The Dendi people, numbering approximately 270,000, reside along the Niger and Medru rivers in northern Benin. Predominantly Muslim, with 99.93% following Islam, only .07% of the population profess Christianity. With the Dendi language taught in primary schools, the people also benefit from both grammar and dictionary support in their language.
Evangelical Baptist Missions began evangelizing the Dendi people in the 1970s; however, they used the Zarma language to do so. In response, a Dendi speaker asked the missionaries, "Why don't you talk to us in our language? Why don't you read the Bible to us in our own tongue?" They requested EBM missionary Miriam Morin to help them translate the New Testament into the Dendi language. After Morin, who worked alongside nationals Alassane, Moussa, and Sanni Banya, completed an initial draft, Bibles International approved the adoption of this project. BI joined the translation team in June 1991 to help finish the work and provided textual and quality reviews.
BI published the New Testament in 1995 and held a four-hour dedication in Guénè on December 4. EBM missionary Heath Bobbett, along with the entire translation team, participated in the joyous occasion as former BI director Fred Carlson gave the dedication address. Following the distribution of the New Testaments to the people after the dedication, the Departement de l'Interieur received a copy. Delighted by the new resource, one of the officials called it "a treasure" and asked the believers to use the New Testament to teach the Dendi language in the villages.
Not content with only possessing the New Testament in their language, the Dendi people expressed a desire for the Old Testament as well. Although BI officially adopted the Old Testament project in 1996, the translation team had already translated Genesis and Exodus prior to the printing and dedication of the New Testament. Former BI consultant and director Dr. Hantz Bernard began working with the translation team, Miriam Morin and Sanni Banya, in July 1996. BI consultants have worked with the translators Sanni Banya and Isaak Bio since 2005. Additionally, resident Faith Baptist Mission (formerly EBM) missionaries Harold Curtis, Ken Beckley, and Colin Ovenell have participated in the translation checking sessions.
In 2014, the translation team completed a substantial trial edition of the Old Testament, from Genesis through II Samuel, and the local Bible school began to implement the text in their curriculum. Now, about 28 years since the initial translation work on Genesis and Exodus, the Dendi Old Testament translation project has arrived at the Major and Minor Prophets. In addition to the progress on the Old Testament translation, the Dendi should receive their first audio New Testament through Faith Comes by Hearing in 2020.
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