This is the travel journal of Tim Doremus, a pastor at Life.Church who traveled across the globe to see Luke chapter 2, the story of Jesus’ birth, translated for the country of Gabon in two of their heart languages for the first time.
7/17/18 – Leaving for Gabon Tomorrow
This week, I’m part of a team to Gabon, Africa as we deliver Luke 2 in two of the heart languages of the Gabonese people for the first time!
As we prepare to leave for Gabon tomorrow, I’m sitting here reflecting on the mind-blowing journey we’re about to embark on. God’s doing something incredible through our partnership with illumiNations, and together we’ll get a glimpse into the fruit of that. In a few days, we’ll see Luke 2 delivered to people who have never had access to the Bible in their heart language.
Think about that for a minute. What would it be like to try to reach people for Christ without access to a Bible they could understand? How would you feel if you couldn’t read the story of Christ’s birth to your kids? Would you be able to grow as a follower of Christ?
… before people can pray to the Lord for help, they must believe in him. And before they can believe in the Lord, they must hear about him. … Romans 10:14 ERV
As I let that sink in, it makes the work of eradicating Bible poverty feel even more urgent because more than a billion people still don’t have a complete Bible in their language. And it makes me even more grateful for the opportunities we have at this point in history. Just as YouVersion uses technology to help people be able to easily access Scripture, our Bible translation partners are leveraging technology to help get Scripture translated.
“Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone.” Mark 16:15 NLT
As I’m learning, translating the Bible into another language used to take decades. But visionary organizations that make up the illumiNations movement now project that with enough funding, they could have the New Testament translated for 99.9% of the world’s population by the year 2033.
To get Scripture circulating in their communities as quickly as possible, each time a new chapter is translated, local churches share it as audio recordings and print booklets. When this project is complete, they’ll compile it into a book—and of course we’ll offer it in the Bible App—and 280,000 Gabonese people will have the opportunity to experience the Bible.
As we celebrate this work, we also have to recognize that translating the Bible is not easy. Members of the translation teams live in many villages and cities throughout remote regions, so gathering for workshops is critical to the project’s success. That’s where our partnership comes in as we help fund the cost of food, lodging, and travel for these workshops.
The people involved in the translation project have suffered substantial setbacks. Translators have had close family members die or nearly die. And travel is difficult for consultants and facilitators because visas are often granted at the last minute, if at all.
7/20/18 – We Made It to Gabon!
We made it! At least to Libreville, the capital of Gabon. Tomorrow, after meeting with local ministry teams, we’ll travel to the eastern part of Gabon. It’s in this rural region of the country that we’ll see the three language groups we’re sponsoring Bible translations for. I can’t tell you how excited and honored I am to get there and help deliver the Christmas story to these people groups.
But first, let me tell you more about our team.
- Brian Russell: Leads the YouVersion team (He’s on the left in a black shirt.)
- Jonathan Meisner: Our Life.Church Storyteller (He’s next to me, wearing a hat and black YouVersion shirt.)
- Terry Storch: Oversees all Life.Church digital teams (He’s on the right in—you guessed it—a black shirt.)
Before meeting up with Jonathan and me in Libreville, Terry and Brian spent two days in nearby Lagos, Nigeria, with key Bible partners of YouVersion. (Did you know Nigeria is one of the top-10 countries for Bible App usage in the world?) I’m a little jealous these guys had a two-day head start getting over jet lag, but I was very encouraged they had a fruitful time in Lagos.
Now, I’ll share a little bit about the wonderful country we’ll be in these next few days. The entire country of Gabon is roughly one-and-a-half times the size of Oklahoma with a population of two million. And while the official language is French, many Gabonese don’t speak it. Instead, they speak one of the approximately 40 indigenous languages of the country. We’ll visit three of those groups on our trip and see them receive the very first portion of Scripture ever available in their languages!
Thanks for following along with our journey and for your prayers for safe travel. Our prayer now that we’re in Gabon is that we’d develop even more of God’s heart for this nation and the specific people groups we’ll be traveling to.
7/21/18 – Prescillia’s Story
I can’t tell you how refreshing a good night’s sleep felt after such a long trip. But even without sleep, I think I’d be wide awake and energized by the stories we’re hearing.
Today, we completed the final leg of our trip—flying 1.5 hours from Libreville to the town of Franceville in southeastern Gabon. This is the main city in the region where speakers of the eight language groups we’ve been assisting are located.
I’ll tell you a little more about the translation project and then introduce you to Prescillia, one of the key translators involved.
The translation project is called Kiyoweti, a word the teams created using the first letter of each of the eight languages being covered. These languages are very different from one another, but it’s possible for multiple translation teams to work on all eight at the same time because speakers of all eight languages live in this region.
Tomorrow will be the dedication of the first portions of Scripture ever delivered in two of these languages: Obamba and Téké!
While here, we also had the opportunity to spend time with Prescillia, one of the key administrators of the teams and an Obamba translator.
Prescillia is a business lawyer by trade. She and her husband have four kids. She left her much-better-paying job to be a part of this important work. She explained to us that while she speaks French and even a bit of English, it’s crucial to her to see the Bible translated into her heart language of Obamba. She told us, “Until now, the pastors in churches have had to preach in French. But many speakers of these regional languages don’t understand. And it also leaves us thinking that God is the God of the white people. But now, when we hear Scripture in Obamba, we think: God speaks my language. He is our God, too!”
More About Life.Church Global Missions.
When Prescillia and the team started work on this project in November of last year, there wasn’t even a written alphabet for the language. They had to actually create the alphabet and teach it to people in the nearby villages in order for them to be able to read the Scripture text they were translating. Because literacy is also just now being birthed among these groups, each translation team is recording audio versions along with each text chapter of the Bible being produced.
Prescillia is eager to see this work finished and is hopeful that one day soon the entire book of Luke will be available for her people. With extreme thankfulness, she said, “Your church is very important for us—for this project, and for the Obamba people. Without your help, this project would not be able to be realized. We are so grateful. It’s a joy for us to think that God has sent people from your church so far away to help us.”
I’m already so moved by the stories we’re hearing and the joy in people like Prescillia’s faces that I can’t wait for tomorrow’s official dedication of the first Bible chapter to the Obamba and Téké peoples. I’m excited to tell you all about it and share some pictures of the Obamba and Téké Bible texts so you can celebrate with us, too!
Thanks for being on this journey with us. We appreciate your prayers.
7/22/18 – Today Is the Day!
Today was amazing! We got to be part of a ceremony where two language groups received portions of the Bible for the first time ever—and it was surreal. The service started with one of the most vibrant worship celebrations I’ve ever experienced. (I’m thinking Life.Church might have a few new songs to add to the music rotation!) And as I looked across the room, all I could see were faces of pure joy as people from different churches celebrated this moment in unity.
After an introduction from Pastor Jean Marc, leader of the Kiyoweti project, we shared greetings on behalf of Life.Church and explained how you’ve been following the story from afar and lifting them up in prayer. Then, our team had the tremendous honor of being the first to put Luke 2 in each person’s hands. We handed booklets in the Téké language to half the room and Obamba to the other half.
So why was Luke 2 selected as the first chapter of the Bible to translate? According to Pastor Jean Marc, “Jesus’ birth is the foundation of the story of Christ. And thus the foundation of all the Scripture to follow.” Luke 2 is just the beginning. The translation team is already working on Chapters 1, 3, 4 and 5 of Luke.
Yesterday, I explained alphabets had to be created before translation work could even begin, and these groups are just beginning to read. So along with the booklets we distributed, everyone was given an audio recording of Luke 2 as well. One of the eager group members specifically mentioned how excited they are to see the text and audio in the YouVersion Bible App when the book of Luke is finished.
Different people expressed their thanks to Life.Church and everyone involved multiple times. “This project would not be possible without your church.” Because of you, Obamba and Téké speakers can now read or listen to the Christmas story for themselves.
Please join us in praying for the Téké and Obamba people in this region. As they read or hear Luke 2, pray that it brings Christ to life in their hearts.