‘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
Hunting and gathering is a way of life for Leafa people, with many spending days in search of wild honey and fruits like makoma or tiyal, and hunting small game in order to feed their families. People just like Leafa family man Clive*, who on one recent search uncovered something more precious than anything he had found before.
After hearing news that villagers had found mercury in areas which previously were oil sites, and that it had brought them riches, Clive eagerly gathered a group to join the search. After much digging, the men were unable to find the treasure they were so desperately seeking. But through this disappointment the men were introduced to a far greater treasure. On hearing of the men’s plight, a Christian visitor to the village used the translated Leafa Scriptures to share the story of a different kind of hidden treasure:
‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.’ (Matthew 13:44)
Praise God that Clive and his friends listened with open hearts and asked to hear more about the eternal treasure to be found in the Kingdom of God.
Love in action
Meet Ruth*: she is about 70 years old (although no one truly knows, due to no records being kept of birthdates) and spends almost all of her time at home due to her age. Those around her go out to work in the fields or forests but Ruth is left behind. The whole community lives with the realities of conflict, poverty, isolation, and little access to schools or healthcare. Working together is vital, and even at 70 Ruth helps those giving birth.
Through Ruth the team has seen the importance of sharing Jesus’ love practically with the Leafa people. Working alongside the translation team is a Christian organisation which does medical outreach. On a recent visit to Ruth’s village she greeted them with the good news of a newborn baby, to whom they were then able to give vital vaccinations. Ruth shared with the team what their visits meant to her:
‘You are my people and I have no one else to help me than you. You are my sons and you are my brothers.’
This reminded the team of Jesus’ words in John 13:20: ‘Whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me’. Join with them in prayer that Ruth, by accepting them as God’s servants, will accept in her heart the one who has sent them.
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 but are struggling to continue with translation from home due to limited internet connections, and they are unable to meet. All visits to Leafa villages are also on hold. However, progress is being made on upgrading internet connections and setting up meetings online.
Within the wider community, the team is concerned about levels of anxiety and welfare, as people have little access to healthcare. The partner organistion leading translation in Kenya has been providing teams with vital Covid preparedness information and tips on how to stock up on medical supplies and food in case the situation worsens and the country goes into full lockdown.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the national day of prayer held by church leaders across the country in response to Covid-19
- the organisations reaching out to the Leafa community
- God speaking into people’s lives through Scripture.
Please pray for:
- protection over the community and team as they begin to see the impact of Covid-19
- more opportunities for Scripture to be shared in the community
- an improved internet connection to be put in place to ensure translation can continue
- Leafa Christians to continue to grow in their faith and love of the Lord.
Growing in faith together
The team has been greatly encouraged to see a growing number of Leafa* people becoming Christians, in deed as well as word. Previously many shared their desire to follow Christ, but struggled to give up their former religious practices due to the risk of persecution and the difficulties of openly sharing their faith in their community. Today the team is seeing a change in these believers, who are overcoming their fears and embracing their new faith.
Meeting together for fellowship has become an important part of these Leafa believers’ lives. The group regularly meets to share their testimonies of trials and victories in faith. Many have grown in their faith through the persecution, challenges and suffering they face. One member testified that they are now more committed than ever to playing their part in Christ’s work.
The team praises God for this growth in spiritual maturity, but asks for prayer that new believers would continue to grow in the word of God through discipleship and regular fellowship.
Peace and security
Although insecurity still remains a real hurdle for the team and the Leafa people who live with the threat of militant violence, there has been an ongoing time of relative peace. Few incidences of violence have occurred and important national governing decisions have been made.
The team will continue to monitor and pray for the situation and re-evaluate the possibility of whether activities that have been on hold, for example literacy, can restart. The likelihood of this does, however, still remain low.
Here is a snapshot of the books of the Bible the team has been translating over recent months:
- 1 and 2 Thessalonians
- 2 Corinthians
Challenges to overcome
Alongside insecurity, the team has faced a number of other challenges in recent months, which have, at times, impeded the progress of their work.
Excessive rainfall has led to mobility and operational issues. A greater challenge, however, has been finding people willing to take part in community testing. Many fear for their lives and the possible persecution they may face for taking part. The team requests prayer for this vital stage of translation work.
Connecting with the community
Being able to connect regularly with the community is something the team has to work hard to do. Although they are from the Leafa community, they currently carry out their translation work a significant distance away. This is due to concerns for their safety.
In order to keep up a connection and overcome this, a member of the team visits the Leafa area regularly. This allows the team to look for more ways to share the gospel, monitor how the community is responding to their work, and assess the safety of the area.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- Leafa believers being able to meet together for regular fellowship
- improvements in the security situation
- God’s healing hand helping the team to overcome an array of health issues
- the translation progress which has been made in the face of many challenges
- the increasing passion, at a number of churches outside the area, to reach out to the Leafa.
Please pray for:
- God to be at work as the team and community face spiritual warfare
- Leafa believers to grow in their faith and love of Christ
- God to provide community members willing to engage with Scripture even, even if they are not Christians, as the team prepares for community testing
- wisdom for Leafa believers in knowing how to share that they have accepted Christ.
*name changed for security reasons