Favourite verses around the world

September 15th, 2014 by Ruth

The GMI Missiographics team share another eye-opening infographic with us, this time exploring how people around the world are searching the Bible, based on stats from BibleGateway.com.

Global Bible Searches - What Are They Searching For?

Global Bible Searches – What Are They Searching For?

There are some favourites of mine here, featuring across national borders, such as John 1, our introduction to Jesus, the Word of God.  There’s also the chapter about Love in 1 Corinthians 13, and the famous ‘song for the sheep’ in Psalm 23.

But Missiographics leave us some challenging questions about this snapshot. For example,

‘In Pakistan and Nigeria, all of the top 5 searches are from the Old Testament.’

‘If many searches in your country of interest are Old Testament searches, how are you weaving the Old Testament into your presentation of the gospel?’

Of all the languages in the world, only 513 have the entire Bible.  Most languages, if they have any Scripture at all, have just the New Testament, or maybe some portions of the Old.

We recently wrote about Nigeria, which has the largest need for Bible translation in Africa, with a total of 520 languages, 250 of which have no known Scripture.

So when starting a new translation project, where would you start? Would you start by translating John 3:16, because it’s your favourite verse?

Often, rural communities relate strongly to Old Testament stories rooted in pastoral culture, so it might make sense to start translating portions of the Old Testament, rather than diving straight into the New Testament gospels.  Who gets to decide?  The stats here seem to show there’s a hunger in Nigeria for the Psalms!

Decisions like these are not simple to make, and are part of a process of the language community working together with national translators and ex-pat colleagues to set project priorities.  Some books are easier to translate linguistically, like Jonah.  Some are really hard because of complex themes or ‘key terms’ used, like ‘redemption’ or ‘sin’.

But the challenge remains.  If there is no Scripture at all in the language you understand best, would you have a favourite Bible verse at all?

  • The Life of a Language Project explains some of the stages a in project, even before the first word is translated.
  • You can be involved in ensuring that those without any Scripture can have a favourite verse of their own.

Prayer is the most powerful weapon

September 12th, 2014 by Jo Johnson

Sometimes the opposition translation projects face is very obvious and at others it is much more subtle. Those working on the Bassar (also called Ntcham) Bible in Togo have faced both sorts in the last year. ‘The devil has been contesting this translation of God’s Word, but in all things God is sovereign, and His purpose cannot be thwarted.’

In ‘The heat is on: finishing the Bassar Bible‘  we told you of how God preserved the life of translator Samuel Kpagheri, the nearly finished Bible proof sheets and his laptop in a serious car accident in December 2013. Taxi roads DSC03265Shortly afterwards the Bible was sent for printing. But in June there was yet another setback when the team learned that, due to unforeseen circumstances, printing had not yet begun.

As a result, the launch that was scheduled for November had to be postponed until January 2015. However, word came at the beginning of September that the printing has, indeed, begun. Praise God that His purpose cannot be thwarted!.

Please pray:

  • that the printing of those Bibles to go well
  • for the safe shipping of the Bibles from Korea to Togo
  • for their smooth transit through customs
  • that they may arrive in good time for the dedication in January.

Not only has the project progressed but Samuel has moved on too. He has just about finished his first year of study for an MA in Bible Translation at the Africa International University in Kenya, a course which is partly residential, and partly done by following courses online.  He is training to be a translation consultant*, which will enable him to support translation in many languages.

As a member of Wycliffe Togo he faces a challenge as he now has to raise support for his ministry. Praise God that this has begun to happen. Samuel wrote: “We need not only financial support but also prayers from our partners. Prayer is the most powerful weapon God has given to his children.

Please pray that he will soon be fully supported.

* Translation Consultants work together with a team thoroughly going over the translation to check for accuracy, clarity and naturalness looking for omissions, extraneous thoughts and possible misconceptions.

Find out more about about translation work in Togo and  Wycliffe Togo. 

Wish you knew more about the Bible?

September 10th, 2014 by Ruth

A recent poll at BibleGateway.com shows that most of their users wish they knew more about the Bible.

Readers of the Bible Gateway Blog were asked “How do you describe your personal knowledge of the Bible?”, to which more than 2,000 responded. Of that number, a total of 59% agreed with, “Wish I knew more.”

Almost a third of responders (28%) said they are “comfortably knowledgeable,” nearly a tenth (9%) called themselves “a Bible scholar,” and 4% said, “About all I know are some of the names of the books, but not in order.” (read full post here)

Bible Society’s inflatable whale attraction

Add to this recent news from the Bible Society whose Pass It On campaign includes an inflatable whale attraction which shares the story of Jonah with the UK public.  General knowledge of key Bible stories, according to YouGov research, is even shakier.

‘Research conducted by YouGov for Bible Society showed that whilst half of all parents think it is important for their children to engage with the Bible; in practice 59 per cent of children didn’t know Jonah and the Whale was a Bible story. The research further revealed that 29 per cent of children couldn’t identify the Nativity as a Bible story.‘ (full article from Inspire)

Whilst we celebrate that the BibleGateway have just added audio translations in four more languages to their impressive selection of Bible versions available online, there still remain around 98 million people worldwide without any Scripture in their language, and a definite need for Bible translation to begin for them.

How much of the Bible do you think they know, without one?

  • Will you help them know more of the God of the Bible, by being a part of bringing the Bible to them for the very first time?
  • And for those of you who wish you knew more about the Bible, why not check out Wycliffe’s free downloadable small group resource, The Bible: Frequently Asked Questions?
  • Take a look at our presentation series Understanding the Scriptures on Slideshare, with experienced translators sharing their insights and examples from the world of Bible translation.

International Literacy Day

September 8th, 2014 by Ruth

For over 40 years now, UNESCO has been celebrating International Literacy Day, reminding the international community that literacy is a human right and the foundation of all learning.  This video from UNESCO South Sudan gives a profoundly touching insight into the struggles of a nation facing staggering illiteracy rates.

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The South Sudanese have suffered the deep disruption of war, resulting in closed or destroyed schools and a generation of children left illiterate in its wake.  Add to that the challenges of educating nomadic communities, constantly on the move in pursuit of grazing land. Yet there is no doubt that leaders in South Sudan see literacy as key to bringing peace and hope to their nation.

For the illiterate now – many of whom are ex-combatants – job opportunities are extremely limited.  As one man remarked of violence still prevalent within South Sudan,

‘A hungry man is an angry man.’

Yet teacher Jacob Oruru and many others like him believe literacy is the answer.

‘Literacy helps to reduce violence… because once you are literate, you know what is good and what is bad.’

All the more so when Scripture becomes available in the mother tongue, as Wycliffe and partner organisations work with local translators worldwide to develop minority languages, creating alphabets, dictionaries, health and educational materials.  Ultimately the New Testament or entire Bible becomes available in a way that communities can understand, and in a way that transforms hearts and minds.

This Jesus can speak our language!

September 6th, 2014 by Ruth

The story goes that, back in 1917, Wycliffe founder Cameron Townsend started out in his missionary career offering Spanish Bibles to locals in Guatemala.  A Cakchiquel man, finding material in Spanish incomprehensible, challenged him with, “If your God is so great, why can’t he speak my language?”

This heartbreaking question provoked a dramatic response. Townsend himself went on to translate the New Testament into that man’s language within 10 years.  And nearly 100 years later, following Townsend’s footsteps, God has raised up hundreds of individuals and partner organisations with one vision: to see God’s word translated into every remaining living language, so that this question would be forever answered.

In 2014 – 6,918 languages worldwide.  Only 513 languages with complete Bibles. 1,576 languages still remain with no known Scripture, representing around 98 million people.

Where translation work is underway, the exclamations abound.  People are hearing God speak their language for the first time.  Take this recent showing of The JESUS Film in the Mara area of Tanzania:


Jesus Film premier, Mara Region

Our SIL Kabwa and Zanaki translators translated the script for these films and were instrumental in finding the voice actors needed.  We are praising God for the tremendous response to the film premiers which took place in April.  To illustrate a little what the response was like, let me tell you what our office’s Partnership Officer, himself a Zanaki man, Pastor Willy Futakamba- reported after the Zanaki Jesus Film Premier. 70+ adults (children were at least another 70) came forward in response to the Gospel message given along with the film. The next day 3 men who had been at the film tracked Pastor Futakamba down at his home. “We now can see that this Jesus can speak our language.  We want to become Christians.  Please tell us where we should go and what we should do.” They were ready to completely leave their previous lives behind and were seeking out a Christian community for which they could join.  God has truly blessed these premiers.  Pray that He will continue to bless these films as they will be used in evangelism around the Kabwa and Zanaki communities. (source: TheTask.net)


” The greatest missionary is the Bible in the mother tongue. It never needs a furlough, and is never considered a foreigner.” Townsend, Cameron — Founder, Wycliffe Bible Translators 

You can help to give the story by praying, giving, going, or telling others.

Proclaiming the word of God

September 5th, 2014 by Jo Johnson

Sometimes translating the Bible is a long process. Take the Bakossi language of Cameroon, for example, the project first started in 1974. The running of the project was taken over by CABTAL*  during the  1990s and the Bible was finally launched in 2011, 37 years later. As the project progressed the Bakossi church was increasingly involved and after the launch, the Bakossi churches were handed the task of continuing literacy efforts and helping people learn how to use Scripture in their mother tongue.

Man listening to a proclaimer

Man listening to a proclaimer

However, one issue was that the Bakossi, like two-thirds of the world’s population, are oral learners. This means that even when they can read and write they often prefer to learn through oral means, and some will never learn to read and write. Our partners Faith Comes By Hearing stepped into the breach and produced an audio version of the Bible, which was recorded soon after the launch in 2011.

The next step was to put the recorded Scripture onto microchips which are installed in specially designed audio players called Proclaimers. Proclaimers are easy to use and have good enough sound quality to be heard by groups as large as 300 people. It’s little wonder they are popular, so popular in fact that there weren’t any immediately available for the Bakossi.

Paitence and perseverance were again rewarded when supervisors’ training took place in April this year and immediately 23 listening groups were set up with 1,000 people attending. This in turn has resulted in an increased demand for Bibles, as people want to read along to what they are listening to, all the while improving their literacy skill.  Praise God!

Please pray :

  • many more listening groups will be started and many will hear God’s truth for the first time.
  • that Christians attending these groups will understand God’s word better.
  • that the word of God will change hearts and lives and empower churches.

Find out more about oral communities and pray effectively by using our prayer module ‘Bibles for oral communities

* CABTAL Cameroon Association of Bible Translation and Literacy

Learning more about God with music from the heart

September 3rd, 2014 by Phil

Music provides an opportunity for groups to memorise Bible stories. Just like the songs we sang in Sunday School helped us to remember truths from the Bible, Wycliffe use music to help communities get to grips with the Bible.

Rob Baker is a school music teacher and ethnomusicologist. An ethnomusicologist is someone that helps a language group develop Bible songs in their own language and culture. For his summer holidays he’s spending some time in the Ivory Coast helping a couple of communities with their worship.

He starts with some teaching…

Next day, and teaching began. I started off as I do with most courses of this kind I have taught, by asking two questions:

(i) What is culture?
(ii) Is music a universal language?

Ethnomusicology in Ivory Coast

Ethnomusicology in Ivory Coast

The answer to (ii) is almost always given as ‘yes’, until I explain more clearly, giving examples from across the globe. After this, participants realize that, whilst music is a universal phenomenon, it is not a universal language, as every culture of the world defines, composes and makes music in a different way.

We then make the logical step on to the importance of one’s own culture and how, when artforms from the local culture are used, it speaks to members of that culture in a powerful way, and communication is improved too.

After this, we list all the song genres present in each culture. A song genre is just a style of song linked – in Africa – to a specific event. Songs for weddings, funerals, harvest, initiation, hunting, war, and dancing in the moonlight. Once listed, we see how many of these have already been adapted for church use and which ones could be used. Sometimes they are almost all already used in church, sometimes almost none have been used. But the idea is the same as that of Charles Wesley: to use the music closest to the heart of those we are trying to reach. We call this contextualization. Or, as William Booth said: “Why should the Devil have all the good tunes?”

You can read more about the workshop Rob was involved in, and listen to examples of the songs they recorded, on his blog.

Wycliffe aren’t just interested in translating a Bible and leaving communities to get on with it. We want them to be able to understand and learn from it as well. You can find out more about Ethnomusicology and how other art forms help people to get to grips with God’s word on the Wycliffe Global Alliance website.

If you’d like to get involved in ethnomusicology, have a look for opportunities on the vacancies page of our website.


September 1st, 2014 by Hannah

This is the final 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.

‘It’s a great joy,’ Gustave Campal, the longest serving Mankanya translator, said on the launch day of the Mankanya Scriptures. ‘In the beginning, I was just helping the abbot. The more we went on, the more it became a passion. It was something I needed to do! And every year, despite all the difficulties, what I kept thinking was that one day I will finish translating the word of God for my people. It’s a great joy for me today to see that the work has been done.’

A few days after the dedication, we heard with excitement that a Mankanya pastor who presents a local radio programme used the newly-printed Scriptures in his programme. He interviewed another Mankanya Christian and asked him about using these Mankanya Scriptures.

Bible study in Boutoute 12 may

Around the same time, some American missionaries with a long-term interest in serving the Mankanya people were able to use the newly-printed Scriptures in a Bible study in a local village.

The Mankanya Scriptures aren’t only books. As well as the printed materials, there’s also video and audio which we hope will touch many other people’s lives. The JESUS Film – based on the Gospel of Luke – was produced in Mankanya in 2005, and quite a lot of the Scriptures have already been recorded, including Genesis, John and portions of Leviticus and Hebrews, along with Mankanya worship songs, based on the Scriptures. There have also been 105 new songs composed to go with the New Testament, which was recorded in May and June by Hosanna (which produces the Faith Comes By Hearing series). It’s a multi-voice dramatised reading which will have the songs interspersed. It should come out next year.

It was a landmark to see this book translated and published, but I found it hard to be excited by just seeing a book. A lot of people were excited about the fact that it shows that their language is important. But are they actually going to read it?

I get more excited when I hear of people whose lives are being impacted when they’ve heard bits of the Scripture that we’ve translated. I heard, for example, that the American missionaries took the audio recording of John’s Gospel and were discussing it together with a group of Mankanya people in the chief’s house. When they came to leave, the chief said, ‘You must come back again. We want to hear more. Today God has visited my home.’ That’s when I think it’s worth all the difficult times and the frustrations.

Read the previous posts in this series:

Frontline Prayer Live: coming again this November

August 29th, 2014 by Jo Johnson

‘It’s amazing how quickly you get passionate about something when you’re praying for it.’ Katie, Cambridge University student.

Are you ready to get passionate about what God is doing around the world? Join us on 8th November to pray for what is happening on the frontline of mission and be encouraged by hearing what God is doing through Bible translation and the prayers of ordinary people. Frontline Prayer Live is an inspiring and upbeat event. It’s fast-paced and interesting with the opportunity to worship God and make a difference by praying.

Frontline Prayer Live, Edinburgh 2013

Frontline Prayer Live, Edinburgh 2013

Here are a couple of things people said about last year’s event:

Thanks, it was a great day. Hard work but inspiring.’

‘I just love being together with people like this who are interested in the world!’

This year there will be two official venues: the Oasis Centre in Princes Risborough, Bucks and Faith Mission Bible College in Edinburgh.  But since we know that not everyone will be able to travel to one of the ‘official’ venues, we have prepared downloadable modules to encourage churches and individuals to get praying on the frontlines wherever they are!

Modules providing video, prayer information and presentations are uploaded onto the Wycliffe UK website at wycliffe.org.uk/fpmodules, covering themes such as Orality or Translation challenges or a specific geographic focus. They contain all you need to hold a day or half-day event, but are flexible if you would just like to use parts of them for a shorter time as part of a broader meeting.  If you need help in knowing how to use them feel free to contact the Wycliffe Prayer Co-ordinator for ideas and tips.

Please join us in praying that many people will take the opportunity this November to become passionate about the needs of Bibleless people around the world.

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.