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liffe Africa

Words and photo by Heather Pubols

Yonathan Zeamanuel explains to the Guji-Oromo team how to use Proclaimers* in listening group Bible studies. Yonathan and his wife, Tizita Zenebe (sitting to the right of him), are Wycliffe Africa members who are working to promote the use of Scriptures in the minority languages of Ethiopia.

*Faith Comes By Hearing works with language communities to produce dramatized audio Scriptures in local languages. These are played using a device called a Proclaimer. “Listening groups” are small groups that use the proclaimer to study the Bible together.

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A Mazatec man sets up a recording studio in his home so others can hear.


By Terry Schram
*

Félix Ventura, an educated assistant pastor, joined the translation project late. The Jalapa de Díaz Mazatec New Testament had already been translated, but another step needed attention. His task was to read the translated Scriptures and think about how clearly Jesus and Paul and the others spoke Mazatec.

Doing this, he discovered that the Scriptures had much more impact on him when he pondered them in his own language, and he began to teach others to read Mazatec. He found that people who already knew how to read Spanish could extend their reading skill fairly easily if they followed the printed Mazatec passage while listening to it read very slowly, word by word. He used the book of Jonah for this because it’s fairly short and tells an interesting story. As he worked with older people, he realized that although many would probably never learn to read, they did want to listen to Scripture.

Soon Félix became so impressed with the great value of recorded Scripture that he decided to buy recording equipment and set up a small studio in his home. Now he records Scripture with three distinct purposes in mind. First, he reads the books he is currently revising and then gives those recordings to specific listeners he has incorporated into the revision process. They listen and give him feedback on how clearly it communicates in their language. Second, he reads some materials very slowly, as well as at normal speed, so people who read Spanish but not yet Mazatec can follow along in a printed text and teach themselves to read their mother tongue. Finally, he records published Scripture so those who cannot read can also have access to God’s Word.

Félix joined the translation project late, but it wasn’t too late for him to see a possibility, take initiative, and make the Word more accessible to many.

*Terry and his wife, Judith, serve in Mexico with the Jalapa de Díaz Mazatec translation project. This story was taken from the Fall 2012 issue of Rev . 7, a quarterly publication of our partner JAARS.

Committed to spreading God’s message, Félix Ventura records Scripture for oral learners, Scripture revisers, and new readers.

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By Matt Petersen, Wycliffe USA senior editor

“As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands.” –Psalm 119:143 (NLT)

“I’m very concerned for your safety right now,” said Abdiel, our host and self-assigned bodyguard during our stay in Guatemala. I glanced at Cyndy who was seated beside me, gingerly cradling her video camera against the jarring of the truck.

“Why are you concerned?” she asked.

“You know those guys who came over to greet us a minute ago, right before we left?” Abdiel questioned. “They were drug traffickers. That’s why we needed to leave so quickly.” Apparently traffickers don’t like Americans on their turf, especially ones carrying cameras.

This wasn’t our first dangerous encounter. Just the day before, we’d visited one of many new home churches. Few people in these villages are able to read. Instead churches gather together and listen to Scripture on a digital audio player called a Proclaimer, which is provided by Faith Comes By Hearing, one of Wycliffe’s partners.

Upon entering the tiny, crowded one-room house where this church meets, I could sense tension as several people began talking excitedly. I didn’t know what they were saying, but something was obviously wrong. The group leader spoke for a couple of minutes and soon everyone settled down, but an uncomfortable feeling remained.

It wasn’t until we had safely left the area that Abdiel was able to explain what had happened. He told us some foreigners had recently stirred up trouble in the village by starting mining operations. When the people saw our white skin, they thought we were associated with the miners. Also, although Abdiel wasn’t aware of it in advance, when we arrived someone told him we had entered the hometown of a powerful drug lord.

We faced other challenges in Guatemala as well. There was the threat of thieves, malaria, dengue fever, parasites, dangerous road conditions, spiritual opposition from traditional religions, and more.

In spite of these concerns, God protected us. Yet I know that Christians aren’t immune to suffering and death. What amazed me was the joy I saw in so many of these Christians in spite of difficult circumstances. Time after time they shared joyful stories about God and His Word at work in their lives.

One interviewee told about a pastor who shepherded his church for sixteen years using a Spanish Bible, since the Word wasn’t yet available in the local language. Unfortunately everyone—including the pastor himself—struggled to understand the Scriptures in Spanish. But when the pastor listened to the Proclaimer and finally heard the message of salvation in a language he could understand clearly, he accepted Christ as his personal savior.

Many people we interviewed shared their joy at being released from an oppressive false religion, others from severe alcohol addiction. All were excited about the freedom that God’s Word has brought.

Working with Wycliffe, I’ve traveled to many places and met many people who have been transformed by the Bible in their heart language. Each time I’ve been impressed by the spiritual and physical hardships many Christians face, but even more so the incredible joy and peace they experience because they rely on the Bible for strength and comfort. These testimonies challenge me to treasure the Scriptures more seriously myself. And like the Christians in Guatemala, I’ve found that through His Word, God brings me joy in the trials.

Translated Scripture changes lives. Don’t underestimate the power of a gift in support of Bible translation.

Have you experienced God’s peace and joy in the midst of trials?

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