Mbum-Nzakambay Literacy

  • Location: Chad
  • Target Completion Date: N/A

The Mbum-Nzakambay people group resides in the African countries of Chad, Cameroon, and the Central African Republic and numbers approximately 18,500 in Chad, with a combined total of over 31,000 throughout all three countries. Approximately 25% of the Mbum-Nzakambay profess Christianity, 16% of whom claim to be evangelical. Only 10-20% of the people can read their language, however, despite language teaching in primary schools, a dictionary, a grammar book, and several editions of hymnals. Some of the Mbum-Nzakambay can read French, but only if they attended school. Although adult literacy efforts included the publication of a primer, unrest interrupted further development of the literacy program, and literacy remains a serious need among the Mbum-Nzakambay.

In 1974, two individuals translated the New Testament into Mbum-Nzakambay, but when not only the original printing of 4,000 copies but also the 2,000 additional photocopies of the originals ran out, the people group largely remained without access to their New Testament. Furthermore, two other related translations, a Catholic version and an edition from Cameroon proved unacceptable to the local group of believers due to the Roman Catholic doctrine and poor translation choices of the former, and the unavailability of the latter. An evaluation of the 1974 translation of John and Romans found numerous gaps and weaknesses as well.

On November 22, 2017, a team from Bibles International and Société Biblique Horeb of Chad met with four members of the Mbum-Nzakambay people group, including the Baptist pastor, Samuel Benou, to discuss their desire for a full Bible in their language. The members of this first meeting completed a Potential Project Questionnaire and a BI Post-Translation Questionnaire, based on the 1974 edition. The results of these surveys revealed that the Mbum-Nzakambay believers prefer to preach, sing, and worship in their mother tongue, practices sadly impeded by the errors and omissions found in their 1974 edition. Another meeting 18 months later with the Mbum-Nzakambay group confirmed their strong desire for a complete Bible.

On May 21, 2020, the BI Administration approved the project’s adoption so that Société Biblique Horeb can begin to move forward with literacy work. In four years, a reevaluation will review the literacy progress and ensure that the translator has completed his education before the adoption for translation occurs and translation work begins.

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