International Year of Indigenous Languages
Yes, this year we celebrate the 1000th New Testament completed with SIL engagement! The Keliko of South Sudan will welcome the arrival of their Keliko New Testament on 11 August 2018 in northern Uganda. Keliko church leaders initiated the project in 1983 and requested SIL’s help shortly after. The Keliko team has persevered through tragic setbacks of war and exile from their home lands; we are privileged to have worked alongside them.
It began with pastors reading Scripture in their own languages at a Christian conference — but one pastor, Rev. David Gale, could not. Not because he couldn’t read, but because not one word of Scripture had yet been put into Keliko, the language of his people of South Sudan. Overcome with sorrow, Pastor David asked for prayer and clung to Matthew 7:7 “Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you.”
Upon returning home, Rev. David shared his passion with other Keliko believers. Together they dedicated some land to raising funds for a translation project. After two years, they contacted SIL asking for linguists to help develop a writing system. Shortly after, a story, a song and a few Scriptures were published in a pamphlet.
Then war broke out. Most Keliko fled to Congo and northern Uganda. SIL staff were evacuated. Progress on the Keliko translation halted.
Ten years later, in 1998, Rev. David’s grandson, Bishop Seme encountered an SIL couple during his studies in northern Uganda and shared about the stalled Keliko translation. Work resumed as SIL specialists helped finalize the writing system and provided training for Keliko translators. Genesis was published in 2004. SIL provided consultants and mentors for translation, and aided with literacy efforts so that numbers of Keliko learned to read and write their language.
As momentum increased and the Keliko translation team was doing the final checking of their long-awaited New Testament, the Keliko homeland was ravaged again by violence. The translation team fled, most to northern Uganda, but this time they continued their work.
Despite the traumas of war and migration, the Keliko translation team has pressed on to see God’s message of hope available to their people. And that persistence is bearing fruit. On 11 August 2018, the Keliko New Testament will be welcomed with great joy at a celebration in northern Uganda.
Please join us in celebrating with the Keliko.