The Ngam people reside around Sarh in southwestern Chad. Of an estimated 43,000 to 62,000 speakers, most live in Chad, with over 17,000 dwelling in the Central African Republic. Many of the Ngam speakers profess Christianity, with 21% claiming to be evangelical. Forty-one percent of the population follow Islam, while the remaining 20% adhere to animism. The literacy rate among the Ngam ranges between 15-25%.
Pioneer Baptist Mid-Missions missionary Paul Metzler preached the gospel in Danamadji, Chad in the 1920s, resulting in many people saved, the message spread, and an active Baptist church developed in Danamadji. Kodyikona Raphael trusted Christ at the Danamadji Baptist Church in 1958, and he became its pastor nearly thirty years later in 1986. Before any Scripture translation began, the Ngam had started translating hymns into their language in 1979. Although a committee formed in 1950 to initiate a Ngam New Testament translation, work did not begin until 1983 with the assistance of a BMM missionary and Ngam translator Kodyikona Raphael.
The Chadian-Libyan conflict halted translation work on the Ngam New Testament when combat extended into southern Chad in the mid-1980s. Pastor Kodyikona fled with the precious New Testament manuscripts and hid from the invading armies. He resumed translating two years later when the fighting finally ended. BI literacy consultant Clarissa Barton assisted writing literacy primers for the Ngam language, so efforts to increase literacy in the Ngam language began in earnest in 1992.
Following a visit by Dr. Henry and Anne Osborn in August 1988, Bibles International committed to the Ngam New Testament project. BI consultants Henry Osborn, Bernard Northrup, and Fred Karlson worked with the translator to complete the New Testament translation project. Stewardship manager Karl Pike represented BI at the dedication service in Danamadji on December 7, 1999. He recorded that as they drove into Danamadji they were met by a crowd of joyfully singing people who then escorted the group into the village. More than 1,000 attendees listened attentively as Pastor Kodyikona read the sermon’s text from the Ngam New Testament. Finally, they could hear and read God’s Word in their own language!
The Ngam had always desired the complete Bible in their language. Translation of Old Testament books began even before completing the New Testament. Following the conclusion of the New Testament translation work, BI translation consultants work with translator Kodyikona Raphael and assistant translator Mode Lionel. The Ngam Old Testament project has suffered from significant struggles through the years and remains the slowest project in Chad. BI continues to pray along with the Ngam believers for God’s hand in every aspect of the translation process and His grace to bring the translated Scriptures to the Ngam people in His timing.
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