The God-sized task of translating the Bible into the Lamnso language began in 1971 and culminated in the Bible Dedication on November 18th, 2016 with the presentation of the entire Bible, including the complete Old and New Testaments, plus the Lamnso Dictionary. This 45-year process has been a journey in which God raised people up to be an integral part of his work in the Nso people. Just as he wove them together in their mother’s wombs (Ps. 139), God wove individuals together into translation and interchurch teams over the years of the project. The dedication was a celebration of thanksgiving combined with the historic background, and a pledge of support to use both the Bible and Dictionary. Enthusiastic choirs sang and danced, and there was a poignant cultural dramatization of the lost condition of mankind in their struggle with personal conflict and sin, and the saving grace offered to all cultures through the sacrificial death of Christ, our Savior. The emotional dedication was filled with joy and praise to God, including spontaneously being led in the hymn, “To God Be the Glory!”
One cause for celebration is the potential for far-reaching usage of the Lamnso Bible and Dictionary, even beyond the church. In 2012 the government authorized the teaching and learning of indigenous languages and cultures in Cameroonian schools. Following that sanction, many Bible-based literacy publications became part of public school curriculum. At the dedication, Mr. Angwafor Clement Mankefo, Divisional Delegate of Basic Education Bui, stated dedicating the Bible in Lamnso is an event that, “Strikes a symbolic throb in the heart beat of the Nso people.” Preservation of their language is truly a gift to the people.
Following the dedication, Charles Grebe, son of SIL translator /translation consultant, Karl Grebe, gave cultural perspective to the completed work. He spoke of his step-mother, Frida, reading a passage from the Lamnso Old Testament to her elderly mother, who is a strong believer in Christ. After hearing the verses in Lamnso, her mother exclaimed, “I hear (understand) it very well!” The mother was able to explain Lamnso words used in Scripture that were unfamiliar to her highly educated daughter. Having the Bible in Lamnso gives Nso elders full access to God’s word they have not had previously and allows them to share their wisdom with the next generation. In this way, language is validated and preserved, and families are tied together across the generations.
As experienced in many other cultures, Nso people have a diaspora scattered abroad. Modern technology has provided a way for them to link together and support their cultural heritage through venues such as Facebook. Elements of that culture are at risk of extinction, however, when generations move away from homeland. Language is vulnerable because specific words fall into disuse. The Lamnso Dictionary will have a vital role in preserving words and their meanings for those not living in Nso land. Frida Grebe said, “My mother used to be my dictionary. Now we can read the Bible together in Lamnso, and I also have my dictionary as a guide.”
It is the prayer of SIL and the Christian Church in Cameroon that both the Bible and dictionary will be used widely as an instrument for the growth of individuals and the Church, a vehicle for evangelism, and a tool for language learning and the preservation of linguistic culture for the Nso people in Cameroon and throughout the diaspora. With one voice we proclaim, “To God Be the Glory!”
Lamnso Bible Dedication
Friday, November 18th, 2016
Kumbo, Northwest Region, Cameroon
— Laura Johnson ( firstname.lastname@example.org )
— Photos by Joe Rider