‘If God loves the whole world, then the Leoma people are included, but how will they know that God loves them if they do not have the message in their language? That is what keeps us going.’ – Leoma* translator Ibrahim*
- Location: South Asia
- Language: Leoma
- Speakers: More than 15million
- Start date: 1992
- Projected end date: 2030
The Leoma people are an ethnic group of more than 15 million from the middle of their country. Today, Leoma people live in all of the country’s provinces as well as in a neighbouring country. They have adapted well to the extreme environment with soaring summer temperatures and very little rainfall, and they value generous hospitality and loyal friendships.
Life can often be difficult due to poverty and a low literacy rate (50%). Most Leoma are agriculturalists, working as farm labourers for local landlords. Due to the wealth disparity in the area, relationships with neighbours can often become strained.
There is a real lack of educational opportunity for the Leoma. As a result, many are trapped in a cycle of poverty, fear and ignorance. The majority of people also follow Islam. The team is desperate for the whole community, including the small but growing church, to have Scripture in their language so they can be transformed as they come to know Jesus.
A local team has been trained over a number of years and has made progress on translating Scripture portions. They aim to complete the whole Bible in Leoma one day. Since few people in this community can read, their approach is to use a written style that is poetic and easy to understand, as well as producing audio versions. This will give people access to God’s word in a form that is culturally appropriate and accessible.
Translation has to be done discreetly due to the dangers which come with openly being a Christian and each member of the team has overcome many hurdles. In spite of this, more than 90% of the New Testament and 10% of the Old Testament has now been translated. The team is also looking for opportunities to share Scripture in ways that are relevant and sensitive, and they have been working on online resources.
Join in praise and prayer for the Leoma people:
- Give thanks for the team’s perseverance over many years and the progress they have made on translation.
- Pray for safe ways for the team to test translated Scripture portions in the community, and for continued protection over all involved.
- Pray for more opportunities to distribute Scripture and good relations with the community.
- Pray for the recently launched website and social media content. Pray that the team will have wisdom and a continued desire to make these platforms places for people to respond as well as read.
- Pray for good communication and understanding between members of the team as those involved are spread across four countries and speak different languages. Pray that they will all work fruitfully for God’s glory and honour among the Leoma people.
- Pray for many Leoma people to choose to follow Jesus as they access God’s word in their own language.
*name changed for security reasons.
Listening to Scripture
Providing printed copies of the Bible is just one step in the journey to giving communities access to the word of God.
For many cultures around the world, like the Leoma community, that rely on oral traditions, providing only printed copies of Scripture can close the door to people accessing the life-giving message in the Bible.
The Leoma people have a long history of communicating important information through oral storytelling. Alongside this, many people are unable to read, or it can simply be too dangerous to be seen with Scripture. So it is vital to record audio Scriptures. Technology now allows for these to be easily downloaded to mobile phones and then shared with one another, or played on audio devices.
A key priority of the Leoma team going forward is to produce audio Scriptures, starting with stories of Abraham and Noah from the Old Testament. Finding Leoma speakers to help with the recording is, however, a huge challenge due to the opposition to Christianity. Join with the team in prayer that they would be able to overcome this.
An end and a beginning
We praise God that after almost 30 years of translating the New Testament, the team is now approaching the final stretch. Over the next year they will be translating the final book, Revelation, with the aim to complete it by the end of 2021.
The road to this point hasn’t been an easy one for the team. They have faced much opposition and isolation but have felt very much upheld in prayer and support by their worldwide Christian family of churches and people, just like you. Translator Wajid* articulates what this means:
‘I am very, very thankful for the people, even though they are very far away, who think about me, who pray for me, who financially support the work. I want to convey my sincere thanks to them. I am very, very thankful for them.’
For the team, though, completing the New Testament isn’t an end. It is really just the beginning, as many more people will now have the chance to hear the gospel for the first time. The team will also not stop until the full Bible is translated, and is now moving on to the Old Testament.
Year on year the Leoma people face the challenge of coping with monsoon rains, which last for many weeks. For a community which already faces poverty these can cause even more distress when flooding hits houses and crops.
Translator Wajid is now facing the impact of this. Following a full day of rain the sewerage system near his house overflowed and filled his downstairs room with a foot of dirty water. Wajid prayed, and now praises God that he provided the funds for a builder to repair the damage. Most importantly the builder is also able to make renovations to the house so it has adequate flood protection to prevent further damage and the risk of disease to Wajid.
As in so many parts of the world, the Leoma country has been working hard to limit the spread of Covid-19. An important tool in this fight is providing communities with up-to-date health information, which will enable people to take the right preventative measures. The Leoma team has been playing an important part in helping to increase the reach of this information, through translating health resources into Leoma. They have used their skills to translate World Health Organisation Covid-19 posters, and shared these with the community both online and offline.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the team having reached the final book of the New Testament to be translated
- vital Covid-19 health information being translated into Leoma
- Wajid being able to repair his house following flooding
- the many people partnering with the Leoma team all around the world.
Please pray for:
- the team to find openings to share Scripture and this to have an eternal impact
- wisdom and perseverance for the team as they press on with translation
- the community as they face serious challenges, such as flooding
- God to move some Leoma people to be willing to voice audio recordings of Scripture.
Utilising online tools to increase the reach of Scripture is something the team is continuing to explore. They are now looking to the world of social media.
Through learning from observations made in another language group, the team is hoping to soon launch a Facebook page and campaign. The aim of these will be to locate Leoma speakers who are interested in spiritual conversations. The plan is to focus on various topics, for example, forgiveness and mercy, and share verses of Scripture to give a new perspective on each topic. Some of this will be done in audio format, with snippets of Scripture being recorded and shared. Alongside this, cultural content and Covid-19 information will be included to raise the profile of the page.
The new website has now been live for a few months and contains a number of language resources, but has not yet had many hits. This has, however, been a helpful indicator to the team that they need to continue to review their online strategy in order to maximise the reach of Scripture.
The life of a Leoma believer
Today we praise God that there are an estimated 200 Leoma people who have accepted Jesus into their lives. But for these believers life is riddled with persecution and challenges.
Challenges arise even before a commitment has been made, with anyone even interested in studying Scripture receiving insults and pressure from their family to turn away. When someone steps out in faith and begins a new life with the Lord, these challenges increase. Often people are forced out of their homes and jobs, treated as strangers by their families, and are subject to death threats. Through these trials people can be left discouraged, depressed and isolated, which is why it is crucial for their new worldwide church family to support them in their faith.
It is therefore vital to equip Leoma believers with Scripture in their language and share it in a way that makes it acceptable beyond the Christian community. This helps encourage, teach and welcome believers with joy into the body of Christ.
The Leoma team has been looking to the future with great hope, taking time out in recent months for meetings to plan for the next five years.
Alongside the exciting aim to publish the New Testament sometime next year, they will also be focusing on beginning the audio recording of some Old Testament stories and translating a selection of Old Testament books. They will kick this off by translating Psalm 23 later this year.
We praise God that he has brought the team this far and we pray that they would continue to trust in him as they persevere with translation.
‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.’ (Psalm 23:4)
Health prayer and praise
Following our recent update on translator Wajid* suffering from kidney problems, it brings us great joy to report that he has now been able to access medicine and is well on his way to recovery.
However translator Alfred’s* son, who is now 11 months old, has been ill for the last two weeks with a cough. The community also continues to face a number of problems as a result of the ongoing pandemic. The cost of everyday items has gone up considerably – grain in particular is very expensive – and unemployment has risen. Join in prayer that Alfred’s son would soon recover, and for God’s protection over all those who are struggling.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the team looking forward with hope following planning meetings
- Wajid recovering from his health problems
- the Leoma people who have stepped out in faith to follow Jesus
- the provision of a new laptop which is helping the team to improve the quality of audio recordings.
Please pray for:
- healing for Alfred’s son and the health of the whole Leoma team
- the logistics of the work which have been complicated due to new governmental bureaucratic processes
- wisdom as the team works on their online strategy
- Leoma people to be impacted by Scripture and put their trust in the Lord.