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On March 14, Wycliffe USA staff gathered in Orlando to celebrate sixteen recent Scripture translations. Three staff members shared stories about some of the translations featured. We have been posting the scripts for each of these stories on our blog. Here is the third and final story, by Jannah Welcome, who works in the Wycliffe Discovery Center:
The Gamo New Testament, Ethiopia
Greetings everyone! My name is Jannah Welcome, and I would like to share with you a little about an Ethiopian cluster project involving three people groups that recently celebrated their New Testaments. This is a Seed Company project that was officially launched in October 2003, and the goal was to take the Wollaiyta Bible and use it to translate the Gamo, Gofa, and Dawro New Testaments.
This cluster strategy is a relatively new approach that has been speeding up Bible translation in many parts of the world. By having local translators of related languages work side-by-side on their translations, they are able to help each other with faster, more accurate translations. You should go read John and Bonnie Nystrom’s new book Sleeping Coconuts if you want to learn more about how they work!
We’re excited to celebrate the Gamo, Gofa, and Dawro New Testaments from Ethiopia today. Though all rich in testimonials, the one I’d like to highlight here is the Gamo New Testament dedication.
The Gamo dedication was held on June 10, 2012, on the public square of Ch’ench’a, a town located on the mountains of southwest Ethiopia, west of Lake Abaya, where the Gamo people reside. There are over a million Gamo people, and ten ethnic sub-groups among them, who speak Gamo.
Not only do we celebrate today with the Gamoyans for receiving the Word of God, but the history of the location where the actual celebration took place is absolutely a tremendous testament of the restorative power of God at work. The dedication took place on the same grounds where communists brutally persecuted Christians just one generation ago. Many of the people’s possessions, including Bibles, were burned during the Derg regime from 1974–1991, and many believers were put in prison during that time.
The main translator for the Gamo New Testament—Pastor Tesfaye—spent two years in prison himself during the communist persecution. At the New Testament dedication, he was asked to offer an introductory prayer. But when he got up to speak, all he could do was cry. He told about the bloodshed he witnessed from his youth, and how they weren’t allowed to preach or even mention God’s name. They could only pray in their hearts or meet in people’s homes at night.
The dedication happened in the town’s main square, but years ago, that location was actually a police station—the same station where Pastor Tesfaye was imprisoned for three months before being hauled off to prison for two years. It’s also where many Christians were flogged and beaten for their faith in 1949 and 1950. More arrests followed, and the Christians were forbidden to care for their fellow brothers and sisters in prison, so many suffered and some even died.
One thing that I find encouraging is that, though these brothers and sisters were being persecuted to the point of being homeless, they were more frightened by the almost total crop failure. This would mean if they did escape persecution, that starvation was another factor to consider. I was deeply moved by their story and am so grateful they don’t have to go through this anymore. You can imagine what it must have been like for Pastor Tesfaye and the Gamo people to not only be free to follow Christ now, but to also have God’s Word in their own language for the first time. And as Pastor Tesfaye, now older and wiser, held his new Bible in his hand, he said to the crowd, “God has taken vengeance with His love.”
To see pictures and a two-minute video of the Gamo dedication, click here.
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