MAF aircraft landed at the Todro airstrip, bringing translators, church leaders, and other special guests to join a crowd of over 3,000 people. They waited in breathless anticipation as dancers and musicians led a joyous procession down the hillside between rows of mango trees.
Next came men carrying a tipoye (chief's seat), which held boxes containing the Word of God in the heart language of the Logo people.
The boxes were opened, the Bibles held high, and someone shouted, 'The Book of the New Covenant!' Cheers erupted, as did many tears. Stories of sacrifice and a moment of silence followed for those who had given their lives to make sure this day would come to pass.
For those who saw this project through to the end, there were times it seemed this day might never happen.
Authority to overcome
A crack of lightning zapped the missionaries' home, frying computer equipment, and knocking a child off his feet. Thankfully, no one was injured. But for those working on translating the New Testament into the Logo language in the village of Todro, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), during the early 1990s, the fact that they had just been working on Luke 10:18-19 filled the team with fear and awe.
'...I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.'
They had already experienced poisonous snakes in their offices. Was this a sign of what was still to come? Or did it mean God would overcome, and they would complete the long task ahead of them? Surely nothing was going to stop them from bringing God's Word to the Logo people. They were determined.
MAF helped make it possible
The Logo project continued for more than 20 years, despite many setbacks—the deaths of two translators, significant illness, and wars. MAF played a key role in moving the project forward, by transporting equipment and supplies to remote teams, taking project teams to training events, delivering missionary children to and from boarding school, and evacuating expat missionary families during times of war and unrest.
'MAF was a vital partner at every stage of this project,' said Doug Wright with SIL International. Doug was the main translation consultant for the Logo language. He and his wife, Beth, and their kids, lived in Todro before the war caused them to flee the country 19 years ago. It was their house that was struck by lightning.
After the Wrights and other expat teammates were forced to leave because of the fighting, MAF flew them in to work with the Congolese translators who took over the task, and MAF brought the translators out to training venues.
'It is hard to imagine how the Logo New Testament translation project could have been completed without MAF's reliable and enduring support,' added Doug.
Speaking to the heart
The Logo translation is just one of three translations recently celebrated in eastern DRC. The Mayogo- and Ndruna-language New Testaments were also dedicated in March 2016. MAF served all three of these projects over the years.
Until now the people relied on the Bible in the official language, French, and the trade languages of Swahili and Lingala. Having God's Word in their mother tongue will bring deeper understanding, and transform hearts.
'Hearts which have been characterised by hate, malice, division, and occult worship, due to the wars which have persisted for more than fifteen years in the eastern regions of DRC,' said Atdirodhu Mazinga, the director of the Ndruna translation team.
'When people in these regions which have been so traumatised by war and insecurity grasp what God's Word has to say about healing, and grace, and forgiveness, their communities can be transformed,' adds Jon Hampshire, communications coordinator for the SIL Eastern Congo Group.
That's why Bible translation is so important to the healing of this nation, and why it will continue for years to come. Out of the 210 languages in use today throughout the DRC, around 130 still need to be translated.
MAF flights and technology will continue to propel future translation efforts – enabling language surveys, translation checking, consultant visits, training workshops, even internet access.
'We sincerely thank our partner MAF and all of those involved, near and far, in helping to make mother tongue Bible translation around the world possible, through MAF,' said Atdirodhu. 'We express our profound gratitude. MAF, fly forward!'
Please pray for these three people groups as they grow in knowledge and faith and pray for the MAF staff and other missionaries who continue to serve in this area.