Archive for June, 2013

By Katie Kuykendall

Kéraba Wallou, a young boy in the Sototo village of Senegal, stood humiliated in front of his classmates.

He’d been playing a game with his friends in the schoolyard when a boy asked him if his father had returned yet from a recent trip. Kéraba responded without thinking.

“A bándi tákal,” he said in his language, Manjak. Yes, he came back yesterday.

Kéraba had committed a grave mistake by speaking his first language during school hours.

Laughing, the other boy ran off to tell the teacher what Kéraba had done. Kéraba was then forced to wear a symbol of shame—a bull skull and horns—while the other students laughed and teased him. He’d have to keep it on until the end of the day, or until another child spoke in their own language.


Photo by Katie Kuykendall

If you had to wear the bull bones, chances are at the end of the day you’d be further harassed while students threw stones at you.

Historically throughout Senegal, the classroom has been no place for minority languages. Children are taught in the official national language of French, and are expected to speak, understand, read, and write it—or be punished.

Even today there are stories about teachers and schools still employing these humiliation tactics, but many other schools are embracing multilingual education, allowing students to be taught in their first language as well as the national language. Arfang Goudiaby, head teacher of one such primary school, said he pushed for Manjak literacy classes to be in his school because he saw the positive impact it had.

“When the children would come in contact with these [Manjak] texts, the smile on their faces, the change in their behavior… frankly they were struck by the book. The book wasn’t something foreign to them,” he said. “The children began to get more confident. The fact that they had the book, they could read the book, and they could understand what the book said…gives you greater self-confidence. The book becomes your friend.”

Because of literacy classes in their language, Manjak speaking students are learning new skills, gaining more confidence, and improving their ability to learn French and other subjects, Arfang said. They don’t have to be ashamed of their language, like Kéraba was once made to be. Instead they can be proud to read and write in Manjak because it’s helping them succeed in other aspects of life.

Now an adult, Kéraba is a project supervisor for the Wycliffe funded Manjak literacy program* in southern Senegal. He has taken the class himself, and taught the class for several years before becoming supervisor. He’s also proud to be teaching his four kids to read and write Manjak.

“There has been an important impact on my children,” Kéraba said. “Even today their teacher says to me, ‘Really your children don’t have any problems at school,’ and I’m really pleased to hear that.”

“Some people thought being a Manjak teacher is a waste of time. Then they realized that it’s important because learning Manjak literacy is part of their development,” he said. “Reading and writing—there’s nothing more important than that.”


Photo by Rachel Wolverton

*The literacy project is being coordinated by SIL International, Wycliffe’s primary strategic partner. Wycliffe funds projects like this because we want to see God’s Word accessible to all people in the language of their heart, and literacy is foundational to understanding translated Scripture. The Seed Company, another ministry partner, is currently translating the New Testament for the Manjak people.

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By Melissa Chesnut

This summer marks the fifth year of Wycliffe’s Orlando Summer Internship. We’re honored that these students gave up their summers to serve Bible translation from our home offices.

The summer interns are finally here! Samantha Benson and Catherine Caple started working at the Orlando office on June 10, arriving after a week-long training in Waxhaw, North Carolina.

The week included learning about Wycliffe’s background, an overview of linguistics, options for graduate schools, and a daily testimony from a missionary. These stories were some of Samantha and Catherine’s favorite portions of the training as they were able to hear first-hand of amazing adventures and experiences had by Wycliffe missionaries.

For the next eight weeks, Samantha will be working for the staff relations department in human resources, where she hopes to be able to use and develop project management skills; Catherine will be working for the Staff Resource Center, where she is excited for her first office experience.

Both young women are hoping to gain a better understanding of Wycliffe and the work of Bible translation for personal reasons—Samantha is in the application process for membership with Wycliffe, and Catherine is looking at the possibility of changing her minor in linguistics to a major, with the potential of one day serving with Wycliffe.

The Orlando office is excited to host Samantha and Catherine during their internship, and would like to welcome them to the Wycliffe family. We’re glad you are here!

Orlando isn’t the only place Wycliffe has interns! This year we have two interns at the SIL office in Dallas, one at the JAARS center, and one working with the Choctaw translation team in Mississippi. Visit http://www.wycliffe.org/shortterm to learn more about participating in our US-based internships or our overseas Discovery Trips.

Meet the Interns

Left: Catherine Caple, Staff Resource Center intern, from Florida State University majoring in Spanish and Linguistics; Right: Samantha Benson, Staff Relations intern, from University of Texas and majored in Business Management

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By Katie Kuykendall

An AWANA group in North Carolina recently raised over $1,800 through Wycliffe’s free service-learning curriculum for kids! Their gift will help children in Senegal learn to read the Bible and experience God’s great love.


AWANA is a ministry that develops spiritually strong youth through programs that evangelize and disciple kids of all ages. Beth Dennis, who leads programs for the AWANA group in North Carolina, went to Wycliffe’s website to get curriculum ideas for the group of over 225 elementary students there.

“With hundreds of families to please, I had to be very selective,” Beth said. “I knew that everything Wycliffe does is extraordinary and trustworthy.”

The service-learning program curriculum lets kids learn about people from a different culture, practice their language, and pray for them. It also offers ways that children and their families can support a need in another country, like helping fund literacy classes for kids in Senegal.

Beth liked that the lesson plans for the multi-day project are easy to implement. She also liked the message behind Wycliffe’s lessons—children are not too young to meet a real need!

“Our [AWANA] curriculum emphasizes Scripture memorization. We must have God’s Word to grow in His love,” she said. “There’s a great correlation between what AWANA does and what Wycliffe does.”

“Children love to hear and see how other children live [in other countries],” Beth said. “They were fascinated by the facts given and wanted a chance to make real change in the world.”

“I’d definitely recommend it,” she said. “The AWANA pledge includes, ‘train them to serve Him.’ The AWANA prayer is that children will come to know, love, and serve our great Lord. Children are filled with compassion and want to make a difference. They just need to be nurtured, given information, and opportunities.”

Need fun and educational activities for your kids, Sunday school class, or another group this summer? Click here for free downloadable curriculum including the Senegal literacy project that this AWANA group supported!

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Photo by Zeke du Plessis
Words by Elyse Patten

Many hands present the finished book to those gathered at the celebration for the Naro New Testament in Botswana. This image celebrates that the work of Bible translation is done by a community of people, often representing different villages and churches. Each person brings his or her own faith, understanding, and language skills to the group. Far from being the biased opinion of one translator, a finished New Testament like this one is the result of whole communities discussing and agreeing together on the various theological meanings, names, key words, and idioms. This is no quick process. And when the Scriptures are published, that is not the end. A new generation who will grow up in God’s Word will one day want to revise the translation and update the language used. Reading, studying, discussing, understanding, preaching and translating God’s Word afresh is the job of each new generation of believers.

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This summer you can take advantage of a special matching gift opportunity. When you give to our First Words to Final Printing campaign, your gifts up to $175,000 will be matched dollar for dollar, thanks to committed Wycliffe partners who want to help bring God’s Word to the Bibleless!

Listen to Russ Hersman, Wycliffe USA’s COO, tell about the opportunity in this video:

Go to www.wycliffefirstwords.com to learn more!

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By Richard Gretsky

Ninau Ephraim had been content as a secretary. Employed with SIL in her home country of Papua New Guinea, she had joyfully worked for many years.

But, as time went on, Ninau became restless, feeling stuck inside the construction office in which she was working—longing to engage in a different way in the Bible translation effort. She wanted to help teach her people the importance of having God’s Word in their own language.

“I was serving,” Ninau recalled, “but I wanted to be really involved.”

And then an opportunity came for her to become a missionary.

“God opened up a door for me to take a step of faith and work with the national Bible translation organization.”

Elated, Ninau accepted the job with Papua New Guinea Bible Translation Association. She moved to Madang, her home area, to serve as Office Manager—overseeing translation and literacy terms.

Free from the constraints of her previous job, she was able to directly work on the projects, and minister to people whenever she desired.

“I felt I owned the world.”

Ninau Teaching SALT Course

Impassioned by the New Testament translated into her native Karo language in 2002, Ninau loves helping her people experience that same reality, and regularly rejoicing with them at Bible Dedications.

“People said, ‘Before we got the New Testament, it’s like Jesus was a stranger—not one of us, not a family member. He was outside the house. But now…it’s like Jesus is one of us. He’s a family member. He’s inside the house, inside our hearts. He’s the God of Karo people and speaks right to the heart.’”

It’s that motivation that stays with Ninau, to fervently pursue Bible translation for the 800+ languages in her home country—150 of which are in her home province, and of those, she oversees 8 ongoing translation programs. In total, there are three hundred languages waiting for translations to begin, and many Papua New Guineans like Ninau are serving as secretaries, translators, literacy specialists, and more—leveraging all they have to help the people of Papua New Guinea get God’s Word in their own languages.

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By Anders Kofoed Pedersen*

In a suburb of Tokyo, hidden away in a tiny office full of computer and video screens, Uiko Yano sits with four co-workers watching, editing and re-watching videos of Scripture signed in Japanese Sign Language (JSL). This is the Video Bible (ViBi) team, and they are working on the first ever visual Japanese Sign Language Bible. Uiko has become a critical member of this team. Her journey to get here is something only God could have orchestrated.Image

Deaf but not different

Uiko grew up in a traditional Buddhist environment on a small island off the western coast of Japan. She was born Deaf just like her parents, her grandparents, her uncles and aunts (except one) and her four siblings. Of the 300 people on the island, 30 were Deaf, and about half of the island’s population knew how to communicate in JSL.

Her first language is Japanese Sign Language. Since so many of the people on the island knew how to communicate in JSL, she didn’t think much about what hearing people thought of her. On the island there were plenty of people just like her, so she never saw herself as different.

Spending so much time with Deaf people in all age groups, Uiko learned the different signs used by older and younger people. This turned out to be a great help when she started working with ViBi many years later.

Coercion did not bring change

At the age of six Uiko entered a Deaf boarding school with her siblings. She was there for 13 years, returning home only during holidays. At school Uiko heard about Christianity for the first time. A group of older girls made the younger girls participate in nightly prayer meetings during their only hour of free time.

“If we didn’t attend they would be mad at us, and there was especially one girl who was quite bossy. I felt liberated when she graduated four years before me! At least I had a few years where I didn’t have to go to the meetings. Surprisingly enough, all this didn’t make me a Christian,” Uiko says with a grin.

Uiko struggled to understand the messages at Christian meetings. The speakers used signs for Christian terminology that she didn’t understand, and no one seemed to be interested in explaining them to her.

The journey to Christ

Uiko didn’t think much more about Christianity until, in her early twenties, she met people engaged in the Video Bible project, including Mark Penner, an American translation consultant who grew up in Japan and has been involved with the Deaf community since his early twenties.


Mark asked Uiko if she would be interested in temporary translation work with ViBi. She needed work and liked translating, so she said yes.

“I worked on the first draft of the Book of Esther, and started to like what I read,” Uiko remembers. “I thought it was nice. I wanted to go to church and tried to visit a few, but didn’t find one that appealed to me.”

ViBi had limited funding and couldn’t yet keep Uiko employed. For six years, Uiko’s connection with ViBi was sporadic, but in 2009 she was asked to become full-time staff.

“We wanted her because she is an absolutely phenomenal translator!” Mark says. “The amount of information and detail she can keep in her head while signing is stunning, and this is so important when you want the flow captured on video.”

Uiko’s first job was to complete a full draft of Matthew’s Gospel. It was time for her to unpack the ‘Christian terminology’ she’d encountered long ago in boarding school. God had plans for her in this in-depth encounter with His Word. While working on the translation and talking with ViBi colleagues, Uiko met Jesus.

Spreading the word…

“It wasn’t one particular passage, but through translating the whole of Matthew I heard God was calling me,” Uiko says.

Mark Penner witnessed this part of her journey toward faith in Jesus.

“I have known her for quite some time now,” shares Mark. “It’s been an amazing journey to see how she’s opened up to Christ.”

According to Mark, the newness of Uiko’s faith in Jesus has helped her to engage Deaf people in Japan in meaningful conversations about God.

“She [can see] what Deaf people are interested in…” says Mark. “When she talks about Christianity, people get interested—and if they are not, she doesn’t try to force it. People are interested in her new life as a Christian, and she just tells them what she knows…I’m sure she would be a great theologian. She’s not only interested in the Word, she cares about other people.”


Besides what she does for ViBi Uiko desires to meet with people in the Deaf community in smaller groups to help them understand what the Bible says, especially older people.

“A lot of [older people] can’t read or write,” she explains. “I grew up with my Deaf grandparents on the Island and know their signs. A lot of young people don’t know how to speak their signs, but I do. It’s a gift, and I want to use it!”

To every Deaf community

No complete Bible exists yet in any of the hundreds of sign languages used across the globe.

“It is so important for Deaf people to have the Bible in their own language,” explains Uiko. “A lot of Deaf people can read, but it is very difficult for them because it’s not their first language and they would only understand a portion. With the Video Bible in Japanese Sign we can help them to understand so much more.”

So far, Uiko and the team at ViBi have translated 13 books of the Bible into JSL. The ViBi team shares its experience and expertise with other translators across Asia and across the world. They hope that every Deaf community and every Deaf individual will, like Uiko, have the chance to see Jesus speak their own language.

From before the world began

Most recently, Uiko has been translating the book of John. She says it’s been her favorite work so far.

“I’ve just translated the first four verses, where John speaks about how the Word became flesh. It’s beyond imagination to understand that the Word was, even before the world existed. Before working on the translation I couldn’t grasp these verses. Now I see the poetry in them and it gives great meaning,” Uiko says.

For Uiko, every day at the office is about treasuring and translating the Word that was in the beginning. From before the world began, God planned to call her and use her to call Deaf men, women and children to Himself—in their own sign language.


Photos by Marc Ewell. 

This story was written for the Wycliffe News Network.

*Anders Kofoed Pedersen is a freelance journalist and motivational speaker in Denmark.


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