Posts Tagged ‘heritage’

PNG Elizabeth


Over thirty years ago, these Papua New Guineans performed a traditional sing-sing dance for Queen Elizabeth of England. A sing-sing is a meeting of local people groups who dress up, paint themselves, and dance to honor the distinct heritage of each community.

Read Full Post »

By Angela Nelson

As Román and Venancio boarded the bus to travel outside of their home state for the very first time, they wondered what was in store for them. After all, they were leaving their families in the midst of a very busy agricultural harvest schedule, not to mention their responsibilities with church and their rural community.

It wasn’t the most appealing proposition, but their translation work on the Huichol Bible was important to them. So they were willing to take a three-day bus ride and spend several weeks away from home to attend the Tabernacle and Temples of the Old Testament workshop in Mitla, Oaxaca, Mexico.


Translators Hilario, Venancio, and Román

When they arrived at the linguistics and translation training center, Román and Venancio were joined by two instructors and twelve mother tongue translators from six other language groups. For the first time, they met men and women just like them—Bible translators for their own people.

The workshop focused on the Old Testament chapters describing the tabernacle and the temples of Solomon and Ezekiel (in Exodus, 1 Kings, 2 Chronicles, and Ezekiel). Each day Román and Venancio took turns telling the group how they had translated the various passages. In addition, they each had to prepare and present a devotional that focused on the symbolism of an element of the tabernacle and temple. Venancio gave his devotional on the symbolism of the horns of the altar. And Román told about the meaning of the veil, with its guarding cherubim that separated the Holy of Holies from the Holy Place. He used New Testament Scriptures to show how it represents that Christ has opened access to God for us. All these experiences helped the men practice explaining and applying Scripture, something they would use at their home church and weekly Bible studies when they returned to their people.

Román explaining Ezekiel’s temple

Román explaining Ezekiel’s temple

Before they left for home, Venancio also experienced God’s provision through a tough situation. While returning from a weekend market on a local bus, his wallet was stolen. It contained two weeks’ worth of salary and his identification card.

When Chucho, Venancio’s roommate at the workshop, learned what had happened, he asked the others to come to the auditorium with an offering for Venancio at 5 p.m. He placed an empty milk carton on the front table. Sure enough, at 5 p.m., the other translators filed in and dropped their offering into the milk carton.

Chucho presented the offering to Venancio the next morning. The translators had given sacrificially—far more than he had lost! On the last day of the workshop Venancio shyly spoke his thanks. Haltingly and emotionally he told the group that when he discovered that his wallet was missing, he felt that “he had lost his life,” but their love and concern had given it back to him.

Venancio and Román returned to their village full of stories and new knowledge, ready and dedicated to continuing their precious work!

Read Full Post »

By Melissa Chesnut

Fernando* was only ten years old when his father shared an idea with the translation team working in the Zapotec language in his town. At the time, his father’s idea seemed far-fetched and almost impossible.

He told the team that Fernando would be a good person to help translate Scripture for the Zapotec people once he finished school.

It wasn’t good timing though. Fernando still had almost eight years of schooling to complete before he would be able to potentially join the team. For the translators, that seemed a long way off.

But God had other plans. During the years following Fernando’s father’s idea, the translation work was paused for various reasons.

By the time the team was once again ready to resume the translation project, Fernando was done with school. He was also looking for work. When the translators learned the Fernando had completed his schooling and was looking for a job, they offered him a role on the team. Fernando gladly accepted.

Fernando2Working as a Bible translator is not just a job to provide income for his family; Fernando has wholeheartedly taken on this full-time role, while also fulfilling an obligatory role in his town of supervising the community store. Fernando is certainly busy between the translation work, supervising the store, and spending time with his wife and young baby, but he is an invaluable contribution to the team! He also encourages the local church to listen to the audio form of Luke, which was recently produced and released in his heart language.

Although it once seemed impossible that a young boy would grow up to work as a translator for his people group, God orchestrated events in such a way that Fernando’s father was right. Fernando would be a good person to help translate the Scripture and bring God’s Word to his people in the language of their heart.

*A pseudonym.

Read Full Post »

By Melissa Chesnut

Each year, National Hispanic Heritage month (September 15–October 15) honors the histories and cultures of Hispanic nations and remembers the anniversaries of the independence of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Chile. This four-part “Throwback Thursday” series will focus on different aspects of Wycliffe’s work among Hispanic countries and language communities.

It all began in 1917.

William Cameron Townsend (known by friends as “Cam”) was a passionate twenty-one year old, fueled by a vision to obey Jesus’ command to take the Gospel to the nations.

“The greater need is where the greatest darkness is,” Cam said. “Our orders are to forget self and to give our lives in service for the Master.” While many of his friends and peers were fighting in World War I, Cam decided to fight a spiritual battle—a battle for lost souls. He packed his bags, said goodbye to his family, and moved to Guatemala to sell Bibles to farmers and villagers along the sparsely populated trails of Central America.

young cam

When Cam stepped off the boat, his youthful enthusiasm for sharing the Gospel was high, but he soon realized that most of the people he was meeting didn’t understand the Bible in Spanish!

Cam faced a dilemma. If they didn’t understand, how was he reaching people for Jesus? Frustrated and disappointed, Cam began to wonder if he’d failed. But God had others plans in mind.

As he continued to travel around Guatemala, Cam soon learned about the Cakchiquel Indians. People of Spanish heritage often thought of them as inferior and uneducated members of society, but Cam disagreed. Instead, he was impressed when he met the Cakchiquel man who first brought the Gospel to his own language group and led forty people to Christ—all without a Bible in his own language! After sharing a short testimony in Spanish, Cam decided to put behind his first failure and help reach these people with the Gospel. So he abandoned his attempts to sell Spanish Bibles to non-Spanish speakers and began serving as a missionary to the Cakchiquel Indians by helping start a school to teach them how to read and write.

Still, Cam didn’t have any Scriptures in Cakchiquel. When he’d brought Spanish Bibles to men who only spoke Cakchiquel, they’d asked him something that really made him think—why didn’t God  speak their language? Was he only the God of English and Spanish speakers?

Deep down, Cam thought everyone—man, woman, and child alike—should be able to read God’s Word in the language of their heart. So although it would end up taking almost ten years of his life, he decided to learn the complex Cakchiquel language, create an alphabet, and translate the New Testament.

When he was done, the Cakchiquel Indians finally had God’s Word, but thousands of other languages still needed it. So in 1934 Cam started “Camp Wycliffe,” a linguistic training program named after John Wycliffe, the first translator of the entire Bible into English. Less than ten years later, the humble training camp had grown into two affiliate organizations known as Wycliffe Bible Translators and the Summer Institute of Linguistics (now SIL International).

Cam served for over sixty years in Latin America, witnessing the work spread across the continent and reaching language communities in Guatemala, Peru, Mexico, Colombia, and more. SIL International established an SIL Americas branch, focusing on reaching people with the translated Word of God in the language they understand best. Cam’s work in translating the Bible for the Cakchiquel Indians was just the start!

Almost one hundred years later, Cam’s legacy lives on. Today there are over 1,500 translation projects currently in progress, with 518 language groups having the entire Bible and 1,275 having the New Testament in the language they understand best.  And it all began in 1917 when a man’s eyes were opened to a people who were vastly overlooked and desperately needed to know that God spoke their language too.

Read Full Post »

By Amy Millward

“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.” –Hebrews 6:19a (NLT)

Hands Raised - VotingOne by one, the twenty-two letters of the Matsigenka (also known as Machiguenga) alphabet were projected on the wall for all to see. Pausing at each letter, a representative from the Ministry of Education asked participants: “Should this letter be included in the Matsigenka alphabet? Raise your hand if you are in favor of this letter being included in the Matsigenka alphabet.”

Twenty-two times, a crowded room full of Matsigenka speakers shouted, “Yes!” with their hands stretched high into the air. Some couldn’t resist raising both hands. And each time, the representative added one more letter to a growing list.

For the past fifty years, those twenty-two letters have been used to create readers, math books, health and hygiene materials, Scriptures, and dictionaries in Matsigenka. Finally, at this historic and emotional event, they would be officially recognized as the standard for writing the Matsigenka language.

It’s been a long time coming. Wycliffe translators Wayne and Betty Snell moved to Machi-land in the 1950s and began painstakingly translating the Bible and other materials into Matsigenka. Betty, who attended the September 2009 Conference for the Standardization of the Matsigenka Alphabet shares, “As the final ‘Y’ was added, memories filled my mind even as tears filled my eyes. Suddenly, I was back on the Timpia River in 1952… In our house, the Coleman gas lantern hummed along overhead as Wayne and I sat at an old kitchen table and chipped away at the data gathered that day—data that would help shape and validate a unique alphabet for the Matsigenka language.”

After the slideshow of letters, person after person waited patiently to sign the formal document that would carry their decision to the Ministry of Education in Lima. To Betty, “it was sort of like watching people exercise the right to vote for the first time.”

Hands Raised - SigningAs each person approached the table, they wrote their full name, occupation, district and region of residence, personal identification number, and signature. The representative from the Ministry of Education then pressed their index finger on an ink pad and placed their fingerprint on the appropriate line to identify each signature as valid. The document was now finished, setting an official standard for all Matsigenka writing.

Dressed in traditional garb to celebrate their cultural heritage, many younger Matsigenka speakers wanted to know how the alphabet was designed, and what it was like back then.

Even as they move forward with the development of their language, many yearn for a connection to their past. Created so long ago, their alphabet is a vital piece of Matsigenka history—one that, now, won’t be lost.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: