One in Nine

Siwu buying their NT, Michael Serchie, Akpafu trip composit photoA few years ago, an ingenious Bible translator started an ambitious project in the Volta Region of Ghana. With the help of Ghanaians interested in the idea, he set out to translate the New Testament into four languages at once! It worked. In 2008 all four New Testaments were completed and sent to the printers. They were dedicated in 2009. (photo top right)

On July 16, there will be a re-dedication of one of those New Testaments – the one for the Siwu language. When I saw that announcement, I wondered what on earth was a “re-dedication”? So, when the Ghanaian who now heads up the work in that area, Michael Serchie (photo middle right), came to our Accra apartment to welcome us to Ghana, I asked him. His answer made the translating of four New Testaments simultaneously look a bit tepid by comparison.

Only 27,000 people speak Siwu. So only 1,500 New Testaments were published. That turned out to be an underestimate of the thirst the Siwu have the for Scriptures in their language. All 1,500 sold within a month of the dedication in 2009!

Let me put that in context. Fifty percent of the population in Ghana, as in much of Africa, is under the age of 15. (In the US it is only 20%.) So, of the 27,000 Siwu, only 13,500 are adults. So one in nine Siwu adults bought a New Testament!(1)  If the sale of a new translation had the same proportions in the USA, it would sell 27 million copies in it first month. And remember, the Siwu New Testament would have sold even more if the stock had not run out.

So, tomorrow we will travel the road from Accra to Akpafu to be part of the Siwu people’s big celebration to launch the arrival of the second printing of their New Testament. The proportion will then no longer be one in nine. Expectations are that it will go up to at least one in four.

Is it worthwhile to translate the Scriptures into minority languages? Ask a Siwu.

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Note 1  Some children may have bought them as well, but most would not have the money. Although Ghana is growing economically, many Ghanaians of necessity still live very frugally.

5 thoughts on “One in Nine

  1. Pingback: Bible and Mission Links 7

  2. A linguistic note: “Siwu” is the name of the language and “Mawu” the name of the people (plural “Mawu”, singular “Ɔwu”, to be precise).

    So you wouldn’t “ask a Siwu”, you would “ask an Ɔwu” or “ask a speaker of Siwu”. It’s a minor detail, but hey, you’re translators right?

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