The Dem people reside in the Guerea and Moyen-Chari regions of Chad. Numbering about 40,000 people, 70% profess Christianity, 39% of whom claim to be evangelical. Of the remaining population, 25% participate in animism, and 5% follow Islam. Before 1995, the Deme experienced a 15-20% literacy rate. Concerned by the low numbers, Bibles International developed a Sara Kaba Dem literacy primer in 1995 and initiated extensive literacy teacher training, followed by a revised primer printed in 2016 and additional teacher training in 2017. Consequently, the Dem people have seen an improved literacy rate.
Pioneer Baptist Mid-Missions missionary Paul Metzler and evangelists from the Central African Republic introduced the Dem to the gospel message. However, the preaching of a Chadian pastor in 1940 resulted in the establishment of the first Dem church in 1942-43. BMM missionary Roy Hammond also preached among the Dem, traveling between the cities of Sarh and Kyabe, leading to the founding of a second church in 1944.
The Dem-speaking people greatly desired to read and study the Scriptures in their own language. With the assistance of a BMM missionary, a translation of the Gospel of Mark began in 1983. Upon reading Mark 13:15-18 in his language during the translation process, one pastor admitted that he finally understood the passage for the first time in his life.
Bibles International formally engaged with the Dem in 1989 by adopting the New Testament translation project. Translator Hondo Job faithfully worked with the manuscript typist Yongo Paul until the completion of the project in 1999. An unusual dilemma during the translation work came to light when a BI consultant asked the Dem if he could help with the project in any way. The people replied that they needed a tin roof for the translation building. In addition to dirty rainwater leaking through the roof and soiling the manuscripts, termites would fall from the grass roof into the typewriter, slowing down the work and requiring the translators to pick them out. When American children heard of this need, they raised $9,000 during their VBS programs, enough for three translation center building roofs.
Another amazing example of God’s work among the Dem people through the translation of the Scriptures into their language occurred in the lives of translator Job and his witch doctor friend. Job grew up as the son of a Baptist pastor, and a friend of his in the village, the son of the witch doctor, grew up with him. When they became adults, Job became a Baptist pastor, and the friend became a witch doctor. Job witnessed to his friend many times, but to no avail. As Job continued to pastor, he became involved in Bible translation. When the first Scripture portion was finished and dedicated, there was a special service at the church in the village, and Job’s witch doctor friend was there. At the end of the service, the witch doctor friend came to Christ and was saved. Job was very glad, but also curious; why had his friend not come to Christ before? So Job asked him why. The friend said: "I could never believe that a God who did not know my language could love me. When I heard God’s words in my own language, I realized he did love me."
The Dem believers joyfully conducted a dedication service for the New Testament translation in Banda on December 6, 1999. Former Stewardship Manager Karl Pike represented BI at the dedication, which began at 9:00 in the morning, with more than 700 attendees. After the service, during which translator Hondo Job had read verses from the Dem New Testament, a man approached him and proclaimed that he had never heard the Scriptures as clearly as he did that very day. Overwhelmed by thankfulness and enthusiasm, many believers stayed long after the end of the program, singing and reading from the new translation until 7:00 the following morning.
Before the dedication of the Dem New Testament, however, translation work had already begun on the Dem Old Testament. BI adopted the Old Testament project in 1994, with Hondo Job continuing his work as the translator. Yongo Paul, who was their faithful project typist, suffered a debilitating stroke at the conclusion of a workshop in November 2014. He went home to be with the Lord in July 2020. Several BI translation consultants continue working on this project.
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