“Gola Language in Danger of Extinction”

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Rev. Kullah (left) delivers a copy of the New Testament in Gola, on behalf of the Bible Society in Liberia, to Rev. T. Sumo Labella, head of the Bomi Christian Community.

— Dr. Norman hopes the New Testament translated in the western Liberian language will revive it

Dr. Zobong B. Norman, the Chairperson of the Steering Committee for the translation of the New Testament of the Holy Bible into the Gola language, says the Gola language is in danger of extinction but expressed hope that the newly-published translation will help to revive it. According to Dr. Norman, many of the children in villages or rural parts of the counties where Gola is spoken continue to downplay their linguistic heritage or distance themselves from speaking the traditional language.

Dr. Norman made the assertion on Sunday March 8, 2020, during the official dedication and launching ceremony of the New Testament in Gola, held at the New Breed Praise Tabernacle Church in Tubmanburg, Bomi County.

“This is first time in the history of Bomi County and Liberia for the New Testament to be translated into Gola. We are here to give honor to God for reaching us thus far, because the Bible is a source of life and it gives us purpose in life,” Dr. Norman said.

The project has been a long time coming, according to Rev. Dr. Jerry P. Kullah, Chairperson of the Advisory Board of the Bible Society in Liberia.

“It took 51 years for the New Testament in Gola to be written, and our plea to you is to establish a small group in each of your churches so your people can learn the New Testament in Gola,” Rev. Kullah told the audience.

According to Dr. Rode Wald from the Liberia Bible Translators (LBT), who was also at the program, the New Testament in Gola project in Liberia was one of the first projects initiated by Lutheran Bible Translators in 1969. The project was disrupted by sickness, war, and revolving personnel.

The Gola language is widely spoken in three of Liberia’s fifteen counties, including Bomi, Grand Cape Mount and Gbarpolu counties, as well as in parts of Sierra Leone. Dr. Norman said when the people begin to learn the Gola language through the Gola New Testament, it will help to spread it and keep the language alive.

“When you read the Bible in a foreign language, it is sometimes hard to understand it. Some of the words you would not have understood in English, you will better be able to understand the context, the words and expressions in the Gola New Testament now,” Dr. Norman, former president of the Bomi County Community College, said.

Perhaps, to accomplish the goal of increasing the number of those literate Gola language means teaching people to read more than just English. The characters used for the translation are International Phonetic Alphabet symbols, which help to form the intricate consonant and vowel sounds that are normally found in Gola and other Liberian languages, but not in English.

Gola language translation of the New Testament

Dr. Norman said the Bible Society in Liberia, which served as chief sponsor of the translation, played a pivotal role in the realization of the New Testament in Gola for the Christian Community in Liberia and the world at large.

The launching program, which was organized by the Bible Society in Liberia, in partnership with Bomi Christian Community, brought together religious leaders, church goers, international partners and government officials.

The grounds of the New Breed Praise Tabernacle Church were a scene of jubilation and excitement as the congregation applauded a splendid performance from Min. Denise J. Karnlay, commonly known as “Gola Queen” and the Gola traditional choir, as well as the church’s choir.

Bomi County District #2 Representative Manah Bishop Johnson, who officially launched the Gola New Testament Bible, said he was delighted to be part of such an historic program and lauded the Bible Society in Liberia for the initiative.

“Today, we will tell our brothers and sisters that the Bible has been translated into our own language. This is a great success in our region and the monument shall be there for the hard work done by Bible Society in Liberia and international partners,” Rep. Johnson said. “It is often good to have all these books, including the Gola New Testament but it’s better for the translation to be utilized by the citizenry. He promised to provide both cash and moral support to ensure that the New Testament in Gola is acquired by the people.

Rep. Johnson officially launched the Gola New Testament.

Rev. Dr. Kullah sees it as an opportunity for pastors to have the New Testament in Gola and calls on religious leaders to help teach their congregations.

Rev. Kullah, who presented the New Testament in Gola to Rev. T. Sumo Labella head of the Bomi Christian Community, on behalf of the Bible Society in Liberia, said “we heard the word of God wonderfully declared in various languages and because each of them knew their languages, it was easy for them to understand the word of God.”

He reiterated that many of the children do not speak our languages because we have not taken the efforts to teach them. He said the language is the best missionary to any people, stating, “it’s one thing for the Bible to be written in Gola and another thing for all of you to have the Bible.”

Rev. Elder David B. Ballah who delivered the sermon during the dedication ceremony, said there are people in scripture who left their footprints and continued to exist and will never be forgotten.

Rev. Ballah said “everyone that walks on this earth is leaving his or her footprint, which would be education, political, socially, religious and others.”

International partners at the launching ceremony of the New Testament in Gola

He said there are people who will sojourn this earth from life to death and people will wonder who they were and what legacies they left to be remembered for.

“In our churches today, you don’t see our pastors try correct wrongs, especially to those that give the highest offerings. Pastors are under obligation and instruction to correct the wrong because a brother or sister is depending you as a pastor to help him,” Rev. Ballah said.

Rev. Ballah called on pastors to engage into teachings that exemplify their living, and frowned on pastors who tell their congregations to “do what I say and not what I do”. He wondered what pastors were teaching in their churches, communities and families.

According to Rev. Kullah, the translation of the New Testament into Gola was started in  by Richard Blama Morris, Jefferson A. Boakai and Morris Johnson finally took over this work from where it was left prior to 2016 and today, the work has been complete. The three Gola translators were honored for their efforts over the years and commitment.

International partners at the program.

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