‘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
‘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.
Laying the foundations
Translation of the Bible into the Leafa* language has been going on for over 15 years. Much of this, however, has had to be done in secret due to the fact that the majority of Leafa people follow another religion, and the risk of persecution. Finding ways to connect with the community to enable the work to continue has therefore been vital.
Providing literacy resources has been key for this. It has been a real encouragement to hear news trickling in from villages that the distribution of literacy materials back in 2012 has led to increasing interest in learning to read and write. The importance of this has been shared by the team:
‘We believe this thirst to read literature in their mother tongue will pave the way for the word of God to be unveiled to the community soon. We praise the Lord for the milestones so far.’
The team has been continuing to work on literacy materials, and has just finished drafting five more story books. We praise God for their faithfulness over so many years, obediently following him and laying down the foundations for generations to come.
Finding ways to distribute Scripture safely is an ongoing challenge for the team, a challenge they are gradually overcoming through the use of technology. An exciting step forward has been taken, with all four translated Gospels now being published on a Scripture App. The app enables Scripture to be read and shared easily on mobile phones.
To trial the app, translator Simon* has shared it initially with his family and a few believers. The team is now exploring ways to distribute the app in the community, with the hope that it will provide an opportunity for more people to engage with the living word of God.
Finding ways to work
After having had to take time off as a result of Covid-19 precautions, the team was able to resume translation in early May. Their office environment has been adapted to ensure they are following the strict Covid-19 measures which are in place, but they are nevertheless making progress.
Over the last couple of months they have been working on 1 & 2 Timothy, 1 Peter and 2 & 3 John. This has enabled them to reach an encouraging milestone – drafting all the books they had planned to complete this year. Alongside this they have also been able to grow their skills through taking part in translation software training.
Areas of work which require interaction with the local community do, however, remain on hold, including community checking of translations and distribution of language resources.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- God’s protection of the team and their families from Covid-19
- the connections made with the community through literacy
- a Scripture App now being available
- translation being resumed and the progress being made.
Please pray for:
- continued good health for the team and their families
- activities in the community, that it would soon be safe to resume
- wisdom in how to utilise the Scripture App
- Leafa Christians to continue to grow in their faith and love of the Lord.