Nineteen years. We had just joined the Baptist Mid-Missions family the year before. Yet in those 19 years, a group of Songhay men and women endured hardship, Islamic jihadist rebel attacks, the status of being refugees, loss of loved ones, and the normal difficulties of dwelling in this part of West Africa. The Republic of Mali, a landlocked country which once covered parts of nine present-day countries, became the target of Islamic extremism in 2012.
As I sat at a table in a restaurant in Bamako (the capital of Mali), I listened to the words of these dear, precious colaborers in Christ. Prior to 2012, Islam was primarily moderate and tolerant in Mali. However, in 2012, jihadist rebels attacked the northern part of the country and imposed Sharia law. The Northern Mali Conflict, primarily motivated and financed by Al Qaeda, forced Christian believers to leave their homes in the north and flee to the southern capital of Bamako. The Christian persecution index level as published by Open Doors for Mali is a category 7, which is "severe." God led the believers back to the Timbuktu area in the north after the jihadist rebels were defeated by a coalition of the French and African military. However, the Christian believers continue to live and work amidst the challenge of Islamic influence.
Nineteen years. That is how long it took the Songhay translation team to complete the translation of the Timbuktu (Koyra Ciini) Songhay New Testament. Were there trials? Absolutely! Had the work been interrupted during this crisis? Indeed! For a year and a half, it was interrupted. Had they experienced other trials during those years? Yes! Two of the sisters in Christ on the Read-and-Review Committee lost husbands. But did they quit? Absolutely not! They were committed to the task that they had been commissioned with: to translate God’s Word so that the Timbuktu Songhay people would have a reliable, accurate, and clear translation of the Bible in their mother tongue. Their joy and worship displayed their gratitude to God at the dedication.
As I heard their words, my heart was challenged and convicted by their faith and endurance. Even in the midst of setbacks, they faithfully served their Savior, Jesus Christ!
God had protected them. He had strengthened them. He had extended His grace to them day by day. Their momentary affliction here on earth would not be worthy enough to compare with the promised glory that would be revealed in them when they saw their Savior face to face. The writer of Hebrews 10:36-38a said, "For ye have need of patience (endurance), that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Now the just shall live by faith..." Patience. Endurance.
Would you please pray for our translation teams? Pray for the Lord to enable them to endure by His grace. That day we witnessed the Songhay New Testament being dedicated to the Lord and to the Songhay people. They rejoiced. They wept. They celebrated. They thanked God. They worshiped the Giver of His Word. Their work, waiting, and prayers bore eternal fruit. They followed Christ. Now they have become a testimony and example for us to follow. How are we enduring in our faith? What trials has the Lord brought into our lives to strengthen our faith? In what ways are we serving Christ in the midst of difficulties? May God enable us to endure by His grace!