‘When you have finished translating and when our children read this, then this town will understand the truth and will change!’ – A Flame* imam
- Country: West Africa
- Language: Flame
- Speakers: More than 300,000
- Start date: 2007
- Projected end date: 2028
The Flame people live in the central region of a country in West Africa. Over 99% of the 500,000 Flame speakers are Muslims. In recent years some Flame people have moved to surrounding towns and neighbouring countries for work, but the centre of Flame cultural life remains in 60 or so small villages. Homes are very tightly set together in groups by family clan. A circle of rooms provides a central courtyard for cooking and eating in the day and for protecting sheep and goats at night. The language of education is French, and the majority of rural students do not continue beyond primary school. As a result, literacy rates are very low.
The Flame language is used for business and trade by several surrounding Muslim groups, making it the most widely spoken language in the region. It is therefore a key language to translate the Bible into so that many unreached people in the region have the chance to hear the good news of Jesus.
We pray that Flame Muslims and the surrounding groups will read God’s word and turn to Christ as their saviour.
We praise God that the Flame team has completed translation of the New Testament and Genesis. These portions of Scripture were launched in the community in April this year. The focus going forward is to translate the rest of the Old Testament, which will help to build stronger bridges with the Muslim community. From an Islamic perspective, the biblical canon comprises the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament, also known as the Pentateuch), the Prophets, the Psalms and the Gospels. The team will therefore first translate the Torah, then the Psalms, then the Prophets and then all the remaining books, so that in 10 years’ time, the whole Old Testament will have been translated.
To increase reach of Scripture, the team is also aiming to record all of the Scriptures so people can listen to them and share them on mobile phones. To meet literacy needs and bless the community, the team works in cooperation with local non-governmental organisations to teach Flame* literacy classes for adults.
The team’s ultimate hope is to see individual lives and Flame society transformed through people hearing God’s word in their own language and growing in relationship with him.
Join in praise and prayer for the Flame people:
- Praise God that the New Testament with Genesis has been translated and is now in the hands of the community.
- Pray for the team as they work on the translation of the Old Testament and prepare the audio New Testament.
- Ask God to protect the team against any spiritual and physical attacks from adversaries.
- Pray for the sale and distribution of Scripture and for the impact of God’s word in the hearts of the Flame people.
- Lift the Flame people up to the Lord. Pray they would thirst after the Scriptures, and for their transformation in giving themselves to Christ.
* name changed for security reasons
The Book of Life
Finding ways to share the New Testament often fills the team with trepidation due to the opposition they sometimes face. Today, those anxieties are turning to joy as they see God opening doors in the community.
Team members Dawda* and Pastor Paul* rejoiced after a visit to a good friend and devout Muslim teacher, who had helped work on the Ajami (adapted Arabic) script. To say thank you and to help him in a time of need, as he had recently fallen ill, they took him a financial gift and two copies of the New Testament. To their relief and great joy, they saw that for this man, the money faded into insignificance. He embraced the New Testament as a great treasure and bowed low to the ground to thank them. In Flame culture, those who are less important kneel to those who are greater, so they told him there was no need, but the friend replied:
‘This is the kingdom of God that you have brought me. Its value is incalculable.’
Several days later, the man wrote to ask for more New Testaments for other teachers of his religion who wanted access to ‘the Book of Life’. This is not the end of the story either; the team is seeing this happen increasingly, and they believe there are many more seekers, as yet unseen, who are just waiting to read the Bible and give their lives to the Lord. They give praises to God!
Gathering around God’s word
As the team finds more ways to promote the New Testament and its reach increases, so too does the positive response from believers and non-believers alike. A number of people have expressed their appreciation for the Ajami script, and Flame Muslims have been purchasing copies to read and meditate on, recognising its importance for salvation.
For Flame believers it has been a source of fellowship. They have been joining together around the New Testament, searching for ways through prayer to study the Bible and also to reach out to their people with the word of God. With the easing of restrictions it was possible for a number of prayer meetings to take place in June. Although there are limits on numbers, churches have also been able to reopen.
Pressing onto the finish
The team praises God that despite many difficulties, and times when it felt impossible to go on, they now have the New Testament. As they look forward they are trusting in God’s faithfulness to bring them to the completion of the entire Bible. Although the majority of time has been spent on promoting the New Testament, translation progress has been made on Nehemiah, Ezra, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua. Restrictions on the number of hours the team is allowed to work in the office have now also been lifted, helping to increase progress. Internet connection problems at the translation office have however, at times, slowed this down. Join in prayer that this will soon improve.
Keeping literacy going
Due to strict lock-down conditions, literacy classes were hit with delays earlier in the year. Classes had to be limited in size and some were unable to meet, leading to calls to extend the term length to allow students and teachers to catch up. This has now been made possible and students have just sat their exams a month later than planned. Teachers were also given the chance to improve their skills, meeting in small groups for refresher courses.
Literacy plays a vital role in increasing the reach of Scripture, giving people the tools to engage with its message. Currently there are three literacy supervisors overseeing 12 literacy classes. Combined with the teachers of graduated classes, there are now more than 50 literacy monitors, all working hard to teach students and train future teachers.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the growing thirst among the Flame people for the New Testament, and the transformation this is bringing
- God’s protection over the team against spiritual and physical attacks
- students being able to complete their literacy course
- churches and schools being able to reopen as restrictions ease.
Please pray for:
- God’s protection over the team and the Flame country in the light of Covid-19
- wisdom for further distribution of the New Testament and its use in churches
- God’s word to reach the hearts of the Flame people
- progress to be made on the Old Testament translation and audio New Testament.
A time to rejoice
A joyful day came in late April for the Flame team as they officially launched and dedicated the Flame New Testament with Genesis. The launch didn’t quite take place in the way that was originally planned, due to Covid-19 restrictions, but it came at a critical time and with many blessings.
The team decided it was still vital to go ahead to ensure that the written and audio Scriptures were available during the season of Ramadan as people spend much time in prayer and reflection. Fear has also been gripping much of the community as a result of the pandemic, making the Bible’s message of hope more important than ever to be heard.
In place of the large public event with visitors from overseas, the team met under the roof of a carport. Due to travel restrictions only a small number of people could be present but God brought together some of the most influential Flame leaders from chiefs to religious leaders. A full event will be held once restrictions are lifted but for now the team are continuing to publicise the New Testament with Genesis and ask you to join with them in prayer:
‘Let us be praying for the Flame Scriptures to unlock people’s understanding of God’s grace and forgiveness, even in this time of lockdown.’ – Flame team leader
If you were to listen in to some of the local Flame radio stations over the last few months you might have heard on many occasions the Flame team making important broadcasts.
To increase the reach of Scripture and raise awareness of the New Testament launch the team has utilised the radio. Across a number of different radio stations the team has been reading from the Gospel and sharing translation news. These broadcasts are also interactive and listeners are given the chance to call in. The team has been greatly encouraged by the number of calls they receive, showing people are listening and appreciating what they were sharing. Alongside this, local churches have shown support to the team, encouraging them to continue on the radio.
Alongside translating Scripture, a vital part of the Flame* team’s ministry is to put together study guides in the Flame language. These help people to increase their understanding of Scripture and apply it to their own lives.
Providing studies in Flame has enabled more people to take part with many sharing how much easier they are to follow than when they are in French. The reach of these also has extended to those that aren’t part of the community but do speak the language, who have also been keen to take part. Currently the team is working on a Romans study guide.
To increase engagement with these and with Scripture the team also provides literacy classes. The hope is that once the full Bible is available the community will have the vital tools they need to enage with its life giving message.
Persevering through Covid-19
As in so many places across the world, the Flame team and wider community have been impacted by Covid-19 restrictions. Those in the team are all in good health and although progress is slower, are continuing with translation. Most public activities are on old hold, for example, community testing, literacy classes and training. The team praise God though that in the wider community they are finding more openings to share Christ.
Looking forward, the team are hoping to make progress on Numbers, Deuteronmy, Joshua and Exodus and work with their overseas translation consultant via zoom.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the launch of the New Testament with Genesis still going ahead and the vital timing
- the encouraging translation progress being made on the Old Testament
- the team being encouraged by increased unity and support across denominations
- opportunities to engage with the community over the radio.
Please pray for:
- God’s protection against Covid-19 for the team and their families
- distribution of New Testaments and the impact of God’s word in people’s hearts
- the Flame people to be transformed and give themselves to Christ
- the continuing work on the Old Testament translation and audio New Testament.
A precious arrival
Treasure more precious than thousands of pieces of silver and gold has finally arrived with the Flame people. It was with great thanksgiving that they recently heard the news that God had answered the prayers of the translation team and the wider Flame church – after many years of hard toil, through many ups and downs, the New Testament with Genesis in the Flame language had been successfully printed and shipped. We are overjoyed to be able to report that these books have now arrived in country!
Even as the Flame New Testament rounded the Cape of Good Hope, the Flame translation team, refusing to rest on their laurels, pressed on with translation of Exodus and Ezra and with a final consultant check of Esther and Ruth. They eagerly desire to have the full Bible – both Old and New Testaments – in the language the Flame people understand best.
Preparing for God’s word
Preparations are already afoot to celebrate and launch the Flame New Testament with Genesis, which is planned for April 2020. Before the Scripture can be launched important steps must be taken to prepare the community and local churches. When lead translator Paul* received the first copy by special post in December, he called together a group of Flame believers to explain how to use and share the passages printed in Ajami script. Ajami script uses Arabic letters to write African languages, and this will allow these Muslim-background believers to more easily read the printed book with family and friends.
Paul’s class was just the beginning. These last few months of dry season, when farmers rest and have time for other things, and when dry roads make travel easier, have been exceptionally busy for the literacy trainers and supervisors. In preparation for the arrival of God’s word, they have been seeking to increase their efforts to train more literacy teachers and roll out Ajami script literacy classes.
’Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy one of God.’ John 6:68-9, (NIV)
Unrest and unity
These last few months have seen uncertain times for many Flame people and their neighbours. Unrest has troubled some parts of the country, and this has resulted in travel restrictions. All of this makes it increasingly difficult for the translators, literacy teachers, and other project staff to move around safely and carry out work. Despite this background of unrest, the translation team has seen people continuing to unite, and shared an encouraging report from a recent Scripture engagement seminar:
‘We give thanks to God for the ever-increasing interest of the Flame Christians in the use of the Flame language … The seminar in the capital brought together Flame Christians and reinforced the sense of brotherhood among them. They even unanimously expressed their desire to renew their monthly meetings.’
The Flame team has seen an ongoing interest in the work not only from Flame believers, but also among the wider Flame community and other neighbouring people groups, who speak the Flame language as a second, trade language. These people have been joining in literacy classes, and have even been encouraged to do so by their leaders. The potential reach of the Gospel among the Flame and other people groups in this country is therefore enormous. Let us give thanks that God has sent the eternal gospel to proclaim to every nation, tribe, language, and people.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the Flame New Testament with Genesis arriving safely
- the team being able to complete the checking of Ruth and Esther
- many people joining Flame literacy classes in Ajami script
- doors opening to share Scripture with the wider Flame community and other people groups.
Please pray for:
- the preparations for the launch of the New Testament with Genesis
- God’s provision to enable literacy work to continue
- courage and protection for those involved in the Project
- wisdom for the team as they continue with translation of the Old Testament.