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.

Fact file

  • Country: Burkina Faso
  • Speakers: 80,000
  • Start date: 2011
  • Projected end date: 2020
  • Funds still needed for October 2017–September 2018: £17,891

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.

We currently only have one church supporting this project, and are keen to widen its support base and increase the number of people praying for it.

A Bissa Barka village
Grinding flour

Project goals

  • 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

Prayer points

  • 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
July‚ÄďAugust 2018

Recent progress

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

Bissa Barka woman reading
A Bissa Barka woman reads from a syllabary (a type of alphabet)

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.

Personal stories

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.‘

Bissa Barka class
A Bissa Barka literacy class in progress

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.

Pray for:

  • 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.
June 2017

The team has now completed the first draft of John’s gospel, and are working on Acts. In addition, they are having a big push on literacy, opening three new classes and re-starting two old ones. This has already resulted in over 120 people being enrolled in literacy classes. Their testimonies give a fascinating insight into the value of this work:

‘I am a tailor but I have never been to school. I took measures mechanically by looking at the figures, it was only during the literacy class I realised what really matched these numbers. I am going every day for literacy teaching. Thank you very much for this initiative.’

‘I feel comfortable in the literacy class because what we learn is in Bissa Barka, my own language.’

‘I give thanks to God for the opening of this class here at Wambako [a Bissa Barka village]. The impact is already evident. Four of the learners began to read during the Easter celebrations. Many have the desire to read in the church and they are just waiting for the opportunity to do it.’

The literacy class
The literacy class

Praise God:

  • for his hand on the work
  • for good communication between and involvement from different partners in the project
  • for all the work the team have been able to accomplish

Please pray:

  • for the security of the country, which continues to be a victim of terrorist attacks
  • for competent and committed people to join the translation committee
  • for the members of the translation team; that the Lord will give them courage, strength and good health for the work
  • for the salvation of Bissa Barka people