COVID-19 prompts first Gurmanchema Old Testament recording

By Tianna Haas | Niger in West African

Representative stock image.

A team has embarked on the first recording of the Old Testament in the West African Gurmanchema language due to the unique circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 crisis.

Elisa*, a math teacher at a Christian school that works with SIM, lives with a roommate and in close proximity to her Gurmanche-speaking security guard, Moïse*, and his family. She has built a warm relationship with the family and realised they did not have a complete audio Bible in their language.

Under the city’s curfew, the family started to feel uneasy about the potential famine and the presence of soldiers implementing government restrictions.

Elisa said, “I had given them SD cards with the New Testament, some teaching in their languages and a little radio to play them on. Then with the scare … they asked if we could pray together.”

"Then with the scare … they asked if we could pray together."

     

Their nightly prayer times continued and began to include a chapter of Bible reading. Elisa and Moïse’s family read through James, Ephesians, and Acts. But they also were particularly interested in Old Testament narratives like Abraham’s story.

Elisa says, “I've been frustrated for a while at the fact that the Old Testament has been translated but not yet recorded in so many languages.”

Although the family professes faith, they cannot read and attend a church that doesn’t speak their language. Without the Bible recorded in Gurmanchema, they have been unable to hear the long, rich history of God’s providence. This is also true for many of the 3.3 million Gurmanche people living throughout Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Niger.

Elisa said, “God gave me the realisation that we could just try to make [a recording]. All we needed was someone who could read it!”

Meanwhile, Elisa had been teaching Léa*, the wife of a Gurmanche pastor, to read the Bible in French. She agreed to narrate Genesis, and her husband agreed to correct errors in the recordings.

Elisa said, “It has been such a blessing for us both! The frustrations of mistakes and reading something over and over again have actually spurred Léa on to better understand and even commit to memory parts of Genesis!”

Before each recording session, Elisa and Léa pray for the Lord’s blessing and ask that God use it for his kingdom. Elisa uses a recording app and checks for accuracy while Léa reads aloud from a Gurmanchema Bible.

Elisa said, “Though I can't pronounce the words correctly, I've learned how to follow along as she reads, so I can listen for mistakes like skipping words or missing syllables as well.

“I know she practises the chapter a few times at home before we start because she has started bringing me questions about some of the words. So, we look them up in French and talk about the meaning before we record.

“We do one chapter like that, and then we switch to French and continue reading through the Epistles since she wants to read through the whole Bible.”

After finishing these sessions, Elisa edits the recording before Léa’s husband gives it a final check.

So far, they’ve finished seven chapters of Genesis. Léa and her husband returned to Burkina Faso for the summer break, but once they return, they hope to pick back up the project.

In the meantime, Elisa is seeing the Lord work in the lives of Moïse, his wife, and their children as inklings of family discipleship begin.

Gathering for prayer and exploring biblical stories has allowed anxiety over the pandemic to subside and peace to rise. Elisa said, “Other fears from evil spirits in their families in the past have come up during these times, and I think it has helped them understand the power of Jesus over those, as well.”

“Now that life has picked up a bit again, we aren't always home by 8pm when they want to listen and pray together. I know they are sad when we don't do it together, but I'm encouraged when my guard takes the lead and does it with his family anyway.

“That's really my goal. I think our role in making disciples is teaching them to be hungry for God's Word and then to be able to feed themselves and lead their families. I pray that our example with their daughter helps them realise that they need to teach her as well and not rely on church to disciple her.”

Pray for:

• Moïse and his family to grow close to the Lord in prayer and to continue in their hunger for God’s Word.

• Elisa as she teaches at the Christian school. Pray God will encourage her in her ministry.

• Léa and her husband as they plant seeds for the season. Pray also for the Bible school Léa’s husband is enrolled at, as they may not have enough teachers for the upcoming school year.

• The Gurmanchema project to continue and become an invaluable resource for Gurmanche Christians.


*Names changed for security purposes.