Cameroon | Kwanja (2006)
Christ’s Good News of salvation is now available for the first time in the Cameroonian language of Kwanja…for the price of a chicken.
The first Kwanja New Testament was dedicated in Yimbéré, an upcountry village eight hours hard drive north of the capital city Yaoundé. It was December 2006.
The dedication and celebration ceremony brought crowds of Cameroonians from a large area of the country. Members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Cameroon, missionaries, translators, and North American representatives of Lutheran Bible Translators (LBT) joined them. They thanked God and celebrated the arrival of the first bound volumes of the Kwanja New Testament.
“We thank God for His help, and for the untold hours of work from our dedicated missionaries and national co-workers,” said Marshall Gillam, LBT’s former Executive Director of LBT. “They can now help bring people to faith in Jesus Christ through Scriptures they helped translate in their own language, the language of their hearts. They can read God’s Word, apply it to their lives, obey, and teach others.”
Before the New Testament was translated and printed, Kwanja speakers would listen to pastors preaching in other languages. Those sermons would be translated “on the fly” into Kwanja by Cameroonians who knew both languages. But there was no consistency of message, since translators choose words and translate passages differently.
The Fruit of their Labor
This celebration was the culmination of many years of work for LBT missionaries Joan and Martin Weber. For 22 years, the Webers served as literacy advisor and translation advisor respectively for the Kwanja New Testament. As the Webers and their three children lived among Cameroonians, they shared highs and lows, joys and sorrows.
Translating the Bible is rigorous and time consuming. It is frequently delayed by a lack of resources, poor equipment, divided priorities, and the need to cope with everyday life. In difficult circumstances, the Webers were committed. “In Isaiah 55:11, God says, ‘My Word will not return to Me empty,’” they said. “We now have a tool to help Cameroonians fight the evil enemy, to hear the Word of God, and to speak its redeeming message with boldness in their mother tongue.
Spreading God’s Word and Literacy
The Kwanja New Testament is a precious book. It allows local Christians and missionaries spread God’s Word in a society that is only 40 percent Christian. The New Testament will also serve as a building block to teach literacy among a population that is 5 to 10 percent literate.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Cameroon has accepted the New Testament translation and taken ownership of it. The Bible Society of Cameroon will distribute the New Testaments as widely as possible. The Scriptures are sold at an affordable price to help cover printing costs.
A Kwanja New Testament sells for roughly 1,500 West African francs, the equivalent of $3 USD. It is not uncommon for individuals to pay for their Bibles by selling or bartering an animal, offering the price of a chicken in exchange for the Good News of Salvation.
Cameroon is about the size of California. Located in equatorial West Africa, the former French colony has a population estimated at 16 million. While the average per capita income is about $1,700 USD, it is much lower in the upcountry region where people subsist on farming.
A Kwanja New Testament sells for roughly 1,500 West African francs, the equivalent of $3 USD. It is not uncommon for individuals to pay for their Bible by bartering or selling an animal, offering the price of a chicken in exchange for the Good News of salvation.