African Scripture, American Soil

Translating God’s Word for an African People Group — but not in Africa

“Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

The leper’s faith-filled plea hung in the air as the translation team wrestled with how to convey his words in Kinyamulenge. We had been working in chapter 5 of Luke’s Gospel for over an hour, and we had just wrapped up a technical discussion about what exactly constituted leprosy in the East African mindset. Now that the team understood the leper’s physical illness and social isolation, it was time to find a way to express his confident trust in Jesus.

The homeland of the Kinyamulenge-speaking people is in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Many have fled this region due to war and instability. These same conditions prevent on-site Bible translation work.

One pocket of refugees settled in Louisville, Kentucky.

Pioneer Bible Translators began working with this project in 2021 in Louisville. It has the distinction of being the first Bible translation project ever started among a refugee community in the United States. As the providence of the Lord would have it, this is also the 100th project begun by Pioneer Bible Translators. The Kinyamulenge translation team revels in this “double distinction.”

Every member of the team has an inspiring story of how they came to be involved in the project. Victor began praying for God’s Word in Kinyamulenge almost 40 years ago. In faith Tito and Philemon moved to Louisville to work with Victor with no assurance of funding for their work.

Tim, who coordinates this project, served eight years as a Bible translator in a different East African country. When a health concern brought his family back to America, God directed their steps to Louisville, where the Kinyamulenge team was already coalescing.

The hand of Jesus has clearly been guiding this project from its very beginning.

I’m grateful for each of these teammates and the work they are doing. I felt privileged to be in the room with them as they wrestled with how best to communicate God’s Word in Kinyamulenge. As they focused on Luke 5, we had wonderful discussions around the meaning of words like “cleansing” and “healing” and about the power of Jesus. While translation can be tedious work, the energy and dynamism in the room were tangible that day.

The hand of Jesus has clearly been guiding this project from its very beginning. My small part in this translation project has inspired me to marvel in awe at the power and providence of God’s Spirit in each of our lives.

Jeremy Harrison
Jeremy has served with Pioneer Bible Translators since 2013. He is the Diaspora Group Director and oversees projects and personnel working with refugees and immigrants in the United States and Europe.
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