The Weh people live in Weh village in the Northwest region of Cameroon, about four miles from Wum, the main Aghem town. (Aghem is another translation and literacy project supported by Wycliffe Bible Translators UK.)
- Country: Cameroon
- Speakers: 8,000
- Start date: 2007
- Projected end date: 2020
The Weh people build compounds comprising one to five houses, depending on the financial status of an individual. There is usually an ancestral house for the family head and the other houses are for wives and children. Often these houses are bedroom and kitchen at the same time. The Weh people enjoy living in large families, and they put community first.
Subsistence farming is the main activity of the Weh people. Farm products are meant to feed the family and any surplus is sold in the market to gain some money for hospital bills and school fees for children and other basic necessities like kerosene, salt, palm oil and soap. Crops produced include corn, plantains, cocoyams, yams, beans, groundnuts, soya beans, avocados and mangoes. The people also keep cows, goats, pigs and chickens. Palm wine tapping is common and a number of people weave cloth.
It is estimated that about 30% of the Weh people live away from their home village in order to find work or for better opportunities. Of those who still live in the village, only about 10–12% are thought to be literate.
Christianity, Islam and African traditional religion are dominant among the Weh. About 5% of the population practise Islam and 15% are exclusively involved in traditional religion. However, a large number of those who call themselves Christians still practise traditional religion alongside their Christian faith and there is a high level of syncretism, or mixing of religions, in these communities.
Inspired by the Bible translation work that is going on in neighbouring Aghem, and the opportunity to benefit from this in order to know Christ better, the Weh people have shown interest in having the word of God in their language too. Our partners in Cameroon have supported some Weh speakers in their efforts to share this vision. An interchurch committee has already been set up to oversee Bible translation work. A translation team has been formed and trained. Good progress has been made in translation, and now over two thirds of the New Testament has been drafted.
- to train a team who will be able to carry out linguistic analysis and produce an accurate New Testament translation
- to establish literacy classes, managed by the interchurch committee
- to have Scripture use activities taking place
- to build a stronger church whose members know the truths of Christianity
A Weh translator was talking with the young girl who reads the Scriptures in the mother tongue in the church. A young man sitting by understood they were talking about the Weh Bible. He was very excited. He confessed that he had never paid any attention to the readings until the day they started reading in his mother tongue. It caught his attention so much that even if he is distracted throughout the rest of the service he concentrates when the word of God is being read in his mother tongue!
- praise God for the good progress that has already been made
- for God to make it possible for the network company to bring electricity to the project office – it’s difficult to work on a computer without electricity; generators help, but a direct electricity supply would be much better
- for the spirit of cooperation in the language committee to continue and develop
- for the literacy classes to provide future new literacy teachers.
Project and progress
The Weh team continues to work in a challenging environment due to unrest across the region. This has led to many activities now having to be run from outside of the local community. The team is still however, firmly focused on continuing to translate the New Testament and sharing Scripture. Over recent months, thanks to the grace of God and the team’s determination, progress has been made through:
- continued translation of Ephesians
- drafting and consultant checking of Matthew
- running a trauma healing workshop using Scripture in Weh
- the printing of 100 Weh diaries
- setting up new literacy classes.
Many across Cameroon daily face the trauma of ongoing conflict. In response to this, the team has been running trauma healing workshops amongst the Weh community, in their own language, giving them a safe space to share their experiences. These sessions aim to help people deal with the impact of trauma, looking to Scripture for examples of suffering and how God works through these situations.
Following the most recent two-day workshop in the town of Yaoundé, participants shared stories of how trauma healing had helped them. Amongst them was Lisa* who lives with disability and has been displaced from her home. Lisa attended a workshop back in 2017, and told of how she had learnt about the need to keep certain basic items safe in case of war. This lesson meant that when her village was burnt to the ground whilst she was away, she managed to save her vital documents as she travelled with them. Lisa also heads up a women’s group and has, along with many others, been sharing what she has learnt, increasing the reach of trauma healing.
A change of scenery
With unrest still persisting in Cameroon, the team has been forced to change how, where and when they work.
Some of the team have now moved to the city of Bamenda. This has given the team a chance to meet with more local leaders and organisations, attend training workshops and make further progress with translation. The team, however, faces long periods away from their families which they are working on minimising.
This change of scenery has also opened up a new area of ministry. In recent months the team has been running urban literacy classes and trauma healing workshops for those displaced to the city. Alongside this they are exploring ways to run urban listening groups, which give local community members the chance to hear and respond to Scripture.
With the team no longer based in the local Weh area due to instability, it is increasingly difficult to connect with local churches. Some local churches have also had to temporarily close in more difficult areas.
This has led to churches no longer having Scripture readings in Weh for their services, which previously the team had provided. The team is praying and looking for a solution to overcome the challenge of not being able to connect with local Weh churches as easily.
The Weh literacy supervisor, Mr Ejuh Cyprian, has been greatly encouraged by learners from the Weh community in the city of Bamenda.
This is the first time that classes have been run in the city, and there are currently 25 Weh people learning to read and write. These are already having a postive impact. One learner was so overjoyed that after one class he offered to pay for Ejuh’s transport home. The Weh community leader also took the time to emphasise the need to keep the classes going.
As a result, Mr Ejuh is determined to ensure classes go ahead no matter what challenges arise. The team prays that with this enthusiasm further fruit will come, in the form of current learners going on to become Weh literacy teachers. As classes become more organised, the aim is to run teacher training to facilitate this.
Praise and Prayer
Give thanks for:
- God’s protection over the Weh team
- the literacy classes being run in Bamenda and Yaoundé, and the enthusiasm these have been met with by the local community
- the continued sharing of ideas on how to move forward with the work, and the team’s commitment in the face of many challenges
- God working through trauma healing workshops, and the resilience participants are building.
Please pray for:
- peace in Cameroon, and a lasting solution to the current crisis
- the Weh church leaders who have remained in the region to not be discouraged, but to push on with the work
- comfort, peace, encouragement and safety for the team and their family members
- inspiration and wisdom as the team work out the best way to use digital literacy tools to reach out to more of the community
- translation work to stay on track, and the carrying out of consultant checking.
The team were thrilled to be asked to present, for the first time, a report on their work at an annual community development meeting. Since then, they have received financial support from the Weh cultural and development association. The president of the association had previously been resistant to hearing about Bible translation but was now encouraging them to consider supporting the work. He had come to realise that the project is also about community transformation.
A new community leader (the Fon) has also recently been appointed after five years without anyone in post. He is a Christian and has been showing an interest in the work.
The team have been greatly encouraged by the changing attitudes, translator Christopher shared:
‘There has been a big change in the community and in the church, which is growing. Commitment has increased because they have received the word in their mother tongue.’
- trauma healing workshop held, with 18 people attending
- consultant checking of Romans 1–3 and Luke, community testing of 1, 2 and 3 John, drafting of Thessalonians 3–5
- publication of Mark and Luke.
Valentine, a student, was so encouraged to hear God’s word in his own language when he attended church, that he got in touch with the translation team. He is now regularly in touch with the senior translator, continuing to ask questions and offering to help in whatever way he can.
Pa Peter Tseghe Mbi, a member of the Catholic church, was asked to help with testing Ephesians 1 after it had been consultant checked. Some major issues were discussed and he was able to help clarify the meaning of some of the terms that had been used. It transpired that he had once been invited to assist with Bible translation but hadn’t felt that he had the time. Now he realises what he has missed and has offered to help again in the future.
Unrest in the area
Sadly the level of unrest has increased in the region. Gun shots are common and many people have fled into the bush.
Communication is difficult as electricity and mobile networks are often down for weeks at a time. This has had a significant impact on the work of the project. For example, it has been necessary at times to call off literacy classes.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- safety for the team members and their families, despite the unrest
- improved standing of the project in the community
- involvement of individuals from many denominations in oversight of the project
- local churches supporting the project in prayer.
Please pray for:
- displaced families and those who have lost loved ones
- a return of peace and stability so people can resume their lives and the work of the project can proceed unhindered
- the church to stand firm and be an agent of peace in times of crisis.
After listening to the parable of the sower in Weh, 58-year-old Judith Ning identified herself as being ‘like the seed that fell on the path and was eaten by birds’. Judith always tries to listen carefully to the Bible readings in church, but confesses she tends to forget these as soon as she gets home. As the word of God in the Weh language becomes available, she thinks she will grow stronger in the Lord.
Another lady, 60-year-old Martina Ngah, is enjoying the listening group she attends so much that she requested it be held two or three times a week.
Benjamin Geh, a teacher, heard about the work of the literacy teachers, so he visited a class for himself. Being a busy man, he wasn’t able to stay for long, but what he saw and heard impressed him. Before leaving, he enquired about establishing literacy classes in his home town of Bamenda. Benjamin has promised financial support to the literacy department, and is looking to set up classes in his home.
Work on the project has been hampered recently by a series of events within the background of local unrest and instability. Also, late last year, a number of important ceremonies in the area meant it was difficult to find people who had time to carry out community testing of the translated Scriptures. There were several funerals and weddings, including the wedding of Pastor Michael Kang, one of the translators.
The rains also came earlier than expected this year, which caused people to disperse to their farms to work the fields. The impact was so significant that attendance at church fell considerably.
Despite these challenges, progress has been made in the community testing of Philippians, Galatians and John’s epistles, and in the drafting of 1 Peter, Philemon, and 1 and 2 Timothy. Chapters 18 and 19 of John’s gospel were published at Easter.
One of the translators attended a Scripture engagement workshop, and nearly 5,600 Weh words were gathered in a two-week rapid word-collection exercise in February.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks to God for:
- the appointment of a new Inter-Church Committee to oversee the project and encourage greater church involvement
- the 12 influential Weh people who attended a recent executive meeting in Yaoundé
- the two new literacy classes that are now running.
- an end to the local unrest and instability in the area
- safety and good health for the translators and their families
- a more positive attitude from the leaders of the reading groups, so that everyone will work together to move the translation and Scripture engagement work on
- significant progress in the next few months to meet the targets for translation, literacy work and Scripture engagement.
- Colossians and Galatians have been drafted, and are awaiting typing and exegetical checking (checking the accuracy of the theological interpretation)
- the book of Mark has been community tested and reviewed
- fourteen chapters of the book of Mark have been recorded and are in use in the community
- two translators attended a checking session in the capital of Cameroon, Yaoundé, for the book of 1 Corinthians
- a review has taken place of the primers and the reading and writing book, needed for the literacy work
- the book of Matthew has been tested but not yet reviewed
- a one-week local literacy workshop was held in April, with ten new learners in attendance
The Weh alphabet has been revised to make it easier to read. The team went to visit the Weh community in Bamenda, the regional capital, to show them the new alphabet chart and explain the changes to them. They could tell from people’s reactions that many had found the old alphabet hard to read, and were encouraged by the enthusiasm people had for the new alphabet, insisting that the team should teach it to them straight away! Another 300 copies of the alphabet chart have been printed and are being distributed.
Praise God for:
- the good progress made this quarter
- the checking of the complete Gospel of Luke, which is now being prepared for printing
- the efforts of the listening group and the work they are doing
- his protection of the team and its activities during all the instability of the region, which is affected by the anglophone crisis in Cameroon
- the interest that the Weh community in Bamenda is showing in the project
- God to intervene and bring peace in the region
- the Weh people in Bamenda, that God will keep their interest for the work alive and that they will be able to support the work as promised
- the project staff, that they would continue to be faithful to their work
- the church leaders in the community, that they will see the need to support this work morally, financially, and in their prayers
- the internet to be made available again in the region as soon as possible (it has been switched off because of the anglophone crisis)