The Weera* are a group of hunter-gatherers who live in a coastal region. Their proximity to Somalia means the Weera homeland is susceptible to raiders and bandits from that war-torn country. 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.
- Country: Kenya
- Speakers: 7,000
- Start date: 1996
- Projected end date: 2022
- Funds still needed for October 2017–September 2018: £13,779
Hunting wild animals and gathering whatever is edible from the natural forest vegetation are the key components of the traditional Weera lifestyle.
Conservation laws now protect a range of wildlife species, which for centuries were key sources of food for the Weera* community. The government has encouraged a move towards subsistence agriculture and a settled lifestyle. However, this also results in the gradual destruction of the Weera* people’s natural forest home and its wildlife.
Some Weera* 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. An article in a national newspaper spoke of them as ‘forest hunters without a choice’.
Prior to 1996, the Weera* language had never been written down. The people value their language and have been eager to see it in written form.
Most Weera* profess a predominant religion that is widely practised in their area. They believe in one high god, and have a sacred spot set aside as a place of prayer. Special people are designated to handle religious matters.
In 1993, an indigenous faith-based organisation involved with language development and literacy sent two men to work among the Weera. From 1995 to 2000, a national couple began learning and analysing the Weera* language. An alphabet was agreed, and a dictionary was established. Another couple undertook language training in Nairobi and were based in the Weera area from 2003, continuing the language development, starting literacy and building relationships with the Weera people.
Since early 2014, this couple have remained with the Weera* people in their homeland while the translation team has relocated for their safety because of the considerable cross-border unrest. They are using a computer program to draft translations of Scripture on the basis of an existing translation in a related language, starting with Luke's gospel.
- To translate the New Testament into Weera
- To establish a sustainable, community-based, mother-tongue literacy programme
- To promote the use of the translated Scriptures and other related literature (for example, Bible study materials and Sunday school materials)
- To see the lives of the Weera* people transformed spiritually, socially and economically
Ten new literacy titles were launched in February this year for use in reading clubs in primary schools. County education officers and village leaders were invited to the launch ceremony, and several speeches were given. An influential local politician said:
‘Initially, we did not understand what this project is all about. Most Weera speakers were suspicious of the project, but we now know that the project is about empowering the Weera people through education. Quite a percentage of us Weera* missed education. But now our children will benefit a lot since they can read books written in the Weera language. My own children were not going to school because of the language barrier, which got them so frustrated, but now they will go to school!’
- for peace in the Weera homeland, and safe access to those areas that are still insecure
- 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
- for the Gospel of Luke to be used by the Weera people
- for two team members who are currently involved in literacy and back translation, that God will use them in the near future to be translators in the Weera* project and so speed up the work. Pray that the Lord will encourage them to stay with the project.
* name changed for security reasons
AH* is keen on learning
The Weera* team travelled deep within the insecure Boni forest to search for key terms.
It was very demanding, but thanks be to God – the keeper and protector of men – the team received strength for it.
There, we came across a 13-year-old girl, AH*, who joined the literacy programme two years ago. This girl was not like the other girls. Her deep questions revealed a great thirst for education, and an anxious desire for it to continue. We reassured her that security will be restored sooner or later, and the learning will continue. She then said, ‘I want to go to university and be the first Weera* medical doctor!’
* name changed for security reasons
Praise and answered prayer
Asked why she was shedding tears, one woman reported:
‘God has answered my long-time prayers. God has surely answered my prayers. This man was the only man among my learners. I thought this would demoralise him and cause him to perform poorly, but I thank God he can read and write – not only in Weera*, but also in Kiswahili.
‘I am now satisfied with the fruits of my labour. I believe this will be an opening that will bring more men to learn.’
We thank God that the translation and literacy work is still going on, and that people’s lives are being changed in the midst of the challenges facing the area.
- The book of Matthew was checked by a consultant
- The back translation of Matthew was finished
- The book of 1 Corinthians was drafted to chapter eight
- The book of 2 Corinthians was drafted to chapter eight
- Key terms research was carried out
- The corrections for the book of Acts were completed
- for stable security in the area so we can resume the literacy work
- the Weera* team to be kept in good health during the third quarter so we can progress with the translation work.
Literacy is worth it!
The thirst for knowledge among the Weera people has really grown over the years. One village elder went against the culture and traditions of his age group and people when he joined the local literacy class. He became the laughing stock of his village because he was learning with the children but he persevered, knowing that it would be worth it. His wife’s attitude caused him problems though. She thought that the shame was too great and she was afraid to talk with the rest of the women, thinking they were judging her. Because of this, she gave her husband a difficult time. Now, however, the tables have been turned. Now her husband can stand with confidence before a crowd of people, young and old, proudly reading any text while others listen. His wife is called ‘the woman whose husband can read and write’ and this makes her the happiest amongst the Weera women in her village.
- Romans was checked by a translation consultant
- Colossians was checked in the local community
- the team drafted the whole of Acts, as well as the first few chapters of 1 and 2 Corinthians and Galatians
- Twenty literacy learners graduated during the recent International Literacy Day celebrations
Give thanks for:
- the ongoing impact of the literacy classes and the improvement in people’s job opportunities as a result
- significant progress in the translation of the New Testament
- wisdom for the translators when there are no obvious Weera words to express biblical concepts
- stability in the area; five literacy classes were forced to close recently because of security issues
- plans to train ten literacy teachers
- progress with the translation of Matthew
- the Weera people to accept Jesus and his word