Mary Steele Goes Home
The GILLBT family announce with great sadness the death of our beloved longest serving GILLBT member ever, Mary Steele, which occurred in the early hours of Wednesday December 20,2017.
Mary was widely loved and greatly respected in the UK and also in Ghana. Mary Steele translated two complete Bibles in two completely different languages: Konkomba and Bimoba. And she supervised the revision of these two Bibles, ensuring that the Konkombas and the Bimobas were the only GILLBT-sponsored language groups to have Revised Versions of the complete Bible!
Her faith in God and contribution to Bible translation were outstanding. In 2008 she was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List of services to Bible Translation, Literacy and Development. The President of Ghana on December 11, 2015 conferred a National Award—Member of the Order of the Volta (MV) – on Mary Steele. However, her heavenly reward will be much greater.
Her funeral will take place at Killymurris Presbyterian Church, 175 Dunminning Road Glarryford BT44 9PW (near Ballymena, in Northern Ireland), at 1pm on Friday 22nd December.
Rest in peace, Mary!!!
Tribute by Ghana Institute of Linguistics, Literacy and Bible Translation (GILLBT)
The email from Ruth Gracey, the Personnel Services Director of Wycliffe UK on the afternoon of Wednesday December 20, 2017 informing us of the death of Mary Steele hit us like a thunderbolt. Although at her retirement service at the GILLBT Headquarters in Tamale in May 2016, there was premonition that this was the last time we were seeing Mary, the announcement of her death still came as a shock.
It couldn’t be possible that Mary Steele was a mere mortal!
But, as Mary herself put it at her retirement speech in May 2016:
“There is a time and a place for everything…”
And so, it is time for us to bid a final farewell to Mary Steele.
For us at GILLBT, Mary Steele was an institution! First her life mimicked that of GILLBT. Mary came to Ghana in 1962, the same year that GILLBT was founded. And when she finally retired in 2016, she had been in Ghana for 54 consecutive years—the same age as GILLBT–and the longest serving GILLBT member, ever! And she was loved by GILLBT members and staff!
Second, and most important, Mary’s contributions could only have been achieved by an institution. Mary Steele translated two complete Bibles in two completely different languages: Konkomba and Bimoba. And she supervised the revision of these two Bibles, ensuring that the Konkombas and the Bimobas were the only GILLBT-sponsored language groups to have Revised Versions of the complete Bible!
In the field of Mother Tongue Bible Translation, where most people spend a lifetime to translate a New Testament, Mary’s work can simply be described as superhuman. It takes an institution to do what she did.
Her work in literacy was also pioneering and outstanding.
The significance and impact of Mary’s work in Ghana is captured by the President of Ghana, when she conferred a National Award—Member of the Order of the Volta (MV) – on Mary Steele on December 11, 2015
“You moved to Ghana in 1962 and devoted your life to linguistic and community development, working with the Ghana Institute of Linguistics, Literacy and Bible Translation (GILBT). For over a period of fifty years, you contributed significantly to the intellectual, material and spiritual wellbeing of Ghanaians mostly in the Northern part of the country.
Ghana became your adopted home and you manifested this by strenuous travels on unmotorable roads with attendant deprivations in remote villages, in a bid to develop unwritten languages alongside literary, spiritual and community development activities, particularly among the Bimoba and Konkomba communities of Northern Ghana.
Your personal successes in literacy and community development in Ghana have been laudable. You successfully carried out Linguistics Research and Translated the New Testament into the Konkomba language in 1977. You translated the New Testament into the Bimoba language in 1985, and translated the Bible into Konkomba in 1999. You also produced the Bimoba Bible in 2004.
You, Miss Mary Steele, were very instrumental in the publication of the Phonology and Grammar of Konkomba and the Dictionary of Konkomba. You authored Anthropological papers on aspects of the Konkomba and Bimoba languages, thereby transforming these two previously oral only languages to written forms as well as.
Your work in language development and literacy programmes provided building blocks for collective self mobilization of the people in the two communities, and enabled them to participate substantially in national development.
Through the numerous literacy programmes organized in many communities, harmful social practices have been abandoned, while empowering the citizens socially, economically and spiritually.”
Mary Steele has fought the good fight in Ghana. And she has reluctantly accepted some honours bestowed on her for work. She has “stubbornly” rejected other awards. For instance, the offer of the Konkombas to build her a statue was vehemently rejected by Mary. She has always insisted that She was only doing her work.
As Mary goes to be with the Lord, our hope is that this time round, our dear “stubborn” Mary will keep still without protesting when the Lord whom she faithfully served rewards her with her crown!
Rest in Peace, dear Mary!!!