Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

Cheers in church!

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

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

Monday, August 18th, 2014

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

Friday, August 15th, 2014

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.

Starting translation

Monday, August 11th, 2014

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

Meet the Mankanya people

Monday, August 4th, 2014

This is the first 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.

Abbot Ange-Marie Niuky

Abbot Ange-Marie Niuky

Father Ange-Marie Niuky is the abbot of a Catholic monastery near Dakar and is himself Mankanya. About 20 years ago, before he was appointed the abbot of the monastery, he became very concerned when he saw how many of his people were still following their traditional religion while professing to be Christians. He thought that the reason they continued doing these things was that they hadn’t ever really understood the gospel. Why not? It wasn’t in their language. So, although he didn’t know how to translate the Bible, he felt that God was telling him to do something about it.

The Mankanya people are originally from Guinea-Bissau, in West Africa, but now about half of them live in Senegal. There are about 75,000 of them in total, most of whom are Catholic.

However, their Catholic faith is often mixed with their traditional beliefs, including a belief in the power of the spirits. Many Mankanya people would like not to have to follow all the sacrifices. It’s so expensive and they feel weighed down by it.

But many are too scared to stop doing sacrifices. They know that they will be attacked by the spirits and become ill, and people may even die as a result.

It’s something that happens. I’ve heard of several Mankanya believers who say that when they decided to commit their lives to Jesus, their sleep over the next few weeks or months was broken; they woke at night because of physical attacks from the spirits. They felt pain; one man said it felt like his arm was being pinned behind him and twisted.

There are times when people are possessed by the spirits. At a funeral I heard of, a spirit spoke through a woman, threatening the daughter-in-law of the dead man and her son. She told them the spirit would kill them because her husband was refusing to do the ritual sacrifices done after the death of a family member. The daughter-in-law was terrified. She’s not Mankanya and it was her first encounter with the Mankanya spirits. They have a reputation in the area for being very powerful.

It’s only if the Mankanya people understand that Jesus is more powerful than the spirits that they will have the strength to stop fearing them.

What happens next? Read the blog next week, when Maggie will introduce us to the members of the Mankanya translation team.

From the classroom to Cameroon

Friday, July 25th, 2014

At the end of July, new students will begin the first stage of training for Wycliffe work overseas. The Language and Culture Acquisition course (known as ʟᴀᴄᴀ) prepares workers to engage in depth with a new language and culture, and runs at Redcliffe College in Gloucester.

Suzie and Philip Burgess were at Redcliffe until recently, doing further training for work in Cameroon. We asked them what the benefits of studying there are.

Suzie and Philip Burgess

Suzie and Philip Burgess

‘It was good to be with other people who were training for overseas ministry from a number of different  organisations and it was helpful to enjoy fellowship groups and community worship times in the midst of an intense study programme.

‘We also thoroughly enjoyed the food and the pool competition (all work and no play is not a healthy balance!). It was humbling to meet others on the course who work in very different and challenging situations and see the sacrifices that they make, often just to be on the course.’

Pray for the course

Please pray for all the students and staff at Redcliffe College, especially those involved in ʟᴀᴄᴀ. Pray for good transitions back to study, good relationships and God’s enabling.

Pray for Philip and Suzie

Philip and Suzie have both worked in Cameroon before and recently returned to the capital city Yaoundé. They can’t move to live with the Parak* people Philip had previously worked with due to current security concerns. Philip will work with contacts in Yaoundé from the language group. Suzie will make short trips to the Yive village where she worked previously, and process and analyse the data at a distance.

By Christmas, Suzie hopes to be a long way through the 18,000-word dissertation which will be the completion of her MA; Philip hopes to have done more foundational analysis work in the Parak language before translation begins. They both want to encourage and build relationships within the communities despite the distance.

Please pray for safe travels, a strong marriage and wisdom about working at a distance for the projects and the peoples they have come to love.

Look into doing Bible translation and Scripture Use studies at the Redcliffe Centre for Linguistics, Translation and Literacy. Find out more about Bible translation in Cameroon.

*Parak is the pseudonym used for security purposes.

They heard singing…

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Wycliffe colleagues Tim and Ali are based in Nigeria, a country facing great challenges at the moment, particularly in the north.  But Nigeria has another huge and urgent challenge, one that has not made recent headline news.

It has a total of 520 languages, over 250 of which don’t have a single word of Scripture yet. There is a massive need for Bible translation. In fact, the country has the second biggest need for Bible translation in the world.

Tim writes,

One of our teams host Scripture songwriting workshops to help encourage churches to be using the languages that God gave them, to praise him…

Instruments ready for a song-writing workshop

Instruments ready for a song-writing workshop

Mr Sunday Timawus, coordinator of Ga’anda Bible translation project reports, ‘One of the things that attracts people in our area is songs, more than reading the Scripture actually.

‘I’ve seen the testimony of the people in our village. Most of the people who don’t come to church say, “Now you are doing something!” After the workshop we had a lot of revival in our church. Most of the time we see the elderly men and women staying at home since the services were not in the language,  but since the workshop there’s been kind of a breakthrough in our place and language. Now, most of what’s happening is in the language so they can understand it and they have rededicated their lives to God. Now they are saying, “When can we have another workshop?’’ (Read Tim’s blog here.)

Do you want to know more about the power of Scripture songs in the mother tongue?  Find out about Scripture use on the Wycliffe website.

Central African Republic: God at work in impossible situations

Friday, July 4th, 2014

Several times in the last 12 months we’ve asked you to pray for the conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR). There is no real breakthrough towards a peaceful resolution in sight. Here is an update to help you keep praying.

In places there is an uneasy tension between the two conflicting sides that is fragile, and very small things can tip the balance into violence. Praise God that things in the capital city Bangui have improved. Due to insecurity in other areas of the country, seven translation teams have been temporarily relocated to Bangui in order to continue the work at the ACATBA* centre.

Please continue to pray for complete peace and reconciliation for CAR. Pray that the seven teams will be able to return to their home areas soon.

Sylvain Ndjendole CAR13DJ-1Despite all the difficulties, God has been at work. It seems incredible that with a backdrop of such violence and insecurity translation work has continued, but there are now more than 40 books of the Bible ready for consultant checking in several languages.

About a year ago the revised Sango Bible was launched. Just before the launch, violence erupted and many of the Bibles were looted and some destroyed although others were found on sale in the local market. The Bibles have been reprinted and 9,100 new copies are on their way. However, even once they arrive in Douala (Cameroon), they have to be transported to CAR. Just last week the haulage union members who drive the freight lorries between Cameroon and CAR went on strike because of the number of deaths on that road and the huge risks they face if they drive it.

Praise God for how he is at work. Please pray:

  • that God will provide creative solutions to the clear the backlog of drafted Scripture that is waiting for consultant checking.
  • that God will strengthen the faith of each ACATBA member of staff in the face of serious hardship.
  • that God will provide a safe way for the Sango Bibles to reach CAR and be distributed.
  • for the food situation, since this is now the end of the planting season and final efforts are being made to get seed and tools out to people.

Read Central African Republic: an update, our earlier blog on the conflict in CAR.

*ACATBA: Association Centralfricaine pour la Traduction de la Bible et l’Alphabétisation, the Wycliffe organisation in CAR.


Not by bread alone

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

The region of South Sudan where the Murle people live is one where many people have been displaced by the internal violence. Murle cattle herders, though, have continued to move their herds from place to place, finding sustenance. It’s not only the cows that need to be fed, though…

blog-cowThis post first appeared on Wycliffe USA’s blog. Read the original here.

Recently a group of SIL* literacy workers went to the Murle area to train teachers to conduct literacy classes in cattle camps. The new teachers lived and moved with the group, conducting classes when people had fewer chores or activities.

Two SIL workers and a man who had been on the Murle New Testament translation team conducted teacher training sessions for thirteen Murle men. Many of the attendees had their New Testament copies, which they used and read fluently during morning devotions. They also shared songs and sang prayers in their own musical style. In addition to teaching literacy, some of the Murle men wanted to share the Gospel in the cattle camps. The staff demonstrated and practiced different teaching methods with the men and had them write short stories.

One morning during devotions, a Murle man named Marko glanced longingly at the Murle New Testament that lay on a table. He asked the staff where he could get a copy. “They are out of print,” one of the literacy workers replied. “Do you not have one?”

“I had one,” Marko answered. “But I lost it when we were running from the fighting.”

The literacy team gave Marko their resource copy and marveled at how much this book was like sustenance to him, perhaps even more so than the physical food he needed to live.

*SIL International is one of Wycliffe’s primary partners

The Murle New Testament is going to be reprinted soon. There’s even talk of an Old Testament translation. If you want to share about the need for the Bible to be translated in people’s mother languages, you can get involved with the work Wycliffe does in lots of ways. Explore some here.

10 ways you know you’re a missionary kid

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

“God is a missionary God, Jesus is a missionary Messiah, and the Spirit is a missionary Spirit. Missions is the family business.” (Leonard Sweet)

Jeannette Gerth and the four Gerth children

It’s common that when a couple are called to mission work overseas, they take their children with them. So common, in fact, that there is even a term for these children: ‘Missionary Kids’. It leads to an unusual upbringing, on that the Gerths (serving in Tanzania) have seen with their own children:

Here are the top 10 ways you know you’re a missionary kid (or at least a Gerth missionary kid living in Tanzania)…

  1. You can greet people in at least three languages
  2. At your friend’s birthday party you’re the only person from your home country
  3. You don’t feel safe sleeping at night unless you’re under a mosquito net
  4. Every time you get sick you assume you have malaria
  5. You lost your baby teeth on two continents

Read on on the Gerth’s blog for the other five key features of missionary kids, in their experience.

Serving God overseas is an obedient response for a whole family, not just for individuals. If you’re passionate about seeing God’s word reach everyone, have a look at how you and your family could join the family business.