“I am so happy that the Bible in my language, Kissi, will soon be available,” smiles preschool teacher Mano Rachel Kourouma. “All Kissi-speakers will welcome it with great joy and big celebrations will be held in all the churches!”
Mrs Kourouma is not the only person excited by the imminent publication of the long-awaited Kissi Bible – many of Guinea’s 344,000 Kissi-speakers have been eagerly waiting their Bible for many years. The Kissi New Testament was published in 1962 but the deep desire by the churches for the full Bible led to a fresh translation project in 1985. However, the project has been beset by problems and delays.
Turbulent political backdrop
Inevitably, Guinea’s turbulent and often violent political backdrop over the past three decades has affected every aspect of life for its people, including Bible translators. In addition, the wars in neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia spilled over into Guinea and directly affected the translation project, as UBS Translation Consultant Dr Reinier de Blois explains:
“The main Kissi town of Guéckédou, where the translators were based, is located near the borders of Sierra Leone and Liberia and was often the target of rebels from both countries during their civil wars,” he says. “At one point the town had to be evacuated because it came under direct artillery fire.”
Guinea’s high levels of poverty and lack of infrastructure have also made it difficult to run a translation project.
“The translators had to use solar panels to run their computer as there was no electricity,” says Dr de Blois, “but they did not dare mount them on the roof of their office for fear of theft, which was very likely. So they mounted them on a frame which they placed just outside the door when they were working.”
The project has also experienced other setbacks, including the ill health of one of the two translators, Etienne Mankouli Tenguiano, and the fact that the project’s only computer irreparably broke down a few years ago.
But today, the translation work is in its final stages and the Kissi Bible is expected to be published in 2012.
Robert Iffono, Executive Secretary of the Bible Society in Guinea-Conakry, is the other translator of the Kissi Bible. He says that this project has kept going in the face of many obstacles because of God’s intervention.
No plan that God cannot accomplish
“There is no project or plan that God cannot accomplish if he wills it,” he says, “and that is why the Kissi Bible translation project will be successfully completed despite the difficulties it has encountered.”
For Mrs Kourouma and other Kissi Christians, this is wonderful news. Over the years, as the project progressed, some books of the Old Testament were published, which only whetted people’s appetite for the whole Bible.
“I remember when the book of Daniel was recorded onto audio cassette about 15 years ago,” says Mrs Kourouma. “It did so much good among Kissi Christians! Being able to hear that story in our own language has brought so many blessings and proves that we have many more blessings to look forward to when we get the whole Word of God.”
Helped to consolidate people’s faith
Tamba Jérémie Millimouno, a teacher, says that the Old Testament booklets have helped to “consolidate the faith of many Kissi people”.
“I hungrily await the full Bible in my own language and I know this is the case for many of my Kissi brothers and sisters,” he says. “We pray for the swift completion of the final stages of the translation so that we can finally possess this treasure.”
When Mr Iffono read Deuteronomy 8 in Kissi to Emmanuel Toumani Yömbounö, the Bible Society’s janitor, his reaction was immediate:
“I have read this passage in French several times but I have never fully understood it till now. It means so much to me to hear God speaking my language.”
Samuel Massandouno, an economist, was also deeply affected when he heard some chapters of Leviticus read out loud in Kissi.
“The language was so clear and fluent that it felt like I was hearing it in the original language in which it was written,” he notes. “Since then I have been following the progress of this very difficult work with interest and I eagerly await the great day when I have the Kissi Bible in my hands.
“Although I am a well-educated person I can understand God’s Word so much better in my heart language than in a second language. May God bless all the Bible translators across the world for the good work they do!”