‘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
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.
Trusting God in the floods
In April and May, like much of East Africa, the area where the Bydla people live was affected by flooding. A local aid agency was handing out food parcels, but the Bydla believers were not allowed to take any supplies, or even go to the area where they were being distributed, because the organisation was from the major local religion. The believers were unable to do anything about this, but put their trust in God. When they received donations from Christians, they were delighted to find that someone had been thinking of them. One of the staff members said,
‘Do not underestimate what you gave. It proved to be more than enough to the believers who received the support.’
Overwhelmed by love
Through the funding received, the team was able to purchase bales of maize flour, wheat flour, beans and cooking oil, which were made into packages that can feed a family for around three weeks. The food was distributed to 40 needy families, from a Bydla believer’s house. The food distribution had a great impact on the believers and the local community. Angavu, the team leader, says:
‘They were overwhelmed by the love that has been demonstrated. They felt that they were loved and accepted by other Christian fraternity living elsewhere in Kenya and in other parts of the world.’
The believers had been taught that sharing what you have is a sign of love, so the food was shared between all of those who attend the underground church. They had so often felt as though they had been forgotten, and were grateful that the help arrived when they did not expect it. One of the church members said,
‘Finally God has remembered us after so many years of sorrows and segregation as others benefitted in our own eyes. For sure God does not forsake his people.’
The work continues
Despite the challenges of the flooding and Covid-19, the team has made progress with drafting and checking the books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus, and quality checking Genesis 1–16.
They have also distributed Bydla calendars throughout the community and some of the team read the book of Jonah aloud for International Mother Tongue Day. The literacy teachers have been also preparing to sit a national exam.
A vision of Jesus
Angavu had a visit from a local man called Mira*, who told him of a vision that he had had at night. He said he woke up and saw a very bright light. Jesus was standing in the light, but he could not look at it. Jesus was calling him, but he was distracted by other voices. He decided to remain still until the light disappeared and did not respond to Jesus’ call.
Pray that Mira will respond when Jesus calls him again and that he will not be distracted.
Persevering through Covid-19
Alongside flooding, the effects of Covid-19 continue to be felt across the region. Due to the restrictions in Kenya, the Bydla team is not able to continue with their production of the JESUS Film.
Recording of an audio version of the New Testament has also been put on hold. The team had recorded almost half of the New Testament, and they look forward to finishing it when restrictions are lifted. Literacy classes have also been postponed.
Deuteronomy 7:9 in the Bydla language
B’asi manya kwamba B’wana Wak’i ywewwe dûû Wak’i; ni Wak’i muꞌaminifu, akutunze d’aabhû ya jhami kwa maꞌelfu ya bhibhyaazi bhyaa walyaa wamujhamie na kuzeera amuri zeyye.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the recruitment of a new translator
- a good response from the Bydla community following the reading of Jonah
- the testimony of the believers during the flood.
Please pray for:
- the Covid-19 restrictions to be lifted soon
- the candidates sitting exams, that they will excel and be an encouragement to others who have dropped out of school
- Mira to respond to the Lord’s call.
*name changed for security reasons