‘In all this we have seen God’s power to preserve us no matter the challenges that we face.’ – Leafa translator
- Country: Kenya
- Language: Leafa
- Start date: 1994
- Projected end date: 2023
The Leafa* are a group of hunter-gatherers. In recent years, however, conservation laws have come in that now protect a range of wildlife species which for centuries were key sources of food for the Leafa community. The government has encouraged a move towards subsistence agriculture and a settled lifestyle. Some Leafa men now work in labouring jobs, but most still prefer to live in remote rural areas and survive with little money. Losing the right to hunt threatens their whole lifestyle and culture, and they have little to fall back on. They also live in an area of Kenya which is often subject to militant violence. Travelling is dangerous, and during the rainy season, the few tracks that serve as roads become soft mud, capable of carrying only traffic by foot.
Life can often be difficult for the Leafa people. They have little access to education, struggle to make a living and remain largely cut off from the rest of society. Most Leafa profess a faith in which they believe in one god, and have sacred spot set aside as a place of prayer. They also consider themselves to be cursed and have low expectations of life.
Prior to 1996, the Leafa language had never been written down. People value their language and were eager to see it in written form. After many years of language development work, an alphabet and dictionary have now been put together and good relationships with the community have been established, providing the basis for Bible translation and literacy work.
A local team is now working to translate the New Testament into Leafa and establish a community-based literacy programme. They are also working to find ways to safely distribute Scripture, with the hope that the Leafa community will be transformed spiritually, socially and economically. Although the team has been forced to relocate away from the community due to security issues, they continue to persevere and make progress.
Join in prayer and praise with the Leafa people:
- Ask God to bring peace in the Leafa homeland, and safe access to those areas that are still insecure.
- Praise God for the small but growing number of believers from the community. Pray they may grow in maturity and courage, and be fruitful.
- Pray for those who have committed to learning to read and write their language, that God will prepare their minds and hearts to receive his word.
- Pray for two team members who are currently involved in literacy and translation, that God will use them in the near future to be translators in the Leafa project and so speed up the work.
- Pray for the partner organisations working with the Leafa team as they look for ways to maximise use of translated Scripture. This is not easy when the safety of translators is such a concern.
- Pray for Kenyan churches and believers to be called specifically to serve this people group.
* name changed for security reasons
In Leafa*, the translation of the New Testament is now in the final stages of completion; completed books are already available electronically. Over the next year, the team will be focusing on completing the translation of the last book, Revelation, and making the final checks before publication. This, in itself, is leading to opportunities for evangelism. One of the female members of the team is from a Muslim background and has shared how much she has enjoyed reviewing the New Testament in her language and developing her understanding of Christianity.
The team will focus on resourcing Christians to study the Bible, and supporting Muslims who are exploring Christianity for the first time. This will include running a discipleship forum and providing training for church leaders. To address the challenge of low literacy levels, a literacy class will run to enable the Leafa* people to read and write. The team has already developed four books for these classes that will be available for students and the local community.
Imagine trying to grapple with those big questions about life, the universe or Jesus, without having Scripture in your own language to turn to. For so many across the world this a reality, including most of the Leafa community. But, with the help of a Scripture app, this is changing.
Last year we shared with you the good news that all four of the Gospels had been published on a Leafa Scripture app. In the months since, translator Simon* has been trialling the app with his family and a few believers. For one user, it has helped to answer questions that he had been struggling with for a long time. It was a great blessing to him to read the genealogy of Jesus, enabling him to see more of who Jesus is and where he came from.
The app has also been instrumental in enabling Simon’s family to have a devotional time, giving them the chance to study Scripture together. We pray that those using the app will grow in their faith, day by day, and that soon it can be shared more widely in the community.
Prayers for peace
The Leafa community continues to face many difficulties. Despite efforts made by the government to bring more stability, the security in the area has not been good for some time. And against this backdrop, Covid cases have been creeping up in the region.
The Leafa people have little to fall back on, with limited access to medical resources – the nearest health centre is over 100km away – and some schools have had to close due to the insecurity. Join the Leafa team in praying for all those in living in the area, that God will put an end to the situation so that people can receive essential services with ease.
For the Leafa believers, meeting together openly is also a risk and they live in fear of the local community finding out about their faith. Efforts are being made, however, to reach out to these believers and teach them the word of God in secret.
Perseverance and praise
The Leafa team is grateful to the Lord for sustaining them during a difficult season of Covid-19. The number of cases has been rising in the area but they and their families have remained well throughout. They have also been able to continue working from the translation office, with safety measures in place, and have made good progress. This meant that they ended the year having met all of their translation goals.
We praise God that one of the translators has also been blessed by a new arrival. Katie* gave birth to a baby boy and is now on maternity leave.
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 Leafa area, Christians face severe persecution. We hope these continue to encourage you to pray.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- God protecting the team and their families from Covid-19
- the team being able to work from the office and make good progress
- the safe delivery of translator Katie’s baby boy
- the Scripture app proving to be a fruitful resource.
Please pray for:
- God to continue to keep the team and their families in good health
- the team to be able to accomplish their planned goals in the year ahead
- God to have his hand over the Leafa area, and for people to know his peace
- Leafa believers to find safe ways to share in fellowship with one another.
‘At every step God gives us refuge’
The journey to Bible translation has not been easy for Leafa translator Simon*, but he has seen God at work every step of the way.
Simon grew up in a Muslim community. As his knowledge of Islam grew, so too did the number of questions he had about Jesus. Few answers came, and this fuelled a thirst to know more. Simon had no access to a church, but God found another way to reach him. Over many years, Simon hid himself away to read a Bible secretly lent by his neighbour. He listened to radio preaching and met with Christians running a local medical centre. Through these encounters Simon’s eyes were opened to who Jesus really is, and he accepted him into his life.
Although fearful at first, Simon’s wife and children also gave their lives to Christ. People frequently try to persecute them but they have seen God miraculously give them refuge. They have also found fellowship in a small secret church. It was here that Simon heard of the great need for Bible translation. Few people were willing to translate the Bible into Leafa, but we praise God that Simon stepped forward. He says:
‘It has been such a blessing to be able to work on translating the Bible into my language so that my people can have access to the word of God. There have been many challenges but God has overcome them all’.
Over many years the Leafa team has seen relationships with the local community grow. Through the translation work, the Leafa language is being developed. This has led to local people now having access to many important resources, and to seeing that their language is of worth. At a recent meeting a local education official expressed appreciation:
‘I am sure all the elders and leaders in this community are as happy as I am to see their language being used by children and adults. As we look at the beautiful calendars as well, we congratulate the team that was involved in making them, and thereby making the language known and likeable to everyone. Keep up the good work of making the Leafa language come into the limelight.’
Although it remains a challenge to openly share Bible translation, these relationships are key steps in making this possible.
The Leafa team has been busy planning the year ahead, looking forward with great anticipation. To bring them closer to completing the New Testament, over the next few months they will be beginning to draft Hebrews, James and Jude.
To increase the reach of Scripture they are aiming to publish a number of Scripture portions including Philippians, Colossians and 1 and 2 Timothy. These will be available on a Bible app. Alongside this, they will be reprinting Bible stories and literacy resources for the community.
Finally, a key focus will be to grow relationships with an increasing number of churches and other mission organisations in the wider Leafa region. The hope is that they will be able to work together to ensure that the New Testament is used effectively, and that support and prayer for the project increases.
‘Hilealue adhawana Aab maangaposi, Leafa Al akaine sidhe haufidinia, kuni momodi bilash kalde neete, one mirodi mukti kishira. Aweedidhe nolashi Alue kideradhe, togoni kudhuodi kishiro ushate, one dul humaapos;ali. Nafse fali sujer kuse huarki, ufisadi kudhue sikidhihiye, wi bale sujer pup.’
Ephesians 5:17-19 in Leafa, shared as an encouragement by the team.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- God’s continued protection from Covid-19 for the team and their families
- the relationships with the local community growing stronger
- the increased recognition of the Leafa language, and the resources now available
- God working through the generosity of supporters from far and wide.
Please pray for:
- the team to be trusting in God as they move forward with their aims for the year
- relationships with churches and mission organisations to grow
- safe openings to share Scripture in the community
- Leafa Christians to grow in maturity and courage, and be fruitful.