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.
- Country: Uganda
- Speakers: 621,000
- Start date: New Testament translation started in 2005; Old Testament translation started in 2016
- Projected end date of our involvement: 2019
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 ten 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.
- 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
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.
Bagwere are the people, Lugwere, or Gwere, is the language, and Bugwere is the place where the Bagwere people live.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
More news of the New Testament launch!
‘Budaka is on fire!’ texted Joseph, the driver of the Bible Society truck. It was Friday afternoon, the day before the launch of the Lugwere New Testament. Joseph had arrived safely at the venue with a consignment of 5,600 copies of the Lugwere New Testament, and was describing the air of excitement and anticipation that was evident as people prepared for the launch.
Over 20,000 people attended the launch day itself, including the President of Uganda, along with choirs, marching bands, school groups and church leaders from a variety of denominations.
One of our partners in Uganda recounts a conversation with an attendee, who said:
‘In the middle of the grounds, I met an elderly man with a pair of crutches sitting on the back of a boda-boda (motorbike taxi). I recognised him from the photos of the Thanksgiving Service held on 28th May, when people from different churches came together to give thanks to God for the safe arrival of the Lugwere New Testaments. He was the one who was determined to march into church in the procession holding a copy of the New Testament, while still managing to walk with his crutches. He even danced with his crutches during that service. I went up and spoke to him. His name was Victor – very appropriate, I thought. I noticed his shirt bore the logo for the JESUS Film. I commented on this and asked if he had been one of the voices for the Lugwere sound track. ‘I was the angel, Angel Gabriel,’ he announced proudly. Later on, he gave a Bible reading during the launch – Revelation 3:20-22.’
Towards the end of the day the President gave a speech to the assembled crowd. He spoke about the importance of preserving languages and valuing different cultures, the uniqueness of the Bible and the need for unity. He encouraged the community leaders to work together for the good of their communities. He congratulated the Bagwere on the launch of the New Testament in their language and also the Lugwere Dictionary, and challenged cultural institutions to encourage children to learn to read and write in Lugwere. He said, ‘Those who don’t want people to speak their dialects are enemies of Africa. They kill our heritage. One such way of keeping language alive is to translate the Bible.’
After the departure of the President, people flocked to the tent where the New Testaments were being sold. Meanwhile, choirs from churches and schools performed songs in Lugwere about the Bible or based on Bible verses to entertain the crowds.
- finish translating Exodus
- do the final editing of the New Testament recording
- increase the distribution and use of the New Testament in the churches and community.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the wonderful celebrations at the launch of the Lugwere New Testament
- the good progress which was made on recording the New Testament.
- training for the new translator who has joined the team
- the editing of the Lugwere New Testament recording so it can be released
- increased distribution of the New Testament so the lives of Bagwere people are changed as they read God’s word in their own language.