Sierra Leone | Limba New Testament (2011)

The Limba New Testament

The Limba people have dedicated their New Testament – again! A revised edition was officially launched Dec. 16, 2011, during ceremonies in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

The Limba New Testament, originally dedicated in 1983, was one of the first translation projects completed with primarily LBT involvement. Former missionaries John and Joanne Iler were the main translators. From 1983 to 1988, former missionaries Bob and Jean Schmitt served as literacy advisors. Since then, the main personnel on the project have been Sierra Leoneans Larmin Kargbo and Patrick Kamara. Under their leadership, the Limba people have embraced the Gospel in their heart language with great enthusiasm.

Literacy among the Limba

But there have been stumbling blocks along the way. The Limba are primarily an oral society. When the printed New Testament was introduced, many Limba people lacked reading skills. Those who could read were more literate in English, the national language of Sierra Leone, than in Limba.

Reading in Limba was a new concept back in the 1980s, and those who could read their own language were usually the community leaders. Over the years, enrollment in literacy classes has continued to grow. In 2010, more than 450 adults and children were learning to read Limba under the guidance of 56 teachers. Limba literacy and Scripture engagement work continues to be carried out through The Institute for Sierra Leonean Languages (TISLL).

Need for revisions and a reprint

The need for a reprint of the New Testament became apparent several years ago. The Bible Society in Sierra Leone, with permission from LBT, updated the 1983 edition, making minor changes to the orthography (alphabet). Changes were also made to ambiguous words and phrases that might potential express the wrong meaning.

Limba audio New Testament

In addition to the printed version, the Limba audio New Testament was also launched at the dedication ceremony. The New Testament was recorded by Faith Comes by Hearing and the Bible Society. It is available on Proclaimers, rechargeable digital players. The Proclaimer battery will play for 15 hours and can be recharged enough to play the entire New Testament more than 1,000 times.

Scripture engagement among the Limba

LBT has been instrumental in making God’s Word is available to the Limba through other means as well. Worship songs and videos based on Scripture have been created and recorded, and pastors are asking for more. Over 3,500 listeners are able to hear Scripture in their own language through regular radio programming that features discussion based on readings from the Limba New Testament.

Interest in God’s Word continues to grow!

Interest and excitement about God’s Word is growing in the Limba community. As New Testament usage increases, TISLL is discussing with Limba church leaders the prospect of translation work on the Old Testament. We give praise that the Limba people have taken God’s Word to their hearts—hearing, reading, and sharing the Good News about Jesus Christ.


LBT is seeking Lutherans to serve overseas through the ministry of Bible translation and Scripture Engagement. If you feel that God may be leading you towards missions, LBT may have a place for you.