Studying the Bible in a language you’re not very familiar with complicates understanding and could compromise the message. The Dukawa people of Nigeria tried to use the Scriptures in the “trade” language,* Hausa. But though Hausa was the language of the marketplace, it wasn’t the language of their home or their heart. Now God’s Word is being translated into their own Dukawa language, and many are surprised to find out what it really means.One man, a pastor for eight years, said, “I have recently compared my understanding of the Hausa Bible with the Dukawa translation, and I now realize that I misunderstood what the Hausa Bible was saying almost all of the time.”
As pastors and lay people alike understand the Good News for the first time, many are turning their hearts and minds over to Christ – 340 in October 2015 alone. Churches are multiplying. When translation advisers David and Carleen Heath first went to Nigeria in 1995, they only knew of two churches with Dukawa pastors and a majority of Dukawa worshipers. There may have been more, but not many. Today there are over 200.
Dukawa church leaders, along with the Heaths and a partnering church in Ohio, are intent on getting the translated Word ingrained in Dukawa hearts so that lives will be transformed. They’ve chosen two tools – the Jesus Film and the audio Bible — and built a careful program of training and follow-up.
The Jesus Film, based on the Gospel of Luke, debuted in the Dukawa language in 2003 and continues to speak to people. Almost 10,000 viewed it during the recent dry season; 655 received Christ and 260 renewed their commitment to him. After most showings, a two-member discipleship team is assigned to work through basic discipleship materials with those who respond.
With the partnership and investment of a Vacation Bible School in Florida in 2014, The audio Bible program was launched. Almost 200 Audiobooks (solar-powered audio players with Scripture portions recorded on them) were distributed to Dukawa churches. The Dukawa team trained believers to lead listening groups where people could hear and discuss the oral Scriptures. Their initial goal was to disciple believers, but church members took their audio Bibles out into the villages and played them for their neighbors. Within a year 1,000 neighbors made a commitment to follow Christ.
Further church growth has come as the result of one-on-one witnessing by trained disciple makers and by the influence of other churches and mission agencies in the area.
Testimonies to the impact of the translated Word abound:
“We went to church for many years, but it wasn’t until we saw the Jesus film in our own language that we understood that Jesus died for our sins. We always thought he died because he did something wrong.”
“When I read 2 Timothy 3:2 to my mother, she heard that in the last days some people will have “mouths of chickens.” This is our way of talking about ungratefulness because chickens don’t show gratitude. That portion of Scripture changed her life. She didn’t want to be like that, and now she is always grateful for whatever her children or anyone else does for her.”
“The book of Luke in Dukawa really moved one man, especially the crucifixion story. He accepted Christ and shortly after that, he died. The day of his burial was wonderful. It was a day of testimony, and many people came to know Christ.”
God has established and is building his church among the Dukawa. He’s speaking to them in their own language. He’s bringing to light truths that have been hidden from them for a very long time. He’s drawing them to himself. And he’s doing it through a beautiful partnership of Dukawa leaders, Wycliffe translation advisors, and partnering churches in the USA. And yes, through you and me as we work together to see every people group on earth able to engage with the Good News in a language they truly understand.
For more information on partnering with Wycliffe, please go to our website.
*A trade language is a language used to facilitate commerce or trade; it allows people to communicate with each other when they don’t share any other language.