Every country has languages of prestige and influence. Shekgalagari—the primary language of about 200,000 people in Botswana and Namibia—is neither prestigious nor influential. Until Lutheran Bible Translators began to work with them, the Shekgalagari had no direct access to the Word of God.
During a visit to Botswana in the early 1990s Jim Laesch showed a government officer named Mautlhe a recently published Grebo New Testament from Liberia. “This language was never written before?” asked Mautlhe. “No,” Jim explained. “These people only now have God’s Word in their own language.” Mautlhe, a Shekgalagari speaker replied, “This is what my people need.”
Lutheran Bible Translators first sent missionaries to live in the Kgalagari region—where the language is most vibrant—in 2009. Since then, strong local vision and leadership has united the far-flung Shekgalagari community and churches around language development. In 2013, the local project committee partnered with Lutheran Bible Translators and the Bible Society of Botswana to hire and train translation staff.
In its first three-year cycle a small dictionary, a book of Sunday School memory verses, and texts for use at funerals were published by the project. The Gospel of Luke in both print and audio formats was produced. Since then the translation team has drafted and community checked most of the New Testament and plans to publish and launch it in print and audio formats by 2020.
“This is what my people need.”