We worked among the Didinga in SE Sudan. That translation project has been, to put it mildly, “hindered” over the years (we left because of Cammie’s cancer; the Samuelsons were booted out of the country and declared persona non grata three months after they arrived in the village because of something that happened when they were up north; and within the last month Annarose DeJong, who with her husband Niki, worked on Didinga the longest, died suddenly while teaching at the German school in Nairobi).
We continue to be involved financially. And we pray. And hanging in our living room is a portrait of a Didinga woman done by an artist friend that provides a daily reminder that this group is still without God’s word.
The project itself is now a mother-tongue project (also beset with difficulties, the most recent being having to let the project manager go and temporarily dissolving the project). Recently, John and Joy Anderson, translation consultants for several mother-tongue translation projects in Uganda were here in Dallas and got together with us to share how things were going.
They told us what was happening. We were encouraged. And then I inquired about some of the other projects we were familiar with. And I asked about a new one, among the Tenet, who are a group culturally and linguistically related to the Didinga and who live about 80 miles to the west of them.
And out came a story, an incredible story of a young man named Kabas. As a teenager he wanted an education. Where he lived, a bit north and east of Torit, he could not get one because of the civil war. So he “found his way” to Khartoum to seek an education (and that trip was probably an adventure). In Khartoum he lived on nothing in the small Tenet community and failed to get the education he was seeking. After several years of this, he heard that a translation program to translate the Scripture into Tenet was about to start and they were looking for suitable helpers. And further, that in Arua (Uganda) they were convening people they thought might be qualified to work on this translation and were offering an introductory course on translation principles.
He, and a friend of his, another Tenet named Ramadan, decided they needed to attend this course and they (particularly Kabas) felt that this is what God had called them to do. The problem was they had not served 2 years in the army and so could not obtain the exit visa they would need to leave….if they could purchase a plane ticket (which they could not for obvious reason). Nor was any offer extended to them to pay for transport of any kind. The fact was they had not even been invited to come in the first place.
But they believed they needed to be there. What to do?
So, together, they started walking. They could not walk through the war zone, so they took a jog to the east to Ethiopia (they may have hopped a bus to Kassala, the details are sketchy). And from that point they walked for a thousand miles to the border of Ethiopia and Kenya. They had no SUV. No hiking boots. No camping gear. And no money. None. They walked by faith…and lived on hospitality they found along the way.
Four months later when they arrived at the border of Kenya they sent a message to Arua inquiring if the translation principles course was still on. It was. By this time the folks putting that workshop togeth
er had already heard of this incredible walk by a couple of tenacious Tenet young men from Khartoum (word in Africa travels by many means). Money was sent for bus fare to make the last leg of the journey (through a part of Kenya and then into Uganda).
As it turned out, Kabas was a natural and clearly gifted and is currently on the Tenet translation team.
An incredible journey for the mere opportunity to see if he might be qualified to work on that translation project.
Someday I want the opportunity to polish Kabas’ shoes, or sandals…if I can reach that high.
(2004. An Absolutely true story)