The Yalunka people of West Africa don't know very much about Jesus. But that's about to change with the first Bible in their heart language.
In early February, the Yalunka people celebrated the arrival of the very first Bible in their language at a Bible dedication ceremony in West Africa. Bible League International, in partnership with Pioneer Bible Translators, printed 2,000 copies of these Scriptures to share so more people can come to meet Jesus.
"There was a cry for God's Word among the Yalunka people," says John Andersen, Executive Vice President of Publishing at Bible League International. "And we did what God would have us to do. We published His Word. Now, the Yalunka people have a Bible in their own language for the very first time."
The Yalunka Bible is more than 20 years in the making, says Jeff Wilhoit, Executive Vice President of Pioneer Bible Translators, and was a divine work of the Lord.
"How the Bible came to be is simply miraculous," says Wilhoit. "Years ago our director and a colleague, both missionaries, traveled to a small village north of Sierra Leone that reportedly had no Christians. They learned there was a small church in the area and decided to offer help if needed. When they arrived at the church, the people were gathered for prayer. The church had just finished 40 days of fasting and prayer, asking God for a missionary. Imagine the awe and joy!
"Our director soon made the Yalunka translation a top priority. We teamed up with Greg and Rebecca Pruett, the translators of the Yalunka Bible, who'd shared they, too, were seeking God's direction and were led to the Yalunka. They spent over a decade living in the village, translating the Scriptures into Yalunka, and helping the church to understand and apply its teachings. God then sent Bible League International to join the efforts. They agreed to publish the Bible and provided more than enough copies to be shared with the villagers.
"On Sunday, February 3, the same church that prayed diligently for a missionary dedicated Pioneer Bible Translators' first complete Bible. God answered their prayers. How great is our God!"
The Yalunka live in mud huts in the rugged hills just north of Sierra Leone. They are primarily subsistence farmers, but they are also known as great hunters. With no running water or many other amenities, life is simple for most; but Christians also face the challenge of persecution.
Islam is the primary religion practiced by most West Africans, followed closely by traditional religions. People who choose to convert to Christianity are often met with much opposition, even persecution. According to US Department of State's International Religious Freedom Report for 2011, "the missionary community reported that while conversion from Islam to Christianity was allowed by the government, it sometimes resulted in rejection or persecution by families and communities."
Bible League International is committed to ending the global Bible Famine among persecuted Christians, Muslims, and the poor. That's why the organization joined with Pioneer Bible Translators to provide Scriptures to Yalunka believers greatly in need and to those wanting to learn more about Jesus through their first Bible.
"Bible League International will remain faithful to sowing the seed of the Gospel and planting God's Word so people meet Jesus, "says Rob Frank, Global Chief Executive Officer of Bible League International. "From one corner of the earth to the other, we will stay the course until Jesus returns."
For 75 years, Bible League International has worked with ministry partners to provide the precious Word of God around the world. To date, nearly 160 million Bibles and New Testament have been provided worldwide, many of which have been people's first Bible!
"We thank God for Bible League International, the translators for the Yalunka Bible, the local people who worked with them to make sure it was understandable, and others who have made sure the Scriptures are placed in the hands of those in need of them most," says Wilhoit of Pioneer Bible Translators. "Thank you. This project is a true testament to working together for God's glory."