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Jan 11, 2018

"I am not going to church without a Gungu Bible!"

Written by Kathryn A.

Buliisa District Ground was busy, with tents decorated in the colours of the Ugandan flag. Choirs assembled in their colourful uniforms. Leaders from all spheres of life - local and national government, the Church and cultural institutions - graced the occasion. Members of the local community, both Christians and Muslims, young and old, flocked to the event, some travelling long distances to attend, determined to be part of the celebration of the Gungu New Testament.


gunguntreadersmll Several children from a local primary school took turns reading
from the Gungu Scriptures during the celebration. This girl
reviews her chosen portion in preparation. (photo: Gift Asiku)
During the service, pupils from a local primary school gave readings from the new Scriptures. Their confidence and clarity caused great excitement among the congregation. As many people heard God's Word in their language for the first time, they felt inspired to rush to buy copies. A local minister brought a message related to the theme of the day, taken from the book of Hebrews: "The Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints, and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart."  Heb. 4:12 (NLT)

She exhorted the Gungu community to allow the Word of God to take root in them, and to transform their lives. She challenged them to see the Gungu Bible not as a trophy, but as life itself.


gunguntlauch17 As the first boxes of Gungu New Testaments
were opened, some were brought to the gathered
church leaders who covered them with prayers
of blessing and thanksgiving. (photo: Dusty Hill)
So great was people's desire to have these Gungu New Testaments that by 11am all copies which had been transported from Kampala were sold out! This left some people feeling disappointed and angry: "Why did you leave copies in Kampala? Are you going to read them there?!" complained one. "I am not going to church on Sunday without a Gungu Bible!" protested another. An urgent phone call was made, asking, "Please send a driver with another thousand copies - we don't have enough!"

Early the following morning, more New Testaments arrived. A crowd of people was already there waiting. The local radio station had announced that the Bibles were coming, and had received many calls from listeners. A call came from a pastors' conference in another town requesting Gungu Bibles, which were paid for by mobile money and sent on a taxi immediately.


gunguntsmlb The guard on duty at a local radio station (where Gungu New
Testaments were delivered) could not read, but asked to hear
a few verses. The team gave him a copy to keep, which set him
to dancing and kneeling and praising God. (photo: Lydia Teera)

When the team arrived at the radio station to deliver the New Testaments, the guard on duty opened the gate and greeted them. He had not attended the launch, but had heard about the Gungu New Testament. He watched with interest as the young radio presenter opened one of the boxes and took out a brand new copy of the Gungu New Testament. The guard, whispering, asked him to read a verse from Matthew. The presenter read the verse aloud while the guard listened closely. "What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?" Matthew 16:26 (NLT) He urged the man to read it again, which he did.

Seeing the guard's interest, the team decided to give him a New Testament. The man leapt with joy, knelt on the ground, raised his hands in the air with excitement, laughed, and hugged the Bible to his chest. "I've done so many bad things in my life," he said, "but now salvation has come to me. The Lord is with me!"

Still kneeling and swaying, he called out the name of Jesus with great joy. Then he got up and started dancing, unable to hide his excitement. Someone asked if the guard knew how to read. "No," said the presenter, "but now he will be asking the young people in his home to read that Bible to him." He kept thanking them for the New Testament. This incident was very moving, and a powerful testimony to the impact of God's Word in the mother tongue.

gunguntevent Throughout the day, and throughout the crowd, many people could
be seen reading their own Gungu New Testaments. By 11am,
all copies on hand had been sold out! (photo: Lydia Teera)

The Gungu people of Uganda (numbering about 84,000) live in East Africa's Rift Valley, along the northeast shores of Lake Albert. Their economic activities are mainly fishing, farming, and cattle keeping. For a long time, they have tried to use the neighbouring Nyoro-Tooro Bible, but without understanding it well. Church leaders recognised the Gungu people's need to have the Scriptures in their own language.

Their prayers were answered in 1991 when SIL began a sociolinguistic survey of the Gungu language. As a result, the local diocese of the Church of Uganda asked for SIL's help in translating the Bible into the Gungu language.

First, a local Christian and secondary school teacher was sent to college in Nairobi to be trained in linguistics, translation principles, and Biblical studies. In time, with God's provision, another translator and a literacy worker were also appointed and trained. Translation work began in 1999.


gunguntchoir17 Numerous local Gungu church choirs like this one added
great colour and joy to the New Testament launch
event with their singing and dancing. (photo: Dusty Hill
The team pressed on through personnel changes, bereavements, accidents, and other challenges. Since those early days, SIL has continued to support the translation, literacy work, and Scripture engagement activities. Now the Gungu people have received the New Testament in their own language. Hallelujah!

An audio recording of the Gungu New Testament has also been made, which will enable even more Gungu people to have access to the Word of God in their language. Let us pray that many more people will experience the touch of God on their lives through hearing and reading the Gungu Scriptures.


Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
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