Project: “Go Ye
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BIRTH OF A BIBLE TRANSLATION PROJECT
When he met Nel Claassen, the project leader and Betty Lou Lore, her team mate, and heard their plan of recruiting mother tongue translators, he shyly volunteered to become one of the translators. He then left for Zaire to find two more people to complete the team in readiness for the start of the project.
The launching of a new translation project, like any major undertaking, entails painstaking research, meticulous preparation and massive co-ordination in various spheres. Needless to say, it also means relocation for the team leaders.
When and how was the Zambia/Zaire project born? Where did Nel begin and what has been the process of development? The following are a number of the steps which trace the unfolding of the project.
The first preparatory step took the form of three research trips. In 1994 Nel and Seamus Spira flew to Kinshasa to meet the head of the Bible Society of Zaire. They were hoping to learn from him which language is recommended for Bible transla tion.
There were three language groups immediately desiring the Scriptures, and Taabua was one of them. The Taabua translation was the most workable as it offered the option of living in Zambia where the political situation was more stable. Furthermore the other two were due north and south of Kinshasa, but access would be via Kinshasa which one can only reach by air This would have bedeviled the logistics of setting up a translation project, not to mention the relocation of the team leaders.
The second phase of research began in August, 1995. This was to establish the condition of the roads, the climate, and to pinpoint the whereabouts of the Taabua settlements. Nel and Seamus
traveled by car all the way to Lake Tanganyika - a trip of around 3000km from White River; South Africa. They came back with a positive
In the meanwhile they had ruled out Mporokoso as the base for the project, as the roads become impassable during the rainy season. Their search for a suitable position took them to Mbala, near Lake Tanganyika, a short ferry ride away from their target group in Zaire.
In Mbala they found a house ideally suited to their purposes and which could also accommodate the three Zaïrian mother tongue translators. The team's key man, Lazarous Kapasa of Mporokoso sent word that the project was about to start and for the team to meet there.
It was, however, not all plain sailing. They were stuck in Lusaka for about six weeks for vehicle registration and repairs to Net's car and to complete certain protocols. While getting entangled in the maize of red tape and other frustrations Nel made good use of the time and established invaluable liaison with the United Bible Society of Zambia (UBS), the NG Church and the Justo Mwale Bible College whichis run by South African theologians. All of these institutions have expressed their desire to become involved and have pledged logistical support.
It wasn't long before they realized that the Lord had put together the most capable, highly motivated and dedicated team imaginable. The three Zairians are Pastor Kasokota (39), Bishop Clement Kibombwe (70) and Kalinde Nzika (32). The fourth member of the team is, of course Lazarous Kapasa (27), who is also the linguistic link with the Zairians. The Bishop, an erstwhile Catholic priest and strong academic, had been pastoring a church. However; he was so convinced that the Lord called him to this translation work that he traveled the 200km from Moba to Musosa on the back of a bicycle. Not being accustomed to this mode of locomotion, he fell off twice, but yet continued steadfastly.
By December 23 they had translated the first five verses of the Gospel of John into Taabua, using English, Afrikaans, French, Swahili, Bemba and Greek Bibles. By the end of February they had completed this Gospel, and are testing the translation among the Taabua speakers for intelligibility and acceptability. This is surely the "stuff that dreams are made on"'
The weekly training sessions are also attended by a LBS team resident in Mbala and who is working on the Mambwe-Lungo translation of the Gospel of Mark. In addition the Assemblies of Cod pastor also attends as he wants to translate certain theological material in Bemba.
In looking back, Nel has this to say" I love Africa I love its people! I love the team to bits! Thus far it has been worth every inch of the battle. The team is a miracle from God. No top personnel manager could have put together a team like this - and they have caught the vision. "On the home front they know how to buy and prepare delicious lake fish. There are mushrooms here the size of a two-man tent AND edible. After the rains the wild flowers literally burst forth from the round and the countryside is an unbelievable green. Africa. I cannot thank the Lord enough that I may work here."
Contact information for Nel Classen: firstname.lastname@example.org
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