The Story

The continent of Africa includes around 1000 distinct languages. Of those, Oromo is one of the five most widely spoken. Some argue it is surpassed only by Arabic and Hausa. Oromo is the mother tongue for more than 30 million people. There was no such thing as written Oromo until the 1880s. Like so many languages, the impetus for developing a written text was the desire to translate the Bible. Because the ruling families of Ethiopia were mostly of Amharic origin, they opposed teaching and publishing in the Oromo language. The goal was for Amharic to become standard throughout the Abyssinian empire, thus uniting the peoples around a common language and culture. This insistence on Amharic continued through the reign of Haile Selassie.

Nevertheless, the Oromo people continued to adhere to their own language and customs. In 1991, over 1000 Oromo intellectuals met and agreed Oromo would be written in a modified Latin alphabet called Qubee.

The original translation of the Oromo Bible was completed by a freed slave named Hika (1856-1931), a native Oromo man converted under the ministry of Lutheran missionaries. Upon conversion, he adopted the name Onesimus Nesib, after the fugitive slave that Paul led to Christ as recorded in the book of Philemon.

Like Wycliffe, Tyndale and Luther before him, Onesimus was persecuted for his Gospel ministry and for putting the Bible in the language of his people. However, the Oromo Bible was completed in 1899, and in 1991 the translation was improved and updated.

The Need

The Oromo people are the largest people group in Ethiopia. In the past two decades, there has been rapid advance of the Gospel with thousands of churches starting, growing and reaching out. Despite persecution and few resources, Good News travels fast! However, in order to strengthen and ground these Christians and to fuel the continued growth of the church, Oromo believers need Oromo Bibles. 

There is an Oromo Bible, and there is a high literacy rate among the Oromo people—the problem is supply. Only about 2% of Oromo believers have the Scripture in their own language. Frontline Missions International is joining with key partners, the Bible League of Canada, the Ethiopian Bible Society, and a network of pastors in Ethiopia, to publish and place thousands of copies of God’s Word in the heart language of the Oromo people.

So far, 60,000 Bibles and 154,850 New Testaments have been distributed in 3 phases. Our goal is placing 1 million copies of God's Word in Ethiopian hands by 2020. If you would like to participate, the printing and distribution cost of an Oromo Bible is approximately $6. We are currently raising funds to finish funding Phase 4 for another 60,000 Bibles. We hope to order these for a February/March 2016 delivery.

Matching Funds Opportunity

We praise the Lord for a foundation that is willing to match every dollar given to the Oromo Bible Project by March 31, 2016, up to $30,000! If we can raise $30,000, the foundation will match it with $30,000 more--and we will have enough to finish funding Phase 4! Your $25 gift will turn into $50, $100 into $200, $500 into $1,000, etc. If you would like to give to the Oromo Bible Prject, gifts can be given through our website. Or if you prefer, you can mail your contribution to Frontline Missions International, RE: Oromo, PO Box 829, Taylors, SC 29687. Thank you for your part in this project!

The greatest missionary is the Bible in the mother tongue. It needs no furlough and is never considered a foreigner.
— William Cameron Townsend