Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Made from concentrate

Friday, October 10th, 2014

Despite the ongoing turmoil and violence in the Central African Republic (CAR), translation teams there have continued to produce draft translations of Scripture. This is at once an item for praise and a challenge. As there are no translation consultants currently able to live in CAR, there is a large backlog of unchecked draft translations.

IMG_4921-1The checking process is vitally important to ensure that each translation is correct and communicates clearly. Regular checking is useful to translators as they are able to learn from any mistakes they have made and problems can be caught early before they have the chance to become habits.

Praise God that recent consultant visits have resulted in Scriptures being checked.  The ‘concentrated’ style of working – when consultants come in for just a few weeks, work flat out and then leave again – is not ideal, but it’s the best solution for the current situation.

Will, a translation consultant to CAR, used to live and work in CAR but is now based in the UK. The security situation there has prevented him from visiting for three years but he is visibly excited that he has a trip lined up for November. He hopes to be joined by a colleague who has just moved to Cameroon. In order for that to happen his colleague needs her residency papers before she can travel.

Please pray:

  • That many consultants would be able to make regular visits to Bangui and clear the backlog. Pray that they encourage the translators and other national staff.
  • For the Gbeya and Kaba teams, who are close to finishing the New Testament. None of the consultants involved in CAR have experience in the final stages of preparing a New Testament for printing. Please pray that God would  help both teams and related consultants to finish well. Find more ways to pray for projects nearing completion.
  • For the teams who are early on in the process of translating the New Testament. Pray that God will help them grow in translation skills and that God would provide consultant support for them.
  • Pray that Will and his colleague would both be able to go to CAR in November. After not doing any consulting for 3 years Will is concerned he is out of practice.  Pray that God will help them both do a great job.
  • Pray for peace and reconciliation in CAR.

Find out more about the situation in CAR via the BBC.

Cookies, caches and cows

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

If you think it’s hard to translate concepts like ‘sin’ and ‘redemption’, what about the challenges of making smartphone operating systems understandable for minority language speakers? In a fascinating article from the Economist, we are introduced to the challenges mainstream developers are facing as they try to translate terms like ‘cookies’, ‘caches’ and ‘crash’.  Working with local language speakers, you’ll be amazed at the solutions they are coming up with.

Firefox for a computer uses about 40,000 words; for the phone OS, 16,000. Translators must express technological terms in languages shaped by livestock, farming and fishing, and choose alternatives for culture-specific words such as “cookie”, “file” and “mouse”.

Ibrahima Sarr, a Senegalese coder, led the translation of Firefox into Fulah, which is spoken by 20m people from Senegal to Nigeria. “Crash” became hookii (a cow falling over but not dying); “timeout” became a honaama (your fish has got away). “Aspect ratio” became jeendondiral, a rebuke from elders when a fishing net is wrongly woven. In Malawi’s Chichewa language, which has 10m speakers, “cached pages” became mfutso wa tsamba, or bits of leftover food. The windowless houses of the 440,000 speakers of Zapotec, a family of indigenous languages in Mexico, meant that computer “windows” became “eyes”.

The world speaks nearly 7,000 languages. Mali, with a population of 15m, has 13 national languages and 40-60 smaller ones, depending on where the border between language and dialect is drawn. Firefox is available in 90 languages, which serve almost all of the 40% of the global population already online… But some languages spoken by millions are excluded, including Tibetan (3m-4m speakers) and Bambara (10m, including those for whom it is a second tongue). Bringing the rest of the world online is not just a technical challenge, but a linguistic one. (Read full article here)

 Man in Mali leans on his table of mobile phones

Speaking the customer’s language

Major Internet companies are seeing the need to make web content accessible to a wider market.  They’re prepared to invest heavily to make sure minority language speakers can access their content.  But what about the worldwide church?  Are we as committed to seeing God’s life-changing words made accessible to every language group that needs it?

Wycliffe Bible Translators and partners worldwide are already being part of that solution.  Find out how you can play your part too.

Wounded people on the road to healing

Friday, September 26th, 2014

Remember your promise to me; it is my only hope. Your promise revives me; it comforts me in all my troubles.” (Psalm 119:49-50).

God’s word is full of comfort, guidance, wisdom, and strength.  How often do we turn to it, as Christians in the West? Yet many people living in the most difficult contexts around the world – war zones and areas devastated by natural disasters – do not have the word of God in their own language.  They need God’s comfort the most, but where can they find it?

South Sudanese participants in a previous trauma healing workshopOne extremely useful tool to reach those most hurt by the crises around the world are trauma healing workshops. These workshops seek to train local church leaders; to equip them to be God’s agents of inner healing for those who have suffered severe trauma and loss through war, violent crimes, natural disasters and epidemic disease.

Reports from a recent workshop in Central African Republic (CAR) show how important this ministry is:

“There was an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the trauma healing through stories. People loved that they were telling stories in the mother tongue! Deeply wounded people began on the road to healing. People felt heard and understood. The best reaction was people understanding through the story of the creation that God loves us and that we are made in his image. We are not worthless. With all the trauma happening here, people feel like they are worthless and there is no hope for them. God is restoring hope through these stories in the mother tongue.”

Will you commit to praying for trauma healing workshops which help whole communities start on the road to recovery?

Upcoming Trauma Healing workshops are being held:

  • 22-26 September in Juba, South Sudan in partnership with the Bible Society.
  • 10-22 October in Juba refugee camp on the border of Sudan and South Sudan using oral storying in partnership with The Seed Company (TSC), working with refugees from the Nuba mountains.
  • 10-29 November in Bangui, CAR, again with TSC. Working with different groups using both the classic model and oral storying.

Please pray:

  • For the right participants at the Juba workshop; those who will be capable of helping others.
  • For the physical stamina for everyone involved in the refugee camp and for peace in the area. This seminar is physically demanding as the facilitators stay in tents in the camp.
  • For Bangui, that the facilitators will be allowed to go. They never know until the week before as it depends on the security situation.
  • For peace for CAR.

Find out more about Trauma Healing.

Holding multilingual church services

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Increasingly in the UK, multi-ethinic churches are faced with a dilemma.  Should everything be done in English, or should prayers and songs in another language be incorporated?  It’s a challenge faced the world over, and we in the UK have much to learn from those who have wrestled with this very issue for years.

Ghana is a country with over 60 languages, and these languages are not expressed in well-defined, discrete areas of the country.  Language communities overlap, people groups intermingle, and there is significant cultural and linguistic diversity in many churches.  Ed Lauber, working with partner organisation GILBT* shares some ways the church in Ghana has embraced this challenge.

Singing hymns in two Ghanaian languages as the same time. This was at a business meeting conducted in English.

Figuring out how to be one, unified church while making sure that everyone hears the message in a language they fully understand is a challenge. There are many approaches, such as having more than one service each in a different language, then once a month having a unified service in a regional or national language. Some churches conduct services in two languages. But translating everything is time consuming plus it is difficult for listeners to stay focused when every other sentence is in a language they don’t understand. Others have church services in a regional or national language, and home Bible studies in local languages. There are no easy answers. But some ignore the issue altogether and do everything in a regional or official language. But that leaves those most disadvantaged in that language to fend for themselves. It is hard to imagine how a person can become a thriving Christian while understanding only a fraction of the Bible and the teaching and preaching in church. (Read whole post here)

English speakers have the hardest challenge of all.  As the speakers of a dominant world language, it is almost impossible for us to imagine what it’s like to be a minority language speaker, where we are not widely understood.  Let’s not ignore the issue.

The Bible paints a picture of unity and diversity, of God reaching out to great and small, bringing us together as one Body.  The Good Shepherd leaves the 99 for the one lost sheep, and Revelation describes this:

After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb… they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” Revelation 7.9-10

That great shout will be in thousands of languages! What will the overhead projector look like for that worship service?  Somehow I don’t think we’ll be needing words on a screen, and it’s just as well!
Nevertheless, the Wycliffe website has some helpful suggestions for churches here: Support Non-English Speakers.

* the Ghana Institute of Linguistics, Literacy and Bible Translation (GILLBT)

Streams of water in an arid land

Friday, September 19th, 2014

The far north of Kenya, near the border with Ethiopia is the homeland of the Daasanach people. They live in a dry and arid part of the world, remote and difficult to reach. Yet they are not beyond the reach of the love of God; on 20th September 2014 the Daasanach New Testament will be launched.

Janet Sweet (Typesetter) with the New Testament in Daasanach

Janet Sweet (typesetter) with the New Testament in Daasanach

The celebration will be held in Ileret, which is a challenging place to get to. At some points the roads become ‘suggestions’. Using public transport, it can take between three days and a week to make the journey between Ileret and Nairobi! That’s why Bible Translation and Literacy* (BTL) is chartering planes and sturdy vehicles from other mission agencies to allow 100 guests to travel from Nairobi. Another 100 plan to travel down from Ethiopia and about 600 locals are expected to attend too.

The team chose the unusual combination of blue page edging and a sandy brown cover for the New Testaments to represent precious streams of life-giving water in the arid landscape of northern Kenya. Please join us in praying that God’s living water will transform many lives.

  • Praise God that the lorry carrying the New Testaments and some supplies for the celebration has arrived at Ileret despite encountering some problems en route.
  • Praise God that even those who live in isolated places are not isolated from God’s love. Pray that many will encounter his love through the newly launched New Testament.
  • Pray for all the final preparations for the celebration. Due to the remote location it may be challenging to have everything ready on time.
  • Those who will be flying there on the day will fly from Nairobi. Please pray the transport logistics will run smoothly so that that guests can get there and back within permitted flying hours.  Pilots’ flying hours are restricted for safety reasons.

*Bible Translation and Literacy is the national bible translation organisation in Kenya.

Find out more about the Daasanach project.

Find out how to pray for communities with the New Testament by downloading our free prayer pack.

Prayer is the most powerful weapon

Friday, September 12th, 2014

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. 

International Literacy Day

Monday, September 8th, 2014

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!

Saturday, September 6th, 2014

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:


” 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

Friday, September 5th, 2014

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

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

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.