Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Transforming lives

Friday, August 28th, 2015

The Bible, in the heart language, transforms lives. Lives can only be changed however, if the translated Scripture is read or listened to, interacted with, understood and applied.

It’s easy to think that once the translation into a particular language is finished we do not need to continue praying. Yet this could be the most crucial time to pray because it is from here that the Scriptures can impact and transform lives. This focus has been picked up in Nigeria:

Picture1‘Earlier this year, at a Bible dedication in Nigeria, Justin Mbam Ogodo, a member of the Abakaliki Literacy and Translation Trust, welcomed a crowd of people who had come to celebrate the complete Bible in the Izii, Ikwo and Ezaa languages. “Today is a special day,” he began. “It is a day that proclaims the faithfulness of God.” Justin talked about the history of the translation projects and the challenges they faced. He thanked many people who were involved. And finally, he looked out at the crowd and said,

“Above all, we encourage you to ensure that these books are not for cobwebs, but for the use of the Holy Spirit as two-edged swords into the hearts of Izii, Ikwo and Ezaa people.”‘*

Wycliffe and our partners are involved in many activities to support engagement with the Scriptures as they are translated. From Sunday school teacher training to song-writing, Trauma Healing workshops to the JESUS Film we are working to provide God’s word in a form that is accessible and understandable to all, as well as all the helps that are needed to ensure that Bible translation truly results in transformed lives.

Will you keep on praying for the impact of the Scriptures on the lives of those who have not yet heard? To inspire you we’ve produced a new Frontline Prayer module Encountering God’s Word. It’s available now and free to download. Using videos and a PowerPoint to share information about Scripture Engagement, it provides about an hour’s worth of material to inspire prayer for people groups around the world as they receive God’s word in their heart language and engage with it. It’s easy to use and suitable for groups of any size.

Download ‘Encountering God’s Word.

*This story was first published by Wycliffe Bible Translators USA in The Intercessor.

Changing the course of history

Friday, July 31st, 2015

I recently read an article written by my colleague Alisha Carr who mobilises prayer for Bible translation in Nigeria. She laid down a challenge: to recognise that if we partner with God and the work he is doing through prayer, the course of history can be changed. I hope that you will be as inspired as I am.

IMG_2029Jesus’ prayer partnership with our Father changed the course of history. Jesus saw it as his job description to fulfill the will of his Father, who sent him. From him, we learn the lifestyle of obedient submission to our Father’s will, and also to welcome his will through our prayers. All of our horizontal partnership efforts in the Kingdom are built primarily upon this vertical partnership with God.

As we accept the invitation to join God in prayer partnership and see the world through his eyes, we begin to see how overwhelming the task is.

I hear his call going out over Nigeria, ‘…”The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields” ‘ (Matt. 9:37-38, NLT). With hundreds of languages in Nigeria waiting to receive even one verse of Scripture, there is an urgent cry for more workers.

The Spirit of God is waiting to birth fresh joy, life, hope and purpose through all parts of the Bible translation and language development process. From initial surveys and assessments to establishing an alphabet and writing system, to making dictionaries and primers, translating God’s word into written, audio, song and dramatic form to engage communities with practical training and tools to learn how to apply God’s word to all aspects of their lives.

This is all so that more people would come to know Jesus and worship Jesus in fulfillment of God’s will that none would perish and all would come to repentance, to the glory and honour of the Father. Through your prayers the Spirit of God is breathing fresh life over Nigerian language communities!

Joining God in prayerful partnership is always an honour and blessing. It is a partnership that can change the course of history.

May God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’

Alisha has applied these truths to Nigeria, a country with enormous needs for Bible translation. However, the principles are the same for every country where people are waiting for the Bible in their heart language.

Please join us in committing today to pray for God to send workers. Discover specific vacancies you can pray for God to fill or find out how you can get involved.

Stone or mountain? It’s in the tone

Monday, July 27th, 2015

It will probably come as no surprise that bringing a language from just a spoken form into written form is not an easy task. Also, not all languages are ‘created equal’; some are harder to write than others, and writing tonal languages well, that’s a whole different ball game. Johannes and Sharon, members of Wycliffe Switzerland, share some fascinating insight into the difficulties and complexities of translating the tonal language Mbelime.

‘One of the biggest problems of the Mbelime project remains the question of how to write the language (the spelling and punctuation rules that make up a written language are known as its “orthography”). Mbelime is a tonal language that has three distinct tone levels. This means that the tone level of a word changes its meaning. For example, if the vowel a of the word ditade is pronounced with a high tone, it means “stone”. When a is pronounced with a lower tone, however, it means “mountain”.

When the language was  first written in the 1970s, tone levels were not marked. Accordingly, readers found it difficult to read since they had to first figure out which tonal variation would apply to some of the words so that the text would make sense. Following further linguistic analysis, people started to mark tones. The stone was now written as dītáde, while mountain became dītāde. This rendered the two words distinctive in the orthography, which made the language easier to read. On the other hand, the text was now crowded with accents, which means that people still read very slowly.

Over the years many people, including literacy teachers, have told us how difficult they find it to write Mbelime. At the moment there are only a handful of people who master writing Mbelime correctly, among them Bienvenu and Claire. The three translators also find the current orthography a big challenge. Unfortunately, they feel that the current work pressure is hindering them from coming to grips with this. Bienvenu and Claire are currently reading through the first full draft of the gospel of Luke to correct the orthography. This is a lot of work and they’ll have to thoroughly proofread it twice. The orthography problem is so complex that we need a specialist who is well versed both in the tonology of African languages as well as in questions of orthography design. These people are a truly rare breed. One of them, David Roberts,  recently returned to Togo  and proposed including Mbelime in a comparative study with several other languages, as Mbelime is far from being the only language with this challenge.

Johannes, Bienvenu and Claire prepared the texts needed for the proposed reading experiment, for which we invited the best Mbelime readers. David came to Cobly in mid-June for three days during which he led the experiment (see photo). We recorded 32 people who read two short texts with the tones marked and two texts without the tone accents. They also had twenty minutes to write tones on two texts. In early July Bienvenu and Johannes went to Kara for a week to start analysing the recordings and texts together with the other four language groups that participated in the experiment.

It will be a while before we will be ready to have another orthography reform, but we’re thrilled that another important step towards it is finally happening.’

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You can help the work of Bible translation, either through prayer, giving or going. Find out how you can be involved.

Beauty for ashes

Monday, July 13th, 2015

We all have our own stories to tell of the journey that God has taken us on, each different to the next. Here’s a brilliant story about Goma Mabele. Goma is currently the director of ACOTBA-SUBO*, a Wycliffe organisation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Through Goma and his team, their community has seen change brought about by the translation of Scripture and publication of literature into their heart language – Mbandja. The road to this point for Goma however, was far from straightforward:

‘I’ve seen God’s hand in all of this. He told me, “This is building your character so that you can help others.” The Christian life isn’t just a straight path. There are a lot of curves. This is how he has moulded me.’

Born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) shortly after the country gained its independence in 1960, Goma Mabele was raised by a single mother in a tumultuous political landscape, where poverty and death never seemed far away.

One morning when Goma was a teenager, he stopped by a friend’s home on the way to school. They planned to walk to school together, but his friend had not finished breakfast. Goma decided to continue alone. A heavy rain had drenched that area the night before. Just moments after Goma left, thousands of pounds of mud abruptly slid down into the valley where his friend lived, burying people and destroying homes.

‘Seventeen students died that day,’ Goma recalls. ‘I never saw that neighbour again. I knew that if I had been with him, I would have been dead too. That’s when I understood that God had a plan for me. That’s when I accepted him.’

Read Goma’s story.

Find out how you can support the work of Bible translation; no matter what your skills or interests, you can be involved.


*Association Congolaise Traduction de la Bible et Alphabétisation – Sukisa Boyinga (Congolese Bible Translation and Literacy Association – Conquer Ignorance)




Three unexpected guests

Monday, July 6th, 2015

How long would you wait for God to move in your community? Here is a great story from Tanzania of three church leaders who, after hearing that work had been started on translating Scripture into their own language of Ndali (something they had been waiting years for!), journeyed from their community to visit the translation team in Mbeya. Mark, a member of the translation team, recounts their visit:

‘After introducing themselves they presented a letter, asking that they be kept informed of the progress of the project, attend advisory meetings, and have access to the books that are being distributed. Their desire for Ndali books was obvious, as they explained how they use Scriptures from the neighbouring Ngonde language in church, despite it being difficult for them to understand.

Seeing some of the Bible books that our office has produced in Ndali, their eyes lit up with excitement! They pleaded that they should at least be able to take home a sample of the books, as they think through how to build a sustainable distribution network. “The people back home will not believe that these books really exist!” they exclaimed, “except there are three of us, so they’ll have to believe us!”

As they were preparing to start their journey back home, one of the men turned to me and said, “I am old, like Simeon in the Bible. Simeon had been waiting for many years to see God save his people, and was overjoyed when he finally saw Jesus when he was a very old man. I tried to start the work of translation many years ago, and now I feel like Simeon, that I have finally seen what I have been waiting for all these years!” ‘

Read the full story on Mark’s blog:

You can help bring God’s word to people in their heart language in many ways! Find out how you can be involved.

Equipping the right people for the task

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

Where Bible translation is concerned, a passion for the task at hand is vital, but not all that is required. In order to produce a high-quality, natural-sounding, accurate translation, people willing to do the task need to be given the right training.

Cameroon Baptist Theological Seminary (CBTS) in the North West region of Cameroon has chosen to take an active role in Bible translation. By sponsoring a Bible translation degree programme, they are training Cameroonian Bible translators and expanding the available resources for Bible translation in their country.

Emmanuel Keyeh

Emmanuel Keyeh, CABTAL staff member and an adjunct professor at CBTS, teaches a mother tongue literacy course that is part of the Bachelor of Arts in Bible Translation programme.

CABTAL* staff member Emmanuel Keyeh teaches mother tongue literacy at the seminary. He says the Bible translation programme is an intentional way to help get the right people involved and trained in the Bible translation ministry, so that they have the appropriate skills to serve their own people.

Rev. Nseimboh Johnson Nyiangoh is the current president of CBTS. He believes that the use of mother tongue Scriptures is vital. He works in the area of counselling, and he’s found that many people’s difficulties are tied to their struggle to keep their identity.

‘Our mother tongue is our identity,’ he says. ‘When the Bible speaks to people in their mother tongue, it touches them at their heart. They begin to see God like their God.’

A Translator for Every Language Community

Since the Bible translation degree program at CBTS started, 21 people have graduated, and 18 of these are serving in Bible translation projects.

Efi Tembon, director of CABTAL, says when Cameroonians are trained in Bible translation, their experience and skills stay in the community and lead to a more sustainable Bible translation movement.

And, with around 100 languages still needing a Bible translation, Rev. Mbongko says that much work has yet to be done to train an adequate number of personnel.

‘We want to give each language group a trained theologian and Bible translator,’ he says.

Please join us in prayer:

  • Thank God that Cameroonian Bible translators are being trained and using their skills
  • Pray that God would provide all the resources CBTS needs
  • Pray that God would make a way for CBTS to train people from more than 50 language communities in Cameroon
  • Pray that God would raise up men and women who have a burden for Bible translation


The information for this post was taken from Developing Deep Roots in Scripture by Elaine Bombay. Read the full article here.

* CABTAL (Cameroon Association for Bible Translation and Literacy) is a participating organization in the Wycliffe Global Alliance.

Photo by Rodney Ballard

Everyone needs a helping hand

Friday, June 26th, 2015

I recently had a conversation with a friend and colleague who is at the start of her home leave after four years working in a difficult environment in Africa. Weary and a little frustrated she described to me the situation she had left. Her passion for Bible translation is still strong but some of challenges she faced had left her discouraged.

A YWAM Bangui staff member, who is from Cameroon, walks with his toddler son.

A YWAM Bangui staff member, who is from Cameroon, walks with his toddler son.

The branch she works with is understaffed. She told me that for the entire four years that she was overseas, there had been no one in their personnel department. This means that there were no trained personnel on the ground available to care for workers. As a result, she told me, at least two families had returned home or left earlier than they would have had they had better support.

Everyone in their branch is doing more than one job and so feels pulled in many directions. Consequently they have less time to give to their primary work. It doesn’t matter how well trained, dynamic or capable we are, at times everyone needs a helping hand.

It may not be immediately obvious but the Bible translation team needs many support workers. Like the personnel staff that my colleague mentioned, they are a vital part of the team and without them the rest of the team cannot function as it should.

Please pray:

  • That God would provide people to fill all the empty human resources positions around the world. There are particular needs in Africa.
  • Praise God for itinerant personnel staff who travel between several countries to support staff, run workshops and offer help. This work can be draining; please pray for their physical strength and spiritual vitality.

‘He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”‘ Luke 10:2 NIV

Check out specific vacancies you can ask God to fill. Find out how you could serve.

No longer ‘enslaved to sin’

Friday, June 5th, 2015

The word of God is powerful and transforms lives. For that reason, we believe everyone should be able to access the word of God in their heart language. Sometimes, even a very small amount of God’s word can bring about big transformation.

IMGP9629A Lutos man from Central African Republic (CAR), was forced to move temporarily to Bangui, where the Lutos translation team were working at that time. The man was present while the Lutos team translated a pamphlet called ‘The heart of man is enslaved to sin’. He was very touched by what they discussed, and this is his account of how God changed his life:

‘One day at around 5:00 am, when I was still in bed, I was awakened to people banging on my door. I got up and called out, “What is it?” One of them responded to me, “If you don’t get out here quickly  you’re going to find a grenade in bed with you.”

I immediately began calling out protection spells to keep these people out. However, they were still able to break in. They took me to the place that mobs go to administer vigilante justice. They tied me up so I couldn’t move. I realized that I was in serious trouble, so I began to call out to the God I didn’t believe in, to forgive me for all the wrong that I’ve done.

I was accused by the mob of bewitching a young pregnant woman. Now I knew that I had nothing to do with that but I knew that it was because of all the witchcraft that I was involved in that I was being blamed for it.

I was eventually released. After reflecting on all that happened and on what the Lutos pamphlet said, I realized that I was far from God and truly my heart was enslaved to sin. Today I live in Bangui. I certainly would love to be home but Bangui is the only safe place for me and my family. I have abandoned all my traditional practices so that I can truly follow Him.’

CAR is a country that has been crippled by civil war, ethnic and religious strife. It is still unstable.

Praise God for the power of his word especially in this man’s life. Please pray:

  • that scripture that has already been translated would impact many lives in CAR and many would encounter the power of God through it.
  • that God continues to enable translation projects in CAR to move forward despite all the challenges that they face.
  • for peace in CAR and peaceful elections later this year.


Love to pray for the world? Follow @wycliffeuk_pray on twitter for daily prayer needs and more.

One Single Hand Cannot Break Open a Cola Nut

Monday, May 25th, 2015

This month marked the 25th anniversary of SIL’s work in Chad. To celebrate the amazing work that has happened for the different language communities in Chad over these last 25 years, a ceremony was held and attended by representatives of local language communities, several government agencies, the university of N’Djamena, church partners, other NGOs and civil society organisations.

Group photo

It is an immense joy to give a sincere testimony regarding the partnership between the Federation of Associations for the Promotion of Guera Languages(FAPLG) and SIL Chad. SIL helped FAPLG be born and grow up in the difficult Guera region. — Mr Adjbane Akouna Djimet, Vice President of the Federation of Associations for the Promotion of Guera Languages (FAPLG)

I rejoice in all the accomplishments in the development of Chadian languages… the result of a fruitful collaboration with the Chadian state, national church organizations and other non-governmental institutions. Today we celebrate the proverbial truth that ‘one single hand cannot break open a cola nut.’ — Dr Michel Kenmogne, SIL International Executive Director Designate

Read the full story from SIL on the celebration of twenty-five years of partnership with Chad’s language communities.

Here at Wycliffe, along with our partner organisations such as SIL, we believe in partnering with local communities and translators to work together in bringing their languages into written words that they can read and understand. Ultimately we share the goal of bringing Scripture to people in a language that resonates with them the most – their heart language. As this celebration in Chad shows, by uniting and working together, by sharing our resources and committing to each other – amazing things can happen!

Find out how you can support and be involved in this amazing work.

Stepping out in faith

Friday, May 8th, 2015

You may have noticed that almost all of Wycliffe’s members are not salaried, but funded by individuals and churches who support them. Raising support can start out as a real challenge, only to turn into a faith-building adventure as God provides, often from unexpected sources. Churches and Christian friends all have the opportunity to be part of this adventure with God, either by going themselves, or by supporting someone who is!

In the West, we have an historic understanding of this pattern of support. But it’s another story for our colleagues from other parts of the world. They have the same needs, but face the additional challenge that the church there is more used to receiving missionaries than sending them.

A woman gives for the missions offering at her churchTwelve of our colleagues from Nigeria are in this exact position. Pam Hollman, a Wycliffe UK member in Nigeria, explains further:

‘This month is a very important one for twelve of our Nigerian colleagues working with SIL Nigeria – 15% of the group’s staff. They are “Nigerian Missionary Staff” (NMS). That means they are seeking to be supported by their local churches and individuals just as we are from the West. Ultimately this is the only way to sustainability for the language development, translation and Scripture engagement work. However, the idea of local church support for missionaries is a fairly new concept here and these colleagues have not been finding it easy.

So, starting today (Monday 4th May) and during the whole of this month a specific course has been arranged to help them with this – to provide ideas, tools, help with making contacts with possible supporters and so on to encourage them along. They will not be doing their normal work but will be able to concentrate wholly from Mondays to Fridays on this activity. Coaches are available to work with them and support them and each one has at least one designated prayer supporter behind them. From mid-June to mid-September they will be putting into practice what they have learned with the goal of raising their support. ‘

Please pray:

  • that the training course will be very useful and faith will rise as a result.
  • for local churches to gain a full understanding of the importance of their support of  ‘national missionaries’, whether financial and prayer support or in other more practical ways.
  • that God will abundantly provide for the twelve who are taking this step of faith.

Read ‘the elephant in the room’ and discover the challenges Wycliffe members face in raising their support.