The pastor halted the prayer meeting just as the congregation seemed to be warming up. He turned to the old lady and made a shocking announcement, “There is no use, madam, for you to pray in that language. It is not written down and God will not hear it!”
At the start of the 1980’s only a few of the Sabaot people on Mt. Elgon, Kenya, were known to be followers of Jesus. These often gathered in churches led by pastors from other language groups.
It was in such a church that an older Sabaot lady began to pray in her native tongue, Sabaot. Suddenly the worship leader broke into the prayer time and rebuked the woman for praying in Sabaot. An elder from the Sabaot heard the rebuke and felt grieved in his heart that God did not hear prayer in the Sabaot language. From what the pastor said the man realized he must do something about getting the God’s word into the Sabaot language.
He had heard about a group in Nairobi, 240 miles away, who could put the Bible into the Sabaot language. Not having money to pay for public transport the man set out on foot to walk the 240 miles. He was looking for the offices of Wycliffe Bible Translators and actually had to make a second trip to Nairobi on foot in order to find them. “Please,” the man requested, “come to Mt. Elgon where my people live and put our language in writing before it disappears.”
In 1981 Wycliffe responded and sent a translation team, the Larsens to begin the process of creating a written alphabet for the Sabaot language. Seven years later another couple, the Leonards came and took over the translation process. ICM began working with this team by helping provide Bible training for the language helpers. In 1997 the Sabaot New Testament was dedicated. In 1999 ICM staff covered the cost of putting the JESUS Film into Sabaot and a massive work of evangelism and church planting was underway on Mt. Elgon. Around the same time ICM began working on a Bible training center on the mountain. In 2012, the Old Testament translation was completed and the complete Bible was dedicated. Thanks to the work of many dedicated Christian workers and agencies the Sabaot are now considered a reached people group. In 1981 fewer than 5% of the Sabaot people were believed to be Christian, now with approximately 40% of the population professes a belief in the Gospel. Evangelists and Church planters are spreading out across the mountain into neighboring Uganda sharing the Good News of Jesus!