A Life Spared for Bible Translation
The Sudanese civil war in the 1970s dealt a heavy blow to the Gbaya people group. The Gbaya people suffered severely from the persecution by northern authorities. People who did not convert to Islam were killed, as were Muslims who continued to practice traditional religion and anyone who possessed materials in African languages. But God spared Lino Biyanga.
At just over 50 years old, Lino was one of the few men from his generation who survived the persecution, even though he refused to convert. He lost many friends and relatives during that time, but never displayed anger or bitterness. He had hope and believed his people could have a better future if they had access to basic education and Scripture in their own language.
Language and translation work for the Gbaya speakers started in the late 1970s in Raga, which is now western South Sudan. The SIL* team arrived a few years after the end of the first Sudanese civil war. The Gbaya people were afraid to help the SIL team, but Lino was eager. He was among the few who were literate, and had worked as a teacher, government clerk, tailor and subsistence farmer. So Lino helped the SIL team learn his language.
Several years later, Lino was the first to read Scripture passages in a church service. It was the Easter service, and nearly everyone in town attended, including many Muslims, Catholics and animists.
When the second civil war broke out in the 1980s, Lino and others had to walk more than 200 miles through the wilderness to a refugee camp. He continued to teach literacy to his people, and translation work continued with Lino’s son Carlos. When the war ended in 2005, Lino — in his 80s — walked back to Raga, suffering the dislocation of his hip.
When Lino died in August 2016, he was one of the oldest men in Raga, having lived more than nine decades. Leading up to his death, he kept encouraging people to learn to read — especially in their language — and promoted the Bible translation project. Lino Biyanga sacrificed and suffered much, but never lost his hope in the future for his people.
The New Testament is completed and undergoing final revisions.