Celebrating with an Elephant

By Rachel Greco

The elephant is the biggest of all the forest animals where the Mono people live in the northwestern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Since the elephant’s so huge, all the other animals will obey or at least take into consideration the message he brings them. 

This is why some people dressed up as an elephant at the dedication of the Mono, Ngbandi-Ngiri, Pagabete and Lobala New Testaments. The elephant represented the powerful message of the New Testament coming to the Mono people and their joy on this occasion—16 years after their translation began. 

The dedication for the New Testaments in these four languages almost didn’t occur, however. COVID-19 prevented the key Bible-translation partners from traveling to the interior of the country and visiting each language group. So, Reverend Goma Mabele, the director of the local Bible translation organization, ACOTBA-SUBO, decided to dedicate all four languages together in the city of Gemena on April 25. 

There was still the challenge of transporting these Bible translation partners to Gemena along with the New Testaments, some of which were in Matadi, a city in DRC about 2,300 miles away. The vehicle that JAARS had funded and provided for ACOTBA-SUBO years ago was totaled about five years ago. 

With generous people like you giving to our Land Transportation Solutions, we were able to purchase a new 4WD vehicle and two motorcycles from vendors in Kinshasa, the capital, for delivery to ACOTBA-SUBO. The language teams would have the vehicle and motorcycles they needed for the dedication! Except … Judith Ashby, our land transportation logistics coordinator, faced a big hurdle—getting the vehicles from the vendors in Kinshasa to Gemena in time for the celebration. 

Delivering them by land would mean trucking them about 2,800 miles on nearly impassable roads over at least a week. There were also concerns about security and how the vehicle and bikes would hold up on such a long trip. This option was discarded. 

Traveling by boat on the Congo River from Kinshasa to Lisala seemed like a better option. However, the vehicle and motorcycles still would have to be trucked from Lisala’s river port over rough gravel and dirt roads to Gemena. This, and the realization that the water route would be too expensive, caused Judith to consider the last alternative—air cargo. 

Air cargo service in the DRC operates only on weekends, but the cargo would reach Gemena in only two hours. 

Judith worked feverishly with the motorcycle vendor to get the bikes ready before the dedication. “The motorcycle vendor was highly professional, keeping me abreast by WhatsApp and email on the status of the motorcycle models and pricing,” Judith said. When the motorcycles arrived, the organizer of shipments that JAARS had found visited the retail location and inspected the bikes when they were unboxed and after they were prepped for shipment.

Thankfully, the vehicle vendor also replied promptly to Judith. “They exhibited excellent teamwork by obtaining the release of the vehicle from customs by April 11 and, with almost daily monitoring by the [shipment organizer], accelerated the installation of the winch bumper within 4 business days (rather than 10) and delivered the vehicle to the airport on Friday, April 16.” 

The motorcycles arrived at the airport in Gemena on March 28, and the vehicle arrived on April 18—in plenty of time for the dedication! According to Judith, “Use of the vehicle was critical to transporting some of the key Bible-translation-project sponsors as well as the new Bibles and other materials.” 

Some translators and partners celebrating at the NT dedication

Partly due to the vehicle, the Mono people, along with the three other language groups, were able to celebrate through song and dance the arrival of the New Testament in their language!  Reverend Goma said, “There [was] a long time when the Mono people only read the Bible translated into other languages, which sometimes was difficult to understand; now, by having the [New Testament] in their own language, they will understand the word of God very well.” 

To help make Scripture celebrations like this possible, please consider giving to Land Transportation Solutions. Thank you!