‘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
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.
A marvellous milestone!
We are overjoyed to be able to share the news that after many years the Flame New Testament and Genesis are now officially complete and with the printers!
Lead translator Paul* expressed the team’s excitement at having reached this tremendous milestone on the journey to having the full Bible in the Flame language and shared his reaction:
‘Normally I am a singer in church, and don’t dance. But recently I danced in church and everyone was surprised. I glorify God for this and am thrilled that now I, too, will finally have God's word in my language, finished in spite of all the trials. All the Flame people thank their partners, who are numerous!’
The hope is that the New Testament and Genesis will be back from the printers and in the hands of the Flame people early next year. For now we praise God for the Flame team and this marvellous milestone!
For many Flame people, listening to Scriptures and services in a second, or even third, language can be disengaging and confusing. A very different story unravels when the Flame language is used instead.
The number of pastors preaching in Flame and using the portions of the Flame Bible which are now available in their own language is growing. Flame translator Timothy* noticed that many people only come along when services are carried out in Flame. With this comes a clearer understanding of the Bible and enthusiasm to learn more. Seeing this in his own church congregation has brought Timothy and his team much joy:
‘It is our privilege (a joy) for us to be translators and have the privilege of being able to help other people understand the word of God.’
Preparing for the New Testament
When a New Testament is launched in a community, a celebration takes place to mark the occasion. Local people, churches, leaders and organisations are invited from far and wide. The aim is to build excitement and praise God for the provision of his word.
To help raise awareness of the upcoming Flame launch, which they hope can happen in April next year, the team has been running workshops and meeting with local leaders.
A thirst for more
A key part of any Bible translation project is to ensure that the whole way through the process the community and local churches are engaging with Scripture. Before the full Bible is even complete and published in a language, portions of Scripture are shared along the way and studied together. This leads to communities being more invested in the translation process and, most importantly, grows a thirst for the word of God.
The team currently runs a number of Bible study groups in local churches and Flame homes and broadcasts Scripture over the radio to help people engage with the word of God. Already many Flame people have been keeping their translated Scripture portions close to them and have been eagerly asking the team to help them to read and understand them.
The Flame translation team has been greatly encouraged by the first fruits they are seeing:
‘Having the word of God in our language is a great advantage and a great richness that we will leave for future generations.’
Whilst the team awaits the arrival of the New Testament and Genesis, the work continues. Over the next few months the team will be focusing on the following:
- preparing the local community and churches for the launch of the New Testament and Genesis
- putting the completed audio recordings and written translation of the New Testament and Genesis into a phone app
- first drafts of Numbers and Deuteronomy
- continuing to run and monitor literacy classes
- the next stage of translating Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther following completion of first drafts.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the team completing translation of the New Testament and Genesis
- the good health and peace which the team and their families have been enjoying
- the many Flame people engaging with the portions of Scriptures available, and for their thirst to learn more.
Please pray for:
- the printing, shipping and launch of the New Testament with Genesis to go smoothly
- progress to be made on the first drafts of Numbers and Deuteronomy
- protection for the Flame team and their families
- churches to continue to use and preach from Scripture in the Flame language, and that this would encourage attendees.