‘I went to tell my parents I wanted to go into Bible translation; I told them, “This is what I think I should do,” and they were not happy about it, my father especially.’

Pelumi’s parents weren’t opposed to Christian ministry. ‘My father is a pastor,’ she says. ‘But I have three sisters and they were still in school.

‘In Nigeria, being the first graduate you are expected to have some responsibilities. My father expected that after university I would be able to work for a while to help support the younger ones.

‘My sister told me, “We like your vision, but there’s no money.”’

Pelumi with husband Oluwaseun and son IdunnuOluwa
‘God had a new purpose for me’

‘I grew up telling my father I would like to be a lawyer,’ Pelumi says. ‘I applied to university, but they offered me linguistics instead. From the very first semester, I fell in love with linguistics.

‘I had the mindset that maybe after linguistics I would read law. But by my third year, God spoke to me that he had a new purpose for me. I didn’t understand what the purpose was because I speak Yoruba – we have had the Bible for over 100 years. There was no awareness as such in my church about Bible translation.’

After she graduated, she took a course where she learnt about the number of people without the Bible in their own languages.

‘I heard the story of the person who asked, “If your God is so great, why can’t he speak my language?”’

‘I want to see communities in Nigeria have the Scriptures in their language, and be able to read it, sing it, memorise it… understand the Scriptures.’

She also heard about the Theological College of Northern Nigeria (TCNN). The Linguistics and Bible Translation Department at TCNN offers BA and MA qualifications. So far, more than 80 Nigerians have graduated, many of whom have gone on to serve in senior leadership and training roles.

‘I went to TCNN in the city of Jos, I made enquiries, and then I went home to tell my parents about it.

‘I needed about 80,000 Naira [about £270 in 2015] for Hebrew and Greek courses before I could start the postgraduate course.

‘My father didn’t have a salary from the church at the time,’ Pelumi says; this would have been almost a month’s salary for her mother, who was a teacher.

‘God provided’

After she graduated Pelumi had spent some time volunteering with an organisation that equips students for mission. ‘From there God provided the money to go back to Jos.’

Another way God provided was through a bursary funded by people like you in the UK and Ireland. ‘It was a great relief,’ she says. ‘Throughout my stay in school, my father didn’t have to pay anything. God provided through other ways.’

In 2017, Pelumi achieved her master’s.

Pelumi stands with two Nigerian and two British men Pelumi with colleagues at TCNN
Beyond description

While she was still studying, Pelumi began working with the Duya Bible translation team.

‘People had been in church for decades, but when they came into contact with Scripture in their language, several said, “Oh, I didn’t know that was what it was saying!”’

Pelumi knows that feeling: ‘When I read the Bible in my language, it speaks to my heart. Singing in my language and reading in my language touches my emotions. I can’t describe that level of understanding. It’s beyond description.

‘It’s like when you’re thirsty and need water to quench your thirst… That’s what the Bible means to me.’

‘While I was growing up I had this longing to read my Bible, this thirst. I was searching the Scriptures for something more, but I didn’t know what. My father taught us the way of God, but I was not following God as much – even though I was learning those things from him – until his 50th birthday.

‘His friend came and preached at his birthday. He told us about being born again. The following day I prayed, and then I went to church to give testimony that I had received Christ as my Lord and Saviour.

‘From that time I started reading the Bible every day, praying and getting to know more about God. My favourite verse is Psalm 34:4, “I cried to the Lord, and he delivered me from all my fears.” I’ve read it over and over again in Yoruba.

‘It’s like when you’re thirsty and need water to quench your thirst. Then somebody offers you water. That’s what the Bible means to me.’

‘I didn’t know that was what it was saying!’

Her linguistics training has enabled Pelumi to make a significant contribution to the Duya Bible translation, ensuring others will soon be able to quench their thirst in the Scriptures too.

‘One of the things we discovered was about the Beatitudes,’ she explains. Because sentences are connected differently in biblical Greek and in Duya, the meaning was getting lost.

‘For instance, “Blessed are the poor, for they shall inherit the kingdom of God” sounded like “You are poor because the kingdom of God is yours.” So some changes were made.’

After she graduated, Pelumi continued to work with the Duya translation team, adding her expertise to theirs in order to produce a clear and accurate translation.

‘People had been in church for decades, but when they came into contact with Scripture in their language, several said, “Oh, I didn’t know that was what it was saying!”’

And in 2019 she returned to TCNN, this time as a lecturer.

Pelumi teaching at TCNN
‘As a teacher I multiply myself’

‘As a teacher I’m trying to multiply myself into many parts. There are things a local translator can do that I cannot. So it’s important to train local translators so that they can do quality work.’

Nigeria represents over two-thirds of the people groups in Africa that are still waiting for the Bible in their own languages. ‘Nigeria has over 500 languages. Over 300 are yet to have the Scriptures,’ Pelumi says. ‘Most of my students are from Bibleless communities, and many are interested in helping projects in their communities.

‘My big dream for my students is to see them being part of Bible translation projects, not only in their own languages, but able to help others. I want to see communities in Nigeria have the Scriptures in their language, and be able to read it, sing it, memorise it… understand the Scriptures.’

‘This is God’

Though money was initially an obstacle to Pelumi’s training and ministry, in the end it helped confirm that this was the right path – through the generosity of people like you: ‘When God provided, it was one of the ways God convinced my father that he was going to help me. He was like, “This is God.”

‘He called my mother, he called my siblings, and he read from the book of Acts – where they release Barnabas and Paul – and then asked everyone to surround me and pray for me.

‘He prayed that in the same way that Barnabas and Paul were released in Acts, he’s releasing me into mission, and he wanted God to be with me as I leave. I was so happy.’

Pray with Pelumi

  • Praise God for his provision. Pray that he will continue to provide for Pelumi as she would like to continue her studies.
  • Pelumi and her husband both face health challenges. Pray for health and encouragement as they continue in the work God has called them to.
  • Pray for a resolution to the current unrest in Nigeria so that people can live, work and study in safety.
  • Praise God for Nigerian churches. Pray that multilingual churches will find creative ways to engage with the Scriptures.
  • Pray that God will move Nigerian churches to support congregations without the Bible in their own languages.

Story by: Bryony Lines

Date: 29/07/2022

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