Deeper and Wider

By Rachel Greco

Bible translation was not Kividi Kikama’s call or training, yet God had been equipping him for this role throughout his life.

Kividi is a member of the Yansi* people group who live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Bible translation project in their Iyansi language began in the late 1960s. When the man who led the project passed away and political turmoil sprung up in the area, the project died. Kividi and the other Yansi became discouraged, though their dream to have Scripture in their language didn’t die.

Kividi first trained and served as a pastor in the DRC. He also distributed Bibles as part of his church planting ministry. He then received a master’s degree in missiological training at Fuller Seminary in the U.S. and served in the DRC as Director of the Department of Evangelism. Missiology is the study of how the church accomplishes its mission of spreading the gospel. A missiologist studies areas such as culture, theology, anthropology, sociology, leadership, and the church itself to better see why and how the church does missions. Kividi returned to the U.S. to receive his PhD in Intercultural Studies from Trinity International University.

Kividi might never have begun work on the translation project if God hadn’t brought him to JAARS. “That is what I call a miracle,” he says.

Kividi and his wife, Lusikia

He had been serving in Chicago as pastor of a church he’d planted. He and his wife considered moving down to Charlotte to help with their daughter’s children. “It was difficult for me to make that move,” Kividi recalls. “My wife was probably going to be more involved than me in helping with the grandchildren, so what was I going to do?”

After much reflection and many prayers, Kividi and his wife decided to move to Charlotte. “I [still] didn’t know what I was supposed to do,” Kividi said. “But one thing God was telling me during that time was, ‘Go into something deeper and wider.’”

That “something” began to take shape when Kividi met his daughter’s friend. His daughter had told Caryl Mallory, who works at JAARS, “My parents have moved here, and my dad doesn’t know what to do.”

Caryl suggested Kividi visit JAARS. After his tour of the campus, she asked, “Would you like to volunteer?”

With free time on his hands, Kividi accepted the invitation and became the JAARS director of prayer ministry. But the more the leaders learned about him, the more they realized that he possessed gifting and training in missiology. Woody, the president of JAARS, asked Kividi if he’d be willing to serve as our Senior Missiologist. Kividi accepted.

When Kividi first arrived at JAARS, people had often asked him if Scripture was available in his Iyansi language. When Kividi explained how the 1970’s translation project had died out, his friends encouraged him: “Why can’t you do it here at JAARS?”

So Kividi and others in his language group in the DRC began to revive the project. Kividi traveled to the DRC to build bridges with some of the leaders there and discovered that the Yansi people were still interested in the Bible translation project. Drawing on his intercultural and missiological experience and studies, Kividi was able to connect JAARS to leaders in the DRC and other organizations, all of whom are passionate about translating God’s word. Kividi’s pastor’s heart and his knowledge that every human, regardless of age, race, or gender, is valuable helped him build a bridge across oceans and between cultures.

As the project became a reality, and a translation team formed, they realized one of the crucial issues they faced was getting the Scriptures out to the rural area over rough roads. They were thankful for the vehicle that JAARS would provide for the translation work.

Kividi and Mary working on the Iyansi translation before the pandemic hit.

With the help of his friend and colleague, Mary McLendon, a translator, Kividi is currently revising the book of Mark. The translation software, Paratext, enables Kividi and Mary to see the changes their teammates in the DRC make so the key terms remain consistent throughout Scripture. Even now, amid the COVID-19 crisis, technology enables Mary and Kividi to video conference every day from their own homes and work on the translation via Paratext Live.

The ability to read God’s Word in their own language has been the Yansi people’s dream for many years. Now they have hope that they’ll finally be able to read God’s Word in Iyansi. They are eager to do so! Kividi remembers one Yansi man asking him, “Please send me even one chapter you have already translated. I can’t wait much longer.”

Kividi was unable to do this, because the chapter needs to be checked by a consultant, who lives in the DRC. Kividi and Mary had planned to visit the DRC in May and have the Gospel of Mark checked by the consultant, but the trip has been cancelled. Please pray they will be able to set up another time in the near future so the Yansi can have the Scripture that their souls thirst for.

How might God be calling you to something deeper and wider? Click here to find out!

*Read more about the Yansi people here and here.