Anyuak Zone, Gambella, August 31, 2013 (GSN) - The translation of the Anyuak Bible was prepared in two phases – first the New Testament, which was called Luumma Nyään na Met Mar Yesu Krïcto (The New and Sweet/Good Word of Jesus Christ) was translated and printed for Anyuaks in Sudan.


  1. Translation of the New Testament in the Sudan

When Rev. Don McClure (Odan) first began work with the Anyuak people in Akobo, Sudan, he considered the translation of the Bible to be a very high priority, and therefore he assigned one of the early missionaries, Rev. Harvey Hoekstra (Odola), to devote his full time to this work. Some of the people that worked with Odola were "Jok Deng , James Buya, Ezekiel Ochala Lero, Othow war Adier.” Odola has written:

"The team that worked together longest and to the completion of the translation were Ezekiel Ochala Alero and Othow war Adier. Ezekiel had 8 years of schooling. His English was quite good and improved appreciably with added years. Othow was an intelligent member of the team and I was deeply grateful for him. He knew no English, was unschooled but a man whose judgment I greatly respected. I had him on the team because I wanted someone who knew no English. This forced us to speak in Anyuak as we discussed each verse before transcribing it on a 3 X 5 file paper. In a sense Othow had to be satisfied that the translation was saying it the way Anyuaks thought and spoke."

Before the final translation was ready for publication, Odola asked that two Anuak from Ethiopia come to Pibor, so that he could check with them on differences in Anuak as spoken in Sudan and Anyuak as spoken in Ethiopia. Akway Ochudho and Okac Ojwato responded and walked from Akado (Pokwo) to Pibor, where Odola had moved by that time. They spent six weeks there, working every day to review the translation, in order to identify any differences in understanding of some key concepts they might have. Odola also consulted with Dr. James Keefer (Oman Cham) and Rev. Niles Reimer (Okwomchor) about some theological terms.

Another person who played an important role in the translation effort was Stephen Omot, who had learned to type from one of the other missionaries (Kitty Crandall) [Anyuak name – I have forgotten it, but Othow knows it. She came to visit him when he had his operation in Addis.] He joined the team and typed up the cards each day, as well as typing all the completed manuscripts. At the end they had an IBM electric typewriter with the keys modified for the Anyuak characters. Omot typed the final manuscript that Odola took to the American Bible Society.Others who gave advice and counsel during the translation time were Dr. Nida (Nayda) of the Bible Society, and people from SIL who advised him. He also consulted with Dr. Jim Keefer (Omään Caam) on some questions. In 1961 when Odola went to the USA, he spent time with a person at the American Bible Society.They discussed fonts, illustrations, and quantities to be printed. The first 1000 copies were printed using a gift from one of Odola's supporting churches, enabling the Bible Society to print without delay. They arrived in Khartoum in November or December, 1961. It was a time of trouble for the missionaries in the Sudan during those years, and they were being expelled by the Government with various accusations. In January 1962, Odola and his family were given a week to pack their bags and leave, and it was a joy for him to receive the first five printed copies of the Anyuak NT, delivered to him in Pibor on the plane that took them out of Sudan

  1. Publication of the New Testament in Ethiopia As the NT was being translated in the Sudan, they would print the individual books and distribute them so that people could read them. They also sent copies to the people at Pokwo, and these were always received with great excitement. One time Odola came himself and spent a week or so at Pokwo teaching on one of the new books that had just come out. [Which one? Romans? Niles, can you remember?] When the whole NT was complete, Odola sent the manuscript to Pokwo, and Dr. Keefer was assigned the responsibility for seeing that it was printed. In preparation for receiving the New Testament in Ethiopia, Dr. McClure (Odan) obtained an audience with Emperor Haile Selassie, to request permission to print portions of the Bible in the Anyuak language. This was difficult, because at that time the Emperor was trying to bring all the tribes of Ethiopia together as one people, and wished them only to learn Amharic, to unify the country. However, he was greatly in favor of the Mission's working with the Anyuaks to teach them, and had a great respect for the Bible, so in the end he granted permission. It was a verbal permission, no document was ever issued. This was a turning point for the spread of the scriptures in Ethiopia. There was one requirement, however; the books must be written in Ethiopic script. A group of linguists consulted about the best way to adapt the sounds of Anyuak to the Ethiopic Fidel, and finally decided on the present script. Omään Caam began by giving some of the manuscript to a printing company in Addis Ababa, but the workers, not being familiar with the Anyuak language, and seeing their Fidel looking so strange, made so many mistakes that it seemed that the typesetting would take a very long time indeed. So Omään Caam was able to buy a small printing press in England, and buy type in Addis. He taught two men, Ato Isaac Omot Okon and Ato Okac Ojwato (now Qes) to typeset at Pokwo, and print each page, which were proofread by different missionaries, and finally all the pages were printed and sent to Addis for printing in one of the printing presses. The NT was completed in Ethiopic script in 1962. We thank God for making this possible, and for the way in which having the scriptures in their own language has helped the church to grow and be taught the teaching of the Bible.
  2. The Old Testament Translation and Revision of the New Testament

The program of translation of the Old Testament (OT) into Anyuak was begun by Marie (Breezy) Lusted (Nyajak) in 1968 in response to oral requests by Anyuak church leaders. She recalls the question, "Here is the New Testament; who will translate the rest of the Bible for us?" There was no immediate answer; she was the nurse in the clinic and had no training in linguistics, so didn't feel qualified. All of the missionaries were just learning Anyuak. But it must have been the Spirit of God working in her mind and heart, until finally she offered, "Maybe I could do that." The work began very simply. In the beginning we planned to translate parts of the OT, using a list of passages from another missionary. Later on we learned that this would not be acceptable to the Bible Society of Ethiopia. The first workers were Philip Omot Daw, who made rough drafts in an exercise book, writing in Ethiopic Fidel. Isaac Omot Okon helped Nyajak to edit these drafts. Thinking of the Anyuaks in the Sudan, some portions were typed in Latin script by Okony Obat. Work was slow, because Nyajak had duties at the clinic, and could only give a limited time to translation. Work went on like this until 1977. There was much violence in Ethiopia then, because of a new government, the Dergue, and in 1977 the mission leaders in Addis Ababa evacuated Nyajak and Okwomcor and Nyodier from Pokwo to Addis Ababa.

  The Gambella Presbytery was very supportive of the translation work right from the start. During this transition period they took two actions that confirmed that Nyajak's work should be Bible translation and that she and Okwomcor should arrange with Omot Ochan and Mamo Oman about working on Bible translation.

From 1977 to 1979 the Reimers and Breezy travelled back and forth from Addis to Pokwo, as the situation still did not seem stable. In 1979 they were prevented by the Dergue Administrator in Mettu from returning to Pokwo, and so the work continued in Addis Ababa after that. Omot Ochan and Mamo Oman continued working part-time until Mamo was posted away from Addis Ababa as a teacher. Omot Ochan worked regularly while attending Mekane Yesus Seminary. Okwier Oletho also worked while a student at the Seminary, and Okelo Akway was able to help while he studied at the University.In 1983 the Anyuak Bible Translation Project was formally begun as a full-time project. The Ganbella Presbytery appointed Omot Agwa to join Omot Ochän as translator. In the beginning, they were able to reside in the Seminary dormitory, as there were few students. Later, when that became impossible, the Seminary president, Dr. Schoenherr, allowed us to use 3 of the shipping containers that had been located on campus, which were renovated to become residences, and later, the translation office. The Lord provided different office rooms for the team to use. At first they worked from one of the bedrooms in the Guest House in Guleli. Then the office staff gave them the use of one room in the office to use. When Okwomcor and Nyodier and Nyajak moved to the Baptist Mission compound in Mekanissa, the Baptist Mission gave the team office space in their office building. These rooms were changed 4 times, until Okwomcor and Nyodier and Nyajak moved from there to another Mission compound, and were able to use one of the rooms in the large house where they were living. After leaving there, the Mekane Yesus Seminary let them use a classroom for some months until the renovation of the container unit was finished. In 1983 two computers were brought into Ethiopia by SIL and the Bible Society. In preparation for their coming, Okwomcor was asked to take a course in operating the computer which was given in a university in the USA. When the computers arrived in Ethiopia, Okwomcor along with another missionary gave training classes for those from the different projects who would be using the computers. The first computer was a DEC VT103, which was programmed to display either Latin or Ethiopic characters on the screen. During that time, Nyajak was involved in developing software for printing in Ethiopic script. Since the team did not own their own computer at first, Nyajak travelled to the Bible Society office to use the one that was there. After some years, another kind of computer arrived, a Sharp PC-5000, which served the team for many years, until the present-day computers using Windows were developed. We thank God for these tools which helped very much in the recording of the translated materials, as before that everything had to be written by hand. Those who have served as translators include Omot Ochan, Mamo Omaan, Okwier Oletho, Okelo Akway, and Omot Agwa, who have been mentioned above, and also Thwol Omot, Omot Ongom, Ojulo Cham, Paul Othow, Ajulo Ojwato, and Desalegn Omot. Each of these have made good contributions to the translation process. Paul Othow had a gift for translation and did a lot of work on the Psalms (Dut Pwoc). Ajulo and Desalegn served the longest on the team, about 17 years. Their level of English comprehension was a great help in making a good translation.In 1990 the Project sent Omot Agwa to Kenya for a course in Bible Translation (name?) which was given at the Pan Africa Christian College. He graduated in 1995 and returned to Ethiopia to become the Coordinator of the Bible Translation Project. Some problems came up and the work stopped for a time. During that time, Paul Othow became sick and passed away in 1996(?). After that, the EGBP appointed Ajulo Ojwato and Desalegn Omot to be the new team. In the actual translation process, this is the way it was carried out: The translators wrote out drafts of each chapter of a book, and then the team would go over them to check for accuracy. The corrected drafts were keyed into the computer, printed, and again read over by each team member, followed by group discussion.

When a book was completed, it was printed into a small booklet and sent to the reviewer’s team, a group of men and women chosen to represent the various areas of Anyuak-land. At the beginning of this process these people received some training in how to do the reviewing work. The team travelled to Gambella two times in a year to meet with the reviewers and go over the newly finished books. Depending on the number of new books to be checked, the sessions lasted from one to two weeks. Some of the people who served as reviewers are: Kes Akway Ochudho, Kes Okac Ojwato, Isaac Omot Okon, Kes Ochala Abula, Aciek Omot, Nyidieri Oliri, Apiew Kweth, Kes Aba Okeng, Kes Ojulo Nyang. These men and women took their work very seriously to make corrections and suggestions that contributed very much to the good quality of the translation. The last step in the translation process was another check by the consultant from the Bible Society of Ethiopia. The team members would translate a verse back into English and the consultant would compare it with Amharic, and the Hebrew or Greek text, to make sure nothing was left out and nothing added. After all of these things were completed, there were still more checks to be done on the computer, which took several months. The computer person from the Bible Society helped us a great deal on this. Then came the great day when we gave the completed manuscript, on a flash-drive, to him to submit to the Bible Society in Nairobi to begin the typesetting process. This took several months, and then the typeset copy was returned to the team with both a hard copy (printed on paper) and a copy which could be read on the computer. All of the team members began the proofreading, which took more than a year

due to many interruptions. We were able to consult with the team members by Skype to discuss corrections, and a list of corrections was made and sent back to the typesetters. They made the corrections and sent another proof copy to the team, which they checked to see that all the corrections were done correctly. After that, the corrected copy was sent to be printed in Korea, and the finished copies were received back in Ethiopia on April 11, 2013. Now the Bible is in your hands, in your own language. We urge you to read it, and study it; memorize it, and share its message with everyone around you, until every Anyuak person has had a chance to hear the message of God's wonderful love for us, and how he sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins so that we can have a new life with him. May God bless you all and Anyuak Bible!

Source: Ethiopian Bible Society