True Course

Young boys check out a newly distributed copy of the Kaba New Testament. Photo by Elizabeth Marti

The Central African Republic (CAR) has suffered from long periods of instability, making Bible translation difficult. A recent milestone, the dedications of three New Testaments in CAR, was cause for much celebration. When Dennis Freeland, SIL Cameroon Aviation, got involved transporting visitors to the celebrations, he encountered an unexpected challenge.

Pilot Dennis Freeland with passengers Silvia Zaugg (SIL CAR), Thomas-Elvis Guenekean (National Executive Director, ACATBA), Ruth and Christoph Mueller (SIL CAR retired), and Elizabeth Marti (Director SIL CAR). Photo shared by Elizabeth Marti

En route to Paoua, transporting passengers who planned to attend the Kaba New Testament dedication, Dennis noticed that the location for the Paoua airport displayed on his GPS differed from the one indicated on his map. About 20 miles from where the airport was supposed to be, Dennis saw that the roads and a river on the ground did not match what his map indicated. Rather than following the GPS, he followed his map … straight to the airport, about 15 miles from where the GPS would have taken him. Dennis said, “It was a good reminder, in our age of GPS dependence. Follow the map and navigate to the destination. Don’t blindly follow a box to somewhere you have never been before.”

The motorcycle escort announcing the Kaba New Testament Dedication. Photo shared by Elizabeth Marti

He landed safely and on time and was greeted by two vehicles, one of which said “Gift from JAARS” in French, plus 20 motorcycles to escort his passengers to the dedication. A banner stretched between the two lead motorcycles announced the dedication of the Kaba New Testament. Concerned about leaving the airplane unattended on a vacant rural airstrip, Dennis remained behind with the plane. As he waited, a constant stream of people came by to look at the airplane, take some pictures, and ask why he was there. Many of them were aware that the dedication was happening and were excited that the special visitors had flown in to join the celebration.

Some of the curious young boys who kept Dennis company at the plane during his wait. Photo by Dennis Freeland

Six hours later his passengers returned excited and thankful for the opportunity to take part in the dedication.

Dennis offered thoughts on his role in the dedication. “It may seem anticlimactic to fly to a New Testament dedication and then not get to attend. My week in CAR and six hours on a dirt runway in the middle of Africa was a small thing compared to the 24 years of work that had gone into making that day possible. Work that continued despite unrest and danger. If not for the airplane, our team would not have been able to attend and celebrate this milestone with the Kaba people. It is very humbling to see all that these people have gone through and lost, and yet they have joy and cherish God’s Word in their language. How often do I take for granted all the different translations in my language?”

Judith Sawers, Communications and Prayer Support for SIL’s Central African Republic team adds, “A dedication is only the beginning—like a wedding day, or the birth of a baby. There’s been a process leading up to the day, but now everything lies ahead—all the growth, result, output, transformation. Probably a great deal of spiritual opposition also and certainly a great deal of hard work and activity will be needed to make sure people can read, listen and understand what is there in their own language now. At the same time, our prayer is that there will be peace and security in the country as a whole and in the Kaba area, but also ‘the peace of God that passes all understanding’ to guard the hearts and minds of those who encounter him in his Word.”

Photo by Elizabeth Marti

Like the GPS and map differences Dennis noted, the Kaba people have had many conflicting ways of living but now they have a trustworthy, true map in their own language to chart the course God has laid out for their lives.

Read about Dennis’ experiences several days prior when he transported guests to the Gbeya New Testament dedication in another location in CAR.

Information for this article shared by Dennis Freeland and Judith Sawers