Gift: Language Programmes Coordinator; Kathryn: Literacy and Scripture Engagement Assistant (Uganda)

‘This is what makes me so sad in Uganda and what really motivates me. It isn’t fair that children in Uganda so often don’t even have one book in their own language, let alone a Bible they can understand,’ Kathryn, a professional librarian by background, now serving God in Uganda, shares frankly with me as my 18-month-old daughter pulls her toddler books from the shelf one by one.

Kathryn Asiku works on a laptop Kathryn at work in the literacy and Scripture engagement department

Kathryn studied languages at university, and felt drawn to Wycliffe after being challenged by God to leave the comfort of her profession for full-time ministry. ‘Wycliffe,’ she says, ‘combined my interest in languages and literacy.’

While on a short-term placement in the Wycliffe office in Arua, North-West Uganda, Kathryn met Gift, who was at the time volunteering in the IT department. Their office romance led to marriage, and they now live in Entebbe, on the shores of Lake Victoria, with their two boys, James and Simon-Peter.

Gift is from Arua. He speaks five languages, not uncommon in a country of 42 languages. Although his background is in IT, Gift now oversees the Old Testament translation and related literacy and Scripture engagement work supported by Wycliffe in Uganda. He never intended to join Wycliffe, but when others identified his skills in management and strategy, he prayed about it, and joined Wycliffe in 2009.

Jessica Kirrya holds the Lugwere New Testament. Jessica loves God’s word and longs to have the whole Bible in her language. Gift oversaw the translation of the Lugwere New Testament and Kathryn assisted with the production of literacy and Scripture related books in Lugwere.

I spoke to Gift about his personal experience of having the Bible available in his mother tongue, Lugbarati. He recalled his grandmother, a Christian, reading the Bible to him. His grandfather, who followed an animist religion, steered well clear of the kitchen while that was going on! Through her witness, Gift became a Christian, but he always prayed in English.

I believe the gospel has power when it is preached in local languages

‘Psychologically I thought the best way of talking to God was in English. Upon seeing the JESUS film in Lugbarati though, I realised God can speak to me in my own language. It made worship more meaningful and powerful. I believe the gospel has power when it is preached in local languages. I decided it was time to help speakers of other languages have access to God’s word.’

He spoke of the fruitfulness of the work of Bible translation in Uganda and the increased desire for God’s word. In the past, people would perhaps say they believed in Jesus, but whenever sickness struck, they went to the local witch doctor for help. Now, as the Bible is translated into more and more languages, people are starting to see that God is not an ‘English’ God at all, so they no longer see him as irrelevant to them, and they turn to him for help.

Gift with a group of Bagwere children (who speak Lugwere)

While Gift sees the impact of Bible translation, in her role Kathryn sees the difference literacy makes. During a literacy class for Keliko women, the group read the story of Joseph from the book of Genesis. Kathryn recalls, ‘Their responses were sometimes surprising to me, because they saw things from a different perspective, coming from a culture that in some ways is much more similar to that of Old Testament Israel than mine is. The ladies were challenged to treat all their children equally, including step-children, seeing that Jacob’s favouritism towards Joseph led to him being rejected and almost murdered by his brothers. They were convicted by the Keliko Scriptures.’

Gift plays Lunyole Scripture on an audio device to a Banyole mum and her baby to test how the translated Scripture sounds to local people

Not only have these women learnt to read, enabling them to engage with the Bible for themselves, but some of them are now teaching others to read, too. Take Margaret, for example. During that very class, she struggled to read a story her husband Isaac, the Keliko translation team leader, had helped to translate. Now, she is passing on her gift and passion for reading, giving many more Keliko people the opportunity to meet Jesus in the Keliko Scriptures. (Read the story of the Keliko New Testament here.)

Once the New Testament was published their hunger for God’s word would increase, and they would long for the whole Bible

It is important for people to have the whole Bible in their language, not just the New Testament. Gift explains how often people would initially only ask for one book in their language, or only the New Testament, but as soon as these were published, their hunger for God’s word would increase, and they would long for the whole Bible.

‘And who is behind this translation work?’ I ask Gift as we close. ‘Ugandans do it. Ugandans, for Ugandans.’

Watch the video to find out more about Gift and Kathryn’s work:

Please pray for Gift and Kathryn:

  • Thank God for Gift and Kathryn’s commitment to serve him in translation and literacy, and the love and concern they have for the people of Uganda who don’t yet have God’s word in their language. Please pray God would sustain them in this work.
  • Praise God for the open door Christians have in Uganda to share the good news and undertake translation work. Please pray in particular for people in Uganda who have the New Testament in their own languages, but are waiting for funding to begin translating the Old Testament. Pray for wisdom for Gift as he oversees the translation work, and for unity among all who are involved.
  • Pray for Margaret as she teaches others to read and supports Isaac in his work leading the Keliko translation team. Pray God would raise up many workers like Kathryn and Margaret who are passionate about promoting literacy and giving people access to information in their own language ‒ particularly, of course, access to God’s word.

Story by: Sarah Graves

Date: 24/08/2022

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