Rhema Bible & Literacy

  • Location: Asia
  • Target Completion Date: 2024

The Rhema people (a pseudonym) dwell among the deep green valleys, picturesque hills, and lush verdant fields of the eastern Himalayan mountains. One of the well-known sub-tribes of a vast Asian community, the Rhema number approximately 8,000, with 80% of the population professing Christianity, 25% of whom claim to be evangelical, and 20% following animist practices. In addition to their language, the Rhema speak Metatrepo (another pseudonym) and English.

Beginning with the salvation and baptism of "Mualzuiril" in 1956, God worked through Baptist Mid-Missions to call the Rhema to saving faith in Him. Bible studies among the youth initiated a rapid spread of the gospel to the rest of the people, resulting in a significant majority of the Rhema leaving behind their animistic beliefs and trusting in Christ. Seventeen Baptist churches now exist among this small group.

While ministering to their church members, Rhema preachers and teachers read Scripture in other languages but orally translated into Rhema, which caused troublesome inaccuracies when studying the Word of God. The New Testament translation project began in 1987 and finished in 2003, to the considerable delight of Rhema believers. In addition to the work on the New Testament, the translation project also included literacy improvement efforts through the publication of a Rhema primer in 1995.

Immediately following the completion of the Rhema New Testament, the enthusiastic believers expressed their desire for the entire Bible in their language. In a letter written to Bibles International in February 2003, the Rhema confessed their need: "We are very sure that translating the Old Testament in [the] Rhema language is very uncertain if [the Bible societies] do not do it for us. We are in need and want to read and learn the Word of the Lord in our own language, so that we understand better."

Despite the 2003 recommendation and 2004 adoption of the Old Testament project, translation work ceased for seven long years before reviving in 2011 and becoming one of the fastest moving projects in the country. Meanwhile, BI continued its efforts to improve literacy among the Rhema by publishing two Old Testament storybooks in 2004 and 2006, a revised primer in 2015, teacher training materials in 2016, and a Writers' Handbook in 2019. These resources and endeavors have raised Rhema literacy to 80%.

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