Continuing the series on the Kouya New Testament dedication on 21 March 2012, here is a guest blog by good friend and colleague Philip Saunders.
Agathe and Sue Arthur
Agathe moved quietly across the arena to where two of her girls stood, half hid herself behind them, and took a tissue from the box they were holding. As Kalou Ambroise continued to sing, she dabbed her eyes, wiping away the emotion that had quietly crept up and overcome her.
“Yi, -Zezu ‘yɩbha –mɩ, ɔ ‘yɩbha ɔ ‘ka –mɩ gbʋ ‘wʋ –sa!”
“Come, Jesus loves you, He wants to save you!”
The words rang out around the natural theatre of trees and undulating red earth, packed that day with five hundred men and women, plus children playing, and babies on backs.
Kalou Ambroise singing
A haunting song that went straight to the heart, words and music composed by Kalou as he sheltered from a rainstorm in his plantation many years before. As Kalou sang, his own heart was warmed by the sight of so many of his own Kouya people listening intently, so many who had come to Jesus already, and who had made their way to Dema from the twelve surrounding villages, to join in the festivities.
This was a great day, long anticipated. Today, the translation of the New Testament into Kouya was being celebrated. A day for Kouyas, organised by Kouyas, run in a Kouya way.
The church had come a long way in thirty years. From tentative, uncertain beginnings, it had been built up by the Spirit into what it was today: a vibrant body of believers sure of what they believed, secure in their Kouya Christian identity. Those believers had found out their own way to do things, not simply imitating Western ecclesiastical norms and forms. And so, after ten years’ absence from the area, it was new to me, but no surprise, to witness Agathe’s role that day.
She was in charge of the “angels”. These were the teenage Christian girls of Dema, dressed in their special pagnes, and their tee-shirts which proclaimed to all that “God speaks Kouya”. Their task was to escort the invited guests and speakers: so wherever we went, we were flanked by two angels. Agathe kept a watchful eye on proceedings, and sent her girls winging their way towards the guests, the moment a move was made.
Philip and his flanking angels
But when Kalou started to sing, Agathe forgot her role in the emotion of the moment, and she had to call on her angels’ help, and raid their box of tissues herself. Like so many of us in Dema that day, she stood still for a moment under the gently swaying trees, and gave thanks to God for saving her, and for bringing about this New Testament in her heart language, with its message she could trust, and by whose truth she could live the rest of her life.
Reading Philip’s account reminds me of other Kouya short stories imbedded in No Ordinary Book, his highly readable account of the Kouya translation and literacy project. It’s currently out of print but copies come up on Amazon from time to time.
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