Savouring Acts with a can of root beer

August 27th, 2014 by Ruth

How do you celebrate milestones? In Tanzania, the Gerth family savoured a rare (for them) delicacy when they passed a significant milestone on completing the translation of Acts in the Jita language.

The precious root beer

The precious root beer

Root beer is not available here in Musoma. In fact, we hadn’t tasted root beer in over two years. But last time we went to Mwanza (the nearest “big” city which is 3 hours away) we found a store selling three cans of A&W root beer (manufactured in United Arab Emirates). So we bought all three and split them among three missionary families. We were saving our can for the opportune moment…

This has truly been a team effort. Translation work was started on Acts in December 2010. I am the 5th Translation Advisor to help the Jita team with this book. One of the Jita translators left SIL to return to his church as pastor. We tested portions of this book in the community at least three times. There are 1007 verses in Acts…

But it was worth every ounce of hard work.

The opportune moment came, at last:

Jita men enjoying a moment in the shade

Jita men enjoying a moment in the shade

Now the Jita people can hear Peter’s testimony about Jesus after God healed a lame man (Acts 4:10-12).
Emwe bhoone aamwi na Abhaisirayeeri abhandi bhoone, enikena mumenye kwa echimari ati, unu emereguuyu imbere yemwe ni muwanga, kwa obhuturo obhwa risiina erya Yeesu Kirisito Omunajareeti. Niwe unu emwe mwabhambire ku‑musarabha, nawe Nyamuwanga :aamusuuruye okusooka mu‑bhafuuye. Na niwe unu Ebhikaame Ebhyeru ebhyayika inguru yaaye ati, ‘Ribhuyi rinu emwe abhombasi :mwaremere, niryo ryabha ribhuyi rinene erya orufuka.’ Gutari-wo omweruro ku‑wundi wonewone! Okubha ritari-wo risiina rindi mu‑chaaro choone erya obhuturo obhwa okuchichungura eswe abhaana bhaanu!
All of you together with all the people of Israel, I want you to know truly that this man who stands before you is well by the power of the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He is the one you killed on the cross, but God raised him from the dead. And the Holy Scriptures speak about him, ‘The stone which you builders rejected, has become the cornerstone.’ There is no salvation by any other! For there is no other name in the whole world having power to save us!
(Read the full story here.)

Bible translation is a long process, involving many different people with a variety of skills.  It takes perseverance, and sometimes completion seems a long way off. Even when a book is published, there’s work to be done to ensure the community can read it or engage with it, letting God’s word transform their hearts and actions.  For more on all the different steps of a translation project, explore the life of a translation project on the Wycliffe website.

(Bible) Dedication’s what you need

August 25th, 2014 by Hannah

This is the fourth part of a series of posts about the translation, launch and impact of the Scriptures in the Mankanya language of Senegal. The story is told by Maggie Gaved, a translation advisor for the project.

Father Ange-Marie Niuky – then a monk, now an abbot – began translating the Bible into Mankanya in 1995. In 2000, my husband and I joined the translation team. The written form of the language was recognised by the Senegalese government and it became a national language in 2001. In May 2014, Genesis and the New Testament in one book was published and dedicated [Genesis-NT]. There were 5,000 Genesis-NT books printed.

Right place, right time

On the last day of typesetting for the new book in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, the team wanted to have a thanksgiving. Only then did they discover that the abbot who began the work was actually in Yaoundé. They invited him to come and he was handed the first copy – printed straight off the computer! He had that printed copy with him at the launch ceremony, wrapped in a traditional Mankanya cloth.

On the day that the copies of the books were delivered to the SIL centre in Dakar, Senegal, again, Father Ange-Marie ‘just happened’ to be at the SIL centre for a meeting with the director. Once again he was handed the first copy.

The Mankanya Scriptures arrive at the SIL centre

The Mankanya Scriptures arrive at the SIL centre

The day of the launch

The Mankanya people who live in Senegal live mainly around the town of Zigunchor, in the south of the country, and this was where the launch was held, in a big open area that belongs to the Catholic Church. The service was led by the Bishop of Ziguinchor. A delegation of people came over from Guinea-Bissau and a lot of SIL staff members came down from Dakar to be part of the celebration.

Symbols and culture

Picture3The ceremony began with the beating of the bumblung, a drum traditionally used to pass on important news: news about the king or important happenings that they want the whole community to know about.

The translation team carried a copy of the Mankanya Genesis-NT to the front: Gustave Campal, who had been working on the translation longest, carried the book; I followed along with the other translator Jacques Toupane, and two people who worked as back-translators (helping when we were checking the translation by translating it into French).

There was a lot of symbolism used to show what the Bible means to us. It is our food – we don’t just live by bread but also by the word of God. So traditional Mankanya food was carried to the front accompanied by readings from the Scriptures. A lady brought a clay bowl of water to the front, to symbolise that the word of God also gives us the water of life. Candles and a hurricane lamp were carried to symbolise that the word of God is our lamp. There were more readings in Mankanya.

The speeches

I was asked to do a speech, which I did half in French and half in Mankanya. When I was speaking Mankanya I was able to encourage people not only to think, ‘It’s great to have this book in our language,’ but to listen to it, to listen to what God is saying and to obey him.

The abbot also encouraged the Mankanya people to use this Scripture and to listen to what God was saying through it. He also pointed out the huge role Gustave has played in this. Gustave isn’t the sort of person who would stand up front and draw attention to himself.

Initial distribution and response

Scripture shopping

Scripture shopping

After the ceremony, copies of Genesis-NT were sold along with other booklets that we’ve published over the years: Jonah, Creation, Stories of Jesus, Teachings of Jesus, as well as an audio recording of the whole of Genesis with songs that had been composed in the traditional style using traditional instruments.

Everyone was very pleased that this day had come and that Genesis-NT was available. But for many the overriding feeling is that, ‘Now our language really is a real language, since we have something as well-known as the Bible in our language. That gives value to our language.’ Our concern is that it becomes more than that and that it doesn’t just sit on a shelf, but that people read it and take seriously what it says.

In the final part of the series next week, Maggie talks about the fact that this dedication day isn’t the end of the story for the Mankanya people. Already, the work is having an impact.

Read previous posts in this series:

News from the Two Week Stint

August 22nd, 2014 by Jo Johnson

The Bible often reminds us to remember what God has done for us. A couple of months ago we asked you to pray for the Two Week Stinta holiday with an eternal and international impacta bilingual, cross-cultural and productive holiday, with plenty of opportunity for time spent with God and some adventure thrown in too!’ 

IMG_2380Here are some of the ways that God answered your prayers:

  • With journeys from UK, the Netherlands, Hungary and Sweden to the south of France as well as within France, praise God that everyone travelled safely. Only two people missed connections on the way out and they were able to arrive the same day. On the way home one person missed a connection in London but was able to stay with friends.
  • It was great that the team of staff members worked well together, they sensed the leading and enabling of the Holy Spirit and God formed the  team members into an effective unit, despite different nationalities and backgrounds.
  • The participants too came from many backgrounds and cultures, this added a wonderful flavour to the Two Week Stint.  It was amazing to see that everyone overcame language and cultural barriers to learn together well.
  • God raised many issues in the lives of the participants; it was wonderful to talk and pray with them and see God confirming his call on their lives as he directed them to the next step in their journey. One participant shared, ‘I focused on my call to Siberia but my new focus is my church’s need to have a heart for Siberia!’

Please join us in praying for those who attended the Two Week Stint. Some are already talking to their churches about going overseas and at least one has started the application process to join Wycliffe Bible Translators. Others, however, are still exploring what God is calling them to.  Please pray that they will discern God’s will and timing for their lives.

See the original blog post ‘A holiday with an eternal impact’.

Find out more about the Two Week Stint on the Wycliffe website.

Working Slick: #IT oils the engine of Bible translation

August 21st, 2014 by Ruth

You might think if you’re working in missions that you’ll just be doing general IT stuff – oh no.  You can specialise. There are more than 200 software, hardware, and communications positions available worldwide; both short-term and long-term.

Check out some of the ways IT is making a difference worldwide in this video from Wycliffe Canada.

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“We’ve been able to reduce the years it takes to do a Bible translation considerably, and the rewards for that are hearing the testimonies from workers when they come off the field: ‘There’s now another people group with God’s word in their language.’

That’s the reward, it’s knowing that lives are being changed…”


Cheers in church!

August 20th, 2014 by Ruth

When was the last time a Bible reading in your church moved the whole congregation to shout, clap and cheer?  Only a few weeks ago in Luhanga, in the Sangu community of Tanzania, that’s exactly what happened!

Andy, writing on, tells us the whole story:

The whole passage of the prodigal son was read by a Sangu translator to the receptive church congregation. (Mbeya Cluster – Tanzania)

I was invited to preach in a church in Luhanga in the Sangu area. My plan was to preach about the prodigal son, a story found in Luke 15. The little church was packed with people. 200 adults and 60 children were counted (as announced by the one who led the service).

When my time to preach came I started with some explanations and then read a few verses in Sangu (Luke 15:1-2). The people liked me reading their language and clapped and cheered.  A bit later Abedy, one of our Sangu translators read the whole passage of the “prodigal son”… (full story)

Freshly printed Gospels of Luke in the Sangu language had been delivered to the translation office in Mbeya, just at the beginning of July.  But the translators at the Luhanga church were caught totally unprepared for the many in the congregation who wanted to buy their own copy.  The copies they had with them were snapped up, and Abedy had to return the following week with extras.

God’s word is heard most clearly in the language we understand best… and in the Luhanga church, they heard him loud and clear that week! Find out how you can help to give the story.

Three questions everyone asks about translating the Bible

August 18th, 2014 by Hannah

This is the third part of a series of posts about the translation, launch and impact of the Scriptures in the Mankanya language of Senegal. The story is told by Maggie Gaved, a translation advisor for the project.

Where did you start translating? Which books are the hardest?

Abbé Samson, a Mankanya man on the organising committee for the launch, and Maggie Gaved, the exegete on the project

Abbé Samson, a Mankanya man on the organising committee for the launch, and Maggie Gaved, the exegete on the project

When I first started working with the Mankanya translation association, the monk who had begun the work and the group he had worked with had just published an experimental version of the four Gospels. That had taken the first five years of translation work. When I joined the team, we knew the Gospels would need to be revised, but we felt it would be better to start to work on something different; revising them immediately could be discouraging after five years’ work!

We worked first on Acts because it’s written as a simple narrative or story. It’s easier to translate narrative than books like Paul’s letters. Because Acts and Luke were written by the same person, having done Acts it seemed sensible to revise Luke next, so that we could publish both of them in one book. We then worked on the other Gospels as well as the book of James – James is one of the simplest letters to translate.

Gradually we worked our way through the other letters, finishing with the two letters to the Corinthians. Those are the hardest. Paul’s way of expressing himself is very complicated in all his letters, but particularly so in Corinthians. He has very complicated sentences where he tries to explain what depends on what. He also sometimes gets carried away on tangents.

Lots of people think that Revelation would be the hardest, but actually, as one consultant said to us, ‘Because no one really understands the interpretation of Revelation, when you are translating, you are translating the pictures and the images that John saw. You’re not giving an explanation of them. As long as you can find words for dragons and such things, it’s not that hard to translate.’ Finding ways of translating the colours and the jewels was the biggest challenge.

Why translate the Old Testament?

We did also translate some parts of the Old Testament. If you don’t have the Old Testament, the need for the New Testament isn’t obvious. Why would you need a saviour if you don’t have the Fall? In Africa particularly, Genesis is something that people can relate to very well. It’s much closer to their way of life than it is to our way of life in the West, so we felt it was important to translate Genesis.

We were also encouraged to do some other parts of the Old Testament that would help with the understanding of the New Testament: parts of Leviticus to explain the sacrificial system and why sin is so serious; and Exodus to explain the Passover.

People working with Wycliffe translate Scriptures so that other churches and missions can use them, and in Senegal, we knew that the Catholic Church would want to use the Scriptures. The Church has readings every week that are set down. It was important to have as many of those readings translated as possible, because that’s the main way Mankanya people will hear the Scriptures. Some American missionaries also visit the people regularly; they have a chronological approach to telling stories about the Bible, starting with creation and the fall, so it’s important to have those Scriptures translated for them to base the teaching on.

We looked at all those different needs and tried to come up with a plan of the most important parts to translate. We did the whole of Genesis, half of Exodus and parts of Leviticus. We did Jonah and Ruth too as they were easy stories. We also did some Psalms, partly because one is read every Sunday in Catholic churches. The Charismatic Catholics told us how important the Psalms were to them to use when they are worshipping. Most Western Christians have Psalms that are important to them too. We had a workshop with a translation consultant, an expert in Hebrew culture, and with a colleague who’s studied musical instruments. We translated about 30 Psalms and tried to do them in the style of Mankanya poetry – to give the same impact that Hebrew poetry would give but in a Mankanya way. A couple of those Psalms were set to music so they could be used in the way they were originally intended.

Are there any words that are difficult to translate into Mankanya?

Reading the Genesis-NT at the launch

Reading the Genesis-NT at the launch

It took several years to work out how to translate prophet into Mankanya. At first, it was suggested that we use a word that means ‘someone who says what’s in the future’; we explained – particularly in the Old Testament – that’s not what a prophet is, so the term wouldn’t work for both the New and the Old Testaments. Our colleagues suggested an expression that literally is ‘the sent one’; when the king needs to get a message to people, he would send ‘the sent one’ to people to give the message. That seemed to fit the idea of someone who has a message from God. But we then found that for some people, it was easily confused with ‘apostle’, even with ‘angel’. After more discussion, the next suggestion was a word that literally means ‘spokesperson’ or ‘the one who speaks for…’, so we came up with the expression ‘the one who speaks for God’. That seems to have the right meaning.

Another interesting challenge was how we were going to translate the Holy Scriptures. The obvious way seemed to be literally, so to have ‘sacred writings’. When we were testing the term with a group of people, a woman turned around and said, ‘That means I can’t touch it.’ Often sacred things are taboo; in fact, the Mankanya word for ‘sacred’ is also the word for ‘taboo’. For her that it was sacred meant it couldn’t be touched. We decided that wasn’t a good way to translate ‘Scriptures’! What we suggested was ‘God’s book’, and that’s what’s printed on the front of the New Testament and Genesis, and what we use in the New Testament, when Jesus says, ‘It says in the Scriptures…’ or Paul says ‘It says in the Scriptures…’

Next week, Maggie talks about dedication day – the launch ceremony of the Mankanya Genesis and New Testament book.

Read the previous posts in this series:

The vital role of prayer

August 15th, 2014 by Jo Johnson

We know that God’s kingdom never advances without the resistance of the enemy. We understand that often the battle is fought in prayer.

A recent update, from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), reminds us of how much those on the frontline rely on us to pray. This was written as the Logo team were doing final checks on the whole New Testament. Doug Wright shares some of their struggles:

The core Logo team – Aguma, Adara, Doug, Pastor Lalima & Madrakele

The core Logo team – Aguma, Adara, Doug, Pastor Lalima & Madrakele

‘God is protecting and enabling us through all of your prayers. Through those prayers, the Lord enabled us to finalize 20½ chapters last week  so we’ve now finished 51 chapters. We still have 75 chapters to finalize in about three weeks – so it will take a miracle. The cool thing is that Adara and I know when we’ve finished each chapter since the word is so clear and powerful in Logoti* and God’s Spirit gives us peace that his word is complete.

Since we’re in the hardest part of the grind now, the team and I have been talking about the costs and sacrifices of this work. Honestly, at times we don’t know if we’ll have the strength to keep up this pace. At times, the costs that we all have paid along with our families seem almost too heavy to bear. The Lord knows our weaknesses and has given us some gems from his word.

First, that the Good News of the Gospel is free, but it’s not cheap. It often costs dearly, especially when both the Lord and the enemy know that sharing it will tear down the enemy’s strongholds forever.

Second, a sacrifice is only a sacrifice if it’s offered freely, otherwise it may be just enduring hardship. Paul accepted to be poured out like a drink offering for the Philippians’ faith. He later (in Philippians) said that we should offer our bodies to the Lord as living sacrifices. So we’re not just working on this translation; it’s definitely also working on us (and in us). ‘

Such powerful honesty, such awareness that this is a team effort is challenging. The core team are present working on the translation but they and many others around the globe need a support team in order to make it through. Will you commit to being on the support team?

Pray for Bible translation in the DRC using the Frontline Prayer module.

Read The heat is on and The final stretch about the Logo project.

*Logo is the name of the people group, Logoti is their language.

Urgently needed: teams

August 14th, 2014 by Hannah

Translators, accountants, managers, teachers, computer specialists, web developers, journalists, artists, pilots, nurses, language surveyors, writers, administrators, musicians, anthropologists, mechanics, carpenters, photographers and communicators…

These are just some of the roles Wycliffe needs to fill in order to translate the Bible alongside the language communities who still don’t have access to God’s word.

This video, from Wycliffe USA, explains how they all fit together.

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 ‘They need more than just Bible translators. They need teams. And those teams need you.’

If you are interested in exploring how you could use the skills you already have to serve God’s people all around the world, get in touch and we can explore together!

Mission partners – your church in God’s mission

August 13th, 2014 by Phil has just published a story about Zion Church, a small church in Thailand that has started supporting their own Wycliffe missionaries, Ryan and Nok*.

Zion Church of Bangkok, Thailand, is small yet enthusiastic in evangelism and community service, and very mission-minded.

It’s a challenging story for us in the UK, as it gives us a taste of how a country that has traditionally received missionaries has viewed the way the western church has supported those it has sent.

‘They have observed that some western missionaries serving in Thailand for a long time have become distanced from their home church. The relationship is no longer close and vibrant. Even when they retire, the foreign missionaries are often not willing to go back to their home country. Having learnt this lesson, Zion Church deliberately invites church members of different generations to join the missionary care group so that the passion of caring for missionaries can be passed on to others.’

In fact, those at Zion Church took the support of their first missionaries very seriously. All the church leaders took an eight day Kairos course, to understand more about mission and the church’s part in it.

Rev. Dr. Saree Lorgunpai, Chairman of the Church Committee and elder, firmly stated, “If we’re going to support our missionaries, we have to understand why and how.”

If your church wants to do a better job of supporting its missionaries, there’s a handy guide on caring for your missionary on the Wycliffe website.


Starting translation

August 11th, 2014 by Hannah

This is the second part of a series of posts about the translation, launch and impact of the Scriptures in the Mankanya language of Senegal. The story is told by Maggie Gaved, a translation advisor for the project.

A monk of devotion: Father Ange-Marie Niuky

In 1995, Father Niuky – a Mankanya speaker who at that time was a monk in a monastery near Dakar – started working on translating the Gospels into Mankanya, working with the help of a cousin. He spent most of every night for five years translating even though he had no training in translation and there was no agreed way of writing Mankanya down.

After a year, another Mankanya man visited the monk’s monastery. While the two men talked, it emerged that this man’s son was studying languages at university and was currently trying to create an alphabet for the Mankanya language. He and a friend had thought that if English and French and Portuguese and Spanish could be written down, couldn’t their language be written down too?

The monk convinced the two graduates that the most important thing they could do was to translate the Bible into their language, and so they started working with him, particularly helping the monk to write it in a more scientific way.

SIL involvement and the official alphabet

Father Nuiky and the director of SIL Senegal

Father Nuiky and the director of SIL Senegal

More Mankanya people based in Dakar became interested in being part of the translation. Fifteen or so started working together with the monk and formed an association to translate the Bible into their own language.

Between 1995 and 2000, the translators came into contact with SIL Senegal, an organisation specialising in linguistics and translation. Gustave Campal and Georges Kampal, the two graduates, came on a couple of basic linguistic training courses SIL ran and started asking SIL for help with the translation work. In early 2000, just after my husband and I arrived in Senegal, we were asked to help them as they worked on their language.

By then, Gustave and Georges had worked out a basic alphabet so that the Mankanya cultural association, Pkumel, could request that the Senegalese government officially recognise their language. (This is a different association to the translation one, but many people are members of both.) Along with a linguistics consultant from Wycliffe’s partner SIL, we worked with them on improving the alphabet they had developed and helped them submit the necessary documents to the government. In 2001, the written form of the Mankanya language was officially recognised by the government and gained the status of a national language.

My husband continued working more with the cultural association in linguistics and on producing the first literacy books so that people could learn to read and write in Mankanya. I worked on the translation, initially with Gustave and Georges. Georges left to study in Portugal, but Gustave remained working on the translation for the whole time along with a series of other people.

Father Niuky leaves the team (formally)

At the same time that we were asked to work with the team, Ange-Marie Niuky became the abbot of his monastery. He felt that, because his first responsibility had to be to his monastery, he couldn’t keep spending all night working on the translation. He stayed very committed to the translation though, praying for it and encouraging the team, particularly Gustave. The abbot, as he became then, saw the arrival of my husband and me as God’s timing for the project.

The story continues next week, when Maggie discusses how the project came up against some of the frequently asked questions about Bible translation.

Read the previous post in this series: Meet the Mankanya people