Almost all of the Bagwere people, speaking the Lugwere language, live in small villages in an area of eastern Uganda called Bugwere, west of Mount Elgon and south of Lake Kyoga.

Fact file

  • Country: Uganda
  • Speakers: 620,000
  • Start date: New Testament translation started in 2005; Old Testament translation started in 2016
  • Projected end date of our involvement: 2022

Traditionally, the Bagwere people made their living by fishing and hunting wild animals such as buffalo and hippopotamus, but nowadays along with fishing, they practise subsistence farming. The main crops are maize, soya beans and rice, but they also farm millet, ground nuts, cassava, sweet potatoes and cooking bananas.

The standard means of transport is bicycle and the roads are mainly dirt tracks. There are no large towns or hospitals; the main town is Budaka, a large trading centre with a number of schools.

In the fourteen years since the project started, the entire New Testament has been translated, and the community is motivated to take leadership of translating portions of the Old Testament as well. The support we send pays the salaries of the translators, literacy and Scripture engagement members of the team and supports ongoing administrative development of the local Bible translation organisation.

Project goals

  • to translate portions of the Old Testament and make them available to the Bagwere people
  • to have a Scripture-use worker and a literacy teacher running activities and courses to equip the Bagwere people with the tools they need to access both the published New Testament and the portions of Old Testament as they are produced
  • to build capacity in the local Bible translation organisation, to enable it to manage ongoing Bible translation and language development in Lugwere.

The story of the Lugwere Bible translation

New Testament launch celebrations

Bagwere: Sam holding the Bagwere NT
Sam holding the Bagwere New Testament

It is estimated that over 20,000 people attended the New Testament launch, where the guest of honour was His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the president of Uganda. Choirs danced and sang as the people celebrated.

By sunset, a crowd of several thousand people still filled the field. Their attention was then drawn to two digital screens suspended at either side of the stage. People of all ages watched the JESUS Film in Lugwere, some sitting on the grass, others leaning on bicycles or motorbikes. Despite the light drizzle as darkness fell, the viewers remained attentive as they saw Jesus on the screen speaking in their language for the first time.

It was 11 years since the launch of Mark’s gospel in Lugwere back in August 2006, but over 40 years since translator Samuel Mubbala first started translating the Bible into Lugwere as a schoolboy. Many years have passed, but God has been faithful and has brought the young Sam’s dream to life. Finally, the Bagwere have the New Testament in their own language. Now they are longing for the Old Testament to be translated and made available in Lugwere, so that they can have a complete Bible.

Please pray for:

  • the Bagwere people to have the vision to support the organisation and its work
  • people to turn to Christ as they read about his love in the newly translated New Testament
  • wisdom and knowledge so that all aspects of this project are done well
  • all involved in the project to work well together.

Note:

Bagwere are the people, Lugwere, or Gwere, is the language, and Bugwere is the place where the Bagwere people live.

Latest News

March 2020

The whole church family

Reaching out to old and young members alike is an important part of church life, ensuring that everyone feels valued and has the chance to engage with Scripture – something which the Bagwere team has recognised as a vital area for growth within the local church.
As a result, the team has been busy raising awareness of the need for Sunday school classes and Bible reading groups so that the whole community can better access God’s word. This is being done through visiting different churches to raise awareness, producing Sunday school syllabuses and running Sunday school training. In the last training course, in a local village, 11 people were equipped with the skills to teach in Sunday school.
Join in prayer with the team as it aims to reach out to more churches across the area, helping them to value their whole church family.

New Bible resource

A new Bible resource has now become available in the Bagwere language – a collection of verses from Proverbs about family life. The booklet was put together following a recent workshop and also contains pictures by a local artist.
The theme was chosen in response to an expressed need from the community for Scripture on transforming family relationships, and there being a gap in support for married couples. The plan is to initially use the booklets to help facilitate groups for married couples, to teach them about good family values, as well as share them with local churches.

Project and progress

The Bagwere team continues to press on with translating the Old Testament, with the hope that one day soon the community will have access to the whole Bible. A few recent highlights have been:

  • progressing with the translation of Psalms, with 90-106 now fully drafted
  • completing a full draft of a Bible resource on Jacob and Esau
  • carrying out final checks on a Genesis study guide.

Equipping local people

A vital part of the sustainability of Bible translation is investing in the development of local staff and volunteers. Through taking part in training and attending workshops people are able to grow their skills and increase their capacity to carry out the work God has called them to.

Most recently translator Kirya and volunteer Buya were able to take part in an Introduction to Translation Principles course. The course was also co-facilitated by Scripture engagement co-ordinator Gasyodo who was able to share his experiences and brought together people from eight different language groups.

Following on from the training, it has also been encouraging to see a growing number of volunteers. For example, while carrying out community testing, the team has received requests from people to be trained as translators.

Sharing Scripture

To increase access to Scripture the team has been busy sharing copies of the New Testament. In the last few months alone they have distributed 165 copies in the local community. This is also being supported by local church leaders who are increasingly using the translations.

As more copies of the New Testament reach the hands of local people, excitement and enthusiasm for the whole Bible to be available continues to grow. Alongside this churches are expanding as more people are able to read, or listen to Scripture being used in services.

Praise and prayer

Give thanks for:

  • the provision of a new internet modem to improve connectivity
  • the Proverbs family life booklet now being available in the community
  • understanding of, and enthusiasm for, Scripture growing in the community.

Please pray for:

  • the translated word to inspire the hearts of people to be more devoted to God
  • the preparations for the next stage of translating Psalms – consultant checking
  • the team to stay healthy during the months ahead as they work on the huge task before them.
December 2019

Taking time to celebrate

It may have been three years since the New Testament was translated into the Bagwere language, Gwere, but the celebrations continue. The community has officially committed to annually marking the anniversary of its launch. This comes with the hope that it will provide an opportunity to spread the gospel further and share the importance of having Scripture in Gwere.

A Bagwere celebration

This year a colossal 5,000 people gathered together from all different church dominations to take part in a celebratory service. Alongside this, 150 New Testaments were sold and 500 copies of Scripture engagement materials were given out.

Engaging the community

A key area of focus for the Bagwere team, in the year ahead, is expanding the reach of Scripture engagement work. Already they are seeing people’s love of the Bible grow and they want to build upon this.

One way they plan to do this is through setting up listening groups in the local community. They are currently in the process of raising funds to buy audio devices and training volunteers to run the groups. To extend the reach of these they are also working with local churches to recruit volunteers.

Sharing translation

Involving local leaders, churches and community members is becoming an increasingly important element of translation work.

As part of the Old Testament translation process, the Bagwere team will consult with local churches before deciding which Scripture portions to work on. Once portions are complete, they are then shared with churches to use in their services. Churches have expressed appreciation that their opinions are valued and that they are now fully involved in the process.

In order to ensure the community is kept up to date and to increase enthusiasm for Bible translation, the team also shares their progress via WhatsApp, Facebook and radio.


Bible donation

Kirika Anglican church confirmation candidates with their new Gwere New Testaments

The need to increase distribution of Scripture has caught the attention of leaders across the Bagwere region. The team praises God that this has led to copies of the New Testament reaching many more people. Most recently, the MP for Kabweri, Hon. Francis Zindula Gonahasa, bought hundreds of Gwere New Testaments and donated them to local churches. Because of this, the local bishop was able to put in place a requirement that every Christian to be confirmed would receive one of these.

The impact of having access to Scripture in Gwere was later shared by an elderly woman who attended a local event:

‘There are certain areas in the Bible where the Luganda Bible does not bring out the message properly the way our Gwere Bible does.’

Praise and prayer

Give thanks for:

  • the team being able to attend a Proverbs workshop, and for the skills they gained
  • understanding of Scripture growing as more people hear it in their own language
  • the successful consultant check of Psalms 42–72
  • the provision of many more New Testaments and leaders’ enthusiasm for distributing these.

Please pray for:

  • the translated word to inspire Bagwere people’s hearts and draw them closer to God
  • the next stage of translating Psalms 73–89
  • provision of a new internet modem to increase connectivity
  • wisdom, good health and unity among the team so they can stay focused on the tasks ahead.
June 2019

Progress

Thanks to their hard work, your generosity and the grace of God the team have made encouraging progress with translation. The team have most recently been working on the book of Psalms: they have completed almost all the stages of translating Psalms 1–41 and a first draft of Psalms 42–72.

New team members

The Bagwere team are thrilled to have been able to welcome not one, but two much-needed people to their translation team.

The two new translators, Eric Kirya and Mitala Gasyodo, are from the local area and have also been involved in Scripture engagement activities.

Church life

For many years, local church leaders had to teach God’s word in foreign languages but following translation of Scripture church life now looks very different. Increasingly, congregations are calling for all readings to be done in Lugwere and understanding of the Bible is growing.

The church and community has also made a huge step forward in financially contributing to translation. This is a sign that they are delighting in and beginning to take ownership of the work.

Finally, churches have also been hard at work mobilising the community to participate in, for example, Scripture engagement workshops, Bible study groups and music galas.

Scripture spreading

In recent months, more and more copies of the Bagwere New Testament have been reaching the hands of local people, which has brought with it much rejoicing. Over 70 copies were distributed in the districts of Budaka, Kibuku and Pallisa. The Bagwere team shared the impact of these:

‘The people feel proud to have their own Bible translations and are happily using these in their churches.’

Bagwere churches have also been using, with great enthusiasm, the recently published book of Genesis. They are now eagerly awaiting the complete translation of the Old Testament and the day they can read their full Bible.

Improving literacy

The team over many years have built up good relationships with local groups, churches and government organisations.

Through these links, the team can connect more with the community and increased progress is often made. This has had an impact on the number of schoolchildren who are able to read and write in Lugwere. The Ministry of Education has recently been encouraging the use of Lugwere for teaching classes and as a medium for learning materials.

Translation tools

As the translation team grows so too do their technology needs. For translation to be carried out effectively it is essential that the team have a good internet connection. This allows them to use their main translation tool, Paratext.

The current internet connection the team are relying on, however, is no longer sufficient. To overcome this, the team have shared this need with the community and are praying for the provision of a new internet modem to improve the connection.

As well as reliable technology, it is vital teams receive ongoing training to equip them with the tools they need to translate. Earlier this year, both Eric and Mitala attended a course on how to monitor the progress and vitality of their language. Looking forward the team would like to attend Hebrew language training.

Praise and prayer

Give thanks for:

  • many churches using, with joy, their Bagwere New Testaments and encouraging their local communities to do the same
  • the progress the team has been able to make in translating Psalms 1–72
  • Eric and Mitala being able to join the Bagwere translation team, increasing their capacity
  • the relationships which have been built up with different groups in the community.

Please pray for:

  • strength and wisdom as the team continue to translate the Old Testament
  • an opportunity for translators to attend Hebrew training and advanced translation training
  • the provision of a new internet modem to increase connectivity
  • increased community support for the work of translation.
January 2019

The recent progress

  • publication of Lugwere Genesis, a memory verse book and a second Acts study guide
  • translation of Exodus has reached consultant checking stage
  • drafting of Psalms 1–41 and team checking of Psalms 1–16
  • funding enabling the Lugwere New Testament to be sold at a subsidised price
  • provision of funds allowing a new computer to be purchased and a new team member to come on board.

The Lugwere New Testament also continues to have an impact, as local community member Sarah testified

‘Through the Lugwere New Testament, God speaks more directly to our hearts. I pray that the Old Testament comes soon, so that we get the full counsel of God.’

Going beyond translation

The recent completion of a Lugwere memory verse book will improve understanding of Scripture and will be used particularly in children’s work.
Elder George from the Pentecostal Revival Ministries Nangaiza expressed his appreciation for the work of the project. He promised to send all the leaders in his congregation on Sunday school teacher training and to fund the construction of a structure so that the children would no longer have to sit under a tree and have their classes disrupted by rain.

Ongoing challenges

The team are grateful for the funding from abroad, which has allowed them to continue with their work. They are, however, facing a number of financial challenges. They rely on ageing solar panels and an unreliable back-up power supply. Coupled with increasing internet costs, extra staff and higher taxes, they are struggling to stay within budget.

To address these financial challenges they are seeking to increase local support. One initiative that was recently launched involves the team visiting local schools and inviting each child to make a small donation towards Bible translation. They hope that this will not only provide funding, but also increase engagement in the project. Some schools are already showing a keen interest.

Praise and prayer

Give thanks for:

  • the safe delivery, by C-section, of a baby to the wife of one of the team members
  • the launch of Genesis
  • 1500 people gathering to celebrate the first anniversary of the Lugwere New Testament.

Please pray for:

  • success in addressing financial needs
  • team members as they attend workshops on community engagement and language development, and implementing what they have learnt
  • people to continue to allow God to speak to them through Scripture in their own language.
May 2018

Adding to the team

Two new members have recently been added to the Bagwere team. They were able to attend an introductory translation principles course in Kenya, and will be spending three days a week as intern translators. Both Gasyodo Mitala Erinayo and Kiirya Eric already have experience of working with the team as they acted as literacy and Scripture-engagement supervisors during the Lugwere New Testament project. The intention is that they will continue doing Scripture engagement for two days a week.

Impact near and far

The Lugwere New Testament has led to a positive change in attitude among the Bagwere towards their language. Bagwere community members are now bringing their Lugwere New Testaments to meetings, rather than another version.

The impact is even being felt further afield. A Bagwere lady living and working in America contacted the project about her excitement at discovering that a team of local translators has been involved in this work.

‘Just go to the villages that had a chance to see the Lugwere JESUS Film, both children and elders will tell you what this Christmas meant to them. Children are retelling the stories they have seen and heard from the Lugwere JESUS Film fluently in their language.’

Give thanks for:

  • funding from one of the project’s church partners in the UK which has allowed New Testaments to be sold at a subsidised price
  • the impact that the New Testament is having in the churches and beyond
  • the skills of the IT support manager in Uganda in restoring the lead translator’s computer after it was corrupted by a virus.

Please pray for:

  • funding so that an additional computer can be purchased for the team
  • the lead translator as he returns to the project after a study tour in Israel in April, that he will have learned new things that can be integrated into the project.
Bagwere men reading NT
Bagwere men reading the New Testament at the launch