‘When people read the Bible in French, it is like God is speaking in parables... When people read the Bible in Migaama, even the little ones can understand.’ – Migaama oral storyteller
- Country: Chad
- Speakers: 400,000 people
- Languages: working with 11 different languages
- Start date: 2009
- Projected end date: 2024
Chad is a country with very little urban development outside its capital, N'Djamena. In the centre of Chad lies the Guera, a region known for its mountainous terrain and one that is highly diverse, with 26 different languages and a variety of religions.
People live in villages spread across the area and many rely on subsistence farming. Schools and medical facilities are not easily accessible because of the distances involved in getting to them, and the literacy rate is very low. Due to how hard life can be, an increasing number of people have moved to urban areas.
Across the Guera there is a mix of Christianity, Islam and traditional religions. Some language groups have small churches and others no known Christian believers. The languages of trade and government are French and Arabic, but many people are unable to speak them. As a result, local churches face the challenge of making Scripture available in the many different languages as well as reaching out to their non-Christian neighbours.
For many years, translation teams have been partnering with local churches and organisations to translate the New Testament into five languages. Praise God that amazing progress has been made, with three New Testaments now completed. Alongside this, portions of Scripture and oral Bible stories are being translated into 11 other languages so local evangelists can share the good news of Jesus with the many unreached people groups. The Guera is also a highly oral culture, so a number of local people are being trained to run listening groups, where Scripture is shared on audio devices, and oral storying groups, where people gather together to hear Bible stories.
Join in praise and prayer for the Guera:
- Ask God to help translation teams to persevere over many years.
- Pray for the provision of capable translators who can be well trained to be part of new translation work on the Old Testament.
- Praise God for the many oral storying and New Testament listening groups and the fruit they are bearing in the community.
- Pray for church leaders in the Guera to be enthusiastic about using the local-language Scriptures, especially the newly published Guerguiko New Testament.
- Lift up to the Lord all those involved in adult literacy and children’s preschool programmes and pray for efforts in churches to encourage people to read Scripture.
- Give thanks that people’s lives are being transformed through their faith in Christ.
Learning through translation
On a recent visit to encourage those translating in some of the more remote Guera language groups, the project administrator was able to see first-hand the impact translation can have, not only on those receiving it but also on those translating.
Among the Mawa people there are two local translators working on Scripture portions and a number of worship songs. The two translators follow different faiths and live in separate villages but both share in the joys of translation. For translator Joshua* it has opened up his eyes to more than just learning how to translate:
‘I am happy with the work I am doing. It not only helps me to earn my bread, but I am learning a lot: first of all, about my mother tongue in writing and speaking. Then I learn a lot about the question of God.’
Even though many in the Mawa area follow a different faith, the community has been eager to take part through helping with testing. They delight in hearing the word of God in their language and want to see the translation progress.
*name changed for security reasons.
In the last update we shared news of the Guerguiko New Testament being delayed on its way to Chad, meaning a postponed launch. The team is now facing further hurdles, but continues to wait patiently.
At the end of February the New Testaments did finally arrive in Chad, but have not yet reached the community due to Covid-19 restrictions. The team had rescheduled the postponed celebrations to take place at the beginning of April, but had to cancel these as large groups are currently not allowed to meet.
We praise God, however, that a small pre-celebration did take place on the date of the original launch, 1st Feb. Visitors from overseas were able to attend, and audio recordings of Matthew’s Gospel were given to churches. The team is also continuing to translate Genesis to give some backdrop to the New Testament, and is encouraged by increased church growth.
Where to go when churches close
As in so many communities across the world, churches in the Guera have had to close their doors to limit the spread of Covid-19. In the face of this, listening and oral storying groups have become a lifeline for many as they are able to share fellowship together.
Due to the small numbers, these groups are able to meet safely, and provide a space for Scripture to be shared. The importance of still being able to lean into God’s word is seen by the impact of these groups. The Kenga team has shared how lives are being transformed, with two local women attending and giving their lives to Christ.
Teams have also been looking into how to effectively resource and equip these groups to enable them to continue. All other activities in the community have been suspended due to restrictions.
Translated Scriptures continue to be used to equip evangelists with the resources to reach out to the many unreached groups in the Guera. Through collaborating with the local community in how these are shared, relationships are strengthened and more opportunities open up to share the Gospel.
The Dadjo evangelists have been able to openly sell Scripture SD cards and Scripture booklets on market day, and rejoice that they are experiencing much less hostility. They praise God that they can clearly see his hand at work in the amazing progress that has been made.
‘I find that people are interested in the word of God and try to understand how we Christians have an idea about this or that thing related to the word of God. I give thanks to God for this open attitude of listening to God's word.’ – Guera evangelist
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- local people still being able to meet in small groups for fellowship
- relationships improving in unreached areas and the growing openness to Scripture
- the arrival of the Guerguiko New Testament in country and the pre-launch celebration.
Please pray for:
- teams to be united and strong so they can make a greater impact on the life of the people of the Guera and on the church
- the impact of Covid-19 to ease so that many of the cancelled activities can resume
- God to grant teams wisdom so they continue to make progress.
The Guerguiko people are eagerly awaiting the arrival of their completed New Testament which has, unfortunately, had to overcome hurdles on its way to the community.
The New Testaments arrived in the port of Douala in Cameroon but were blocked a number of times and incurred extra fees. Progress has, however, now been made and they are finally on the move. No arrival date has yet been confirmed.
In the meantime the local community has been busy preparing. The translation and dedication committee are organising a beautiful celebration and the church has been helping collect funds for this, as well as preparing outfits.
Whilst one team await the arrival of their completed New Testament, other teams continue to press on with translation. Highlights of the last few months have been:
- testing of Luke 1, 2 and 18–22 in the Sokoro community
- the Bidiyo team audio recording Luke 1–11
- translation of 1 and 2 Timothy into the Dadjo language
- progress made by the Migaama team on the introduction to the New Testament.
Help us to hear
Having access to audio Bible stories on SD cards is a vital part of outreach for the Guera teams and many have seen demand for these growing.
The Dadjo team have seen the importance of going out to where people gather, with the evangelists taking the audio Scriptures to the busy market and playing them aloud. People have been hearing the stories in their language and as a result calling out for their own copy. They have even come to the evangelist’s house to ask for more, and in the last few months 30 SD cards have been sold.
The Dadjo team are greatly encouraged that local people are actively approaching them for Scripture and have faith that the stories will work in people’s hearts and lead them to Christ.
Churches coming together
There are a number of different church demoninations across the Guera who have increasingly been coming together to help expand the reach of the Gospel.
The local translation committee has most recently run training sessions which have brought together over 40 church leaders from local evangelical and Catholic churches across four of the Guera languages. During these, key issues were discussed and leaders were equipped with the resources to enable them to run listening groups.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- local churches showing an interest in translation and working together
- those eagerly buying and listening to audio Scriptures on SD cards
- the new and continuing local listening groups
- God’s provision and wisdom enabling teams to progress with translation.
Please pray for:
- wisdom as teams work out how to reach the many isolated Muslim communities
- the provision of a four wheel drive vehicle to aid teams’ travel
- the Guerguiko New Testament to arrive soon in the community
- protection for the new believers who face potential persecution, and continued growth in their faith.
A Guerguiko milestone!
After many years of translation, we are overjoyed to be able to share the news that the Guerguiko New Testament is officially complete and with the printers! The hope is that the New Testament will soon be in the community, with a launch planned for December. We praise God for this marvellous milestone!
In preparation for the arrival of the New Testament, churches have been building enthusiasm for Scripture. They have, for example, been hosting reading competitions and sharing translated portions of Scripture, in Guerguiko, during services.
A message for everyone
The Mawa team has been busy community testing. This gives them a wonderful opportunity to hear from local people, who have the chance to give feedback on translated Scripture.
On a recent visit, after sharing translations of some of Jesus’ teachings, the team asked questions. They shared one answer that brought them particular encouragement. In response to ‘Is this teaching only for one group of people, or is it for all?’ an elderly man answered:
‘Surely it is for everyone; one shares wisdom with the whole world!’
This was also met with enthusiasm from the whole group listening – everyone agreed that the message is for all.
Barriers breaking down
Across the Guera, Christians and non-Christians often live side by side in the same street, or even in the same family. This provides many opportunities for Christians to witness through living out their faith.
Although the Church remains a minority in the region, respect for Christianity is growing and finding its way into the hearts of many non-Christians. This is seen through the sharing of audio recordings of Scripture between Christians and those of another faith. People gather together in groups to listen, or non-Christians take the recordings away on phones to listen to with their families. Most recently, one of the evangelists reaching out to the Moré people shared that people listen while gathering to drink tea together.
Over recent months, if you had been listening to some of the workshops Guera teams ran for local churches to help people engage with Scripture, you might have heard some new sounds rising up.
A number of songwriting workshops have been taking place, in which local people are encouraged to compose songs in their language based on Scripture. This helps them to understand and express the messages they hear and to gain confidence worshipping in their own language.
During a recent workshop with some of the Migaama community, participants wrote songs based on Jesus’ life. The messages were then shared further, with one participant testifying about the impact this had on her church life:
‘I got up during the feast of Easter to tell everyone openly to be happy – all of you who suffer now for the cause of Christ – because you will be rewarded’
Finally, here is is a snapshot of some of the progress teams across the Guera have made in the last few months:
- revisions made to 2 Corinthians and translation begun on 1 Thessalonians in Dadjo
- audio recording of all translated Old Testament books completed in Sokoro
- community testing of Luke in a Mawa village
- progress on Genesis and Exodus in Bidiya as part of their ‘Lives of the Prophets’ series
- storying workshop facilitated for Kenga church leaders
- regular gathering of 34 Dangeleat listening groups.
Perseverance through suffering
During times of trouble, many people seek counsel in the pages of their Bible. Without access to the Bible, or with a limited understanding due to language barriers, these messages of comfort can, however, be missed.
This is changing in the Guera as more Christians are able to read or listen to Scripture in their own language. Following a recent Bible study, one lady shared its impact on her life:
‘Luke 6 spoke about the poor and persecuted people. This encourages me. We are in a context where it is difficult to endure and our church is small.’
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the completion of the Guerguiko New Testament
- the sacrificial attitude of those who give themselves to translating the word of God – even the team members who follow another faith have a strong commitment to the work
- the growing number of Christians and non-Christians gathering together to read and listen to Scripture together.
Please pray for:
- Guera churches to be strong in their faith and able to witness and proclaim the word of God
- people in training to flourish and be able to serve the Guera in giving access to the Bible
- safety for teams as they travel across the Guera by motorbike and the provision of a four-wheel drive to increase safety
- activities in the region to be able to increase so many more people can hear the word of God.