Date:December 20, 2017

Malawian Bible Celebration Unites Two Families Instrumental in Completing Long-Time Translation Project

Commitment and generosity bring successful end to three-plus decades of work on ‘transformative’ contemporary Chichewa version

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. –  Two families separated by thousands of miles but united by loss and a love for God’s Word came together as part of the long-awaited celebration of a Biblica translation project in which they featured prominently.

Neither Chief Hardwick Thumba, patriarch of the Chikoya family, nor Jim Bridges were at the gathering in Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, for the launch of the new Chichewa-language contemporary Bible, Nov. 18, both having died before the translation begun in 1981 was finished. But they were honored for their key parts in seeing it completed.

Chief Thumba, who died in 2015, was the first leader of the effort to provide a more contemporary Chichewa Bible for the 14 million or so speakers, most of them in Malawi, but also to be found in Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. His son, Lester Chikoya, and daughter-in-law, later joined the team of around 60 that worked on the translation.

Bridges, a Houston software businessman who also died in 2015, made a significant personal donation to Biblica for the Chichewa translation project to ensure its completion after years of delay because of technical and financial challenges.

Members of the Chikoya and Bridges families met for the first time at the launch of the new translation, when leaders representing many of Malawi’s main churches united to lay hands on copies of the new translation and pray for its impact in their country.

It is expected to win a large readership among many who find the commonly used Chichewa translation first published in 1922 hard to comprehend. Many young people are “barely able to understand” the near-century-old text, said Marius Brand, Biblica’s Southern Africa regional director. A contemporary New Testament translation of the Chichewa Bible released in 2002 was revised and updated as part of the full Bible project.

“As with all of our work, the goal was to produce a more accessible and usable Bible, in the contemporary language that people speak today, while staying true to the original source texts,” said Brand. “We want it to engage them at an emotional as well as a cognitive level.”

Noting that a Bible translation project typically takes around 10 -15 years to complete, Brand paid tribute to the dedication of the Chichewa translation team for overcoming many challenges and difficulties. “They have sacrificed a lot,” he said, “so to be able to finally celebrate is very special.”

Rob Gluskin, chairman of Biblica’s Global Board of Directors, said that the Chichewa project exemplified Christian unity and commitment. “This would not have been possible without the effort and support of so many people, not only from different churches but even different countries,” he commented. “It reminds us that though we are different, we are all part of the same one Body of Christ on earth.”

Those involved in the Chichewa effort believe that the new translation will help enrich people spiritually in one of the poorest countries in the world. Although many Malawians identify as Christian, traditional religion still has a strong influence on society.

“We hope that by putting a Bible they can engage with in people’s hands, we can help them learn to engage deeply with scripture in such a way that they can be transformed, and in turn be part of transforming society,” said Brand.

Among others taking part in the Lilongwe celebration was Mike Richards, Biblica’s former global board chairman and a long-time friend of Bridges, and his wife, Cynthia.

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About Biblica

Biblica ( is committed to providing the Bible in accurate, contemporary translations and formats so that more people around the world may have the opportunity to be transformed by Jesus Christ. Copyright-holder of the best-selling New International Version, Biblica is involved in translation and publishing, distribution, and Bible engagement programs with hundreds of partner groups around the world. 

PHOTO CUTLINE:  Lester Chikoya (second left), whose late father began the translation project, and Darlene Bridges (second right), whose late husband helped fund the work, along with members of their families, met in Malawi to celebrate the launch of the new contemporary Chichewa Bible.