They Haven’t Really Heard the Christmas Story

This article was originally posted on and written by Dwayne Janke.

Everyone listened intently as the national translator read from the Mwaghavul [MWA-ga-vool] New Testament. But these people in north central Nigeria were certain that they had never heard the story before. “Where did this come from?” they asked when the reading was finished.

The translator smiled.

“You’ve heard this story every Christmas,” he answered, “but always in Hausa” (the trade language of that area of Nigeria). Indeed, this was the first time the Mwaghavul worshippers had heard the story of Jesus’ birth in their own language. And on this Christmas day it was also the first time they truly heard its message.

I was startled to learn that hundreds of groups in Nigeria still don’t have the Christmas story, or any of God’s Word for that matter, in their heart language. About 150 of them have a definite translation need.

Nigeria is located in central Africa, a region that is home to more than 800 million people. This central African region represents over 30 per cent of the world’s remaining Bible translation need (about 940 languages).

Due to Nigeria’s tight visa restrictions, it is difficult for expatriates to tackle much of the work directly. In doing my research, I learned that local involvement in the Bible translation task by the Nigerian Church, believers and agencies is key. That potential is enormous. Nigeria has tens of millions of believers. Hundreds of Nigerian Christians are serving as missionaries in dozens of countries. Long viewed as a mission field, Nigeria is now becoming a major sending country. Yet Bible translation, even within its own borders, is not getting much attention.

Because whether it’s the Christmas story, or other important portions of God’s Word, too many Nigerians haven’t really heard the message – yet.


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