Goma Mabele knows what perseverance is, after serving three decades in the Mbandja Bible translation project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
He was there in 1989, when work on the translation began. Goma was soon asked to lead the team translating the New Testament (completed in 1995), and then the Old Testament.
First, he and his family moved to Kenya so that Goma could pursue a master’s degree in Bible translation. When Goma finished his degree, his family returned home to escalating war in the DRC. In 1999, bombings forced the whole family, including his new baby daughter, to hide in a hole in the ground for protection.
Team leadership came with more difficulties. One translator was dismissed because of criminal activity. Another died after serving only three years. Still another lost his wife.
“Those were some really hard months, and we thought we weren’t going to finish,” Goma recalls. “But I’ve seen God’s hand in all of this. He told me, ‘This is building your character so that you can help others.’ The Christian life isn’t just a straight path. There are a lot of curves. This is how he has moulded me.”
God was faithful. The entire Mdandja Bible was dedicated in December 2014. More than 2,000 people attended the celebration, with Goma’s wife Jeanne leading the procession of people carrying their newly translated Bibles.
Seeing the impact of God’s Word in his community, Goma says, has made all the struggles worthwhile. “They understand forgiveness. They understand . . . that they need to love one another.”
Literacy has touched lives, too. The project team produced books on hygiene, agriculture and farming. People learned to raise chickens to earn money for children’s school fees. Families who once visited traditional healers for sick children now take them to the hospital.
“People are learning better ways to take care of their families,” Goma says. “That’s how . . . God works. He takes care of the entire man.”
He continues, “People need the Word of God in their language, because that goes straight to their hearts. Those who are marginalized now feel they have value. It’s very important work for the well-being of souls.”
Goma continues to serve. In 2014 he was certified as a translation consultant, to check Scripture translation done by others. The next year he was appointed as director of the Wycliffe organization in DRC. Every day, Goma prays for more faithful servants to join the work.
“It’s work that’s going to last from generation to generation till Jesus comes,” he says. “And one day, we’re going to shine like the stars next to our big God—[the one] that has the world in His hand.”
Adapted from a story by Mary Tindall. Photo by Heather Pubols.