(This post is taken from a recent newsletter, but with more photos and description.)
After more than 20 years of linguistic work, literacy classes, translation and checking, war and insecurity, the Tembo people now have the entire New Testament in their language! Praise God!!
The dedication ceremony was held Oct. 7, in the city of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Tembo home area is actually several hours away, in another province. But the project moved to Goma around 15 years ago because of militia fighting in their home area, a knock-on effect of the genocide in Rwanda. The situation in the Tembo homeland is still dire at times… villages burned, pillaged, people attacked, raped, killed.
|Translator Robert Mwanjale (far right) in the village of Ziralo, distributing the book of Genesis.|
|Road to the Goma airport, with the volcano Mount Nyiragongo in the background. Lava from multiple eruptions covers much of the city and surrounding area.|
|Goma, city of over 1 million people|
The Tembo had always planned to hold the dedication in the town of Bunyakiri, where the project first started. But due to insecurity and bad roads, they decided to have it in Goma, for the safety of visitors and to thank the Goma community for their support.
Thousands of people came to celebrate, dance, and hear Scripture in Tembo. Several of us attended from our Bunia office, and others came from Kinshasa, Kenya, the U.S. and Europe. It was a joyful celebration from start to finish!
The ceremony was held in a large, new hall that normally rents for thousands of dollars a day. A well-wisher donated it for the ceremony for just the cost of cleaning. Local support for Tembo language work was evident. The Vice Governor of the Province came, as did several church denomination leaders. But most of the attendants were Tembo people – men, women and children. They heard Scripture read, sang songs, danced, and heard speeches.
|Tembo ladies listening to Scripture being read in their language|
Above: Dancing to traditional Tembo music. At one point, a policeman approached the crowd, and I wondered what he would do. He joined in the dancing, enthusiastically.
|Traditional dancing - it involved a lot of complicated shoulder work. Very impressive!|
|Rev Masumbuko (head translator) and Rev Rasi (also a team member and a revered pastor) pray as the New Testaments are brought in.|
A highlight of the ceremony was this young girl – daughter of Rev Masumbuko - reciting a poem in Tembo. The poem starts as a lament about the bitterness of life: "The world is bitter. The world tastes bad. The world is thorny." Then she asked, "What should we do?" Then she held up the New Testament and proclaimed, "Let us each strive to regularly read the Word of God! The Word of God is our strength. The Word of God is our salvation. The Word of God is our joy!" and she finished by reciting all the books of the New Testament in Tembo. People cheered, and many came to the stage to congratulate her. An official present was so impressed that he announced he was going to pay her school fees for year! (Her mother waved her arms in the air and cheered at that news.)
The ceremony was striking in terms of people’s excitement about Tembo culture and language – music, dancing, multiple readings, the poem – but also in terms of support from the wider community. The Vice Governor attended and gave a speech on the importance of translation for community development in DRC. He also pledged to donate a copy of the Tembo New Testament to every school in the province that has Tembo children.
The president of the Baptist denomination that sponsored the translation, Rev Kombi Kasokero (above, left, addressing the group of honored visitors), has been a passionate advocate for the Tembo translation. He is not Tembo himself, he stands nothing to gain personally from this translation, but he cares about his people. A Dutch journalist interviewed him after the ceremony and asked why he thought Bible translation was important to people, when there are so many other pressing needs – food, education, peace. Rev Kombi said that translation is important so that people will understand the Gospel and learn to live in peace, without killing each other. Amen! That is also our prayer.
Above: the Vice Governor of the province (far left) and the traditional chief of the Tembo people (next to him).
They invited me to say a few words while people were eating their snacks (peanuts, bread, cheese, sausage, and a soda). Rev Nganga translated into Tembo. I told about the first time I went to Goma to work with the Tembo team, 7 years ago, and language committee president came to formally welcome me. He said, "We Tembo, we love working with women. We really appreciate them. Because when the father comes home, he says to the children, "Have you done your homework?" (shaking his finger at them), but when the mother comes home, she says, "Oh my children, have you eaten? (spreading her hands generously before them)"
In addition to the New Testament, they were selling various other publications in the Tembo language, including traditional stories, the book of Genesis, a manual on trauma healing, and an illustrated dictionary (Tembo-French).
|Bunia group (including our pilot, back seat middle) heading back to the airport|