The Deputy President of Kenya, Dr William Ruto, has thanked Bible translation organisations ‘for your tremendous work’ and promised that ‘the government of Kenya will stand shoulder to shoulder with you until every citizen of this country will read the word of God in their mother tongue.’
His commitment came during his speech at the dedication of the Giryama Bible on 6 April 2019 in Kilifi, Kenya. The event was attended by over 2,500 people, including church leaders, government officials, Bible Translation and Literacy (BTL) Kenya workers and partners (including people serving with Wycliffe Bible Translators), and Giryama community members. Dr Ruto was the chief guest of the day, though the dedication was presided over by the Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Mombasa, Bishop Lawrence K Dena, and assisted by five other bishops from the region.
The dedication represents the fulfilment of a project begun back in the 1980s. The Giryama New Testament was completed in 2004, but following on-going work by Bible translation teams, now the Giryama have the whole Bible.
‘Since 2004 we have had a shirt only. Now we have a trouser also. So we have a full Kaunda Suit,’
said Rev Canon Shedrack Thoya, Chairman of the Project Advisory Committee (PAC) of the Giryama language group.
Peter, one of the church leaders, said:
‘The tool that we are putting in the hands of the Giryama people today is the only thing that can bring a lasting transformation in their lives. We, the Giryama community, will never walk again in darkness, because light has come to this land through the Bible that we dedicate today.’
There was plenty of celebrating, pomp and dancing as members of the community carried a big banner with the words ‘Kumbozwa Kwa Bibilia Ra Kigiryama’ (‘The launch of the Giryama Bible’) on it. The dedication deeply affected all those who attended.
Ben, one of those present, commented:
‘I have lots of Bibles in Swahili and English in my house, but my mother tongue is Giryama. When I read in English or Swahili I am thinking in Giryama, so it is hard to make sense of it. Now I have it in my language I understand it and people will understand when it is preached because the preacher can use the right words!’
Mr Kazungu, a Giryama man holding on to his copy of the Giryama Bible, was so happy: ‘Nimerurahia, I can read Kigiryama, I will use my copy of the Bible to preach.’
Samuel, Kakui, the BTL Finance Manager, commented: ‘There was so much enthusiasm from the community, we sold over 1,000 copies immediately after the function.’
‘This dedication is of course an amazing event for the Giryama people,’ says James Poole, Executive Director of Wycliffe. ‘It’s what Wycliffe is all about – people having God’s word in the language that speaks to them best. However, to have the Deputy President of a nation getting behind Bible translation and wanting to ensure that everybody in his nation has the Bible in their own language is extraordinary. Let’s pray that this promise is fulfilled in Kenya!’
Kenya has 53 recognised languages. Of these, 16 have no Scripture, one has some specific Bible stories, six have selected parts, 12 have just the New Testament, and 18 have the Bible. Wycliffe is currently engaged in two projects in Kenya. Find out more at wycliffe.org.uk/projects.