Archive for May, 2013

From Axes to Bibles

ImageBy Adam Boyd with Richard Gretsky

In early 2013, Matt* went to Immi—a village in Papua New Guinea—to get a jump-start on a Bible translation project for the Enga language. While there, he met Joseph, one of the local men who helped him learn the Enga language and culture. Matt was quickly won over by Joseph’s humble, gentle spirit, which is why he was shocked to learn of his new friend’s past.

Joseph had been one of Immi’s most feared warriors—fighting countless battles with neighboring people groups. He was so powerful that he was even hired out as a mercenary who fought for other villages. In the end, when the fighting was done, Joseph was one of the few Immi men left standing.


In 2010 a pastor felt called to start a church in Immi to reach out to those who had experienced heavy fighting. He taught messages on forgiveness, saying, “When Christ died on the cross, He died for all of our sins, even the most heinous.”

When he heard these words, Joseph humbled himself and eventually decided to trust Jesus.

Matt could clearly see how the trajectory of Joseph’s life had changed dramatically. He had become one of his people’s leaders, a man who leverages his life for the well-being of others. When Matt’s time in the village finally came to a close, he took the opportunity to thank Joseph and the other two men who had helped him learn the language and take care of his family. In a ceremony at a local church, Matt presented each man with an axe or machete, and then gave each man a Bible—one in English, one in the trade language of Tok Pisin, and one in a language spoken nearby.


“Before, your lives were based on weapons like these, and you used them to destroy,” Matt announced. “Now your lives are based on the Word of God. And these axes and machetes that you used to use to destroy will now be used to build new houses and build a new life based on the Word of God.”

Joseph locked his arms around the Bible, while tears poured down his cheeks. He tried to speak, but just stood in front of the crowd, eyes focused on that book—his first Bible. He could read the words, but only very slowly, since it wasn’t in his own language and most Engans cannot read well. Even so, Joseph cherished those words.

Today, the translation team is focused on producing an audio Bible—and a physical Bible—for the 300,000 people in the Enga Province. And Engans like Joseph are prepared to fight again, but this time it’s to do whatever it takes to get a Bible in their own language.

*Names have been changed to protect identities.

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One Intern’s Experience in Guatemala
By Stephanie Willis

I applied to Wycliffe USA’s internship program thinking I would just be spending the summer in Orlando doing studio photography. But when I was given the option of spending two of my ten weeks in Guatemala as a photojournalist with one of Wycliffe’s GET Global trips, I jumped on the opportunity.

When my team first arrived in Guatemala City, we spent a few days getting acclimated, learning about the translation process, and meeting current translators. Then we traveled to two other cities before getting to our three-day stop in the village of Chim Ban.

stephanie1We were split into groups of three or four and charged with learning as much of the language and culture as we could. The first day, my group set out to meet new people and learn new words in Acateco, the Mayan language that was spoken there. I got to practice my favorite phrase from this trip many times, “Cheeskay cheweel hapfoto?” or “Can I take your picture?”

A highlight was getting to meet the Gaspar family. They helped us get connected with the children in the village, allowing us to host an impromptu coloring night with silly games. The morning we left, three sweet boys who we’d gotten to know were waiting at our door to help us fold our blankets in exchange for some crackers and M&M’s.

After we left Chim Ban we went to San Miguel for a few days. On Sunday—market day—I had free time to wander around. So I walked up to all sorts of interesting people and asked if I could take their picture. Responses ranged from fear (there is still a stigma that having your picture taken means your soul will be stolen) to amusement. My favorite response was from several older people who looked somewhat surly, but broke out into these cute smiles when I asked to take their picture. One of my favorite portraits was of an older man with a lollipop who was so excited to have his picture taken that he tried to take off his hat and fix his hair, but I encouraged him to stay just as he was.


My time in Guatemala had a pretty big impact on the way I view relationships. Going into the trip I was tempted to not try very hard to build relationships with the other girls on my team because I didn’t think it would be worth the effort for such a short period of time. However as I got to know them and the many people I met in Guatemala, I learned that no matter how much or how little time you have with someone, it is worth it to get to know them as much as possible.

When I got back from my trip, I had the chance to re-design any company I wanted for a graphic design class last fall, I chose to do GET Global.* I want the work I do, even if it’s just for school, to have an impact.


*Click here to view Stephanie’s school project and Guatemala photos.

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By Katie Kuykendall

Seimat Genesis March 2013

Another Scripture dedication has happened! We thank God that the Seimat people of the Ninigo Islands in Papua New Guinea (PNG) have been celebrating the completion of the New Testament in their language since Tuesday! The dedication comes to a close today.

In addition to the New Testament, the Seimat translation team has started on the translation of Genesis and has been working for many years producing other literature for the Seimat people, including story books for elementary students, an HIV/AIDS information booklet and story book, and a Seimat-English picture dictionary.  They’ve also been training several community members in basic computer skills and other tools to continue the work.

Seimat NT shipment OR March 2013JPG

Recently the team hosted a presentation about the Seimat Bible translation and literacy project during SIL International’s* biennialconference in Ukarumpa, PNG. Several Seimat men shared about their culture and the things they’ve learned by participating in the project.

One man, Rudolf, said that reading God’s Word in English

is like “swimming on the surface of the sea when you can’t really see what’s down there beneath you.” Now that Rudolf can read God’s Word in his own language, he said it’s like “putting on a diving mask, swimming down deep, and being able to see clearly everything that is there.”

Praise God for His provision in this project and that Rudolf and other Seimat people can now know God better! Please pray with us that the completed New Testaments will be shipped safely and that the dedication will bring glory to God.

*SIL International is Wycliffe’s primary strategic partner.


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Every year Wycliffe’s summer matching challenge—First Words to Final Printing—brings in valuable resources to help advance Bible translation for language groups around the world. For these communities, having Scripture in their own language is monumental. Without it, they are unable to find the spiritual truths that can transform their lives.

Recently in a community in Southeast Asia, a mother-tongue translator named Sharon* got to witness transformation in the life of her friend Rose* when she started sharing with her the series of Bible stories that her team had crafted. Sharon would play a recording of a story several times, and then ask Rose questions to see if she understood the meaning. With each story, Rose grew more and more interested. Then, after hearing about Jesus’ birth, His baptism, and John the Baptist’s call to repentance, Rose began to reflect on her own life and need for forgiveness from past wrongs. She abruptly asked, “Could I become a Christian now?”

Sharon was caught off guard a bit. She really hadn’t expected Rose to consider a response of faith until she had finished sharing the whole set of stories with her. Excited, she quickly got her thoughts together, and then began to explain more in-depth what it meant to be a Christian. Sharon invited Rose to church, and in the following weeks, as Rose heard about Jesus’ ministry, suffering, death, and resurrection, her faith in Christ grew deeper.

The work going on in Rose’s language group is just one of several projects needing funds through the First Words to Final Printing matching challenge. And this summer is a great time to give because every gift (up to $175,000) will be matched by generous donors who are excited to participate in bringing God’s Word to people who don’t have it in their language!

Go to www.wycliffefirstwords.com to give towards:

  • Specific training opportunities and resources for translation programs in Papua New Guinea, Southeast Asia, and Sudan.
  • Moving translation forward for projects in Kenya, Burkina Faso, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • Printing costs of four New Testaments.

*Names are pseudonyms

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By Elyse PattenNaro-BotswanaPhoto by Zeke du Plessis

An elderly Khoisan man is delighted to listen to a recording of the New Testament in his own language – Naro. Known widely as the ‘Bushmen’, the Khoisan people’s traditional desert-roaming lifestyle is featured in many movies and they are believed to be not only the original inhabitants of southern Africa but possibly the oldest ethnic group in the world. The Naro New Testament is the very first Scripture to be translated into a Khoisan language and an audio recording was also made for distribution since 95 percent of the Naro people don’t read but prefer oral communication.

View more images from the Naro New Testament Celebration.

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By Richard Gretsky


Every year at Expolit—a conference for Spanish-speaking Christians from around the world—the conference organizers pick a project to highlight and support.

This year, they selected a Wycliffe project.

Members of the media, artists, publishing houses, and Christian professionals from all over the world converged on the Convention Center at the DoubleTree Hotel at Miami Airport May 2–5 to check out Christ-honoring products available in Spanish and see what was new in their various industries.

And because of the spotlight on Wycliffe, everyone who attended also got a front row seat to learn about Bible translation.

Expolit showed a special Wycliffe video in Spanish and enabled us to set up a booth to tell people stories about how lives are changed through the process of Bible translation. In addition, Expolit graciously used that platform as an opportunity to raise money for a Wycliffe project to translate the Bible for the Ico* people of Colombia. The patrons were encouraged to give to the project, and Expolit agreed to match whatever was raised. On top of that, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of a new Spanish Bible translation by Holman Bible Publishers will be donated to Wycliffe.

And that spotlight paid off.

By the end of the conference, tens of thousands of dollars were raised for the project and other general Wycliffe funding; but what’s more, people were amazed at the relevance of what we do. Many were previously unaware that there are nearly 7,000 worldwide languages, and that—though we’re working on 1,500 language projects currently—there are still almost 2,000 languages with no translation.

Marcos Crespo, a graphic designer at Wycliffe USA, facilitated the booth at the conference and was encouraged by the response of pastors and church members from all over the globe.

“People were very perceptive…(and) it was easier for them to be in touch with understanding that people who need the Bible live close to them (wherever they live),” Marcos said. “Some were in tears knowing that the people we service are people near them that they, too, are trying to reach.”

On the whole, the conference was a big hit for Wycliffe, as people learned more about Bible translation. Many have already sought to partner with us to help people all over the world have the Bible in their own languages.

*A pseudonym

Give to the Ico project at: http://www.wycliffe.org/Give/expolit.aspx

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At Friday’s graduation ceremony in Columbia, South Carolina for the University of South Carolina, Wycliffe USA Board Chair, J. Brady Anderson, a former ambassador to Tanzania and the former administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, received a doctor of public service honorary degree. Congratulations to Brady for his many years of public service!



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