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.

Fact file

  • Country: Central African Republic
  • Speakers: 95,000
  • Start date: 1994
  • Projected end date: 2020
  • Funds still needed for October 2017–September 2018: £53,193

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.

Project goals

  • 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.

Prayer points:

  • 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.
Finalising the Ngbugu writing system in a linguistic workshop
Finalising the Ngbugu writing system in a linguistic workshop
June 2018

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.

Recent challenges

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.

Jesse, Tychique and Guy
Translation team members (left to right) Jesse, Guy and Tychique

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.

Latest News

December 2017

Changed attitudes

A Ngbugu pastor's wife reading the transition guide
A Ngbugu pastor's wife reading the transition guide

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.’

Recent achievements

  • 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.

Pray for:

  • 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.
May 2017

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.
Meeting with the language committee
Meeting with the language committee

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
Ngbugu: The new translator gets to work
The new translator gets to work
Ngbugu: Working on the orthography
Working on the orthography

Praise and prayer

Give thanks:

  • 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

Pray for:

  • 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.