by Dr. Mike Rodewald, Executive Director, Lutheran Bible Translators
My wife and I visited Liberia in March. This was just before the COVID-19 virus was making its impact known on travel. The purpose was to attend the dedication of yet another New Testament – the Gola language community celebrating the Bible in their hands in their own language for the first time!
The joy of that moment was built upon a string of tragedies. The Gola translation effort began with linguistic work to build a writing system in the late 1960s, but it was a tough tropical context. The first two Lutheran Bible Translator missionary families had to leave due to illness. There was a turnover of local translators.
Another missionary family came and restarted with new translators. Portions of Scripture were published. Then a civil war broke out. And everything came to a stop.
After the war, Father Garry, an elderly Catholic priest who had remained in Liberia through the unrest, insisted (and persisted) that the Gola language community still needed God’s Word in a form they could understand. He asked Lutheran Bible Translators to pick up the translation again. Testing and surveys through the Bible Society determined continued viability for the Gola language. Translation began again. This time, because of technology and previous history, the New Testament was completed in less than four years. It was time to celebrate!
The reader probably can’t help but notice that this New Testament was a long time in the making. Did you notice how many people played a part in the story of this New Testament? And that is how God works. He uses many together that His Word might reach others.
I brought back several copies of the New Testament. We sent one to each of the early missionary families to acknowledge the parts they played so many years ago. A member of one family replied that her father received the Gola New Testament and wept for joy! Two days later, he passed away from leukemia.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”Jer 29:11
God uses each of us that His Word might go forth – whether in the jungles of Liberia or here in mid-Missouri. We are serving together in the story of God’s salvation through Jesus. It is a wonderful purpose that God gives us one with a certain future and a certain hope.
The Gola New Testament took more than 40 years start to finish. But even through sickness and war, God was faithful. The future was coming. In March, it arrived in the Gola language community. The Gola people now have hope through Jesus.
God uses us all in this story – for His purpose. There is no better story.