As dawn broke in Kulawi District, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia, to the casual observer it might have seemed like a normal Monday morning.
It was anything but, however.
Here, in one of the district’s remotest villages, over 500 people had gathered in the local church, taking time out of their busy lives to celebrate a moment of huge significance.
After 12 years of translation work, today the Moma New Testament was being launched – and many in the community wanted to be there to witness this historic occasion.
The sense of anticipation had been growing. One of the Moma Bible translation team commented: ‘Many have been asking when the New Testament would be finished. Now, finally, it is!’
What the Moma speakers said at the launch event summed up the impact that Moma Scriptures have already had – and the impact the Moma New Testament will have:
‘People understand the Scriptures better; they understand grace. Some people who were involved in occultism have stopped because now they understand the Scriptures.’
‘People prefer to hear the Scriptures in Moma. They are more interested than when they hear them in Indonesian.’
‘We had a sermon in our church in Moma and all the songs were in Moma. People loved it!’
‘Our old people understand Moma better than Indonesian. Also, many people in our community have a low education level, so they understand Moma better.’
The groundwork had been thorough, as the translation team had involved the Moma community in reading Scripture in their language. Several years of literacy work had been done in the schools, enabling the next generation of Moma speakers to learn, hear and read their language. Thirteen primary schools had participated in a ‘Local Content in Schools’ project, which Julia*, who serves with Wycliffe in Indonesia, had spearheaded. As part of this project, these schools had access to over 60 reading books in the Moma language.
The impact on the community has been clear. Use of the Moma language in public situations has increased significantly. With the Bible translation team being at the centre of developing and promoting the language, the church has played a key role in spreading the use of the written language beyond the classroom.
‘Previously, the children were only taught using Indonesian in children’s church. They like being taught in Moma,’ said one person. And a primary school teacher noted: ‘We held a Moma reading competition. Adults had to read aloud a full chapter of the New Testament, children a few verses.’
And as the church has adopted Moma into its services and practices, so the impact of using the language that speaks to people’s hearts most has become obvious. The Moma are gaining a greater understanding of Scripture, and lives are being changed.
Now that the Moma finally have their New Testament in their own language, hopes are high for a long-term impact – an impact that will stretch across all generations of the Moma community, and far into the future.
The Moma New Testament was launched on 24 October 2022.
The Moma community numbers over 10,000, and comprises 25 villages in Kulawi District, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia.
*name changed for security reasons
Reproduced with permission from Wycliffe UK