These Things Are Written That You May BelieveA Celebration of God’s Word Among Kenya’s Rendille People
Photo Essay by Mark Eekhoff
The New Testaments were brought in on the backs of camels. If you are Rendille, that is all you need to know. In Korr, one of Kenya’s northern frontier towns, the air seems to be constantly stirring. Winds from the east and cooler breezes from the west seem to mirror the Rendille residents who breathe it in. Traditionally, they are nomads. Traditionally, they do what they must to survive in a hostile environment. Traditionally, they have no access to scripture in their language. Today, things have changed.
The day was a crescendo. What started quietly as a small gathering of local believers and missionaries became a major cultural celebration. The climax featured the most prized possession in traditional Rendille culture – camels. And on their backs were boxes of freshly-printed Rendille New Testaments. Escorting them in was a procession of dancers and singers.
The Rendille nomadic way of life required the use of camels for centuries. The animal’s ability to cover long distances across the desert with little water made them the perfect vehicle for moving from settlement to settlement in search of grass and water for Rendille livestock. When it came time to move, every family had to make the decision of what to bring, limited by what a camel could carry. Only the most important necessities were packed away on the camel to make the trip. It is significant that the Rendille chose to bring the Bibles in on camels.
My notebook from the day of celebration for the Rendille New Testament has only one simple entry: 18 August, Saturday – Had the opportunity to see something really significant for the Kingdom today. Expressions seen on the faces of Rendille can only be understood by witnessing it firsthand.
The Bible Dedication event marked the culmination of a 37-year translation journey begun by now-retired AIM missionaries Nick and Lynn Swanepoel, who set out to put the Rendille language in written form. The New Testaments represent a combined effort of Africa Inland Mission, Bible Translation & Literacy (BTL), and Seed Company, and other generous partners from around the world.
Missionaries, pastors, guests from around the world, and neighboring people groups attended the dedication ceremony. Representatives from the Daasanach tribe made the three-day journey across the Chalbi Desert to join the celebration.
Pastor David Gargule of the Africa Inland Church, Korr, is Rendille himself and had the privilege of delivering the first sermon from the Rendille New Testament. He summed up the translation accomplishment well when he said, “My morning devotional holds deeper meaning now that I can read the words of God in my own language.”