Archive for May, 2011

Rural home in southwest Ethiopia
Rural home in southwest Ethiopia.  Photo by Heather Pubols

On a Sunday morning in the town of Chambe in southwest Ethiopia, Pastor Bilu Demissie Shorbote explained to his congregation the words of Psalm 23.  “In Christ,” he said, “there is a place of healing and comfort.  Has anyone here experienced God’s comfort?”

“Amen.”  The people responded together.

Bringing hope and light

In recent months, the town of Chambe had experienced new and tangible evidence of God’s comfort through a booklet about HIV and AIDS.  The booklet, originally titled Kande’s Story, tells the story of a young woman whose parents die of AIDS and how members of the local church respond with support and healing.

Kande’s Story is a true-to-life account based on stories told by a church leader from northern Nigeria about children in his community.   The story was first written in 2004 by Shellbook Publishing Systems, who then allowed SIL to further adapt and use the story and add a facilitator’s manual.  Since then it has been translated into 139 languages, including thirteen in Ethiopia.  Among these is the Guji dialect of Oromo spoken in the village of Chambe.

As people read and discuss Kande’s Story, they uncover ways to apply scripture to their everyday life as the facilitator’s guide includes Bible passages.  Together participants discuss Jesus’ treatment of lepers, God’s view of sexual sin, justice for orphans and widows, and much more.

Healing a stigma

An estimated 2.1% of Ethiopian adults were HIV positive in 2007, but that number has been climbing toward the Sub-Saharan African average of 5%.  A staggering 22.5 million people across Sub-Saharan Africa are HIV positive, and nearly 15 million children are orphans due to AIDS.

The stigma of the disease remains strong in Ethiopia.  Communities often ostracize those suspected of having HIV and their family members.  Churches commonly teach that HIV is the wrath of God and a proof of sin in the life of the infected person.  Many people will not touch an infected person, and they even fear to pronounce the name of the disease, calling it instead “that thing.”

The impact of the story is noticeable.  In Kibre Mengist, a city near Chambe, a group of HIV positive people have started meeting every Friday in a public place. Together they share coffee, friendship, and support. Their public presence boldly announces their HIV positive status to the community with an openness unheard of before Kande’s Story workshops.

"I used to be afraid of people who are HIV positive."
Hamero Kedir talks to Danbala Elema. Danbala
helped to 
translate Kande’s Story into Guji-Oromo.
Photo by Heather Pubols

“I used to be afraid of people who are HIV positive,” said Hamero Kedir, a young woman from the region.  “Now I will say hi, shake their hands, and come close to them to try to help them.”

Spreading the word: “a new taste of freedom”

When government leaders in the region surrounding Chambe heard about Kande’s Story, they became excited.  They approached the presenters and asked for the workshops to be repeated in each of the 15 districts across a region of four million people.  Previously in this region the fliers, posters, and radio broadcasts regarding HIV and AIDS were only in the national language, Amharic.

“The government has given training on HIV, but this one is special because it is in our mother tongue and whoever is given the training should give the training to another,” explained church leader Worku Mute, who is referring to the method where those who read the story and participate in the workshops are asked to teach others about the disease, so the story spreads exponentially.

Others can help spread Kande’s Story. Guji translator Danbala Elema said they need more copies of the translated booklet to distribute.  The first printing included 20,000 copies, but some four million people speak the language.

Kande's Story team
The leaders involved in doing Kande’s Story workshops in the Guji Oromo area.
Photo by Heather Pubols

“My wish is that it could reach every people,” said Worku, who coordinates the sending of local missionaries through Evangelical Church Fellowship of Southern Ethiopia and would like every missionary to have a copy.

As the church service closed in Chambe, Pastor Bilu Demissie Shorbote and the congregation sang, “Jesus saved me from dying, cast away my sin.  Now I am free and happy.”  Today, as people read Kande’s Story in their mother tongue in Chambe and across Africa, Jesus is giving those affected by HIV and AIDS a new taste of freedom and happiness.

Read a longer version of this story

Editor’s note: Christine Jeske and her husband Adam have served as development workers in Nicaragua, China, and South Africa. She recently published a book called, Into the Mud–Inspiration for Everyday Activists. This story was originally written for the Wycliffe News Network.

Support language and translation work in Ethiopia.

Read Full Post »

Wycliffe Discovery Center

Today’s Orlando Groupon deal is a discount to the Wycliffe Discovery Center located near the Orlando International Airport. This unique opportunity will allow you to explore the different language groups and cultures where Wycliffe seeks to begin the remaining Bible translation needs. You can buy Groupon’s deal today here: http://www.groupon.com/deals/wordspring-discovery-center

Read Full Post »

By Danny Foster

Have you ever had one of those days where you want to tell the entire world just how good you’ve got it?! I’m talking about the kind of day where it all comes together and everything makes perfect sense—where your passions and your responsibilities merge like chocolate brownies and vanilla ice cream! Well last week I had not one, but four of those days!

Seven years ago my wife and I moved to southern Tanzania, and we were able to be part of a team that was responsible for setting up a Bible translation project for a cluster of ten languages. We only spent three years there before moving on to do similar work in the northern part of the country, so we didn’t get to see a whole lot of ‘fruit from our labours’. Just last year we moved again, this time to Dar es Salaam, but we regularly follow the news and track the developments in all of our projects. A couple of months ago we heard that Sangu, one of the languages that we worked with in southern Tanzania, was ready to dedicate their first seven books of the Bible, and a celebration was planned for May 7! There was NO WAY I was going to miss it. The Sangu language team have had an uphill battle in getting to this point: they live in a remote part of the country; the local churches are still trying to get established; and many Sangu have not been able to get much more than a primary education. Nonetheless, the Sangu are committed to their language and to seeing it developed.

So on May 5, I grabbed my backpack, jumped on my motorcycle, and headed off for the adventure of a lifetime! The 800 km trip down the TanZam highway (A104) took me through Mikumi National Park and 100k of winding motorcycle heaven in the Kilombero valley! The journey ended in the hot, flat savannahs of the Sangu Plains in Mbarale district of the Mbeya Region. It took me two days to get there. When I arrived on Friday at the town’s main market, I was welcomed by the chairman of the local Sangu language committee as they were making preparations for the celebration. I immediately got the sense that Saturday was going to be a party! I headed further out into the plains and stayed with a local rice farmer who is a good friend of mine and also works as a translation reviewer. That night we sat under the stars and talked about two journeys: the two-day journey of a crazy man from Dar es Salaam to the Sangu Plains on a motorcycle and the 14-year journey for the Sangu people to see their first dedication of Scriptures!

The next day we went back to town for the celebration. Everyone was there. The dedication was attended by the area MP, government officials, the Sangu chief, and a crowd of locals who were drawn in by the music and festivities. I even noticed a number of people from the neighbouring Sukuma and Masaai tribes taking part in the celebration. Several churches provided choirs who sang and danced with what can only be described as full-on joy! For me, it was a party like no other! Finally a small package containing Ruth, Jonah, Mark, 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon was cut open by the Mbarale District Council Chairman and then prayed over by all the local pastors.

I left shortly after the ceremony wanting to begin the two-day trip home before nightfall. As I rode up out of the Rift Valley, all I could think about was what the celebrations might have been like four hundred years ago in 1611 when the Bible was finally published in the common language of English. The whole journey was surreal, and if I didn’t have photos and videos to look back at, I wouldn’t believe it happened. I can’t think of a better way to enjoy what I do and where I live than to ride my 750 Twin into the Tanzanian southern highlands and take part in Scripture dedications for people who I got to play a very small part in the development of their language.

Editor’s note: Danny Foster serves with Wycliffe Canada in Tanzania. For more information about the Foster’s work in Tanzania please visit: www.thefosters.ca/.

Read Full Post »

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: