Dressed in bright colours, three teenaged girls strolled up to the well in the middle of a Nanerige village in Burkina Faso. When Phil Bergen addressed them in their language, their faces lit up with delight at the surprise of speaking with a non-African man in their own language, and they giggled as they responded.
This may have been the first time they’d had such an experience.
The Nanerige have never seen their language in print. Phil and Carol Bergen came to live with them in the fall of 1990, investing their lives learning the language and culture in order to model Spirit-filled living and give the Nanerige God’s Word in their own tongue.
“It is so good to hear God’s word in your own language. If you hear it in another language it doesn’t stick with you,” said the chief of Famberala, the Nanerige village where Phil was testing Scripture portions.
Holding a tape recorder and a printed copy of Genesis, Phil sat with the leader and a woman from the village to test the translation of the opening chapters. Phil played a few paragraphs of Genesis read in Nanerige, then the group asked questions and discussed the passage in French, Joula (an inter-tribal trade language), and Nanerige. Phil made corrections, and they continued.
The Nanerige man and woman, who are already believers, showed deep respect for the words they heard. Soon many Nanerige who aren’t yet believers will also be able to hear the good news of Jesus in their own villages in the language of their hearts.
Phil, Carol, and their team have been working hard for more than a decade, and their investment is beginning to bring returns. Now, 10 hours of key Old and New Testament stories tell the salvation story in Nanerige. The Gospels of Matthew and Mark are ready for testing; Luke and Acts are nearly completed. The team plans to distribute 100 Mega-Voice machines (portable audio devices) and many cassette tapes in the new year. A church has already sprung up in N’Dorola, the Bergens’ hometown in southern Burkina Faso, and continues to grow.
North Americans have many opportunities to hear and respond to the gospel. The investment of the Bergens and their supporters is making it a little more available to the Nanerige.