In 2005, a Dan speaker in Liberia began praying for the resumption of the Dan translation project. It was interrupted by the civil wars that had devastated the country for almost 14 years. The New Testament translation that had been completed in 1981 was out of print. Remaining copies were tattered and torn. But as often as this Dan woman prayed for translation work to begin, nothing seemed to be happening.
Though it appeared as if things had come to a stand-still, God was working in the hearts of the Dan community, growing the church and inspiring more and more Dan people to recognize the need for Scripture in their language. They became eager to have the whole Bible. An increasing number of people wanted to learn to read and write the Dan language.
Starting a translation project is a major undertaking under the best of circumstances. The passage of years, political instability and lack of infrastructure made planning and research even harder. The Dan churches turned to the Bible Society of Liberia (BSL) for help. A strong coalition of partners formed to conduct a sociolinguistic survey of the Dan language in 2012—the Dan people, the BSL, the Liberian Translation and Literacy Organization (LIBTRALO), and Lutheran Bible Translators.
Answering the need
Everywhere the survey team went, people begged for translated materials. Lutheran Bible Translators’ missionary Becky Grossmann reported, “The Dan people have not only requested a complete Bible, but have demonstrated both a desire to read the language, use it in their churches, and support a translation project by helping to select and support a team of translators.”
Today Becky regularly provides training for the Dan translation team and checks their work. Significant portions of the Old Testament have already been drafted. “Whenever we complete translating any book, the Bible Society will print and freely distribute about 500 copies to Dan speakers for the purpose of proof-reading,” said senior translator Rev. Levi Yentee. “People love these booklets. They sit together and read, while others listen and ask questions.”
Becky often receives thanks for the translation work on the Dan Bible. “One man said thank you about 10 times, explaining how people listen better and understand better when God’s Word is in the local language,” she said.
An ongoing legacy
Lutheran Bible Translators is privileged to serve with partners who are committed to building a Christian foundation for their own people. National churches, Bible societies and translation organizations actively participate with Lutheran Bible Translators to bring the Word of God to people like the Dan, who fervently desire Scripture in their own languages. We help ministry partners build their own infrastructures of personnel, equipment, and even buildings. By equipping local language teams, the Gospel continues to spread long after missionaries have left the scene.
We’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating. When you make a gift to Lutheran Bible Translators, you’re doing so much more than putting God’s Word on a printed page. You’re putting Scripture into the hands of people who will cherish, follow and share it for generations to come.