Dr. Andy Alo, a graduate and lecturer at Africa International University (AIU)* speaks five languages. However, it is his mother tongue, Lugbarati, that holds a valuable place in his heart.
From generation to generation
Andy was raised in the village of Abedju, which grasps the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda and holds them together at DRC’s northeast corner. Andy’s grandfather, one of the first Lugbara believers in DRC, became part of the Lugbarati translation team, which finished the Bible translation in 1966.
Andy’s father became an active proponent for Bible translation in the region as well. And, as the third generation in his family to follow Jesus, Andy also experienced the difference the translation had on his family and how it helped the church in the Lugbara community.
“This was the evidence for me, that once we had the Bible [in our first language], people started to move forward in their spiritual lives without the church being weakened by anything,” said Andy.
Getting involved in Bible translation
Andy pursued a degree in education with a major in teaching languages in Bunia, a city in northeastern DRC. While studying there, he met a young woman, Yvette, in the church choir, who would eventually become his wife.
Soon after finishing at university, he began teaching French with the conviction that education was the best way to help people to live more meaningful lives. However, a friend studying at AIU in Nairobi, Kenya, told Andy about the Master’s degree program in Bible translation at the university.
“Then, I realized that the Word of God was the true light people needed for an everlasting joy and life,” said Andy who decided to enroll in the program at AIU.
After graduation, he and Yvette returned to Congo where Andy worked as a translation advisor on Congolese Bible translation and language projects. He also taught an introductory course in translation principles to other translators and linguists at a local teacher training college.
“Being an African gave me the ability to explain things from the inside,” he said. “Because I speak [those languages], as well as share the worldviews, I was able to help translators solve some of the challenges they face.”
After five years, they felt motivated to do something more: multiply themselves. They returned once again to Nairobi and AIU. This time Andy did doctoral level studies in translation and research. In a few short years, Andy was encouraged to join the teaching staff in AIU’s Translation Department. He is now one of several lecturers in the department.
One of the courses Andy teaches is program planning—a course designed to help students understand how to plan a Bible translation and language development program.
In one of his recent classes, his students engaged in a discussion regarding the methodology of entering a new people group who did not yet have the Scripture in their mother tongue.
Many people in Africa speak at least three languages. Those who attend school learn a national language like French or English, in addition to the trade language of their region and their mother tongue. However, Andy and his students all agreed that when the Bible is only offered in a national or trade language, it is deficient.
“Many people may be multilingual,” Andy said, “but their level of knowledge in those languages is not as deep as the knowledge they have in their mother tongue. The Word of God is more successfully communicated when it’s done in the native language.”
Through teaching, Andy is multiplying his knowledge and experience by helping people to have a meaningful part in Bible translation projects. His knowledge of language and personal experience with Bible translation make him an excellent fit for his role at AIU and an important part of Bible translation.
“It is one thing to lament over the spiritual and socio-cultural misery of the marginalized ethnic groups who do not have the privilege of reading the Word of God,” said Andy. “It is another thing to get involved, one way or another, in taking the Word to them. I have chosen the second option because I know that reading the Word and living by it will make a difference in their lives.”
* AIU was formerly known as Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology (NEGST)
Photos by Taylor Martyn
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Content and photographs for this article were provided by staff from African Inland Mission’s On Field Media team (AIM-OFM). See more of their stories on www.aimstories.com.
This story was written for the Wycliffe News Network.