Burkina Faso is a land-locked country of the Sahel region of Africa and one of the world’s poorest countries. Its official language is French. Subsistence agriculture is the main occupation in the Bissa area which is in the south of the country, bordering Ghana and Togo.
- Country: Burkina Faso
- Speakers: 80,000
- Start date: 2011
- Projected end date: 2020
At the start of the project there were no Scriptures available in Bissa Barka. The Bible has been translated into Bissa Lebir, a related language. The two Bissa Barka translators are adapting their translation from this related version. The small Christian community is keen to have the Bible in Bissa Barka to strengthen the churches and to lessen the misunderstandings which frequently occur when people hear the Bible in another language.
As well as translating the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the team have been working on compiling a dictionary, producing educational booklets and writing a guide to how the language is written.
- to translate the New Testament into Bissa Barka
- to train a national team to continue with Old Testament translation or to use their skills to serve other languages who also do not have the Scriptures
- to see evidence of the impact of the Scriptures on church growth, on increased attendance at church activities, and a noticeable transformation in beliefs and practices, as traditional religions lose their grip and believers truly find their freedom in Christ
Opportunities and challenges
- many pastors and church leaders visit the translation office regularly; they are impatient to have Bissa Barka Scriptures
- the two translators have been able to attend several workshops to learn new skills
- Bissa Barka literacy classes have recently begun, and are helping people to be able to engage with the newly-translated Scriptures
- praise God for the progress of the work of translation
- 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
Scripture for all
Being able to share translated Scripture with the whole community has been having an impact on believers and non-believers alike.
Ouandaogo Seydou Jacques, who is a Muslim, recently shared his amazement at being able to access the word of God in his own language. He is now able to read and understand Scripture much more easily.
‘What impressed me about the Christian faith is the accessibility of the word of God. I thank the Lord for this work and may He bless all those involved in it.’
The team continues to actively encourage local people to read portions of Scripture as they become available and prays this will open their hearts to the truth of the Gospel.
Providing translated Scripture is not the final step when it comes to giving people access to God’s word. Many Bissa Barka people are unable to read, which makes the translated Scriptures inaccessible. Providing literacy classes is therefore a vital stepping stone. The team also recognises the need to provide audio versions of Scripture for those who find it difficult to read.
For learner Bancé Noelie who was unable to complete her education, literacy classes opened up a door – and not only for her but for those around her too:
‘I followed the literacy lessons assiduously. Today, I am able to read and understand well, especially the translated biblical texts, and I help children to do so too.’
Project and progress
Over the last few months the team has been making encouraging progress with translation. A few highlights have been:
- the drafting of Hebrews and 1 & 2 Thessalonians
- carrying out a community check on Romans
- making revisions to James and Philippians
- attending a workshop on Revelation.
Increasing local capacity
A vital part of the sustainability of Bible translation is investing in the development of local staff. Through taking part in training, attending workshops and meeting with other translators the team is able to grow their skills and increase their capacity to carry out the work God has called them to in their community.
In November last year the Bissa Barka team, beginning work on the book of Revelation, took part in a week long workshop to help them to start out in the right way. Following on from this they were able to progress more rapidly with the drafting of Revelation, and expressed the need to take part in more such workshops. As a result, they would next like to attend training on completing the New Testament to help them in their final steps.
A national celebration
Every year celebrations take place to mark Burkina Faso’s national independence day, and the latest one gave the team even more reason to celebrate.
The city of Tenkodogo, which is located in the Bissa Barka region, was chosen to host the celebrations. It was an occasion of joy for the Bissa community to not only host the event but also use it as opportunity to share the Gospel. Local churches and organisations gathered together to reach out to the community with the good news of Jesus. The team also praises God that no security issues arose at the event.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- a smooth start to the new school year
- God’s help in the national independence day with bad events being prevented before the celebrations
- believers and non-believers engaging with the word of God
- God’s provision and wisdom enabling the team to progress with translation.
Please pray for:
- the security of the country and God’s protection over the team and their families
- the planting of churches that worship in Bissa Barka
- the salvation of souls among the Bissa Barka community
- the translators to continue to grow in their skills and use these to bring them closer to finishing the New Testament.
Not just for theologians
Learning New Testament Greek is not something that many children have the chance to learn. Thanks to the teaching of Bissa Barka translator Yembone Thomas, for a number of children this has been changing.
Alongside translation, Yembone teaches introductory courses in New Testament Greek at a local university. In recent months, Yembone was delighted to be be able to take this course to a theological institute in Ziniaré, which is to the north-west of the Bissa Barka area, and open it up to teenagers and children. This class was welcomed with open arms by students and contradicted the false conviction that Greek is reserved for adults or theologians. Those that were learning even requested another evening class be run so more students could come along, and for the next level to be taught in the following term.
Yembone praises God for this opportunity and shared how running the courses helps him to strengthen his own Greek vocabulary, consequently improving his Bible translation skills. Most importantly, the team recognises the need to invest in the church leaders of tomorrow – the children.
The team has been encouraged to see people from all walks of life coming together to find ways to bring peace to Burkina Faso in their local area. The local Catholic church recently organised a day for leaders, organisations and churches to come together to work towards preventing inter-religious and inter-community conflict, which the translation team attended. Alongside this a local NGO has set up a Conflict Prevention Committee exploring issues surrounding conflict and how to prevent it, and the Federation of Churches and Evangelical Mission has been mobilising churches to pray for the nation.
Here is a snapshot of the team’s progress over recent months:
- working on the final stages of translating Acts
- making improvements and adding words to the Bissa Barka dictionary
- sharing key terms with local pastors in order to gain their insight into the language.
A new space
Literacy classes have been continuing to flourish with five adult classes and one children’s class being run. For the latest cohort of Bissa Barka literacy students taking part in the children’s classes, lessons have been taking place in a newly constructed teaching space. Churches have also been helping to resource this space through lending chairs and tables.
A joyful song
During the team’s regular radio broadcasts, alongside Scripture, gospel songs are shared in the local language. During a recent visit to local pastor Korgho Francois, the team were reminded of the importance of having access to worship music in your own language.
Pastor Korgho and his wife testified how much they enjoy listening to the music over the radio and said that people had been coming to Christ after hearing songs in their language. They shared that during an open-air evangelistic event, locally composed songs were performed before preaching took place. Many gathered to listen, and took delight in hearing songs used to praise God in their own language rather than foreign languages. At the end of the celebration 40 people stepped forward in faith.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- a good rainy season and harvest
- God’s protection over the team
- churches and leaders working together to overcome conflict
- the salvation of people among the Bissa-Barka and the servants he has raised up for the work.
Please pray for:
- wisdom for the team as they continue with translation
- literacy classes to be a blessing to the community
- more people to hear Scripture and worship songs over the radio
- good progress with conflict discussions.
The Bissa Barka team are making their way through the New Testament with the hope it will help the Bissa Barka people come to know Jesus as they see he speaks their language. Along with translation, the focus is also on encouraging churches and individuals to engage with Scripture.
With Mark and John published, eight more books at final checking stage and another 2,050 verses drafted, huge progress has been made, but the work continues. Over the last few months the team has been working hard on:
- final checking of Colossians, Ephesians, 2 Corinthians and Acts
- initial drafting of Titus, Philemon, James and Revelation
- broadcasting Scripture over the local radio
- continuing with literacy classes expanding the Bissa Barka dictionary.
In June, the final checks of Colossians and Ephesians were made. This involved two translators, two translation consultants and another local language speaker, to represent the community, making sure the text made sense and stayed faithful to the original text.
In many languages words can have multiple meanings depending on the context. It is this intricacy which led to the Bissa Barka team grappling with the word ‘faithful’, which they found could not simply be translated word for word. When used in the context of a faithful servant, the verb ‘follow’ (the rules) is used, but when applied to being faithful in words, in the case of a promise for example, the more unusual and poetic expression ‘walking in the footsteps of your mouth’ is used.
Through these checks, as well as the text being improved, so too was the translator’s own understanding. Pastor Tembone Thomas, Bissa Barka translator, expressed that:
‘These translations give me a clearer and more natural understanding of these books when I read them. Indeed, I understand them better than French translations. I thank God for… these beautiful biblical translations.’
Over the many years of working with the Bissa Barka community, the team has built up good connections with local churches, which regularly encourage the team by praying and visiting.
A growing number of churches of various different denominations are using Bissa Barka Scripture in their services. One local Catholic church leader, Yigo Lazara, described his church’s reaction:
‘The brethren do appreciate it very much as it touches their hearts, and they want us to do all the Sunday’s services in Bissa Barka.’
Mrs Diessengo, a leader of the Sankanse Assemblies of God Church, never thought she would see Scripture in her own language, but today she rejoices that that she has been proved wrong:
‘It has been a joy for me to read the Scripture portions in my heart language. Praise be to God!’
The team has also been encouraged to see local churches grow and more people coming to know the Lord.
Finding Jesus through literacy
Many Bissa Barka children cannot read or write because few can afford to attend school. In response to this need, the team provide a variety of classes to both children and adults.
As people develop their reading and writing skills, they can then read and engage with Scripture more easily in their own language.
Following a recent visit to the literacy centres, one learner, Moné, shared with joy how interesting the classes were and that he is now able to read stories about Jesus. These classes continue to go well, with almost all students in the last year progressing to the next level.
Continuing instability in the Bissa Barka region has led to the team having to overcome difficult travelling conditions.
On some occasions the team has to travel more than 100km by motorbike to meet with revision committees along risky roads where the threat of terrorism remains. These threats also lay a psychological and economical burden on the team and the communities they travel to.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- God’s continued protection over the Bissa Barka team and their families
- translation progress remaining on track
- the growth of local churches and the connections the team has with them
- literacy classes flourishing and enabling more people to read the good news of Jesus.
Please pray for:
- protection during the rainy season and provision from a good harvest
- God to raise up servants among the Bissa Barka people to join his work
- peace and safety across the region as they continue to face terrorist threats
- salvation for the Bissa Barka people.
Faith through hearing
It is with great joy that the team has been receiving testimonies of how radio broadcasting of Scripture has been blessing Christians in the community, helping them to grow in their faith. Each week the Scripture engagement team broadcast newly translated Scriptures and language songs on the local radio for an hour. They have been reminded of the importance of listening to Scripture:
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. – Romans 10:17
The recent impact
Below is a snapshot of the progress that has been made over the last few months:
- John's Gospel ready for publication
- back translation and consultant checking of Galatians complete
- team able to attend workshop where they acquired a deeper understanding of the book of Romans, which is now drafted
- village checking of 1 and 2 Corinthians
- five new literacy teachers trained
Local community member Mr Shiya Goumbané was challenged when he heard the story of the sower in Bissa Barka for the first time during a translation checking session he was assisting with. He knew the story already, but his understanding grew as he was able to read it in his own language for the first time, and it enlightened his spirit more than ever before. He shared the importance of this:
The word of God translated into one’s mother tongue is more understandable than in any other languages as it is the language of your heart.
Mrs Marie Kere is a pastor’s wife who interprets when her husband is preaching. Marie testifies that translated Scriptures that have been published by the team help her to understand key terms and enable her to share more about Jesus with her fellow Bissa Barka speakers.
Everyday life, as well as growing instability in the region, has led to the team needing to overcome big challenges over the last few months, making your support even more vital.
- Pastor Bambara, the project coordinator, fell and broke his leg.
- Community testing of Acts was delayed because it was the rainy season.
- The threat of terrorism in the area has led to unrest and is likely to impact travel for the translation consultants.
Thirsty for more
The literacy coordinator, Mr Innocent Goumbane, has recently been encouraged by several Bissa Barka speaking communities approaching him with a request for literacy classes to be set up in their locality:
People are thirsty for something in their own language.
Running literacy programmes alongside translation is key to engaging communities and showing their language is valued. The programme helps the Bissa Barka speakers to be literate in their own language and gives them a chance to read the available portions of Scripture whilst waiting for the completion of the whole Bible.
He asks that we pray for the provision of resources to meet the communities’ needs.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- how people are increasingly keen to learn about God now that Scripture portions are being published and broadcast
- the significant progress that has been made in recent months in translating and checking Scriptures
- God’s unfailing support and wisdom given to the Bissa Barka team
Please pray for:
- unrest in the area to settle down so that the team can travel freely and remain safe
- the provision of resources to enable more literacy classes to be established
- the Holy Spirit to be at work as the Bissa Barka people read God's word, so that lives are changed.
The consultant checking of John, and the revisions of Galatians, Ephesians and Colossians, have been done. Translation, checking and back translation of 1 and 2 Corinthians is in progress, and the team is working on the first draft of Romans, which will be ready for testing and revision next year
Another workshop on app reading was held to help participants to be able to listen to the translated Gospel of Mark, which was recorded and distributed via Bluetooth. In total, 400 copies of Mark were printed and distributed. In addition, there were two workshops on translating the JESUS Film into Bissa Barka. Meanwhile, the publication of literacy materials was completed, and the literacy coordinator toured the country to deliver the materials.
There have also been excellent results from the literacy training, with last year’s classes showing a 100% success rate for at least one district. Literacy sessions are ongoing, with eight literacy classes in progress, and plans to open new literacy centres later this year. The team is also considering producing written materials for a children’s ministry with its partners, and plans to print existing materials in French for use in the Sunday school for now.
The Bissa Barka people are very keen on literacy, and avidly read any translated document. One man, Issoufrou, was so interested that he enrolled in a narrative discourse workshop at his own expense.
Another man, a catechist named Christophe, came to ask for some of the literacy documents so he can teach other church members. Although the majority of the learners in the literacy class are Muslims, they said, ‘Despite the contents of the syllabary being Christian-based, we shall use it to learn because it is our language.‘
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- God’s help with the work done this year,
- especially for his help while travelling
- the team’s partners’ vision to work together to start a children’s ministry.
- the salvation of the Bissa Barka people
- the members of the translation team, that God would give them courage, strength and good health for the work
- the healing of Cécile (the project manager’s daughter) who suffers from bone necrosis, also for success in her exams, and for a safe pregnancy for his other daughter
- the vision for the Bissa children’s ministry
- God’s assistance and support for the work during the rest of 2018.