‘I could not imagine for even one second that I would see a translation of the New Testament in my own mother tongue... Praise be to God!’ – Bissa Barka church leader Mrs Diessengo

Map of Burkina Faso

 

  • Country: Burkina Faso
  • Language: Bissa Barka
  • Speakers: 80,000
  • Start date: 2011
  • Projected end date: 2022

 

The community

Burkina Faso is a land-locked country in the Sahel region of Africa and one of the world’s poorest countries. Its official language is French, but it is home to an estimated 71 different languages, one of which is Bissa Barka. Subsistence agriculture is the main occupation in the Bissa Barka area, which is in the south of the country, bordering Ghana and Togo.

The need

Churches regularly use the trade language, Moore, as well as the neighbouring language, Bissa Lébir, and then orally translate into Bissa Barka. Although there is some degree of multilingualism in the Bissa Barka area, many people understand very little of any other language than Bissa Barka. The small Christian community is crying out, as a result, for the Bible in Bissa Barka to strengthen their churches and lessen the misunderstandings which frequently occur when people hear the Bible in another language.

The project

Before this project began there were no Scriptures available in Bissa Barka. Spurred on by translation into the neighbouring language, Bissa Lébir, a team is now working on translating the New Testament into Bissa Barka. To increase access to Scripture, a vital part of the project is to also provide literacy classes for the many people who are unable to read and write, as well as audio versions of Scripture.

Alongside Bible translation, the team has been producing language materials and running workshops to encourage church leaders to use translated Scriptures. A local team is also being trained to ensure that translation will continue on to the Old Testament and so they can use their skills to serve other communities without Scripture in their languages.

The hope is that through this work the local church will grow and believers will truly find their freedom in Christ.

Join in praise and prayer for the Bissa Barka people:

Local church member, Josias, being baptised
Bissa Barka church member Josias being baptised
  • Give thanks to God for the progress the team has made with translation and pray this would continue.
  • Praise God for good health and his protection over the team members and their families.
  • Praise God for the good start to literacy work among the Bissa Barka people.
  • Pray for many Bissa Barka people to put their trust in Christ.

Latest News

December 2020
Alphonse on his motorbike (before the accident).

Giving thanks for God’s protection

The project manager, Alphonse, has been particularly grateful for God’s help recently. When he was travelling back from checking the translations of Philippians and James with other team members in Ouagadogou, the capital city, it began to rain heavily and the roadside gutters were soon full. Unfortunately, Alphonse couldn’t see where the gutters were and he fell in with his motorbike and laptop. He was unable to get out by himself, but passers-by came and rescued him. He was unhurt but was worried about his computer; miraculously, after drying it out for three days he turned it back on and it works perfectly. Also, a mechanic was able to fix his motorbike. Praise God that he was unhurt and didn’t lose all of his work.

Also during a rain storm some of his property was damaged while the family was at church and he was away on a trip. Thankfully his wife was able to sort everything out with help from their church fellowship.

Continuing the work

Alongside the impact of Covid-19, the work has also been affected by flooding during the rainy season. Fields have been flooded, leading to food becoming more expensive, and buildings have been damaged. Sadly, one child from the area died. Please pray for the family affected by this tragedy.

However the translation work has continued and progress has been made on a number of New Testament books, including 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Romans, Revelation, James and Philippians.

Connecting with the community

Recently, one of the traditional chiefs from the Bissa Barka village of Garango approached the team and asked if they would help him, as he knew that they were working on translating into Bissa.

Bible translation has been inspiring local people to use their language more widely

In response to this, the team is going to show him how to write down all of the old names of the villages, and family names, so that he can have a record of the culture in his own language. The translation work is really inspiring enthusiasm for the language locally.

 

 

Election safety

Alphonse requested prayer for the presidential elections in Burkina Faso. The election took place on the 22nd November, and the sitting president won another five-year term.

The lead up to the election was affected by threats of attacks by armed groups which operate across much of Burkina Faso. Last year, the conflict killed some 2,000 people in Burkina Faso and more than a million people have had to leave their homes because of the fighting.

Please pray that the president will be able to unite the divided country as he begins his new term of office.

The Bissa Barka translation team has shared James 1:5 for your encouragement:

Kʋn gɛr t'áraa barla mindɔlɛ n gɩla ma, k'a n a yɛ Hunsu han, a t'a kalɛ n. Kʋn sɩda n, Hunsu bɩr zɛŋ gɛsɩ ma hɔ ma y, a t'a kalɛ a gan n à huur kɩ lɛʋ, an, a bɩr minnebaŋl.

Praise and prayer

Give thanks for:

  • the good health of the translators and their families
  • progress on the translation despite difficulties
  • the safety of the community during the rainy season
  • connections being made with the local community.

Please pray for:

  • safety and health for the team members and their families
  • the whole community to take ownership of the project
  • the people to have food to eat as the rain has damaged some fields
  • the president to bring unity to Burkina Faso.
August 2020

Equipping church leaders

Scripture portions may already be available in the Bissa Barka language, but for a number of Bissa Barka believers, the only time they hear Scripture or prayers in their own language at church are on days of celebration. Week after week, they instead hear Moore (the local trade language) or French.

One barrier which often prevents Bissa Barka being used is that church leaders are unable to read in their own language. It is vital, therefore, to build church leaders’ confidence in reading their own langauge and encourage them to use it in their services. An increasing number of leaders are now being equiped with these skills, and helping with translation through community checking. The fruit of this is being seen in churches like those in the village of Hornogo, where Bissa Barka is no longer saved for special occassions but is used across all services.

Growing in faith

Many students, young and old alike, have shared their joy at being able to take part in literacy classes, which are run alongside the translation. Through literacy they are seeing more opportunities opened up to them, and realising that their language is of value. For many it has been an important step in their faith journey too.

Innocent and his family praying

This is something literacy coordinator, Innocent, has seen firsthand in his own children, as they are now able to confidently read Scripture:

‘My kids have been praying every morning thanks to their spiritual empowerment as a result of reading the booklet that I gave them and listening to the audio format of some gospels in Bissa Barka. This positive impact is very encouraging to any father.’

For adult learners it has also been an important step. Local student, Tarnagda, shares what it means to him:

‘My dream was to be able to read the word of God by myself. And I thank God for allowing me to realise this dream. I am very happy because I am able to read the Gospel of Mark.’

Sowing God’s word

In the Bissa Barka area life is very much built around agriculture and the seasons. The majority rely on crops such as maize to feed their families, and to bring in some kind of income.

In recent months this has reminded the team of the importance of not just focusing on growing physical food:

‘We are here to grow spiritual maize and sow the word of God into the hearts of people here for the salvation of souls. We need the word of God to feed people in Burkina Faso.’

In an area where Christians are in the minority, it is vital that the team presses on with translation and helps to grow the local church.

Local Pastors planting a tree in the community

Pushing forward

Due to the impact of Covid-19 the team has faced a number of delays. With restrictions easing, the team is now working hard to make up for lost time. A few highlights of the last few months have been completing revisions and community checks on Philippians, James and Revelation. They rejoice that there have been few new cases of Covid-19 in the area.

 

Praise and prayer

Give thanks for:

  • God’s protection over the Bissa Barka community, where there have been few new cases of Covid
  • the progress made on translation in the face of many challenges
  • literacy providing a stepping stone to people growing in their walk with the Lord
  • church leaders being equipped and encouraged.

Please pray for:

  • safety and health for the team members and their families
  • wisdom for the team as they look to make up for lost time on translation
  • the rainy season to improve - it has begun badly, worrying many farmers
  • seeds of faith to be sown and bear fruit among the Bissa Barka people.
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