Most of the 2.37 million speakers of the Zam* language live in a province of a country which is closed to Christian work, while some have relocated to countries which are more open to Christianity. Persecution has been more severe in this province than in other parts of the country but even so, there are a number of house churches.

Fact file

  • Location: West Asia
  • Speakers: 2.37 million
  • Start date: 2011
  • Projected end date: 2020

Persecution has been more severe in this province than in other parts of the country, but there are still a few house churches. Due to the difficulties of working with Christians in this country without putting their lives at risk – in fact, one of the early workers was killed for his faith – translation projects are a challenge, and there is very little Scripture available in the language.

Project goals:

  • to produce the Magdalena Film in the Zam language
  • to connect with people and open doors to discussions about the gospel
  • to attract speakers who live outside the country with Scripture in their language

An audio recording of Luke’s gospel was completed this year. This will be distributed by various means to reach monolingual speakers in country, by working with speakers in the diaspora who tend to become interested in finding material from their home culture. They may then be blessed and encouraged to share it with relatives still in country.

The Magdalena Film portrays the story of Jesus as seen through the eyes of Mary Magdalene. It is aimed at women, with the hope of reaching the older women in the language group. The introductory part gives a great overview of the Old Testament, acting as a bridge between Christianity and the majority religion in the area. You can watch it here.

Give thanks for:

  • the completion of the audio recording of Luke’s gospel
  • a group of Zam speakers who were able to go through the film script and help improve the text.

Pray for:

  • the distribution of the audio version of Luke’s gospel, which started recently; pray for the files to spread and for people to be impacted by what they hear.
  • wisdom for the team leaders, who are considering relocating to another country where there may be more speakers of the language to connect with
  • progress in the planned recording of the script of Magdalena.
Zam: the Magdalena Film cover

* name changed for security reasons

August 2018

Recent developments

Despite extended delays, the film has now finally been published! The team is delighted with the finished result, which looks and sounds great.

Although the delays in publishing the film meant the project coordinators were unable to watch it with their Zam contacts in a neighbouring West Asian country while they were there, they did share the link with them and encourage them to watch the film with others.

Now that the Magdalena Film is published, the team is considering what to do next – options include translating, recording and producing the Lumo Project Luke film, the Ruth film and the Prophets’ Story video. They are also doing further checks of the online Luke’s gospel, which could be made into a Scripture App using Faith Comes By Hearing (a phone app that lines up text and audio, and is easily searchable online).

Jeremiah 29:13 ceiling pattern
‘You will find me when you seek me if you search for me with all of your heart’– Jeremiah 29:12

The project’s partners decided against distributing on memory cards, choosing instead to use the materials in a special multilanguage website launched in May. The website launch was followed by a week-long, intensive advertising push using pop-ups in a popular phone game, which resulted in 362 webchats averaging five minutes each and 76 views of the Luke video. Online results have been variable, with only 50 hits for the Zam website from different countries (and only one from the Zam host country) over the past three months.

It is clear there needs to be more of an external push to ensure materials reach Zam speakers, and the team has some ideas for this. The social media training they received confirmed that such pushes should be phone-friendly; be featured as paid advertisements on Facebook; and should utlise a range of platforms, such as Telegram (similar to WhatsApp), Facebook and Instagram.

Personal impact

While in the West Asian neighbour country, the project coordinators visited the Zam woman, Riva*, who was the voice of Mary Magdalene in the film. They discovered she is interested in using her drama training to do further dramatic readings and translation-related work. She was full of enthusiasm and ideas for producing other Zam materials. Although she may relocate to another country soon, she hopes to work with the team further, and is keen to get other Zam-speaking contacts involved in the work.

Please pray:

  • for more Zam speakers to see the film, and for Riva and others as they share about the film and recording work with their Zam contacts
  • for a good response from all who see the film, especially that they will come to faith in Jesus
  • for the project leaders as they plan to return in October/November after visiting the UK and Ireland, and for God’s protection as they travel
  • for more Zam speakers to come to the focus-language church
  • for more Zam speakers from the host country to visit and access the materials on the website, and for effective social media advertising
  • that the Lord will raise up more people who will intercede for people from this language group to be drawn to him.
February 2018

The voice recording of the Magdalena Film has now been completed. It was a great encouragement to everyone involved to see 15 Zam speakers working and praying together on a project like this.

Our partners in the Zam project report:

‘We were privileged to watch the draft playback of the Magdalena Film with Zam speakers, who were visibly moved. One woman told us she knows many people who need to see this film – it has the story of Jesus, the Old Testament background, and even models how to accept Jesus as saviour. We were also encouraged to see that the Zam speakers were enthusiastic about their language, as it has been hard for us to judge up to now what the true need for translation is. They told us that they know people who speak only Zam and who need to hear the gospel in Zam.’

Zam Magdalena film recording
The translator, the voice actor for ‘Peter’ and a recordist on the sound desk

Three chapters of Luke have been published on the language website, but there have not yet been many visitors to the website because it is blocked within the country.

The next goals are to prepare five more chapters of Luke for publishing online, to assess feedback from the Magdalena Film and for the project coordinators, who are moving closer to the Zam area, to make contact with more Zam speakers.

Give thanks for:

  • the finished recording of the soundtrack for the Magdalena Film in Zam
  • the good working relationships between everyone involved, and the encouragement they gained from being with other believers.

Pray for:

  • the project coordinators as they settle in a new area and learn a new language
  • them to make contact with more Zam speakers
  • Zam people to access the recordings of Luke and the Magdalena Film, and hear God speaking to them through these.