Good News: Scripture translation in Cameroon


Nizaa literary materials located by Rev. Kuhn in Cameroon.

Editor’s note: What follows is an update on the Scripture-translation work of Rev. Mike Kuhn in Cameroon. Rev. Kuhn is a missionary with Lutheran Bible Translators of Canada. The Canadian Lutheran reported on his and his family’s arrival in Galim in 2013.

by Mike Kuhn

Before we came to Cameroon, we knew that we would be standing on the shoulders of missionaries and national workers who worked in the Nizaa language before us. However, we had no idea that the work was as far advanced as it actually is.

A year ago at this time, I knew that a Nizaa translation team had completed a copy of Mark’s Gospel. Soon after arriving in Galim in June of 2013, I learned that Mark had even been checked by a consultant and that the other three Gospels had been drafted too. We just didn’t know where we could find copies of this completed work yet. If we could track down the checked version of Mark, we could print, publish, and distribute it, maybe even record an audio copy that people could listen to on their phones.

So, I started looking for the work that this translation team had done more than seven years ago. Finally, we found three large metal bins and four suitcases that contained all the work and resources that the Nizaa workers had produced before we arrived. The day we found the cases was a great day, but the two days we spent rooting through them proved to be even better.

More than we imagined

While looking through the cases of material, we found huge stocks of literature resources, decade-old records that tell the story of the Nizaa work, and completed copies of all four Gospels. When leafing through these Gospels, I was surprised to see that Matthew, Luke, and John had already gone through a revision and could be ready to be checked by a consultant with minimal work!

Rev. Kuhn poses with the rediscovered drafts of Scripture in the Nizaa language.

Rev. Kuhn poses with the rediscovered drafts of Scripture in the Nizaa language.

This was a great discovery, but the day got even better. Imagine my great pleasure and surprise when I found drafts of Psalms 1-70 in Nizaa! And then, a short time later, I pulled out a large binder and started flipping through it. A thrill surged through me as a I recognized that I was looking at drafts of Genesis through 2 Kings in Nizaa. Wow!

While these latter finds don’t get us any closer to completing a Nizaa New Testament, their potential uses are as exciting as they are multiple. Many Muslims are very interested in hearing stories about Old Testament saints. What’s great about these saints is that the key stories in their lives point forward to the Messiah that God promised to send to forgive our sins and free us from death and Satan’s tyranny. The possibilities for advancing evangelism efforts and whetting the appetite of Nizaa speakers to hear the Gospel are almost limitless. Please join us in thanking and praising God for the work that He enabled our predecessors to accomplish, and pray that He will guide us in using it to further His work among the Nizaa.

Building a team

There are many skills and traits needed by a translation team. Everyone will need to be able to work in Nizaa, but at least one member should have a very deep knowledge of the language. We will also want people who are well-educated and literate in Nizaa, but at least one member will need to have profound expertise in how to properly write the language. I will provide exegetical insight, but having others who have a good understanding of biblical themes will help the project advance at a good pace. Finally, we want a team that will rally together around a common goal of publishing Scriptures that Nizaa people will read, listen to, and use.

The challenge is that Nizaa speakers living around Galim are the most likely to have an in-depth knowledge of Nizaa, but only a few of them are literate in the language and almost none know what the Bible teaches. Conversely, many educated Nizaa speakers who know how to use the written form of Nizaa (some of whom are Christian) are not living among Nizaa speakers, so their knowledge of the language is relatively shallow compared to the residents of Galim. They are also often earning a relatively large wage already, and may not want to give it up to join our team.

Yet another challenge is that if we end up with a team composed of Muslims and Christians, it may be difficult to plan Scripture-use strategies while maintaining good team-unity. The Christians will want to prepare strategies that will encourage people to apply the teachings and happenings in the New Testament to their lives, but the Muslim members may be hesitant to let themselves be affiliated with strategies that seem blatantly evangelistic. Pray that the Lord will raise up workers for our team with gifts to do the work and hearts to pursue our goal.


Rev. Mike Kuhn and his wife Kara are missionaries with Lutheran Bible Translators of Canada. He and his family live in Galim, Cameroon where he is overseeing Bible translation work in the Nizaa langauge.

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Posted By: Matthew Block
Posted On: March 19, 2014
Posted In: Feature Stories, Headline, Mission News,

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