Author: Simon Bartz, 25 August 2022
‘We are giving people what they have longed for! The Bible can address our nation’s problems, and people’s needs will be met, in word and deed,’ said Bible Society in The Gambia’s leader, Michael Ellis.
Michael had to raise his voice to make himself heard because surrounding him Jola people were singing songs of praise.
They were celebrating last month in the small town of Kampant at the launch of the first ever Bible in the Jola language. It was a joyful occasion made possible through the kind giving of Bible Society supporters, whose generosity over the years has made the translation possible.
People filled the room and spilled outside into the hot sun, worshipping God as boxes of Bibles were carried into the church. Church leaders and translators prayed over the Bibles, thanking God, and they were then handed out to waiting believers.
Abraham, a Bible-based literacy teacher from a nearby village who joined the celebration said, ‘Today you can hear them singing praise and worship songs in Jola. It is very important to know God in your own language. People will be transformed.’
‘This has been my desire for a long time, and we have prayed to see this Bible completed,’ said Abraham. ‘I am a Jola, brought up in a Muslim family, and now I follow Jesus. How? Because of the Word of God. This Bible will impact people’s lives so much.’
Work on the New Testament began in 2007 and was completed in 2012. Work on the Old Testament started in 2013, it is being translated from the original Hebrew text.
There are 65,000 Jola people, mainly farmers, on the Gambian West coast, and more across Africa. The Bible will serve as a crucial outreach tool in this majority-Muslim nation.
Project Manager Issakka, who works with Bible Society in The Gambia, said, ‘Now people will be reading the scripture for themselves. They will not be looking at God through the lens of another person but looking at God through the lens of the Bible. They will now experience it in their own way.’
Bible Society in The Gambia’s General Secretary Michael plans to use the new Bible as a basis for audio Scriptures, new reader portions, evangelistic materials and stories for children. ‘Faith will grow, people of all backgrounds will come to know Jesus, and the Jola society will be transformed’ he said.
‘The Bible is for all people, in every living language,’ he added.