Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Bible translation 101: Why is literacy important?

Thursday, September 8th, 2016 by Camilla

You probably know that Wycliffe Bible Translators does more than what it says on the tin – in addition to translating the Bible for language communities big and small across the world, we also have a passion for empowering people to engage with the word of God (Scripture engagement), and literacy.

high-voltage-1553669-640x480What does literacy mean to you? Maybe not all that much, if you’ve never needed to navigate the world without it. But learning to read isn’t just about being able to read the Bible and other books.

What if you couldn’t read vital information on a medicine bottle? What if you couldn’t email your best friend when they moved to another town? What if you couldn’t even tell the time? These are all everyday tasks most people in the Western world do without thinking – but these tasks all require a certain level of literacy.

Exclusively oral communities may also face major barriers to higher education, earning money, and community development.

Wycliffe Bible Translators wants to unlock new opportunities for people groups who have been limited by a lack of literacy.

We work with communities to develop intuitive writing systems (or orthographies, to use the technical term) that language communities recognise as their own and that help adults and children learn to read within as short a time as possible. How long it takes to learn to read varies from language to language and person to person, but an adult who is new to reading may learn to read confidently within six months to a year.

‘…for a long time, there were no [Ngbaka] schools at all. Now I am very glad to be learning to read and write. Now I am educated! I can read and write in Ngbaka. I can read and understand God’s word, and now we have the entire Bible in our language!’ – a woman from the Ngbaka community of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Pray for literacy around the world!

  • Pray that God would inspire Wycliffe workers as they work to unlock opportunities for people groups through literacy.
  • Pray for harmony and consensus as teams develop intuitive writing systems for previously unwritten languages.
  • Pray that literacy would open doors around the world not only for people to engage with the Bible, but for large-scale community change.

Want to connect with or start supporting a specific project or missionary? Get the ball rolling on our Connect page.

New Scripture launch in Tanzania!

Monday, September 5th, 2016 by Camilla

One of our friends on the ground, Mark Woodward, writes about the recent celebration:

‘Last week I had the privilege of joining with the Mbugwe language community in Tanzania’s Manyara Region as they celebrated the publication of the books of Ruth and Jonah in their language. Apart from some old Mbugwe Scriptures that are now out of print, these are the first books that have been produced in the Mbugwe language.

Mbugwe laughingThe day started off with a service at the Catholic church, and continued with a parade bringing in the box of books. As the honoured guest at the celebration I then opened the box, and lifted up the books for the gathered crowd to see. I tried to read the first couple of verses of the book of Jonah, stumbling through the Mbugwe words that I couldn’t understand!

Immediately people came forward with money to buy the books, but they were asked to be patient until the celebration had finished!

Emmanuel Shishe, one of the Mbugwe translators, then read part of each of the books, and spoke about them in Mbugwe, which was also translated into Swahili. The atmosphere was electric as people responded to what was being said in Mbugwe, and there was a lot of joy and laughter!

After several more choirs and much drumming and dancing, I was asked to address the gathering, and to respond to the speech given by the chairman of the Mbugwe language committee. I thanked all who had been involved in the project – translators, international linguists and advisors, church leaders, the language committee and many others who had volunteered their time – and reminded us that if we are to proceed with producing more materials, it has to be a communal effort. We are all like parts of a body, and the body cannot function unless every part does its job.

Several of our office team were then given gifts, with some of us also given Mbugwe names (I was given the name “Tajala”) to commemorate the occasion. The Mbugwe clothes we were given signified being born into the community, and the stick signified becoming an elder. The two-pronged end, and dark and light colours, were said to represent the coming together of different people from different places, to serve the Mbugwe community together.

Afterwards all 100 copies of each book were quickly sold, with requests for more to be printed as soon as possible. Our hope is that the books will be well used, and that the community will continue to drive the project forward as we seek to work together in translating more books into the Mbugwe language.’

This blog post originally appeared on Mark’s own blog. Check it out for more pictures from the Mbugwe Scripture launch and more great stories from Tanzania!

Good news travels fast

Monday, August 8th, 2016 by Camilla

If you heard a great story, how long would it be before you shared it with someone else? Probably not long. You’d be even quicker to share it if you were from one of the world’s oral cultures.

Oral cultures place a high value on storytelling, and communicate differently to Western cultures – important ideas, knowledge, art, etc are shared verbally rather than in writing. Bible storying is an aspect of Bible translation tailor-made for oral cultures – short passages of Scripture are translated orally and don’t need much of a push to start circulating.

The idea is not just to provide Scripture in a format people will engage with, but also to allow a people group to engage with the Bible in their language from the beginning of a Bible translation project, and prepare people groups for the rest of the Bible. Bible sto­ry­ing gives oral cultures the word of God in an authentic local format and as a result, stories spread quickly.

Ethno-com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­sul­tant Durk Mei­jer re­calls a man he met at a Bible sto­ry­ing work­shop from the Himba com­mu­nity in north­west­ern Namibia. ‘He was ed­u­cated, spoke Eng­lish and uses Face­book – he’s a mod­ern guy. He learned four Bible sto­ries im­me­di­ately to retell.’

Durk has tried another, slightly dif­fer­ent ap­proach – of teach­ing prin­ci­ples rather than sto­ries – and has found that oral learners struggle with this. Somehow, the key is not just in the fact that it’s verbal rather than written, but in the story format.

‘We’re help­ing people…engage with God’s word in their own way,’ ex­plains Durk.

Though storytelling is an age-old tradition, modern tech­nol­ogy only serves to support this way of engaging with Scripture. South­ern Africans liv­ing in re­mote ar­eas, in­clud­ing many San peo­ple, have em­braced the mo­bile phone as a per­fect method for do­ing what oral cul­tures love: shar­ing stories.

Se­bas­t­ian Floor, di­rec­tor of Wycliffe South Africa’s Re­gional Trans­la­tion Services, re­ports that even with­out wide­spread ac­cess to elec­tric­ity, peo­ple find a way to charge their phones. They also climb moun­tains or travel long dis­tances to get a net­work sig­nal. Such ob­sta­cles are no match for a de­sire to com­mu­ni­cate.

‘It’s amaz­ing!’ ex­claims Se­bas­t­ian. ‘We are find­ing that sto­ries done orally spread very quickly.’

While oral sto­ry­ing is a startup strat­egy for Wycliffe South Africa’s Re­gional Trans­la­tion Services, it isn’t nec­es­sar­ily a sub­sti­tute for writ­ten trans­la­tion. It of­ten pre­pares a com­mu­nity for a full Bible trans­la­tion project.

‘But the main ad­van­tage,’ says Se­bas­t­ian, ‘is that it gets God’s word out to com­mu­ni­ties very quickly.’

This post is adapted from a story which originally appeared on The Messenger.

Want to learn more about Bible storying, or even get involved? Consider signing up for our five-day Bible storying course this November in Gloucester!

South Sudan under fire

Thursday, August 4th, 2016 by Camilla

South Sudan desperately needs our prayers.

Over the past month or so, there have been a number of clashes between the SPLA (government army) and the SPLA-IO (in opposition) soldiers which have led to full-scale fighting in Juba, the capital city.

Due to the unpredictable situation, five members of the Bible translation team in the country were evacuated recently from Juba, and six have stayed behind. A couple of other members have been unable to return.

laarim boy reading scripturesSince this, some normality has returned. The airport has reopened, some public transport is running, some shops and markets are open again and there is some fuel and food coming in from Uganda. The members who have stayed behind have returned to work along with the local staff and translators, but the office closes early to allow people to get home earlier as a safety precaution.

Though there is calm right now, the situation is fragile and it’s a difficult time to plan and make decisions for the future.

Please pray:

  • That God’s people would have the strength to live lives of love, grace and truth in this fractured society.
  • For the leaders of South Sudan to have courage to lead the country into repentance and reconciliation and a vision to serve all the peoples of the country. Pray also for wisdom and persistence for the international community in their interaction and interventions (eg African Union and United Nations).
  • For different leaders in SIL* (the crisis management team, key staff, the translation team leaders, SIL administrators outside of the country) to have wisdom to understand these times and to know the right way forward for the ministry of Bible translation and language development to the different communities of South Sudan in these circumstances.
  • For all SIL staff including those out of the country to know God’s peace in their situation (being removed suddenly from your usual place of living and work, and waiting, is not easy).

*Our primary partner organisation.

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Getting a pig’s breakfast right

Monday, July 25th, 2016 by Camilla

According to most English Bibles, when the prodigal son was at his lowest ebb, he wanted to fill himself with what the pigs were eating, ie ‘pods’ or ‘bean pods’ (Luke 15:16). A more correct translation would actually be ‘carob pods’.

Rowbory pig's breakfast pictureThe thing is, specifying ‘carob pods’ rather than ‘pods’ in an English Bible probably wouldn’t help us much. Even if we’ve encountered carob as a chocolate substitute in a health food shop, we probably wouldn’t be able to picture a carob pod without the help of Google Images. But what about in, say, West Africa, where carob-type pods are much more well-known?

If Bible translators were to translate the Bible into a West-African language using only an English Bible, this new translation might also end up using a generic term such as ‘pods’. Thankfully, the work of Bible translation is a little more involved than that. David Rowbory and other translators working on the Ashe translation in Nigeria were using Paratext software, which is specially designed to help produce top-notch Bible translations. A dictionary there included a picture of the ‘pods’, which Ashe speakers immediately identified as the carob pod.

This is a great example of why we use original Greek and Hebrew combined with good dictionaries and other reference resources to help us join the dots when translating. Rather than copying the vague English term, or using further explanation, eg ‘pods used for pig-feed’, Luke 15 of the Ashe translation uses a word that not only reflects the original text better, but also brings the story much closer to an Ashe speaker’s everyday experience.

So how much does this really matter? Would the difference between ‘pods’ and ‘carob pods’ mean the difference between someone connecting with the word of God and dismissing it? Probably not. Perhaps this level of difference doesn’t really matter in the telling of a story.

But on our journey of letting the Bible renew our minds and bring us closer to God, anything that appears more foreign than it should be risks distancing the story from us and diluting its impact. Foreign stuff sticks out and is a distraction – while familiar terms, where they can be used, make a story feel closer to home and more relevant.

This story is adapted from a post on Wycliffe members David and Julie Rowbory’s blog.

Urgent prayer for South Sudan

Tuesday, July 12th, 2016 by Jo Johnson

A crisis situation has developed in South Sudan just as the nation passes the fifth anniversary of its formation. As the South Sudanese should be celebrating, serious violence has broken out. We are praying – will you join us?

Please pray for the SIL* team, Bible translators and staff in Juba, South Sudan. Over the weekend there has been serious fighting between forces loyal to the President, Salva Kiir, and forces loyal to the First Vice President, Riek Machar.

Currently it is unsafe for anyone to move around Juba and the airport is closed. This means our staff are not able to leave. They have been advised to remain in lock-down and the situation is being closely monitored. Plans are being made for a possible evacuation when the situation allows.

One member of staff sent this request:

‘We cherish your prayers for us in trusting God for each day and his help for many civilians who are on the run from the fighting and with little to sustain them. Please also pray that the South Sudan leaders might be able to find a way of peace.

Please also pray:

  • for protection and provision for all staff
  • for wisdom for those who are making decisions about evacuation and security measures
  • that other underlying tensions will not provoke further violence but rather that peace will quickly be restored

To help you keep on praying over the next few days, check out BBC News for up-to-date news reports.

*Wycliffe’s primary partner

Hope in a hard context

Thursday, June 30th, 2016 by Jo Johnson

Jackie originally worked as a literacy specialist. Now as director for the work in South Sudan she doesn’t have much time to focus on literacy work but she is able to support literacy work with one people group, the Keliko. She recently let us know some exciting developments that are happening with this project in a nation that until recently was ravaged by conflict.

Jackie and her husband Wes
Jackie and her husband Wes

‘The Keliko are in the last stages of their New Testament translation but since the beginning of their project around 2000 they have also been doing literacy work both with primary schools and through churches. One of the men who has been involved from the beginning and leads the work in the home area is called Elisa Ayan Cosmas. He gives part of his time to literacy work and the rest of the time he farms with his family in order to support himself.

The school system is now facing many challenges because the government has virtually seized up, but since 2011 Elisa and another team member have run a literacy and Scripture use workshop for different kinds of church leaders (pastors, women’s groups, and other lay leaders). Each year they helped build the skills of the same group of people, helping them to be better readers, spellers and writers of Keliko and to use different methods for Scripture engagement, Bible study, dramas etc.

Elisa teaching a big book
Elisa teaching a big book

Last December Elisa gave this same group some introductory teacher’s training which covered how to teach the ABC book and use big book Bible stories. Now most of this group have either added a literacy component to their Sunday school class or added adult literacy classes during the week (but using these easy reading Bible stories).’

Join us in praising God for each person who is now able to read Keliko and therefore have access to the word of God in their heart language! Please pray:

  • for these church leaders as they minister to their people in different ways.
  • that they might be encouraged by the refresher training they are about to receive.

Watch Obura Bible Reprint by The PNG Experience to find out the difference literacy made to a community in Papua New Guinea.

Follow us on Twitter @wycliffeuk_pray for daily prayer requests and more inspiration to pray for Bible translation.

House calls: some are more significant than others

Monday, June 27th, 2016 by Cath Macleod

At four years old, Bargi still wasn’t walking and had a persistent cough. A witch doctor suggested that, as a toddler, Bargi must have crawled over a pregnant snake and the snake had miscarried.

Her parents, Keo and Meilo, wondered if she was cursed. If so, Banna tribal beliefs were strict. If the sickness didn’t kill Bargi, her family would have to do it.

almazThat was before Almaz Gunzar heard about Bargi. The Bible storyteller and former healthcare worker walked the dusty road through her town, up the mountain path to the family’s house. Keo told her they had no more money to spend on treating her daughter.

‘Don’t worry, I don’t want any money,’ Almaz told them. ‘I’ll pray for the girl in the name of Jesus.’

Keo welcomed the offer. The two women sat together as Almaz held the child, sang and prayed. Within a few days, Bargi’s cough disappeared. Before long, she was walking.

As a young girl Almaz remembers meeting missionaries living among the Banna people ─ her people.

When an opportunity arose to learn how to tell Bible stories, Almaz went for training.

Almaz began sharing the gospel during home visits as a government health worker a few years back, teaching women about pregnancy, childcare, sanitation, family planning and other concerns. Today she travels the region, sharing Bible stories with the Banna during their daily lives.

‘When people hear accurate Bible stories in their own language, the ideas are clear,’ she says. ‘They understand.’

The first thing Almaz does when she enters a community is find a man or woman of peace. She sits with those who will listen, drinks coffee with them and shares her life story and God’s stories. As listening groups grow, house churches sprout.

‘It’s as if God has opened the skies and made the community ready to receive the good news,’ she says. ‘When I tell stories, others are positive and open to Christianity. Many are coming to Christ and their lives are changing.’

This story is from one of our partners, The Seed Company, and originally featured on their website.

Read more about how you could get involved in Bible translation.

They need the Bible in their own language

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016 by Jo Johnson

Nigeria is made up of many people groups speaking many languages. Many of these languages do not have any translated Scripture, in fact about 300 Nigerian languages still need Bible translation. Today we want to shine the spotlight on just four of those languages.

Sunday translationJust a two-hour drive from Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, four people groups are without the Bible in their mother tongue. Although there are many Christians and churches, our brothers and sisters are struggling. They go to church each week, and then leave without really understanding what they’ve heard. Week in, week out. And there are others in the community who do not know Jesus at all. They need the Bible in their own language.

Last year, a team from the UK visited the Koro project and met a team of people passionate about meeting this need for these people. The team aims to translate the New Testament into each of the four local languages, enabling many more people to engage with the Bible in the language that speaks to their heart.

Baba DBaba Duya is the lead translator for one of the people groups. He testifies that when the team shares parts of the translated New Testament with the local community, people always come to the Lord.

But despite encouraging signs, progress has been held back by lack of equipment and support for translators. The Koro project still needs funds to continue its work in 2016.

Please pray:

  • For the funding to translate the complete New Testament
  • For the team as they continue the work
  • For God to speak into the lives of everyone who gets involved

Read Mary’s Prayer and find out more about how God’s word is transforming lives in Nigeria.

Want to pray for Wycliffe more often? Sign up for our daily prayer email.

Doing whatever we can: the Run for the Bibleless

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016 by Jo Johnson

If you follow us on social media you’ll have seen posts and prayer requests in February and early March about our partner Bible Translation and Literacy’s (BTL) Run for the Bibleless in Kenya. This fun run and sponsored walk is a significant fundraising event and is the primary way that Bible translation and related work is funded in Kenya.

Paul Machira gave this feedback on how God has answered our prayers:

Run for the Bibleless ‘Run for the Bibleless 2016 was the greatest run we ever had at BTL. An approximate 12,000 foot soldiers turned up to run…well over the 10,000 we had targeted to come. The total collection to date tallies to a gross of close on USD 150,000!!! And we are still counting.

Praise be to God for the things he has done!’

To give you some idea of how significant an answer to prayer this is, last year’s Run for the Bibleless had approximately 6,000 participants and raised around USD 50,000, which contributed to the following:

  • Facilitate the completion and launch of one New Testament.
  • Launch the completed Gospels of Luke in two language communities.
  • Facilitate the completion and launch of the Gospel of Matthew in the Ilchamus language.
  • Start work in new projects: Tachoni, Ogiek, and move onto the translation of the Suba Old Testament.
  • Graduate many adult literacy learners.

Please take time to thank God for all he has done to bring access to Scripture in the heart language for thousands of Kenyans.

Praise God for the success of this year’s event and ask him to give BTL wisdom as they use this year’s money – imagine how much can be done with so much more money raised!

Pray that God would continue to show the translation work in Kenya favour, ultimately leading to many lives and communities being transformed by the power of God’s word.

Read Finishing the Race; keeping the faith and discover more about the Run for the Bibleless and BTL.

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