‘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.
Sweet as honey
Progress is being made on a resource which celebrates the richness of the Leoma culture and language, showing the community that they are valued. The team has been working in collaboration with another organisation to create a website with resources in Leoma, from history to poetry and even TV channels.
As the website gains credibility, and confidence in the language grows, the team will gradually introduce Scripture. It is vital that this is done in a way which is sensitive to the Leoma culture, so alongside Bible portions there will also be a downloadable Koran. Those involved have been carefully thinking and praying through the best way to present information. We are happy to report that the website has now officially gone live. Below is a taster of it from the introduction page:
‘Our Leoma language is as sweet as honey. It is a reality that this language is spoken by more than 15 million people in our country. We love our mother language. We want to read and write in our language but we do not have many opportunities…. We also want to take part in the development and promotion of our Leoma language. Therefore we are presenting this website for you so that many unique and precious things are together in one place’
Alongside the website the team is also working on a social media campaign.
We praise God that he has been working through your prayers and partnership. In the face of many obstacles and persecution the team has now translated 90% of the New Testament and 10% of the Old Testament. As the team looks for openings to share Scripture, which continues to be a challenge, they share this message with you:
‘Please join with us in prayer that the translation and distribution of the Leoma Scriptures will continue unhindered, bringing light, faith and hope to the millions of Leoma people who are still in darkness. Thank you!’
Persevering through Covid-19
The impact of Covid-19 has begun to be felt in the Leoma country, bringing with it many restrictions. All members of the team are in lock down at home but continuing to work on translation. Translator Wajid* is, however, not well, suffering from a problem with his kidneys. He has seen a slight improvement in recent days but is still in much pain and does not have a close support network around him. But the other members of the team and their families are doing well.
The team asks for prayer for the wider community as medical resources are limited and many people rely on going out to work each day to feed their families.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the progress being made on online Leoma resources
- God sustaining the team as they continue to move forward with translation
- the launch of the Leoma website
- the team being able to continue with translation from home during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Please pray for:
- healing for Wajid and an easing of pain as he fights off illness
- gate-keepers and people of peace who have a good standing in the community and can promote Scripture as it emerges
- protection for those living in rural areas with little access to health care
- Leoma people to be impacted by Scripture and put their trust in the Lord.
Persevering with translation
The Leoma team continues to work under threat of persecution, but are nonetheless making progress with Bible translation. This year the team of three is focusing on translating the 257 verses of 1 Corinthians. The importance of persevering despite the cost is something which the team reminds themselves of daily:
‘Bible translation is a dangerous thing. We know it, but we take up the challenge for the simple reason that we are interested in those people for whom the Lord gave his life.
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*
This month we ask you to hold up translator Alfred* and his family in particular in your prayers as they overcome many struggles.
Alfred’s wife continues to suffer with health problems following the birth of their child and is also experiencing depression. Sadly, Alfred also has a difficult relationship with his only brother and doesn’t have a good support system within his extended family.
Alfred’s workplace can often be a challenging environment as it is in his small home, which he shares with his wife, six children and aged father. Their home also shares a wall with the town mosque, and on a number of occassions Alfred has been accused of adopting different values and beaten as a result.
In all of this, Alfred continues to persevere and stand strong in his faith, looking with joy towards his Lord and Saviour.
In the next Wycliffe magazine, Words for Life, look out for more stories from the Leoma people. You will find amazing testimonies from the Leoma team, which we hope will be an encouragement to you. The next issue comes out in April. If you don’t already receive Words for Life you can sign up for it here: wycliffe.org.uk/wordsforlife.
A proverbs milestone
After many months of hard work and consulting with the community, we are pleased to report that Alfred has now put the finishing touches to the book of local proverbs.
These are now ready for distribution in the local community, with 1,000 copies printed and published. The hope is that these will raise the profile of translation work, help relationships to grow and pave the way for Scripture to be shared.
To increase the reach of Scripture, the Leoma team has been working on how to use digital tools effectively. Most recently this has involved collaborating with teams in three other countries to put together a website where translated Scripture can be published. In order for this to have maximum impact, the teams are carefully considering how to make it as appealing as possible for the majority of the population. This has caused some delays but is a vital step.
Alongside this, progress is being made on a social media campaign focusing on reaching Leoma speakers in a way that is culturally relevant and appealing. As with the website, careful thought is going into how to present information. Care is being taken to ensure it is clear that it comes from within the language community to build trust with readers.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the continued translation progress
- the encouragement and fellowship during a recent visit from an overseas team
- the completion of the book of proverbs and the many copies now available
- the team’s perseverance and reliance on the Lord in the face of persecution.
Please pray for:
- website challenges to be overcome and materials to be available soon
- wisdom in distributing the published proverbs
- many local people to be wonderfully and eternally impacted by translated Scriptures
- Leoma believers to be firmly established in their faith and walk the straight path
- peace in the Leoma region and protection over the team and their families.