‘Vital’ New Testament launches during lockdown

The Flame* New Testament with Genesis was launched and dedicated in late April in a quiet ceremony in West Africa, in the midst of a lockdown situation. The book and app, which has been supported by Wycliffe Bible Translators for the past 13 years, was launched with little fanfare, but still marks a historic moment for the Flame people, who are 99% Muslim.

The lockdown due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic meant it was not possible to hold the large and public event that had been planned to mark the occasion. However, the team responsible for translating the Flame Scriptures felt it was urgently important to make the book and app available now, during the month of Ramadan when Muslims spend extra time in prayer and reflection, rather than wait till a more public event was possible.

Bob and Ina, who worked on the Flame New Testament for over 20 years before retiring a number of years ago, say:

‘It is vital that we let the Flame people have their New Testament as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the lockdown meant that the planned big event couldn’t be held – and we couldn’t attend.’

At a time when people are fearful of Covid-19 and seeking God more earnestly, it was felt especially crucial that the Flame people have the opportunity to read and hear about the good news of Jesus. So it was decided to go ahead with the launch.

The ceremony was held under the roof of a carport. Dawuda*, coordinator of the translation team, says:

‘Travel restrictions in the country meant that only a few people could be present. However, among that small group were some of the most influential and significant leaders from the Flame people – including village chiefs, local pastors, other religious leaders and a chief of Muslims. It was a diverse group of leaders that God brought together to celebrate the arrival of his word in their heart language.’

Now that the Flame New Testament with Genesis has been launched, the team is able to publicise it through various channels. Pastor Paul*, a Flame translation team leader, says:

‘We’ve already been broadcasting radio programmes and announcements, and now we’ll start selling and distributing the New Testaments. People will want these beautifully printed versions, but with things the way they are right now, the Scripture app is likely to be even more popular. One reason for that is that as people are confined, they’re listening more to the radio and audio apps. And right now, people here are really worried about dying from coronavirus and are looking for God. So there’s a wide opening to talk about Jesus and to share these Scriptures. Please be praying for us as we seek to get God’s word out to the Flame people.’

James Poole, Executive Director of Wycliffe, says:

‘This is such a big moment for the Flame people, and comes at a key moment. It may not have quite been the launch we all anticipated, but it is clearly the right time for the gospel message to reach the hands of the Flame people. We pray that as they seek hope in these precarious times, the Flame people will read and hear God’s word in their language and that many will seek the peace found only in Jesus. Wycliffe has been privileged to support this project, and we will continue to do so to ensure more of the Old Testament is translated.’

A full launch event will be held once the restrictions around the coronavirus outbreak have been lifted. In the meantime, as Dawuda comments, ‘Let us be praying for the Flame Scriptures to unlock people’s understanding of God’s grace and forgiveness, even in this time of lockdown.’

To find out more about the Flame people and project, visit wycliffe.org.uk/flameproject.

*Names changed for security reasons

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