Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Choir links translation team to community

Monday, March 20th, 2017 by Ruth

Recording worship music in the mother tongue can be a great way to cause a language community to get excited about a new translation project.  Here’s a window on what is happening near Mbeya, Tanzania, describing a choir from the Bungu language community recording with Wycliffe member Jo Clifford and team:

Choir recording (photo: Mary Pence)

The voices seemed to soar in the tall church, as if filling a cathedral. Traditional lines of melody wove skilfully together. Chants arose like medieval prayers. Then, suddenly, in an amazing fusion with African tradition, drums began, then metal whistles followed by trilled yells, as if everyone were celebrating a wedding.

Jo was impressed with the choir’s preparation. They moved quickly through the first group of songs. All had been written or translated into Bungu expressly for this day. All had solidly worshipful themes: ‘Let Us Love All People’, ‘Come to Me All Who Are Troubled’, ‘Father Please Receive Our Gifts’, ‘I Am the True Vine, You Are the Branches.’

After the first set, everyone stopped to wipe their sweat and listen to the playback. Jo’s crew handed out bottles of water. A breeze through the tall windows felt good. Outside, a schoolboy drove a herd of goats through the churchyard. The largest stopped to scratch his hide impiously on one of the church’s front steps.

Among all the percussion instruments, only the whistle seemed store-bought. Animal skins stretched over tin buckets became drums, struck by fists or a thin branch. Soda caps strung on a wire were shaken. An empty soda bottle struck with a steel opener made a sharp, far-ringing clink. One woman twisted a three-legged stool — its leg bottoms had been shaped to scrape over the surface of an overturned earthenware cooking pot. Different sized pots achieved different sounds…

Choir recordings like this are important for the project because they can be done before Scripture translation, during those first slow years while linguists build alphabets, and local speakers train as translators. An audio CD is something the community can see and hold (and hear), long before any Scripture portion gets printed. And every choir wants to produce its own recordings — it’s one of the ultimate things a church choir can do here in Tanzania. So offering this service puts the project in very good standing in the church community.

But most of all, it lets people know that, as Jo says,
“God speaks their language.”

(Read full story on TheTask.net by Steve Pence, Language Team Administrator, Mbeya, Tanzania)

You can read more about Vernacular Music and Arts on the Wycliffe blog.

Standing firm in the face of attack

Thursday, March 16th, 2017 by Jo Johnson

Often, as a translation project nears completion it faces increased spiritual attack. The Keliko New Testament project from South Sudan is one that has faced far greater challenges than normal and yet the team are committed to reaching their goal: a finished New Testament.

Renewed fighting in South Sudan last July near the capital Juba brought new insecurities. Branch director Jackie Marshall picks up the story:

‘As the rebels left Juba after the clashes here, they moved westward towards Congo and this has ended up destabilising areas of Equatoria which have been quite stable and peaceful for many years. One of our translation and literacy projects is with the Keliko people who live close to the border with Uganda and Congo. Now many people have fled to live in refugee camps in Congo or northern Uganda including the families of two of the Keliko translators, Enos and Ezekiah, and Elisa Ayani, the Keliko literacy worker.

Elisa recently made a trip back into his area (through Congo as that is the safest way in) to see how things were. Unfortunately civilians end up getting caught between government and rebel sides and abused or sometimes killed as a result. I spoke to him on the phone about his trip and he said that the people live with a lot of fear, and communication and transport has become much more difficult. There are only three primary schools out of more than 20 still somewhat operating. Most people (including churches) have moved away from main paths or roads and try to live and farm deeper in the forest.

The Keliko translators have now left their wives in northern Uganda to return to Juba and are doing final reviews of books to lead up to typesetting in the next few months. It now seems as if they will have to launch their New Testament in northern Uganda rather than in their home area.’

Praise God that since Christmas, security in Juba has been good and it is a safe place for the Keliko translators to work.

Please pray:

  • for an end to all political unrest in South Sudan. Pray for all those who have been caught up in the conflict and are now living in refugee camps.
  • that the translation team, churches and God’s people would have the power and strength to live lives of love, grace and truth in this fractured society.
  • for the Keliko translators in the final checks before typesetting and printing of the New Testament. Ask God to help them produce a natural, clear and accurate translation.

Around the world many translation projects are facing challenges and need your prayers. Find out more about them by subscribing to our magazine Words for Life which is packed full of interesting articles and gives a daily prayer request as well.

Seeing with blind eyes

Thursday, March 9th, 2017 by Jo Johnson

South Sudan is a struggling nation. Most recently it has hit the news as the first country in six years to face famine due to instability, fighting and economic collapse. Yet in the face of all these challenges God has enabled his work to continue and one people group called the Baka will soon have access to the word of God.

The launch of the New Testament and Genesis will take place in the home area of the Baka people in Western Equatoria on Sunday 12th March. Doug who worked with the project for a number of years explains why this is such as significant milestone:

‘Most Bakas are churchgoers, but many are still influenced by traditional animistic religious beliefs and practices. This is due largely to the lack of Scripture in their own language. Although Baka church leaders have conducted prayers, singing and preaching in the Baka language for a number of years, they have had to give the Scripture readings in languages that many of their parishioners understand only imperfectly, so they do not fully understand what the Scriptures really say.  

For this reason the Baka New Testament translation project was begun in the early 1980s. It would have been completed years ago, but decades of civil war have brought many delays and hardships. Nevertheless, the translation team has persevered, encouraged by people’s response to the early drafts of Scripture portions.

One old man said that previously when he heard Scripture read in another language, it was like seeing something far off in the distance — fuzzy and indistinct; but hearing it in his own language brought it up close — clear and detailed. A blind woman even said that when she heard Scripture in the Baka language, it was as though she could see it with her eyes!’

Please pray:

  • that the launch will be a wonderful day of celebration and that a lasting desire will be imparted to the believers to study the Scriptures in their language and to use them for spiritual growth and for outreach
  • for safe transportation of people and Bibles to the launch
  • for the Baka people to be enriched by the word of God and find comfort, healing and new life.

*SIL is our primary partner

Subscribe to our free magazine Words for Life to find out more about Bible translation and for daily prayer requests to enable more language communities, like the Baka, to receive God’s word in the language that speaks to their hearts.

I want to be a lion tamer!

Thursday, February 23rd, 2017 by Martin Horton

In all honesty, if you looked at a survey of the most exciting jobs ever created, lion taming would be near to the top, whereas accountancy would probably be nearer the bottom. However, accountancy is an incredibly valuable profession, both in business, society and Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Right now one of our most urgent needs is for an accountant to work with a project in Papua New Guinea (PNG). You may remember that we wrote about this in June last year (Volunteer to make a difference). This position has been vacant for a long time but is crucial to the running of the office. It would be a significant answer to prayer if it was to be filled by the right person, be that a volunteer or someone who feels called to serve with Wycliffe long-term.

We also need an accountant in Cameroon. The team recruited a local accountant in November 2016 and feel that an additional, more experienced accountant could greatly help get their accounting done.

You may be wondering why Wycliffe needs more than just Bible translators. The fact is, we can’t accomplish our translation work without other people taking on crucial support roles. As a recent prayer letter from SIL* Chad mentioned, it is positions like these that keep their well-oiled machine running.

Please stand in the gap for these teams and pray that the right people will feel called to these two roles.

  • Please pray that God would provide the right person to support the local accountant in SIL Cameroon – a team player with the right skills who has caught the vision for Bible translation.
  • Please pray that God will answer the prayers of the team in PNG and send them the accountant that they urgently need.
  • Please pray that people’s eyes are opened to the many different and varied roles through which they can volunteer or serve with us, either in their home countries or overseas.

Find out how your skills could be used to support Bible translation. Alternatively go along to one of our First Steps events which act as a great introduction into the world of Bible translation.

Pray regularly for Bible translation projects! Sign up to receive our magazine Words for Life which is packed full of interesting articles as well as our prayer diary giving daily prayer needs.

*SIL is our primary partner.

What kind of love?

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017 by Ruth

In order to get the big picture of God’s Story in the Bible across, the little details – even down to a single letter – need to be carefully considered. But how much difference could one letter actually make?

Translator Lee Bramlett and his wife, Tammi, had learned that verbs in Hdi consistently end in one of three vowels. For almost every verb, they could find forms ending in i, a, and u. But when it came to the word for love, they could only find i and a. Why no u?

Lee asked the Hdi translation committee, which included the most influential leaders in the community, “Could you dvi your wife?”

“Yes,” they said. That would mean that the wife had been loved but the love was gone.

“Could you dva your wife?” Lee asked.

“Yes,” they said. That kind of love depended on the wife’s actions. She would be loved as long as she remained faithful and cared for her husband well.

“Could you dvu your wife?”  Lee asked. Everyone laughed.

“Of course not!” they said. “If you said that, you would have to keep loving your wife no matter what she did, even if she never got you water, never made you meals. Even if she committed adultery, you would be compelled to just keep on loving her. No, we would never say dvu. It just doesn’t exist.”

Lee sat quietly for a while, thinking about John 3:16, and then he asked, “Could God dvu people?”

There was complete silence for three or four minutes; then tears started to trickle down the weathered faces of these elderly men. Finally they responded.

“Do you know what this would mean?” they asked. “This would mean that God kept loving us over and over, millennia after millennia, while all that time we rejected his great love. He is compelled to love us, even though we have sinned more than any people.”

One simple vowel, and the meaning was changed from “I love you based on what you do and who you are,” to “I love you based on who I am. I love you because of me and not because of you.”

Without the Bible in the language that people can understand, God’s message of love isn’t getting through. More than 160 million people speak languages that could communicate God’s love clearly to them, but they still don’t know it because there isn’t a single verse of Scripture translated into their language. It’s time to #endbiblepoverty. wycliffe.org.uk

Story originally from Bob Creson, wycliffe.net.
Photo courtesy Lee Bramlett and Wycliffe USA.

The fight to keep empowering the Deaf

Thursday, February 9th, 2017 by Jo Johnson

In many parts of the world the Deaf are truly marginalised. Most Deaf children are born to hearing parents, and in many countries, paying for the type of specialist education a Deaf child needs isn’t generally considered a priority.

Even when their parents are willing to pay for their education, teaching in sign language isn’t necessarily available. Schools for the Deaf play a crucial role in empowering the Deaf, but there are not always enough places for everyone who needs one.

Because of this we are saddened to hear that one such school in Kenya, the Kibarani School for the Deaf, is possibly facing closure because a major financial supporter has withdrawn its funding. Staff from our partner DOOR International, together with Kenya’s national Deaf association, teach God’s word to nearly 200 Deaf students in the school and train teachers on a regular basis.

Kenyan schools are required to provide religious instruction, which presents a challenge to teachers who often either are not sufficiently proficient in sign language or don’t have a religious background and so don’t know how to teach Bible stories to the children. This gives DOOR a wonderful opportunity to not only teach the students about God’s word but also about God’s plan for their lives, at the same time as training the staff.

Please pray with us that:

  • God will provide ongoing sustainable funding for the Kibarani School for the Deaf, so that it can stay open and continue to empower Deaf children.
  • Praise God that the teachers remain dedicated to their jobs, even though they are not currently being paid.
  • Deaf students, who are learning the gospel through DOOR, understand how valuable they are in the eyes of God and would come to have a personal relationship with him.

Find out more and read the full article on Mission Network News.

Find out more about the work of DOOR International.

Pray for other marginalised people groups by subscribing to our magazine Words for Life which is packed full of interesting articles and gives a daily prayer request as well.

Rendering God’s word clearly in the beautiful language of Kinga

Monday, February 6th, 2017 by Camilla

‘Lord, we ask you now for wisdom to render your word clearly into the beautiful language of Kinga.’

In the Mbeya cluster project’s offices in southwest Tanzania, Bible translation consultant Samuel Mubbala opened the day’s work with that prayer in his soft mellow voice. At the table also were Kinga pastors and translators Saul Lwilla and Zakayo Swallo. A draft of Hebrews 10 in Kinga shone brightly, projected on the wall. Their laptop computers were open, ready to edit the text.

To make a translation of God’s word ready for people’s hearts, it must be carefully checked. Samuel has been checking the work of other Bible translators since finishing a translation in his own Ugandan mother tongue several years ago. Today his job would be easy. Lwilla and Swallo are nearing the end of the Kinga New Testament project and their work has become very good.

Today’s work on Hebrews 10 began by simply reading. Samuel read aloud slowly in English. Saul followed him, reading the Kinga draft. Both spoke with feeling, clearly savouring the great truths of covenant and sacrifice. After each section was read, they discussed notes from Samuel’s study of the draft. Should the Kinga word for ox be used for bull? Should we say ‘the first covenant’ or ‘the old covenant’? In some African languages, God’s glory can be confused with shining. Does Kinga have this problem?

But the problems and notes were few. Yes, the work was very good. Good enough to impact these three men even in the midst of their checking. While reviewing covenant theology, Samuel suddenly became very personal.

‘When we come to Christ, something is…’ Samuel hesitated, obviously searching his own heart. ‘Something is “installed” in us,’ he continued. ‘We receive a new person and a new life. That is why [God] said, “I’ll make a new covenant. I’ll write the laws in your heart.” And we call that [being] born again.’

Lwilla and Swallo smiled and laughed, knowingly.

For two more days, these three African brothers continued smiling and laughing and thinking together very carefully through the remainder of Kinga Hebrews. Still, the text was not yet ready. Reviewers in the Kinga community must also agree. And as the Kinga New Testament approaches completion, the entire manuscript must be reviewed and typeset.

It will soon be planting season on the Kinga mountainsides. Good seed will receive summer rain and grow. The same will soon be true of God’s seed; his word ‘in the beautiful language of Kinga.’

This blog post is adapted from a story which originally appeared on Wycliffe Global Alliance’s website. Read the original story here.

Discover more stories from the Mbeya-Iringa cluster project!

Lifted out of depression by good news

Monday, January 16th, 2017 by Camilla

John and Anita have given their lives to teaching others about Jesus and together, they’ve lead many in Shaikarawe, Botswana to faith.

Both describe the stark contrast between their lives now and the lives they lived outside of knowing God years ago. Although Anita attended church from a young age, she wasn’t always a believer.

out-of-depressionJohn also heard the Bible early on in life but struggled to believe until much later. It wasn’t until after he had married Anita that his life changed forever. John is partially deaf in both ears, and he has to work hard to make sure he catches people’s conversations. This disability has made it difficult for him to find work. He says that about four years ago, he fell into a deep depression about his life. He would spend all day at his house, barely moving.

Anita was already a believer by this time and had just received a Bible from a local missionary. Worried about John, she brought a Setswana translated Bible to him one day and left it by his side while he was sleeping.

John says, ‘When I got the Bible, it was like my mind stopped working. I read the Bible for three days, just reading, reading.’

The hunger to know more and more continued to grow in John. Soon, he was carrying this Bible with him everywhere and telling everyone he met about the good news inside. Anita and John are now very involved in their local church, and John is studying to learn to read the San dialect of Khwedam, his heart language, just so he can understand the word of God better. He is passionate about making sure the San people have the opportunity to read the Scriptures in words that will make the most sense and be the most relevant in their lives.

‘I must know what the Bible means in my own language.’

With purpose and focus, Anita and John will continue to live in order to lead others to their creator and saviour.

And as John likes to say, ‘The Bible is with me and in me, from the heavens to the ground.’

Interested in supporting the work of Bible translation? Find out more on how you can go, give or pray.

For more pictures and the full original story, check out our partner The Seed Company’s website.

It’s the first time I have understood

Thursday, January 12th, 2017 by Jo Johnson

If you have read ‘Standing in the Gap’ for some time then you may remember praying, back in May 2014, for the Karon project which we brought to your attention in ‘a new start in Senegal’. Back then the project was just starting and we told you that the plan was to  translate Luke’s gospel over four years and use it to dub the JESUS film too.

Here is how God has answered your prayers: the team have published Luke in print and audio form and we are delighted by the news found in this excerpt from a report.

‘We have been encouraged to hear that the recently published translation of Luke’s Gospel has been well received by the Karon community, particularly the audio recording. One man commented: “Now, when I’m going to work this is what I listen to. I have listened to it over and over, and it is excellent! It is the first time I have understood the life of Jesus!”

A bar owner in an island village has reportedly been playing the Luke recording every day from morning to night for the benefit of his customers. Anyone who goes to hang out in his bar – probably most people in the village – has been hearing the word of God in Karon.

Another encouragement is that our first print run seems to be selling out fast, and the demand is such that we will probably need to think about printing more copies soon.’

Give thanks that people have such enthusiasm for hearing God’s word in their own language.

Please pray:

  • that people will be so gripped by God’s word in Karon that they will want to listen to it and read it over and over again.
  • that they will not quickly get bored of it once the novelty of having materials in their own language dies away, but that they will keep chewing over these words until they work their way into their hearts and transforms their lives.

The team are now working on translating the book of Acts into Karon. Their first consultant check is scheduled for 13-17 March. The team ask that we pray for:

  • ‘the consultant check in March, when we hope to go through Acts chapters 1-11 with a qualified translation consultant, who will help us to make sure that our translation is as accurate and clear as we can make it. Pray for God’s protection during this week, as Satan is always eager to hinder our consultant checking time.’

Interested in praying regularly for  translation projects? Sign up to receive our magazine ‘Words for Life‘ which is packed full of interesting articles as well as our prayer diary giving daily prayer needs.

A dangerous expedition

Monday, January 9th, 2017 by Camilla

Berki, a member of the Hamer community of southwestern Ethiopia, was a slight child. His father said he was too weak to look after the cattle, so when Berki was 16, he sent him to school. There Berki met an evangelist, who told him about Jesus, and he became a Christian.

Berki completed school and returned home to teach. When Berki told his family about his new faith, his father dismissed the notion. His parents stopped supporting him financially. After eight months of teaching and family tension, he sensed a strong prompting to leave his job and go to Dimeka.

berkiBerki resolved to work full time in ministry. Soon, he accepted a church position.

Berki returned home for a visit. To his surprise, his family welcomed him warmly. He hoped they had softened. Even Berki’s older brother, Gadi, seemed to set aside their differences.

‘Brother, do you want to go with me to cut the honey?’ Gadi asked. Berki loved honey.

They set out the next morning, walking far from home. At dusk, Gadi and Berki walked into a valley. Gadi told Berki to rest while he walked a little way to see where they were.

What Berki didn’t know was that his family had told his brother to kill him.

As heavy rain began to fall, Berki realised his brother had left him. He climbed out of the valley to see if he recognised any landmarks.

Terrified, he sat in the mud and cried. As Berki tried to stand again, he realised a river of sand and mud had swallowed his right leg like concrete. Exhausted, Berki pleaded with God.

Lord, if you don’t take me, help me sleep. I don’t want to be awake if the wild animals attack me.

Sleep overtook him. As dawn broke, he opened his eyes. Praise God!

Berki tugged to free himself. Hyena tracks everywhere but they had not attacked. Berki climbed to the top of a nearby mountain and breathed a grateful prayer. With renewed strength, he began the long walk home.

Later, Berki attended a workshop where he’d learn to tell accurate Bible stories. Today, as a full-time evangelist, Berki wears traditional clothing and rides his bicycle to nearby villages to tell Bible stories where people welcome him. Having access to a Bible in the local language is hugely important to his work.

This story originally appeared on our partner The Seed Company’s blog. To read Berki’s story in full, click here.

Interested in supporting the work of Bible translation? Find out more on how you can Go, Give or Pray.