At a Good Friday service in 1980, Leonard Bolioki stepped to the front of his Cameroonian church to read the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. The same passage was used every year on Good Friday, but this year one thing was different – instead of reading in French he would be reading the story in local Yambetta language. As he read, he became aware of a growing stillness; then some of the older women began to weep. At the end of the service they rushed up to Leonard and asked, “Where did you find this story? We have never heard anything like it before! We didn’t know there was someone who loved us so much that he was willing to suffer and die like that…to be crucified on a cross to save us!” Leonard pulled out his French New Testament and showed them the story was in the Bible. “We listen to this Passion story every year during Holy Week,” he told them, but they insisted that they’d never heard it before. That, says Leonard, is what motivated him to translate the Scriptures into the only language his people could really understand – Yambetta!
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Matthew 26:39 NIV
Several years ago I went to Leonard Bolioki’s house to install a BGAN satellite to help with the translation process, which was completed and distributed last year. Leo is third from the right and I’m second from the right on the top picture, and the second picture is an image of Leo, third from the left holding the completed New Testament.