A few months ago I (Ali) had the massive privilege of being able to attend the dedication of the Kasem Bible. In fact, this privilege started a long time before that. My parents have worked with the Kasena people to translate the scriptures into their language from before I was born. I was born into that work. I had the privilege of growing up in Kasena-land and realising from a very early age how important the Bible is and therefore how important it is that people can really understand it.
A young Ghanaian man (Bismark) accompanied us up from the South on this trip to the Bible dedication and he was really struggling to understand why my parents would have left everything they knew, all of their family and a comparatively comfort-filled life in the UK to live in the conditions that they first lived in. No electricity, no running water, no phones, small rooms that the sun beat directly on so that Mum admitted that there were times when she thought she was going to die because it was so hot. You have to understand that my mother is not given to over-dramatization. Seeing Bismark wrestle with this understanding brought home to me just how much my parents were willing to sacrifice to serve God. It challenged me to ask if I am willing to sacrifice that much.
I want to tell you about one of the moments on the trip that had the biggest impact on me.
An old man sits outside under a tree on a rough wooden bench. He has had leprosy for a long time. One of his legs just ends in a stump, the whole foot is missing. His right hand is deformed and close to useless. His clothes are old and worn and his hair is gray. This is what most people would have noticed, with pity, when they first saw him. But when he looks up, his eyes are shining and he smiles broadly. This man is Oscar Ayira, a man who was involved in the translation work for the Kasem Bible at the very start of the work in the late 60s, even before my parents were on the scene. He is an inspiration to me. When we came to bring him a copy of the completed Bible he was so grateful. He asked if he could pray for us. He prayed in Kasem and although I could not understand all of his words I was in tears, even writing this now my eyes are welling up. This is not a man to be pitied, this man knows and loves God and now has an opportunity to get to know him even better as he sits under the tree and reads God’s Word in the language he understands best. He will teach the children of the compound and they will have the privilege of growing up with good access to God’s Word. They will be the first generation of Kasenas who can read the whole Bible in their language from childhood.
The Kasenas have the Bible, but of course the story does not stop there. The Bible is useless unless we are allowing it to impact us, it has no benefit sat on a shelf. Please pray that for the Kasena people, the Kasem Bible will be the start of a fresh understanding of God, a closer relationship with their awesome creator.