Raymond T. Dibble was born into a Christian home in Derby, New York State on November 9, 1900. He received the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior during his childhood. He became a mechanic after he graduated from school.
Growing up, he felt a deep concern for those he believed were lost without knowledge of Jesus Christ. Feeling a call to pursue further Bible study he attended the Brooklyn Bible School. While there he met Julia Hasse and they were married in 1921. Following this, they went to Nigeria to spread the word.
According to Kwame Bediako, “No language group should be considered as reached until they have the Scriptures available in their mother tongue as the foundation for building sustainable Christian thought, life, and community.” These words could have been spoken by Dibble himself. He had a strong desire to translate the Bible into the Igala language, to be able to reach the people he taught and show them that the Gospel was for them.
In order to immerse himself in the culture and language of the people, he stayed and taught in various areas, including Abejukolo, Akpacha, Ogbagana, Ugwolawo, Egume, Anyigba, Idah, Ika, and Enjema, among others.
In Ika, he established the Igala Bible School. At this time he began to translate the Bible and print small tracts to give to those who studied in the school. Dibble and his wife served as teachers and taught new believers how to read Scripture.
Following their time in Ika, they moved to Ugwolawo and later to Akpacha. Akpacha marked a happy return to the Igala nation for Dibble. He then moved to Ogbagana, where he finished his translation of the New Testament in 1939. At the outbreak of the second World War, Dibble had typed four copies of the whole New Testament in Igala and had bound them book by book to be distributed. The war hindered the Bible Society in their printing work and production didn’t continue until 1947.
After this great accomplishment, Dibble began to work on the Old Testament translation. He also wrote hymns and penned several Bible study manuals during this period, each to aid those he served. He heard the men and women around him crying out for the food of life in their own language; their voices inspired him to be diligent in his work.
In 1948, the British and foreign Bible society sent about 10,000 copies of the Igala New Testament to the Igala people. The Bible, now written in the language of the people, inspired faith in many. The numbers of converts rose greatly and persecution of Christians in the area intensified. During this time, Dibble and his family stayed at the Q. I. Mission Compound in Ugwolawo, Egume, and Anyigba, on the mission compound of the Anyigba Fellowship.
While the work was very difficult, Dibble found that there were moments of grace. He was given a permanent home in Ika, Enjema, in modern Kogi State. Ika is located near the Igala-Idoma boundary. He also found access to a press, which made the production of the study manuals faster than when he was using an ordinary typewriter. Further, he was able to return to the States in 1955 to visit family and friends. The trip served as a refreshing break in his work and he was able to return to Nigeria, healthy and revitalized, in 1956.
Upon his return, Dibble continued his translation of the Old Testament. Between 1960 and 1967, he edited the text with the Bible society to clarify terms and continue to address various nuances of the language. In 1967, a complete Bible in the Igala language was composed and ready for printing.
His translation work has been an indescribable gift to the Igala people and the development of their faith. His work continues to impact the lives of many, building the spirit and pride of the community at large. With the Scripture in their own language, men and women are now able to access the word of God themselves, an immense contribution to the life of the church in Nigeria.
Raymond Dibble died March 16, 1967.
Raymond T. Dibble, Igala Christian Growth Believers Library (M. Production, 2001).
Sunday A. U. Musa, Translation of the Bible into the Igala Language (Believers Library, Gat Production, 2004).
Elder Pastor Achimugu Onukwuojo, J., Bible and Christian Growth, (CTS/CEFN production, 2006).
This story, received in 2007, was researched and written by Abuh Abdul, a student in Sandwich Program, University of Port Harcourt, University of Port Harcourt, under the supervision of Dr. Protus O. Kemdirim, DACB liaison coordinator at the University of Port Harcourt and DACB regional coordinator for Nigeria.