Archive for the ‘Orality’ Category

The power of a good story

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017 by Martin Horton

There are many ways that God’s word can reach people around the world. His word can be read on the printed page. It can be shared on a mobile phone via blue tooth or an SD card. It can be heard and seen through the JESUS Film which has been watched by millions but there is one form that existed long before these others. A form that has been used to share myths, facts and legends since humankind learned to use the gift of human language and that form is orality.

There are currently an estimated 5.7 billion oral learners all over the globe, and they learn mainly or entirely through oral not written means. This can be via songs, drama, proverbs, media or stories. And it is though the telling of stories that some members of Wycliffe Thailand are sharing the good news of Jesus.

The team are working on a set of Biblical stories that will help Thai non-believers from an animist/Buddhist background to understand more about the Christian faith. Many of those with an animist background believe that all natural things have a soul, such as rocks, rivers and even the moon and stars. So, the team begin with the story of creation, continuing with selected stories from the Old Testament that lead up to Jesus Christ and then they end with a story from the book of Revelation.

Please stand alongside this team in Wycliffe Thailand by praying:

  • Praise God for all that he is doing through this storying team. Some of the things that are happening especially widening opportunities to talk and share about orality & storying are definitely not their doing.
  • that the team will continue to be obedient to God’s will and his ways; that they would be sensitive to what God is doing and learn to follow him down the path he is leading.
  • for faithfulness to finish the storying work they’ve started, specifically finishing up the Central Thai & Northern Thai story-sets.
  • for Thai-speaking believers to rediscover the power of telling Bible stories and that their confidence will grow with each story that they tell.
  • that many are impacted by the stories and will understand the life changing message of Jesus for the first time

Read Scripture stories for Chukchi reindeer herders for another example of how God is transforming lives through the power of story telling

If you’d like to pray for Bible translation regularly then subscribe to our free magazine Words for Life which includes interesting articles as well as daily prayer needs.

Resolve to make a difference

Thursday, December 29th, 2016 by Jo Johnson

Have you made your New Year’s resolutions yet? Often resolutions are made with the aim of personal improvement, to lose weight or get fit or read more. Instead of making a resolution that you benefit from this year, why don’t you make a resolution which will profit someone else instead?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABefore Christmas we had an appeal to raise money for a project in the Gajara region of Chad. This project is in a remote area and many of the people groups it serves do not understand the official languages, so they have no access to Scripture that is already available. Many of these groups are followers of another major world religion and have never heard the gospel.

With this in mind the project aims to encourage national missionaries to use oral Bible stories in eleven languages and written Bible portions as the translation teams complete them. Two groups which have churches are already benefiting from the New Testaments published in 2012 and two more such groups hope to complete New Testaments in 2019. We are so grateful to all who gave to enable this vital work to continue.

However, in order for the project to reach its goals it also needs committed prayer support. Will you make a New Year’s resolution to regularly pray for this project? You could do this alone or with your home group or other members of your church.

Get started by praying for the following:

  • For perseverance for the translation teams
  • For technology to work reliably including computers and solar panels. Technical issues often slow down the translation work.
  • For the storytellers – that they will see fruit from their ministry.
  • For Bible listening groups which study the Bible using audio versions. Ask God to reveal himself to many through these groups.
  • For encouragement for everyone at seeing the results; lives transformed through faith in Christ.

Sign up here to commit to pray for this project. You’ll receive project updates to help you pray.

Why don’t you follow us on Twitter @wycliffeuk_pray to find out about other urgent prayer needs.

Bible stories come to life

Monday, October 10th, 2016 by Camilla

When Banko Myle met a paralysed woman in her Banna village, he told her a story he’d just learned.

It was the gospel story of Jesus healing the bleeding woman (Matthew 9).

‘Can that same Jesus heal me?’ she asked.

He assured her Jesus could — both from her physical sickness and from her sin. Banko prayed for her.

When he visited her the next day, she was trying to stand, supported with a stick. On the third day she was walking. By the fourth day she was serving; she prepared coffee for Banko.

banko-myleA week after first meeting Banko, the woman praised God.

‘I was despised and neglected for many years because I was paralysed, but God healed me,’ she said. ‘I believe in him and I follow him.’

Before he learned to tell Bible stories, Banko didn’t share the gospel message with unbelievers in Ethiopia. For him, preaching from the Amharic Bible was for Christians. But storytelling in people’s everyday language provides a bridge from evangelists to the Bible.

‘We don’t need to carry around a book to share the gospel with others. We carry the stories in our hearts. Whenever I meet someone, I can share stories and talk about the meaning.’

Banko also enjoys telling the creation story. When people learn about God, many wonder why he allows sickness and death. Banko gives them an answer they understand by explaining the fall of man and then he explains God’s solution through Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection.

Banko has seen transformation in his own life. Now he’s watching God change his community by removing obstacles to faith. Where people used to seek healing from traditional healers, now many are praying and seeking insight from Scripture.

‘I have seen the power of God’s word in the Banna language,’ he says. ‘We used to think that the only person who could minister is the one who can read and write. But now everyone — even laypeople — are ministering and boldly sharing their faith.’

This story originally appeared on our partner The Seed Company’s website.

Intrigued? Find out how you could get involved.

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!

Stopping a snowball in its tracks

Monday, July 18th, 2016 by Camilla

When a language dies out, a culture generally dies with it. It’s feared the ancient Nanai language of Russia might be on its way out, as younger generations seem to use it less and less.

But translators believe oral Bible stories may help save Nanai souls and perhaps their entire culture.

As a Wycliffe team of translators began meeting Nanai people in remote villages along the Amur River, some conversations took them by surprise.

church in far east russiaOne Nanai woman was curious about Christianity. ‘Do you read the Bible?’ asked Anton Barashenkov, who works for Wycliffe. ‘Did you try to read the Bible in your language?’

‘Yes, I tried,’ she said. ‘I have this book.’ She showed him a translation of Luke’s gospel – the only portion of Scripture available in Nanai. Next, Anton thought he’d hear the woman say that God’s word came alive for her as she read it in her heart language.

Not this time.

‘In my own language I couldn’t understand anything,’ she told him. ‘Our language usually is not used in written form. If we had something in audio format, or some video, I could hear it and I could use it with pleasure. But we don’t have it.’

Therein lies the reason Wycliffe Russia is working to translate oral Bible stories into a disappearing language. The Nanai people, especially older generations, have their own cultural identity. Their ancient language is spoken only in a few homes, or for cultural display. Just a handful can still read or write it.

The Wycliffe team has been talking with older Nanai people and listening to their stories and family traditions. The work of translating helps Nanai storytellers craft accurate Bible stories to share with their people.

The intent is to help create a bridge for the Nanai elders, so receiving Christ as Saviour doesn’t have to mean rejecting their culture and assimilating into someone else’s.

So why spend time and resources to help preserve a language if the next generation isn’t overly concerned about losing it? Anton has heard a common answer from the elder Nanai people.

‘They understand that their language and culture is dying,’ he says. ‘If their language does not exist, their culture also cannot exist. They’re at a checkpoint in time when they could completely forget their language and culture or they could raise it back,’ he says. ‘What if, he asks, no one around the throne of God is worshipping in the Nanai tongue?’

‘That would be a pity,’ he says.

This story originally appeared on our partner The Seed Company’s blog. You can read the original here.

Want to pray more for Bible translation? Use our Frontline Prayer modules to help you, your small group or your church pray for Bible translation around the world.

Where faith comes by hearing: making audio Scriptures in Tanzania

Monday, January 25th, 2016 by Nick

The majority of people in the world belong to oral cultures. For them, faith literally comes by hearing. With this in mind, one of the tools we use to share Scripture with these communities is audio recordings of Bible stories! So how does Scripture go from words on paper to audio?

Jo Clifford shares a great step-by-step account of one of the many trips she takes to record Scripture, this time to Mpanda in Tanzania. From invitation to hanging blankets over wooden frames, this is a brilliant window into the world of Scripture audio recording:

‘I regularly receive requests from various language projects to do audio recordings of Scripture. A couple of months before a trip I need to prepare the script of the audio recording – taking the Scripture text and dividing it up into the different characters (narrator, Ruth, Boaz, Jonah etc). Then copies of the parts are given to the different people who have agreed to read for us, so they have time to practice. I discuss with those hosting the recording work what location might be best. The preference is for somewhere quiet, with power if possible (otherwise a generator is necessary to run the equipment). I also ask if there are blankets available for soundproofing the studio structure as well as some wood to make the frame. I bring the rest of my recording equipment.

When I am recording I rely on others to help me. I explain the recording process to the person who has come to read the part. Before we start recording I always get people’s consent to use their voice.

JoC recording3

Jo at work

I usually ask for at least one translator of the language being recorded to be present to follow the reading and make sure words are read correctly. I have the text so I can generally follow along, but I don’t know the languages and some languages incorporate tone to express meaning.

Before a reader begins, I often paint a picture of the context to help them think about what they are reading. To get the most realistic recording, I often ask if there is special way of saying something in their culture which signals for instance an attitude of prayer or of showing fear or celebration.

At the time of recording I will do a rough edit of each clip. The same evening I will go through all that has been recorded that day and edit each clip, taking out breaths, clicks from lips smacking together and any extra space between phrases and sentences.

JoC recording2

Editing audio recordings

[Then] I will start to put all the clips together to make each chapter and will add the sound effects.  I will play it to the translators who speak the language to check all the text is correct, that they like the sound effects and that I haven’t edited something out by mistake!

When the translators are happy with the audio, then I can produce the MP3 tracks which can be made into CDs, or be put onto a mobile phone, uploaded onto the language website and put onto the language Scripture app.’

Interested in finding out more about the work of Wycliffe and how you can be involved? Come along to one of our one day events First Steps!

The Bible for the unreached

Friday, March 27th, 2015 by Jo Johnson

Did you know that there are about 400 sign languages in the world and none of them yet have the whole of the Bible? Deaf Opportunity Outreach (DOOR) International, which has a centre in Kenya, is working to change this.

One of their translation consultants, Josh, explains his work:

Celebrating portions of the Bible in Kerala Sign language

Celebrating portions of the Bible in Kerala Sign language

‘Today I have been working on a commentary piece on the fruit of the Spirit, specifically joy. After I have done the study I will sit with one of our Deaf translators and work to explain what the Bible teaches about joy so that he can sign it in a way that is clear and easily understood by the Deaf in their own language. It is exciting and fun. I love my job.

But you know what is so frustrating? Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” But that hasn’t been translated yet. 1 Peter 4:12-13 says, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” Wow! But that isn’t translated either.

Praise God for the work that has been accomplished! It is impacting lives. Deaf people in Kenya are turning to Jesus and growing in their faith.’

Please pray:

  • Pray for the translation teams working at the DOOR centre in Kenya.
  • Pray for the translators as they do the difficult work of taking meaning from one language and communicating it clearly in another.
  • Pray for those working with the teams to help them understand what the texts mean so they are able to do that work.
  • Pray for those who will be checking the translations for accuracy.’

Watch the need for sign language Bible translation, an inspiring video that explains how deaf communities are being impacted with God’s word.

Catching the vision

Friday, February 6th, 2015 by Jo Johnson

It takes time to catch a vision. It’s not true that people everywhere are necessarily desperate to have access to God’s word in their heart language. Even in the UK, how many church-goers have so many different English versions and yet never really long to engage with the Bible text for themselves?

Back in August the audio recording of the book of Luke in the P* language took place in Nigeria. Now the MP3 CDs and memory cards for mobile phones are available! Before starting distribution, it was decided to hold a small church dedication just for Christians from that language community. This took place on 21 January in a church in the major town in the area. Sadly, people did not come on time and in fact very few people turned up at all. This was discouraging to those involved.

One of the team working with the P team reflects on some more positive aspects of the day:

‘What I did find encouraging about the dedication was hearing the  pastor give a sermon from Luke using P. Everyone else who prayed or said something also did so entirely in P (the churches here generally use the language of wider communication, Hausa). Before the sermon, that portion of  the Luke recording in P was played.

Then at the end of the meeting plans were made to ensure distribution of the CDs and memory cards to all the churches not represented at the dedication. To me, getting the Luke audio version into the hands of people is the most important thing.’

Please praise God that P speakers now have access to the audio version of Luke in their heart-language and that more copies of the memory cards containing the P version of Luke have recently been requested.

Please pray:

  • that as many P speakers as possible will be able to engage with God’s Word.
  • and that as a result the Holy Spirit will bring about changed lives.
  • for Christians in the UK to become more passionate about the Word of God.
  • for God to help the translation team with all the challenges that they face as they continue translating more portions of Scripture.

Bishop Ndukuba is from another area of Nigeria. He describes the powerful effect mother tongue Scriptures have in this video.

*P – due to security issues we have to withhold the name of the language group.

Teaching through Stories

Monday, January 26th, 2015 by Nick

Stories have the amazing ability to take us on a great adventure to make us laugh, make us cry and enrich our thoughts and conversations. They are also some of the most effective ways of teaching. Jesus often used stories to speak to the people around him through parables.

Nanai dancers

For a large proportion of people in the world, oral communication is their primary and sometimes only way of sharing their history and teachings. They pass these accounts and tales down from generation to generation. Often, it is far easier for them to engage with Scripture and understand it when they can hear the message.

In 2013, whilst in a meeting about Siberia, God spoke to three men about ‘feeding’ communities by using stories.  Then in July 2014, teams were commissioned and sent to four communities in Eastern Siberia with the goal of translating stories from the Bible. Anton was part of the team that visited the Nanai people. Here’s a short extract from Anton’s story about his experience:

During our visit to one village, we met two Nanai women, who invited us to tell them about God. We had blessed discussions and prayers. But there was one interesting detail, which touched me very much and showed the importance of the particular kind of work we are doing. When we were talking about God’s Word, I asked one of the women, “Do you ever read the Bible?”

“Yes,” she said, “I tried to read the Russian Synodal Bible, but I didn’t understand anything.”

Of course, my next question was, “Have you read the Nanai Gospel of Luke?” and I was ready to get the classic Wycliffe example of how reading in the language of the heart makes such a great difference. But I was really surprised to get the answer, “Yes, I tried, but it was even more difficult than reading the Russian Bible! I wasn’t even able to finish the chapter.”

Amazing! What had gone wrong? She explained: “The situation is that we never use the Nanai language for reading; it’s an oral language. Of course, if I had audio recordings with Bible stories in Nanai, I would listen to them with pleasure!

When we told her that the main purpose of our project is to produce such audio stories, she was very happy, and said that she desired to have these stories very much. She would share them with all her friends.

You can read more from the team members in the full article at wycliffe.net.

Enabling communities to learn and engage with Scripture is vitally important.  Recording audio versions of Bible stories is one of the ways this is achieved. Find out more about Scripture engagement and how you can help.

PS Why not share this story with someone you know using the Share or Twitter buttons below?

When the spoken word is more powerful

Friday, January 23rd, 2015 by Jo Johnson

Nearly 70% of people in the world are from oral cultures. Even when they can read and write they often prefer to learn through oral means. This means, for Bible translation, that we must find appropriate non-print formats in which to present God’s word.

A packed audience for a showing of the Bambalang Luke film.

A packed audience for a showing of the Bambalang Luke film.

One way is through the Luke film, a video version of Luke’s gospel similar to the Jesus Film. For just over a year the Bambalang translation team in Cameroon have been showing the Luke Film. It’s in great demand and in spite of it being four hours long people will watch it in its entirety, often standing the whole time. Sometimes the pastors show two hours one night, two the next. People are not happy that they have to wait, but they return and many others join them the second night.

Pastor Pius, one of the Bambalang translation team, tells of one showing:

‘..many followers of another religion came there including one of their leaders, who brought his own seat. One of the teachers in the Arabic school, Mr. A., said “Truly, you have shown that God is the God of Bambalang people speaking their language…. Many people will turn to God in Bambalang.”’

David Chufonmui of the Bamunka Translation team has been helping to show the Luke film. He shares about the enthusiasm which is shown by those who see it:

‘In one place, an older man who is a strong follower of traditional religion, sat captivated and urged the young people around him to be quiet and listen. But after a while he did not need to, as the level of interest was such that the whole gathering naturally became silent.

In another place, rain fell and the film had to be shown indoors. The place became so packed that no-one could enter so two boys climbed the wall of the house and removed mud blocks from the top, squeezing through between the roof and the wall and dropping down inside to get a view of the film!’

Thank God for the impact that the Luke Film is having in Cameroon and pray:

  • For good follow-up by churches for those who decide to follow Christ as a result of the showings.
  • For the interest to be carried across to an interest in the written Scriptures and thus having an impact on listening groups and Bible studies.
  • For resources to be available for the Luke film to be dubbed in the five other languages where translation is ongoing as soon as the text is approved.

Find out other ways non-print versions of Scripture are impacting Cameroonian communities.