Preparations were underway for a sacrifice to the ancestors. “Why are you doing this?” a missionary asked. “To ensure safety and prosperity in the new year,” replied the village chief, who was a Muslim.
“Your holy book does not tell you to do this, so why are you making this sacrifice?” inquired the missionary. “Because the people have always done it. They just know they have to do it and they feel better knowing they have done it.”
The missionary tried again. “Why sacrifice to the devil? God made us and takes care of us. Why not pray to Him?” Said the chief, “Because the devil is more powerful than God.”
This conversation took place almost 40 years ago in a Mende village in Sierra Leone. But it could just as likely happen today in any number of locations. Millions of people are living in spiritual darkness. Without faith in Jesus Christ, they struggle to make sense of the world around them. Some use ceremonies, sacrifices, spells or curses to try to manipulate unseen forces and false gods. Life is precarious, full of uncertainty and fear.
As Christians, we know that even in the worst of circumstances, God is with us. Satan is not more powerful than God. How do we know? Through Scripture, where we see repeated examples of our almighty Father victorious over the machinations of the devil and his demons.
In 2003 the Mende people received the New Testament in their language—finally having the opportunity to read and hear for themselves how God is more powerful than demons, ancestors or the devil. People came to faith, are still coming to faith—no longer reliant on rituals and ceremonies but instead trusting in Jesus Christ. Today, as the Mende translation team works on Old Testament translation, people are growing more interested in learning to read and write Mende. Community leaders are supportive of the translation project while personal and community relationships are strengthening as people apply Scripture to their everyday lives. A Mende lay leader remarked, “I know my people can better appreciate the message of the Gospel because it is in their language.”
As we begin 2020, Lutheran Bible Translators serves among the Mende as well as over 100 other language communities in 19 countries. This year will see the dedication of the Gola New Testament in Liberia. There will be dedications of New Testaments or reprints of Scripture in Ethiopia, Botswana and Nigeria. Work continues on lectionaries in both Cameroon and Sierra Leone. Literacy efforts are expanding in multiple countries. New initiatives to encourage the use of Scripture are being developed. If you would like to learn more, please click here to see a partial list of current LBT projects.
Thank you for your interest in Bible translation and God’s mission through Lutheran Bible Translators. Blessings to you in 2020!