The Weh people live in Weh village in the Northwest region of Cameroon, about four miles from Wum, the main Aghem town.
- Country: Cameroon
- 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.
Sharing the vision
Connecting with the community is a key priority for the Weh team. Through meeting with local leaders and groups they are able to share their progress and vision for Bible translation and build important links.
One impact of this is today seen through the experience of Tem Ernest Ning, the secretary general of the Weh Cultural and Development Association (WECUDA).
During a meeting in Bamenda last year with the Weh team, Tem was greatly encouraged to witness a whole devotional on Luke 12:4-6 being shared in the Weh language:
‘Truly I tell you my brother, despite the fact that I am a trained pastor, I have never really understood these two verses until today, when I have heard them in my own language.’
Today, as a result, Tem has made it the norm that before the beginning of every WECUDA meeting a devotion is shared, meaning that many like him are now also being blessed. The team is also delighted that Tem has come on board to help with Scripture engagement activities.
Life for those living in the Weh region continues to be riddled with the devastation of the persisting crisis. As they face the burning of houses, looting of properties and the killing of loved ones, many have moved even further into the bush.
This also results in the team struggling to run Scripture engagement and translation testing in the community. Most recently in the Nchuabu area of Bamenda, where the team have relocated due to insecurity, the Weh community meeting house has been closed leading to some literacy classes being put on hold. The team members themselves also have to deal with their trauma of having lost family and friends. We pray with the team and community as they continue to persevere.
Project and progress
In the midst of unrest, the Weh team praises God that they have continued to make translation progress. Some recent highlights have been:
- completing community checks on Galatians, Colossians, Philemon, 1, 2 and 3 John
- training and equipping new team members
- working with a consultant on Galatians, Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon, 2 and 3 John
- translating, printing and distributing 200 Weh 2020 diaries.
A growing team
In recent months the Weh team has been growing in size and support, with the local community helping to increase their capacity.
A new language committee has been elected in Bamenda made up of six local people. The committee will help oversee the project and encourage others to support the work.
Alongside local leader, Tem Ernest Ning, who is now assisting with Scripture engagement, the team has also welcomed Ning Elsilia. Ning has been helping over the last year with urban literacy activities and has offically taken on the role of literacy supervisor. For Ning the role has been a lifeline - providing stability, the chance to learn new skills and much needed income. Ning praises God for this:
‘I thank God for making me part of this project. When I look at myself today and look at what is happening back in the community, I glorify God for the project.’
Keeping literacy moving
Although insecurity has led to the closure of the community meeting house in the Nchuabu area of Bamenda where some Weh literacy classes are held, the team has been working on ways to overcome the hurdles holding them back.
Classes are continuing in Yaoundé and in other areas of Bamenda, and in November nine local community members celebrated becoming fully certified literacy teachers. Local churches have been praying for and encouraging literacy teachers in the community. Finally, alongside churches, local leaders have been offering their homes for classes and providing the resources for students to access online literacy materials.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the two literacy classes that have taken off in Yaoundé
- the continued progress being made with translation
- Ning and Tem joining the Weh team
- the opportunity to produce and distribute many 2020 Weh diaries.
Please pray for:
- effective consultant checking of Acts in the first part of 2020
- calm to be restored to the Nchuabu area of Bamenda so the meeting house can reopen
- the new language committee to deliver on their goals
- local people to come forward to be trained as trauma healing facilitators.
A celebration at long last
On a joyful day earlier this year, a number of Weh people gathered together for a well overdue celebration.
Despite being published and printed over a year ago, due to political instability, the Gospels of Mark and Luke were never officially launched. This all changed with a celebration to mark the milestone in the Weh community hall in Bamenda on 19 July.
The celebrations also acted as an important opportunity to increase awareness of translation work.
‘Read and write in Weh’
To aid literacy learning the Weh team has been using new digital technology which enables learners to access materials online via their mobile phones.
Letters, words and sentences have been recorded in the Weh language and put alongside pictures. These are then made available via an online WhatsApp group appropriately named: ‘Read and write in Weh’. This is in response to more and more people opting to read on mobile screens rather than books, and to the growing number of Weh literacy learners.
Understanding of Scripture is growing as more people have the chance to listen to and read Scripture in the Weh language. This is true for the Weh team and their families too.
For literacy supervisor Ejuh’s wife, a light was recently shone on the story of Zechariah in Luke 1:1–25 where, even at a very old age, his prayers were answered. Before hearing the passage, Ejuh’s wife was angry about failing an exam despite having had dreams about passing it, and praying for it. After hearing the story, Ejuh’s wife was no longer discouraged and her understanding of prayer changed. She realised that God hears all our prayers, and there are times when he will answer, times when he will tell us to wait and times when he will say no. Ejuh’s family continues to grow in faith and dependency on the Lord.
Project and progress
The team has been continuing, in the face of insecurity and displacement, to make progress with translation and over the last few months has been working on:
- community checking of Ephesians and Philippians
- back translations of John and Philippians
- consultant checking of the Gospel of John
- exegetical checks on Galatians, Colossians and Philemon
- alongside this, the team praises God that they have been able to complete the audio recording of Luke.
Moving forward with literacy
Literacy among the Weh community is continuing to flourish as more teachers become available. In August, eight new teachers took part in a training workshop and are now ready to begin classes in the city of Yaoundé. One teacher, Mr Akap Felix, told of his excitement to begin teaching and his plans for the year ahead:
‘I will not only develop the language, but also teach others how to read, write, develop books and many other things in the Weh language.’
Current learners are also continuing to make progress; eleven more learners have completed the basic literacy course. Through literacy more people are then able to engage with Scripture.
Passing on the language
Over many months the team has been working on a Weh dictionary. Through the process of putting the dictionary together, the community plays a vital role in helping to gather words. In recent months a number of Weh people have taken part in rapid word collection workshops. During the last of these sessions a colossal 6,495 words were documented, bringing the dictionary total to 12,000.
As well as being a great resource for translation, the dictionary-making process has also been of benefit to the community. Local people are able to see that their language is valued by God and are encouraged to use it, helping to ensure it does not die out. At the end of the last rapid word collection workshop, participants shared stories of how they had been impacted. Pa Che Mathias, an internally displaced Weh participant, testified:
‘I am so delighted to see young people as these ones writing the Weh language easily, as if it was English language.’
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the launch of the Gospels of Mark and Luke in Bamenda, and audio recording of Luke
- eight new literacy teachers in Yaoundé
- the successful consultant check of another book – the Gospel of John
- a new Scripture engagement volunteer in Bamenda to support the first one that has been displaced to Douala.
Please pray for:
- people to be impacted as they interact with the word of God in their heart language
- the next stage of translating Philippians and Ephesians – consultant checking
- the newly trained literacy teachers to be able to begin new classes in Yaoundé
- the remaining church leaders to not be discouraged but push on with the work of God in the community.
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.