‘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
Called by name
For a long time, life for Katira* had been riddled with health problems. These were rapidly becoming worse until, one day, she had an encounter which turned her life around.
Whilst walking home Bydla translator Angavu* bumped into Katira, who asked for prayer. Angavu gladly obliged and spent time praying with her. The next day Katira came running to Angavu’s door to share that she had been healed and had heard Jesus call her by name just as in the story of Samuel and Eli (1 Samuel 3). Angavu was able to share with Katira that Jesus had healed her and was calling to invite her in. We praise God that today, instead of a life of health problems, Katira has a new hope and has accepted Jesus into her life.
Meeting together in fellowship is often difficult for Bydla believers, due to the persecution they face for their faith. The team has been finding safe ways to meet with new Bydla believers to strengthen and encourage them in their walk with the Lord.
In December new believers gathered together to take part in a workshop on discipleship. This was held far from the Bydla community in order to protect those involved. This, along with underground Bible studies, has been helping people to grow in their faith.
Partnering with churches
Through forming partnerships with local churches the Bydla team is able to expand the reach of translated Scriptures. Churches have been working with the team to distribute Bibles.
In recent months over 140 Bibles have been distributed. This has to be done in secret to protect believers. Bibles are distributed to people who churches know are eager to read Scriptures, or those being discipled.
Alongside distributing Bibles the team has been raising awareness of the need for churches to serve the community. As a result more churches are now willing to share clothes and food with those in need, demonstrating Jesus’ love in action.
Persevering through Covid-19
The impact of Covid-19 has begun to be felt in Kenya, bringing with it many restrictions. All members of the team are currently well and able to continue with some translation from home. They have just completed a full draft of Exodus and hope to now make progress with Deuteronomy. Literacy work, activities in the local community and all meetings have, however, been suspended.
Within the wider community, many live on just a few dollars a day and rely on going out to work in order to feed their families. Any further lockdown measures will put them at serious risk of running out of supplies. Healthcare is also limited in many areas, so we ask you to please hold the whole community in your prayers.
Persecution and protection
The Bydla team live with the ongoing threat of persecution, often receiving death threats. For example, news reached the team that plans were being made by some Bydla people to stop translator Angavu’s work in the community and bring harm to her. As a result, she has had to relocate and make fewer trips to the community. Please join in prayer for Angavu’s protection at this time.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- God drawing Bydla people to himself
- The team continuing to enjoy good health and the peace of God
- churches recognising the importance of reaching out to their communities
- the completion of the draft of Exodus.
Please pray for:
- protection over the community and team as they begin to see the impact of Covid-19
- God to reveal Himself to the Bydla people reading the New Testament
- a third translator to become available
- strength, wisdom and understanding as the team continues with translation
- peace for the team and believers who face persecution for their faith.
*name changed for security reasons
A family affair
Being a witness for Christ in your daily life can have a powerful impact on those around you, perhaps even more so in a society where you cannot openly share Scripture.
This is something that Bydla translator Angavu* has experienced over the last year. Several months ago Angavu’s younger brother testified that he admired how peaceful a life Angavu led because of her faith and asked how he too could find this peace. Angavu prayed with her brother and he accepted Christ into his life. Since that day, every week they share prayers and Scripture. Angavu rejoices that this is rippling out to her other seven siblings. Most recently Angavu’s youngest sibling, who lives with her in Nairobi, has begun seeking and has even been involved in translation, helping to check Genesis.
We praise God that Angavu’s family have not rejected her for her faith, which is a real risk for Bydla believers. On many occasions Angavu has been persecuted, even by her own husband, but her family has continued to stand by her.
Across the Bydla region, celebrations have been taking place to mark the graduation of 190 students. Graduation ceremonies took place in seven villages, along with a county celebration to mark International Literacy Day. The team shared that it was a particular highlight to hear learners as young as eight fluently reading in Bydla.
Huge progress has been made in literacy, with 36% of those who live in communities with classes now able to confidently read and write. Over the next year the team will be training new teachers, providing classes for 200 new learners and working with a local partner organisation to reach out to schoolchildren and their families with the hope of Christ.
Project and progress
The Bydla team have been hard at work over the last few months persevering with translation of the Old Testament and connecting with the community. A few highlights have been:
- completing a full draft of Genesis
- a much needed additional translator joining the team
- helping new believers to grow in their faith through one-to-one discipleship
- completing the 4000-strong word list for the Bydla dictionary.
The impact of rising levels of literacy among the Bydla people goes beyond simply teaching people to read and write. Due to how well classes have been received, the Bydla team has had no problem recruiting volunteers from the local community to assist with translation.
Most recently, a number of people stepped forward to be readers in the upcoming New Testament audio recording and voice actors in the JESUS Film. The hope is that these projects will begin over the next couple of months to enable more people to hear the word of God in their own language.
Over the last year the team has been able to distribute 160 copies of the Bydla New Testament, making regular visits to Bydla churches in the wider region. During these visits the team aims, alongside praying with and encouraging them, to equip churches to increase their evangelism.
Although Bydla churches exist, they lie on the very edge of the region they call home. Within the heart of the Bydla community, it is difficult for believers to be open about their faith, so the hope is that these churches can build links in order to share the good news of Jesus. On a recent visit, the team made a joyful discovery about the impact of these links:
One church got an open door to set base at a Bydla village to do Scripture engagement and we are hopeful that this will continue to bear fruit. – Bydla translator
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- Angavu’s family’s hearts softening to the word of God
- A full draft of Genesis now being complete
- Literacy opening doors to more local people being involved in the work
- the team being able to visit a number of churches.
Please pray for:
- the consultant checking of the book of Genesis
- the planned discipleship seminar for new Bydla believers
- the drafting of Exodus
- God to protect the team and their families.
*name changed for security reasons