By Chris Darby with Katie Kuykendall
Chris and his wife, Marina, are literacy specialists working in Dakar, Senegal, with SIL International, one of Wycliffe’s primary partners.
The translation of the Bible, or parts of it, into local languages is a major activity of our organization. This is a task that takes years, even after completing the necessary linguistic research and work with local people to establish an acceptable written form of their language. So when boxes full of brand new copies of translated New Testaments arrive at our workplace, it’s a cause for celebration and a renewed awareness that the team has many players. All of us—including those helping in finance, guesthouse cleaning, IT support, personnel, or literacy—have contributed to this important achievement and feel encouraged.
We had the opportunity to experience this recently when our office was enjoying a visit from the Catholic abbot of a Benedictine monastery some thirty-five miles from Dakar. The abbot is from the Mankanya language group, a predominantly Catholic people mainly located in southwestern Senegal and the neighboring countries of Gambia and Guinea Bissau. In 1995 he began translating the New Testament into Mankanya out of a belief that his people had never really understood the Gospel due to the lack of the Scriptures in their own language. He worked on the translation for five years with other Mankanya speakers, until he was appointed abbot of his monastery.
He then handed over the responsibility for the translation to the recently formed Mankanya Catholic Translation Association. The association asked for help from SIL, and so an SIL missionary couple joined the work on the Mankanya New Testament!
On the day of the abbot’s visit in March 2014 we enjoyed a meeting in which he stressed the need to “eat” God’s Word on a daily basis, and made an appeal for Catholics and Protestants to work together in making this “food” available. At the moment we finished, and in God’s wonderful timing, there was a knock on the door and we were invited downstairs.
There we witnessed the arrival and unloading of five thousand New Testaments in Mankanya, marking the completion of a work the abbot himself had started. Our director opened a box, took out a New Testament, and wrote a dedication in it before presenting it to the abbot, who promptly knelt in the gravel to receive it.
The official ceremony for the Mankanya New Testaments took place in May 2014. Mankanya songs based on biblical passages have been written and recorded, and an audio recording of the New Testament and Genesis has recently been completed. The next challenge is for the Mankanya to put these precious resources to good use. As the abbot said, the food has to be eaten and digested if it is to do its transforming work.
Please pray with us for the Mankanya people group—that they will engage with God’s Word in their language and let it transform their lives.
This post was last updated in September, 2015.
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