The Tumak people, who live in southwestern Chad, number approximately 25,000, with 80% professing Christianity, 14% of whom claim to be evangelical. Until 1976, no one considered the unwritten Tumak language worth writing or its people worth educating. That year, however, a Baptist-Mid Missions missionary linguist persuaded a young Tumak man, Samaita Daniel, that his language not only could be written but ought to be written. The missionary made marks in the dust at their feet to represent the sounds Samaita spoke, and he encouraged the young man to write an alphabet, then compile a dictionary, and then translate the New Testament into his newly written language.
Following the development of an alphabet and a dictionary, the Tumak speakers eagerly sought to learn and read their language. Literacy efforts produced a primer that Bibles International had to reprint in 1996 because the copies of the original primers had been thoroughly exhausted.
In 1988, the translation team completed and printed the Tumak New Testament, and a dedication service took place in Goundi on January 14, 1989. This monumental event marked the publication of the first literature in the Tumak language, and it has continued to make an enduring impact on the language. One of the translation team members stated, "The way it reads has established our language." The New Testament has set a standard of spoken Tumak, and its prevalence among the people has greatly influenced public life, as the Tumak speakers read it at all their funerals and weddings and play audio versions through loudspeakers in the marketplaces. Not only did the translation project impact the Tumak language, but it also produced a dramatic spiritual result in the lives of the Tumak people. Many Tumak believers have testified that their acceptance of salvation can be attributed to the Tumak New Testament translation and their ability to finally understand clearly the message of the gospel.
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