In March of 2012 I traveled to DRC. I interviewed Gaspard & Marie Yalemoto, and spent time visiting with people in their home area. Their story continues to challenge me to remember that God’s purposes will not be thwarted.
Content with the path they had chosen for their lives, Gaspard and Marie Yalemoto spent many years ignoring the suggestions of friends and family members to consider something different. But God used the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo* (DRC) which began in 1996 to redirect their journey.
Running from God’s Call
Gaspard and Marie Yalemoto grew up in rural communities in north-western DRC, in central Africa. Their faith journeys began when they were both young.
Although he grew up in a pastor’s home, Gaspard didn’t fully embrace faith in Jesus until he was an adult. Still, he hated the idea of becoming a pastor himself. Marie attended a Catholic school, and at a young age she was invited by the sisters to become a nun. However, she never followed their prompting.
The pair met when Marie was studying to be a teacher, and Gaspard was serving on the school faculty. When she went on to University to study rural development, the couple began to write to each other. Soon after she completed her studies, they married.
Gaspard and Marie both sensed God had a unique work for them to do – but they had other ideas. Several pastors challenged Gaspard about his choice of career, and some even offered to pay for theological training. But Gaspard only desired to study engineering.
The Day Everything Changed
In May 1997 rebels stormed into Gaspard and Marie’s community and rounded up community leaders. Gaspard was among those captured and taken into the rainforest for execution.
Every night, the rebels shot some of their captives and brought the corpses back to the village the next morning. And every night, the soldiers prepared to kill Gaspard, but began arguing among themselves and instead let him live.
Then one evening, while Marie was praying and fasting with her mother-in-law and other believers, a pastor had a vision. He believed God wanted Gaspard to become a pastor. The pastor went to the rebel commander and told him to release Gaspard. The commander refused, but the pastor persisted.
“God needs that man,” the pastor responded. “Free him. If you don’t, you are going to have problems.”
Without any further explanation, the commander released Gaspard on one condition: Gaspard must complete a three-year theological studies program or he would be killed. A rebel soldier drove Gaspard in a military vehicle directly to the local theological college. Marie followed on foot with other believers from the community, walking for 64km to join her husband
The new direction in their lives was a source of joy: “Gaspard was supposed to die, but God protected him,” said Marie. “God changed the path that he was supposed to take.”
But it was also hardship: “I would say, ‘No, I want to die because I suffered too much,’” explained Gaspard. “I would ask myself, why am I here? What am I going to do?” Often, he wanted to pack his bags and leave.
The Mono Translation Project
It wasn’t until just before he completed his studies, that Gaspard could see God’s plan more clearly. The founding churches of ACOTBA-SUBO** were seeking native speakers to head up the Mono Bible translation. that had stalled during the war. Mono is the mother tongue of about 160 thousand people including the Yalemotos. Gaspard and Marie were an obvious choice to participate in the project.
The pair received two years’ additional training at the Bangui Evangelical School of Theology (FATEB) in neighboring Central African Republic, learning how to clearly get the meaning from the original biblical text into another language.
Afterwards, they returned to DRC to start translating the Mono New Testament. Gaspard became the leader of the four-person translation team, and Marie worked as one of the translators. The Yalemotos also worked on literacy programs and taught church leaders how to effectively use translated portions of Scripture. As some of God’s word became available in Mono, the Yalemotos saw people returning to God – just as they had done.
Leaving a legacy
One day in March 2014 shortly after completing the first draft of the entire Mono New Testament, Gaspard awoke not feeling well, and by the next afternoon he died. His unexpected death was most likely caused by cerebral malaria.
His death was devastating, but God is still working through Gaspard’s obedience. The production of the first New Testament in the Mono language has continued, now, under Marie’s leadership. The team hopes to distribute the first copies as early as 2015.
* Between 1971 and 1997, the Democratic Republic of Congo was called Zaire.
** Association Congolaise Traduction de la Bible et Alphabétisation – Sukisa Boyinga (Congolese Bible Translation and Literacy Association – Conquer Ignorance)
Article by Jessica Whitmore
Photos by Heather Pubols
This story was written for the Wycliffe News Network.