‘The Lord is using the message in the community as a seed that will bear fruit very soon’ – Bydla* translator Angavu*
- Country: Kenya
- Language: Bydla
- Speakers: 20,000
- Start date: 2003
- Projected end date: Ongoing with yearly review
The Bydla are an agricultural community who live along the banks of a river, in houses usually made from banana or palm leaves over a framework of poles. There are only a few dirt roads and travel is by dugout canoe and bicycle. They are largely self-sufficient and gain income from the sale of honey, cattle, and handwoven mats. Trading is conducted with the people to the north and with business people in towns adjacent to the Bydla area.
The majority of the Bydla community are Muslims and there are only a handful of believers, who are forced to meet secretly due to the risk of persecution for their faith. There are high levels of early child mortality and the majority of people are unable to read or write. The area is almost entirely closed off to outsiders and almost completely unreached with the gospel.
Following the completion of the New Testament in 2018, a local team is continuing with translation of the Old Testament to ensure the Bydla people can access the whole Bible, and providing literacy classes to enable them to engage with Scripture. Alongside this they are discipling new believers, setting up a number of fellowship groups and producing audio versions of Scripture to increase its reach.
As a result of violence in the Bydla region, the translation team has relocated to a safer area, but they visit the Bydla homeland when they can. Progress is being made, with a number of books now drafted, and the number of believers continues to grow. Local people are now leading the literacy efforts. Thanks to their work, 30% of the Bydla population can now read and write.
Join in praise and prayer for the Bydla people:
- Praise God that the Bydla New Testament is complete, and pray for the team as they continue to translate the Old Testament
- Give thanks to God that the number of Bydla believers continues to grow and that they are able to meet together in secret
- Ask God to bring peace to Kenya, especially in the project area, and to protect the team and their families
- Pray for Bydla people to read and understand God’s message of salvation through the translated Scriptures
- Pray for conversations about how to ensure the translation is used and has a wide reach. Currently options include digital distribution, audio recording, and partnership with Kenyan mission organisations.
- Pray for good relationships with the community, in particular with key people who will be happy to endorse and distribute Scripture materials in the coming years
- Pray that the team’s relationships with each other would be a strong source of mutual support as they work discreetly.
* name changed for security reasons
Storytelling for Jesus
Throughout Jesus’ ministry we see him telling stories or parables to those around him, helping to bring his message alive. The Bydla team has been following this example, bringing stories of hope to the community.
With no formal churches to turn to, and the risk of persecution, it can be difficult for Bydla believers and those with the desire to find out more about Jesus to find fellowship. In order to support these people in the community, team member Gasira* and two fellow believers have been regularly meeting with eight families. During this time they share Bible stories and pray with them. They also help people to memorise Bible stories so they can share these orally with others.
Through all of this the team has been encouraged to see people yearning for the word of God more and more. They rejoice:
‘God has brought light and opened the eyes of believers to be able to understand his word.’
Serving the community
The Bydla team cares deeply for their community and is committed to serving them by sharing the love of the Lord practically. With their translation experience they are able to provide resources from which the Bydla people have so long been cut off, due to them simply not existing in their language.
In the coming year the team is aiming to put together a series of books providing vital information about community issues. These include one on the theme of water and sanitation to help eradicate water borne diseases, which have for so long plagued the community. Another will help raise awareness of the root of diseases, which many believe are caused by witchcraft, and yet another will delve into farming to help farmers improve their technical skills. Finally the team will be helping the community to celebrate their culture by putting together a book on the history of the Bydla people.
Pray that these would soon be able to go into production following a number of delays caused by pandemic restrictions.
Ready to learn
The pandemic may have led to literacy classes being put on hold for many months, but it has not stopped the teachers in their tracks.
Whilst classes have been on hold, the Bydla literacy teachers have been individually preparing for their classes and their students’ exams. We praise God that, due to the teachers’ preparedness, literacy classes were able to resume as soon as restrictions were lifted. Students are now busy in their second term of literacy classes, and preparing to take a missed exam.
The team has also overcome the ongoing problem of not being able to reach villages to monitor literacy classes. They plan to hire a motorbike which will enable visits to be made to classes to supervise and encourage teachers.
A change in updates
We wanted to let you know that these project updates will be changing. In order to ensure we are stewarding our resources well, we shall send updates twice a year rather than quarterly. These updates will also include news from the wider translation world in areas where, just like in the Bydla area, Christians face severe persecution. We hope these continue to encourage you to pray for the Bydla people and others like them.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- God’s protection of the team, keeping them in good health
- believers growing in their faith and their love of God’s word
- literacy classes being able to resume
- five new ladies joining the oral Bible storying groups
- the progress made on the translation of the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy.
Please pray for:
- production of community resources to be able to begin soon
- God to shield believers from harm and draw more Bydla people to him
- wisdom as the team continues to persevere with translation of the Old Testament
- the successful publishing of the book of Genesis on a Scripture app.
The team recently shared the story of Karama*, a local Bydla speaker. Karama was sponsored in years gone by to take part in teacher training to gain an education, and use this to help the community. It was on this course that Karama discovered that there was much more that she needed to bring back to the Bydla people.
During the training Karama interacted with Christians from across the country, and through them she came to know Jesus for herself. She married a Christian, but when she was sent back by the government to work in the Bydla community, her husband was unable to return with her due to his work commitments, so Karama lived with his family. But Bydla believers face opposition and it was here that her troubles began. The family mistreated Karama and eventually forced her to leave their son, finding a new wife for him. With nowhere to go she returned to her own family, but Karama found no solace there. She was instead mocked and encouraged to return to Islam.
Through all of this, though, Karama was able to cling to the promises she found in the Bydla Scriptures she had read, and remain steadfast in her faith in Jesus. Pray for believers like Karama who go through similar persecution, that they would remain strong in their faith.
An underground church
The Bydla church may be small and underground, but praise God that it is growing. With the support of the Bydla team, and through the translated Scriptures, believers regularly lock themselves away to study God’s word in secret. Covid-19 restrictions have made this more difficult but the team has been sharing prayers over the phone. Being unable to freely carry Scripture around, believers memorise verses which they carry around in their hearts. Team member Gasira*, who leads the Bible study groups, has seen the impact this is having on people’s lives:
‘They were so touched and they said, “We were really missing something that was so important in our life”, which is knowing the word of God. They were so excited, elated, that they were reading the word of God; it was so fulfilling.’
These groups are a vital part of Bydla believers’ walk of faith. Together they find shelter in God’s word. Join the team in praying for a few Bydla women who love to listen to the stories shared but have not given their lives to Jesus.
After more than 15 years of language work in the community, the team has seen Bydla speakers’ enthusiasm for their language grow. This has been strengthened by the initiating of literacy programmes which are enabling many people to access formal education for the first time, and learn to read and write in Bydla.
There is now excitement about anything to do with language and culture. The community has even been celebrated in the media on a number of occasions as an indigenous community which has been able to preserve its culture.
Strengthening relationships with the community and demonstrating to them that their language is of worth is powerful. The result of this is that the team has had no problem recruiting people to voice audio Scriptures and take part in the Jesus film. The hope is that through this there will be opportunities to share Scripture openly, and attitudes towards Christianity will soften.
Although the last year has held many delays for the Bydla team, they are nevertheless looking forward with great expectation and have been planning the year ahead. Over the coming months they will be working on the translation of Leviticus and 1 and 2 Samuel. Translation of the Old Testament is particularly important because so many of the books resonate with the local religious teachings.
Another key focus will be to build relationships with an increasing number of churches that are in close proximity to the Bydla area. Through this they aim to increase prayer support and mobilise people for outreach.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the small but growing underground Bydla church
- enthusiasm in the community for the Bydla language and the support this is bringing
- Bydla believers being able to access Scripture and the impact this is having.
Please pray for:
- persecuted Bydla believers to remain strong in their faith and God to protect them
- wisdom as the team presses on with translating the Old Testament
- fruitful relationships with churches in the wider region.