When we worked in Orlando, we attended regular Scripture Celebrations — big events held a couple times each year for projects that had reached major milestones, complete with music from around the world, flags, and stories of God’s faithfulness seen throughout the process of Bible translations. We were often moved to tears at knowing how many thousands or millions of people would now be able to read and understand His Word.
And then we moved to Nigeria.
A few weekends ago, a little more than a year after we first moved here, we had the opportunity to attend a Scripture dedication right alongside the language community which was receiving the Bible in their own language: the Berom people of Plateau State, Nigeria. This was a real privilege!
One of the many speakers of the day gave a challenge to his fellow Berom community members: “We have no more excuses to say, ‘I don’t understand.'” For generations, the Berom people had an excuse for not choosing Christ, not living in peace, not following the reconciliation with the heavenly Father that is possible through the God of the Bible. It could be that they had never heard the Word in their language — or in recent years, it may have been that they were only able to read the New Testament, which, valuable as it is still paints an incomplete picture of God’s story in Scripture. There was always an excuse.
Now, there is none — all 66 books of the Bible are now available! The main preacher for the day said that he was happy to be the first to ever preach from the whole Berom Bible and encouraged other pastors in attendance to do the same. (Many Berom churches — even though everyone in the congregation speaks Berom as their heart language — still conduct services in Hausa because that is the language in which they have had the Bible.)
At least some pastors took this to heart; many were carrying whole cases of Bibles for use in their congregations.
The Bibles were being sold for 1,000 naira (roughly $7) following the dedication. The fact that they were selling so quickly at this price is made even more remarkable because the Berom community had already donated millions of naira for the printing and final stages of translation. This project was, from the beginning, an initiative of the Berom community. There are one million speakers of Berom, making them the largest people group in Plateau State — and the first in the state to receive a complete Bible.
We were so encouraged by the Berom people’s excitement to have the Word of God in their own language, but we were also encouraged by the fact that they weren’t content to stop there: Even at the dedication they were talking about how they could help other language communities on the Plateau to receive God’s Word.
It looks like they were already taking to heart and putting into action one of the quotes from a speaker at the dedication:
“The Bible is not just to have or to read but to transform our lives.”
Working to see lives transformed by His Word,
Chris, Christie and Judah