‘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
- Country: Burkina Faso
- Language: Bissa Barka
- Speakers: 80,000
- Start date: 2011
- Projected end date: 2022
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
Partnering with local churches
Over many years of Bible translation the Bissa Barka team has built positive connections with local leaders and churches. Through these partnerships, awareness of the great need for Scripture in Bissa Barka has grown.
One church leader, Sare Joseph, shared his experience and why it is so important to continue with translation. In his own church he noticed a change when they shared the Gospel of Luke in Bissa Barka:
‘We noticed the enthusiasm at the reading of the Scriptures in Bissa Barka. In reality, when we read the Scriptures in other dialects, we feel a kind of disinterest or indifference because the language is neither natural nor really understandable.’
Sare also now helps the team with the revision stage of translation, and has been able to meditate on the revised portions when they are complete. He has shared that he has come to treasure these Scriptures, and seen them bear fruit in his own life.
At the most recent meeting of church leaders this prayer was said for the team. We invite you to join with them today:
‘Our prayer is that the Lord bless them and give them the strength and means to finish the work for the happiness of our people.’
Bissa Barka online
After spending time at a media workshop run by a partner organisation, the Bissa Barka team worked hard to create a website. Recognising that more and more people are using digital platforms, they decided to put together this exciting online resource. The brand new website contains an array of audio and visual Scriptures, as well as a number of cultural resources. The hope is that this will increase the reach of Scripture and encourage people to celebrate their language. As more resources become available they will added to the website. If you would like to take a peek, follow this link or search: www.bissa-barka.net/fr/node/1
Persevering through Covid-19
Over the last few months in Burkino Faso Covid-19 restrictions have been introduced. The team members are all well and have been adapting to new ways of working.
The team is able to work in the translation office with precautions in place, but progress has slowed due to being unable to carry out community-focused translation stages such as community checking. They have instead altered their translation schedule to focus on drafting further books.
Churches are also unable to meet but translator Alphonse shared that, although he has to worship from home, he has been able to reflect deeply on Ephesians 5:14-17 and how he can use this time for the Lord.
Balaa, hɔ lɛʋ k'a tɩ yɩŋ sɩrɩɩsɩrɩɩ bɩ han à ba à taaŋ lɩgɛgule. Bɩ y'a ka n n a hɩn n ʋ q Ɩrɩɩ k'ɩ tɩ hunkubaŋ bɩ, gu hunku ma, q ɩ ɩ bɔ genno bide n, q kʋn Krista n lɩgɛgu ɩ n. Han bɩ minto bɩ, k'á dudu á hɔbar gi mɩŋŋa. - Ephesians 5:14 in Bissa Barka
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- churches and leaders recognising the importance of Bible translation and supporting the team
- the opportunity to share Scripture on the new Bissa Barka website
- the newly trained literacy teachers
- God providing for and protecting the team.
Please pray for:
- The team and community as they deal with the impact of Covid-19
- the planting of churches that worship in Bissa Barka
- the ongoing security of the country and the threat of terrorism
- wisdom for the team as they look for ways to progress with translation.