting.
Typesetting involves a team using software to carefully lay out Scripture into a complete book, and thus ensure it is easy to read. This involves everything from adding footnotes and maps to making sure text is aligned on either side of the page. Throughout the process drafts are sent back to the translation team for checking.
Many readers of the Bible will be newly literate so it is essential to make the text as readable and clear as possible. The hope is typesetting will begin later this year.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- time spent sharing progress with the review committee and wider community, and the joy that this was met with
- the translation team being so close to finishing the New Testament
- local Bible college students being able to use Ngbugu Scriptures and the clarity this has brought to their understanding
- God’s continued provision for and protection over the team
- the opportunity to consult with local church pastors at a recent church conference.
Please pray for:
- the translation schedule to remain on track, and for typesetting to be able to begin soon
- wisdom in choosing illustrations, captions and maps to complete the New Testament, and for the consultant checking of these final elements to go smoothly
- the fixing of translator Tychique’s broken computer and that in the process no work would be lost
- the team finishing the New Testament, as they continue to work on tasks that take a lot of time and mental concentration.
Bible translators from across the CAR region gathered together to take part in a workshop in Bangui in October 2018. The workshop was designed to help them plan for maximum impact of the Scriptures in their own language communities. They were able to connect with the wider vision of Bible translation and went away greatly encouraged to continue the work God has equipped them to do:
‘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!’ – workshop attendee
- community checking of New Testament books from Matthew to 2 Corinthians
- first drafting of Genesis in progress
- development of literacy class syllabus
- team able to attend seminar on Scripture use.
A key part of any translation project is to check the accuracy of the translation with local people. This ensures the final translation is clear and natural. The Ngbugu team recently visited the Alindao community and carried out this final phase. Whilst checking for accuracy, the team were amazed to see the reaction of the speakers as they read the New Testament out loud. The speakers were able to openly share their views and rejoiced that they will soon have the word of God in their own language.
Keeping language alive
For those living in CAR, life is riddled with violence and instability. In the midst of this, translation work continues and strong links with local churches remain. One of these is the Elim Mandjambe Church family, who have been preaching, singing and praying in Ngbugu:
‘So [even] if the war does not end quickly, we will not lose this language and the children will inherit the language of their fathers.’ – church deacon, Mobaya
Many including the church deacon, Mobaya, were forced to flee the country and feared that they would lose their language amongst the instability. On returning, however, they found the Ngbugu language has been strengthened and kept alive in the community through translation.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- continued protection of the translation team who have been spared when faced with life-threatening situations
- translators being able to take part in a Scripture impact workshop
- positive response to final community checking of the New Testament.
Please pray for:
- several staff members involved in Bible translation who are currently facing public accusations against them
- security in the region and the safety of the Ngbugu team
- an increase in the number of Ngbugu speakers learning to read and write
- government and militia groups as they meet together for peace talks in Khartoum.
Praise God for progress of the work!
All of the New Testament has now been translated, and Scriptures are being made available as they are being checked and published. The team now aims to publish the whole New Testament and portions of the Old Testament, further encourage literacy, and continue to put into practice strategies and resources to help Christians use the translated Scriptures.
Flowing in their mother tongue
André Mbanga, a leader in his local church, recently had his first experience of praying and preaching in his mother tongue.
Previously, he thought either French or Sango (the national language of CAR) was preferable, so it was a surprise to be asked to pray and deliver a short devotional talk in his mother tongue as part of a training session in Alindao for Ngbugu facilitators.
Once he started speaking, André found that Ngbugu expressions flowed easily from his lips, just as if he was preaching in Sango. Encouraged by this experience, he is motivated to keep on praying and preaching in Ngbugu as opportunities arise.
By contrast, Thérèse Doubale, a retired teacher and mother-tongue Ngbugu speaker, has had a longstanding involvement in the Ngbugu project. Despite having moved to the capital, Bangui, with her family at the age of 12, she has continued to practise her mother tongue, teaching Ngbugu songs to other women in her church.
As a result, she has been able to act as a back translator for the team, involving checking all of the translated text to ensure it is accurate and natural-sounding.
Lower Kotto is the CAR region where the majority of Ngbugu people live. As a result of recent violence in the area, many of them were forced to flee, with a majority taking refuge in the Democratic Republic of Congo, while others are internally displaced.
One of the consequences of this unrest is that a workshop had to be cancelled. Also, sadly, the son of Jesse – one of the translation team members – died from an infection, and another translator’s daughter was killed in a road accident.
Despite these challenges, team members are encouraged that progress is being made in preparation for the publication of the Ngbugu New Testament. They were able to attend teaching sessions on creating introductions to the New Testament and harmonising parallel texts.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the successful completion of the translation of the whole of the New Testament
- the completion of the revision of 1 and 2 Peter and Luke
- the consultant checking of introductions to the Gospels of Mark, Luke and John.
Please pray for:
- wisdom, as previously translated books of the Bible are revised and the New Testament is prepared for publication
- successful workshops on dictionary-making and the marketing and distribution of Scripture for the team over the next few months
- prompt design of new textbooks so that literacy classes can be established
- Jesse and his family to be comforted on the loss of their son, also the other translator’s family on the loss of their daughter
- a resolution to the violence in the Lower Kotto area, so that the people who have been displaced can return to their homes and livelihoods in safety.
Sabonang Didier, a reviewer in the Ngbugu Bible Translation Project, writes:
‘Firstly, I am grateful for being literate in my mother tongue. Indeed, I’m a literacy teacher in a college, and I’m a good teacher in French. But I was unable to read and write in my own language, my mother tongue. Then one day I was invited to participate in a workshop on the Ngbugu Transition Guide [a guide on how to read and write the language for people who can already read a different language]. That day I was fortunate to discover how the Ngbugu language is rich and abundant. After three days, I could read my mother tongue fluently.’
‘On Sunday, in our church, I was allowed to read Matthew 22:23-33. After reading I was amazed to see that the crowd became joyful to hear me reading so well in my mother tongue. For many, a French literacy teacher cannot have respect for a mother tongue. Since then, many pupils, students and local officials decided to change their attitude towards the mother tongue.’
- consultant checking of Hebrews 1-13 and 1 and 2 Peter
- local checking of Revelation 1-22
- participation in a workshop on making and editing audio recordings
- first draft of parts of Genesis
One of the translators reports, ‘The team and the Ngbugu people rejoice because we have only one book of the New Testament to check with the consultant. This book is Revelation. For us it means that God is achieving his goal in the Ngbugu community. The churches are waiting for the Ngbugu New Testament. That is very significant.’
Give thanks for:
- protection for the team during their last trip to the town of Alindao; soon after their stay many people were killed by rebels
- the establishment of a committee of volunteers to oversee the literacy work in the Ngbugu area
- near completion of the translation of the New Testament – only Revelation is awaiting consultant checking.
- the planned office move from Alindao to another town, Mobaye
- peace and stability in the region so that the JESUS Film can be shown and literacy classes can begin.
The team has finished the first draft of all of the books of the New Testament. It is only waiting for the checking of the rest of the books by consultants. Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians and Jude were recently checked with a consultant.
- The team worked with the linguistic specialist on how to write tone in Ngbugu. (Some words which have the same vowels and consonants in the same order can mean different things if spoken at different pitches. It’s very important to make sure these can be distinguished in the written text, to avoid misunderstandings.)
- some literacy work was postponed because of continued instability in the area
- the team organised a community reading-aloud session of Matthew and Colossians at the Ngbugu town of Alindao
- it organised literacy classes in the towns of Pavica and Alindao
- during the trip to the above places the team also met with the language committee
- The team reviewed and adapted Matthew and Mark to the new orthography, or writing system, including marking tone. It also produced a document explaining how the orthography works.
Plans for the next few months
- print Matthew’s gospel
- finish work on the spelling book
- check Hebrews and 1 and 2 Peter with the consultant
- participate in the Elim church regional conference
- visit the Mobaye area in order to train literacy teachers
Praise and prayer
- for the employment of a new Ngbugu translator, Guy Matchi
- that the new orthography including the tone marks makes such a difference for this language; it is an immediate help in making the translation more natural, clear and easy to read
- for the provision of funding for this year’s activities
- for protecting the team during the trips to the language area
- training courses which translators Joel and Guy will be attending
- peace in the Ngbugu region of CAR; recent instability led to two of the translators’ homes being burnt down
- the Lord’s protection and blessing on the translators and their families.