Nestled in the deep valleys of Northwest Cameroon, the Pinyin people eke out a living through agriculture. Onions, leeks, plantain, cassava, yams, carrots, and Irish potatoes grow in rainy season (March to September). Cattle, goat and sheep thrive on the hills. Yet all the work is done by hand on their small farm plots (less than an acre), and market is a great distance away.
For centuries, this little nation of 45,000 people, led by a High Chief known as the Fon, has been an oral culture. Yet these energetic, hard-working people have sought to educate their children. With classes taught only in English—not the language spoken in the home—education has remained difficult to achieve.
But change is coming! About 15 years ago, a man named Tenning Mungwa had a vision—a dream of a better life for the Pinyin people. He searched for someone to help develop a written form for his mother tongue. He sought for teachers to help his people learn to read and write. And he longed for the Bible to be translated into the Pinyin language.
Today, a Bible translation team works diligently in a small, concrete-walled room in a dusty little building. A window covered with bars looks out onto coffee plants growing between rows of banana trees. A young herder chases lowing cattle along a path nearby. The power is off—again! Sunshine filters into the room, lighting two rickety wooden tables pushed together as a shared desk.
Ten dog-eared books sit on the table. They are New Testaments in various versions: eight in English, and two in Cameroonian languages related to Pinyin (Bafut and Munduko). Four men and a woman (ages 33 to 83) sit around the table struggling to translate Revelation 4:6-8.
It must be accurate, clear and natural. But this is not easy. How can they translate “sea,” for instance, when more than half of the Pinyin population has never even seen a large lake, much less the ocean? What about the concept of “clear and transparent?” What order should they use for verbs and nouns? Is it consistent with the meaning of the original Greek?
They consult their Vine’s Greek-English dictionary with great concentration.
After much discussion, the team comes to a gradual consensus. Carefully, one person records it by hand; later (once the electricity comes back on), it will be typed into the computer. For now, they read it aloud again . . . thoughtfully. A problem is discovered. Making an adjustment, they read it again, this time with nods of agreement. Then, it’s off to the next verse. An hour and a half later—it’s tea-time. A total of three verses are translated!
So far, 242 chapters of the New Testament are drafted, and only 18 chapters are left. But much work remains to be done. Approximately 50 per cent of the consultant-check remains, plus the many detailed preparations for typesetting and publishing. In two or three years, there will be great joy in Pinyin land when the New Testament is published and finally placed into the hands of the people.
And the cry will go throughout the land: God speaks Pinyin!