The two million Ngbaka people in NW Zaire now have access to the Scriptures in their own language since the Bible was dedicated and distributed at a series of celebrations in the Ngbaka region, which is about the size of Wales. The first of these was held on 9 March in the central town of Gemena.
A number of the Bibles were "danced" into the church by a group of women and young girls. The crowd of 1500 excited Ngbaka people leapt to their feet and roared their approval when the first two copies were uncovered and held aloft, and the church rang with ululations. Bibles at the cost of half a month's salary sold like hot cakes.
The Ngbaka project began in 1978 when the Ngbaka churches asked Wycliffe for translation assistance. About 95 percent of the Ngbaka people are at least nominally Christian, but church leaders recognized the need for God's word in the mother tongue to deepen the faith of Christians and to help others to understand the truth of the scriptures.
Elaine Thomas and Margaret Hill, who were trained at the Wycliffe Centre, were assigned to the project. Members of the three major churches in the area were trained as translators. Building on the work of others, the New Testament was completed in three years, the Old Testament in another six, and the whole Bible was typeset at the Wycliffe Centre in 1994. Richard and Trish Aze from High Wycombe coordinated a mushrooming literacy project with 30,000 students.
Alongside the translation, a literacy programme was launched. This is now a Non-Governmental Organisation, with Ngbaka people increasingly taking responsibility. The mushrooming Ngbaka literacy project has 2,000 classes and 30, 000 students, the largest of any in the work of Wycliffe in 50 countries. The 3,000 teachers are all volunteers. The only "pay" they receive is a cap which boasts the caption: "I am an Ngbaka teacher."
A video team filmed the celebrations and the literacy programme in several locations. This video will be available on free loan from August.