Bible translation: A labour of love

It is difficult to share the life-changing words of Christ with people when they don’t have a Bible in their own language.

John-Mark and Sara Sheppard are SIM mission workers in northern Liberia. Since 2013, they’ve lived among the Manya people, who are predominantly Muslim, with the goal of giving them the message of the gospel in their own language.

Over the course of the couple’s most recent term, they achieved a milestone in this undertaking – when the task of translating the New Testament into the Manya language was completed.

“Starting in October 2021, the Manya translation team embarked on an intense period of revision and proof-reading, during which we worked through the whole New Testament twice, painstakingly checking for consistency, Biblical accuracy, and good style,” recalls John-Mark.

Eventually, 30 New Testaments were printed in Monrovia, then transported to Voinjama via taxi by their SIM teammate, a full day’s journey on early rainy season roads.

The team started distributing the copies immediately.

“We sent copies to pastors and evangelists across the border in Guinea, who are eager to start using it in their ministries in various villages, prisons and a mission hospital there,” says John-Mark.

The team then presented the published Scriptures to delighted villagers who had helped with the community checking of the translation.

The brand new Manya New Testament is presented. Photo by SIM Liberia

One village elder remarked: “What you have given us is light. Even though we may not live long, we will pass this light on to our children.”

Completing the Manya New Testament is a major achievement, but much more work remains. Even during home assignment, John-Mark meets remotely with a translator to draft portions of the Old Testament. Initially, they are creating a series of Manya language Bible story books and recordings that convey the message of God’s love and redemption, from creation to Christ.

The recordings are already being broadcast over radio in Monrovia, hosted by Manya speakers, who tell listeners about Christ in the language that speaks to their heart.

Crossing the barrier of language to share the good news about Jesus is a long labour of love and respect and the Sheppards plan to return to Liberia in 2023 to continue making Christ known in this transformational way.

By Savannah Brewer

Please pray

  • That the Manya who have heard the gospel and believed it, would be bold with their newfound faith.
  • That the Manya New Testament and Bible story books would have a gospel impact on Manya communities.
  • For the funding needed to complete the Old Testament translation.

This was posted on 28 September 2022 in Ministry stories.

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