Standing firm in the face of attack

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.

Take The Next Step!

March 13th, 2017 by Camilla

The Next Step is an exciting three-day event where you’re invited to explore how you could be involved in bringing God’s word to people groups who are still waiting to hear God speak their language.

Close up of two feet walking into the distanceYou might be surprised at how varied the roles in Wycliffe Bible Translators are – they are not all language related, and they’re not all overseas! Come along to find out more about opportunities, hear stories from people already involved in what God is doing through Wycliffe, and learn about what it takes to really make the Bible available to a people group.

This time, The Next Step will take place at St Andrew’s Church in Cheadle Hulme (near Manchester), on 21-23 April. Because we want as many people as possible to attend, the event is free of charge (you just need to arrange for somewhere to stay, and sort out your own food).

Find out more, and register online.

Seeing with blind eyes

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.

Empowered to worship with the music of their hearts

March 6th, 2017 by Camilla

An EthnoArts team had been invited to spend a week working with musicians from several indigenous churches in Bolivia. The goal: to recover their own music and their own languages for incorporation into their existing repertoire of Christian praise and worship.

It looked like reclaiming local traditions might be an uphill road. The younger generations seem to prefer urban sounds, modern rhythms, and the latest global music styles. They seek new songs from famous Christian artists, learn them and take them to their churches.

However, once people started talking about their musical heritage, traditional dances and folk music begin to fill the room. Everyone knew these cheerful musical genres of the Bolivian rainforest. ‘In the mountains there are other, more Andean rhythms. These are typical of our peoples,’ explains Isaac, one of the Cavineña leaders and pastors who traveled to Riberalta to participate in the workshop. ‘But we never use them in the church…. The people of our community sing them at parties and popular gatherings, but we only sing choruses and hymns.’

In general, the Latin American evangelical tradition is marked by the traditional European songbook, translated into Spanish by the missionaries who brought the word between the ’60s and ’80s. European music traditions usurped local expressions, and for decades ‘the devil stole our culture’, says Antonio, one of the Trinitario participants. He explains: ‘We thought that (our) music was a sin, and we simply put it aside. The people use this music, but it is always associated with wild parties and alcohol.’

During the first few days of the workshop, the group spent some time reflecting on this and other related subjects, before getting down to some songwriting. The group then spent a whole day composing new songs in their own languages, using the same music and instruments as untold generations before them.

Finally, the day came to record. A small but functional recording studio was improvised, and from 9am to 6pm groups came by to record their new songs…. There were 21 recordings in one day! Everyone asked for another workshop. They promised to present the new songs in their churches and to continue composing. They know that in any upcoming activity they will perform better and their creativity will be better honed and attuned to the Holy Spirit.

This blog post is adapted from a story which originally appeared on the Wycliffe Global Alliance website. Read the original story and see more pictures here.

Intrigued by the concept of EthnoArts? Read more here.

Together We Can

March 2nd, 2017 by Martin Horton

I looked again. I saw a huge crowd, too huge to count. Everyone was there-all nations and tribes, all races and languages. Rev 7:9-10 (MSG)

In November last year, there were fantastic celebrations in the Milne Bay Province in Papua New Guinea, as 11 language groups celebrated receiving a mini-Bible in their own mother-tongue.

What is in a Mini-Bible? They consist of the Gospel of Mark, which is the easiest gospel to translate, the book of Acts which covers how the church was established and then a panorama of the Old Testament which includes sections of the Old Testament that cover key Biblical events mentioned in the New Testament.

These were completed through a project called VITAL* which adopted the PNG Branch’s motto, ‘Together We Can’. Karla Watt, who was the project manager, believes that this motto sums up a new approach to Bible translation. In essence it is about the value of team work. VITAL is a multi-language translation strategy designed to meet the needs of language communities and dialects of the East Papua Region of Papua New Guinea that had no other way to begin a programme in the near future.

Karla goes on to explain,

The expatriates brought their Bible, linguistic, exegetical and software A to the table, while the nationals from each group brought the expertise in their languages so that “together” we could accomplish the task.’

VITAL has helped 14 language groups print books in their languages. These include literacy materials, AIDS materials, trial dictionaries, portions of Genesis, a Mark Bible Study and first editions of Mark as well as publishing and launching the Mini-Bible for 11 languages in late 2016.

Please pray for the work of VITAL and the people of Milne Bay:

  • Pray that as the fruit of 10 years work goes out to 11 language groups in Milne Bay, lives will be transformed as people read and understand his great love for them in their own heart languages.
  • Pray that those who aren’t able to read will be reached through listening to God’s word on Megavoice Storyteller MP3 players.
  • Pray that these teams will be motivated to continue translating God’s word using the equipment and training that they received through the VITAL Project.

Looking for more ways to pray for Bible translation? Sign up for our free magazine Words for Life which includes a prayer point for each day, or have Bible translation prayer points emailed to you each day.

*Vernacular Initiative for Translation and Literacy (VITAL) is a project run by SIL who are one of our language partners.

‘Is this really from the Bible??’

February 27th, 2017 by Camilla

Luna* grew up in a Southeast Asian country in a community that farmed rice and animals, hunted for their favourite source of wild meat and gathered whatever they needed from the forest that hedged their village on the cool mountain slopes.

One day a week, she would follow her parents and other families to a larger wooden hut at one end of their village. There they would sing some songs from memory and then someone whom everyone called ‘Pastor’ would rise, open a book and begin reading from it. She could not understand what Pastor was saying when she was a child. As she grew older, she was able to understand some words and phrases, but not all. It was not the language that she spoke at home or with her village community.

Luna also learnt from her parents who would regularly place some delicious portions of chicken meat at the trunk of certain trees beside their home and farmland. Her mother whispered to her that there were “unseen beings” that protected them from harm and must not be angered. She remembered when she fell very sick once and drifted in and out of consciousness from the high fever. Her mother had carried her to a big house in the centre of the village. The master of that house put on strange headgear and began prancing around her as she lay on the floor. Whatever he did frightened her, but her mother held her down. Eventually, she was given something very bitter to drink, which somehow made her well.

One day, two girls she knew from the next village visited. They had fun chatting and catching up with each others’ news. Then the girls shared a story from the Bible in the local language.

Is this story really from the Bible??’ Luna asked, wide-eyed. The other two nodded. ‘This is so much easier to understand than the sermons in our church!’ she exclaimed. That day, Luna understood a lesson on God’s grace and on being obedient to God in a way she had never been able to before.

In Luna’s community, there are many people who are Christian in name but are still following folk religious practices because of their lack of understanding of God’s word in their own language. An oral Bible story project is underway to develop Bible stories in their language community for a better understanding of God’s word.

*name changed for security reasons

This story is adapted from an article originally published in Wycliffe Singapore’s magazine – More than Words, June 2015.

Want to know more about what’s going on in the world of Bible translation? Sign up for our magazine, Words for Life. It’s free!

I want to be a lion tamer!

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.

International Mother Language Day 2017

February 21st, 2017 by Alfred

February 21st is the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) International Mother Language Day.

It is a day to celebrate the diversity of languages around the world and to communicate the importance of valuing and protecting mother languages as being a vital part of culture.

The Director General of UNESCO reminds us of the personal and cultural importance of the mother languages:

‘The mother language, in which the first words are uttered and individual thought expressed, is the foundation for the history and culture of each individual…. Languages are the best vehicles of mutual understanding and tolerance. Respect for all languages is a key factor for ensuring peaceful coexistence, without exclusion, of societies and all of their members.’

UNESCO also notes the importance of mother languages in education:

‘Children who start off learning to read and write in their mother language do better in school. Literacy programmes in mother languages bring learners the self-confidence they need to participate in their community and make informed choices.’

The work Wycliffe Bible Translators does is part of preserving mother languages around the world, not for the sake of language alone, but so communities can know that God values them, and values their languages, as they are. Language should be a way of coming to God, not a barrier hindering people.

Wycliffe works not only to translate the Bible, but to develop writing systems in language groups that have never been written, to encourage literacy and to help communities with health care, agricultural information and learning their human rights.

Wycliffe is working on behalf of minority language groups worldwide; to provide God’s word in the mother tongue of every remaining language group that needs it.

Find out more about Wycliffe’s work and how you can support it.

Martin Luther (1483 – 1546)

February 18th, 2017 by Alfred

On February 18th we commemorate the death of priest, theologian, and Bible translator Martin Luther (b. November 10, 1483 – d. February 18, 1546).

Luther is most famous for nailing his 95 Theses to the church door at Wittenberg – 500 years ago this year – which many people cite as the primary starting point of the Reformation.

Yet Luther’s later work translating the Bible was also fundamental to the Reformation.

Luther loved the Bible but knew that, at the time, the Bible was not accessible to everyone. So he concluded that a new translation, in the common language of the German people was necessary.

His focus as he worked on the translation was to enable the ‘tailors and shoemakers, yea, even women and ignorant persons’ to be able to read God’s word for themselves. Indeed, he was so committed to the ordinariness of the language in the translation, he would take trips into local towns and villages to listen to the way people spoke.

Luther’s translation marked a shift in the church’s approach to the Bible, as Philip Schaff notes:

“The Bible ceased to be a foreign book in a foreign tongue, and became far more clear and dear to the common people. Hereafter the Reformation depended no longer on the works of the Reformers, but on the book of God, which everybody could read for himself as his daily guide in spiritual life.”

It spurred on Bible translation in Europe, especially in French, Dutch and English.

Yet now over 1.5 billion people – more than the entire world population when Luther was alive – still do not have the Bible in the language they speak and understand best. Wycliffe Bible Translators is working so that all peoples around the world can engage with the Bible in the language they most understand.

Find out how you can be part of Bible translation.

What are you doing for Lent?

February 16th, 2017 by Jo Johnson

Lent is just around the corner; it starts on 1st March. This period of 40 days is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter. However, the purpose of fasting is not just to give something up, but to grow in intimacy with God.

We love the opportunity that Lent gives us to draw closer to God, but while it may be easy to decide what to give up it’s not always easy to know how to focus on our relationship with him. It’s often a great opportunity to intercede and stand with brothers and sisters around the world against Bible poverty and persecution.

Here are some great resources and ideas to give you a focus for this season:

  • Why don’t you fast this Lent for those who are hungry for God’s word in their language? Translation projects often face a great deal of opposition in the final months before the translation is finished. You could download The Finish Line, a 30-day prayer guide by our partners Wycliffe USA, outlining translation projects that are close to completion. Let it guide you through praying for those people groups who are close to having the word of God in their language.
  • We believe that the Bible is the best way for people to come to know and understand who God is. This includes you! Use God’s word to help you draw closer to him. Bible.com has a range of devotionals for Lent; allow God to grow a love for his word in your heart.
  • As you fast, why not stand in the gap for those of our brothers and sisters who are living in the most challenging contexts. Open Doors have recently published the World Watch List for 2017 showing the 50 countries where it is most difficult to live as a Christian; you could pray for one or two of those countries each day through Lent.

Whatever you choose, try to set a little time aside each day to meet with God and allow him to change your heart.

Looking for more ways to pray for Bible translation? Sign up for our magazine Words for Life which includes a prayer point for each day, or have Bible translation prayer points emailed to you each day.