‘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.
The last year has seen the team face many personal difficulties, but they continue to remain faithful in their ministry, and hold fast to the hope they have in Jesus.
Translator Wajid’s* family is grieving the recent loss of his mother, and Wajid himself has been suffering from illness. Following flooding he is also continuing to repair his house. Finally, translator Amir asks you to hold his daughter up in prayer as she takes an important exam.
Through all of this, and against the ongoing backdrop of potential persecution, the team has been greatly spurred on by your prayers and support. It was a joy, in particular, to receive so many compassionate responses to Wajid and Ibrahim’s personal testimonies after they were featured in last year’s issues of Wycliffe’s magazine Words for Life. Below is one of the verses shared with the team as an encouragement and reminder of God’s care for us:
The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you. (Psalm 9:9–10)
Connecting with the community
With few opportunities to openly share the translation with the more than 15 million Leoma people, online tools have been opening up new ways to connect.
Over the last year, one of the main highlights for the team has been the launching of a website showcasing all kinds of cultural and literacy materials in Leoma. The hope is that, through this, trust will steadily build as people see content coming from the ‘inside’ and people like them, rather than outsiders. The aim is to go on, eventually, to share portions of Scripture.
The team has faced hurdles in promoting the website, which has led to there being few users. Amir’s laptop died last year and the new one has had many software issues. The team does now, however, have technology to overcome the problems, so will be working on ways to increase the website’s reach.
In the year ahead, the team is looking forward with great anticipation to completing the translation of the New Testament. They are already looking beyond this too, with plans to translate the Psalms and a number of stories from the Old Testament.
Alongside translation, the aim is to also continue to encourage and spiritually equip the team. The hope is that translator Amir will soon be able to attend a ‘school of proclamation’ to help him grow in his faith. Providing support for Leoma Christians is essential, as they are so isolated and cannot publically worship.
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 Leoma area, Christians face severe persecution. We hope these continue to encourage you to pray for the Leoma people and others like them.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the many encouragements sent to the team by supporters
- relationships with the community to grow and strengthen
- God sustaining the team over many years and providing a refuge in times of trouble
- the developing of online tools and their potential to increase the reach of Scripture.
Please pray for:
- Wajid to recover soon, as he is receiving treatment for illness
- wisdom for the team as they look for ways to promote the Leoma website
- Amir’s daughter as she takes an exam, and provision from God to enable her to keep studying
- the problems the team is having receiving funding, as a result of government restrictions.
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.