Posts Tagged ‘Literacy’

Touba village chief

Bright eyes, a warm smile, and inviting laughter: this Senegalese man can’t contain his joy.  A powerful change recently came to his community in Senegal – fathers began allowing, and encouraging, their daughters to attend school for the first time.

It’s not uncommon for girls in many places around the world to be taught that they do not belong in the classroom. Since schooling is costly and money is always tight, many families believe it’s more worthwhile to invest in educating their brothers and male peers.

But thankfully, new opportunities like minority language literacy classes and Bible translation programs are causing more people to see the value of education for everyone. Watch this video to learn how literacy is bringing new hope to families.

Photo & Words: Katie Kuykendall

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A teacher teaches a class of children how to read and write.

Did you know that September 8 is International Literacy Day? It’s a day set aside to not only celebrate and rediscover the joys of reading, but to also raise awareness about the literacy struggles that people face all around the world.

Imagine not being able to read. What would your life be like? Whether you consider yourself an avid reader or not, we read every single day. Text messages, emails, billboards, menus, articles, blogs, news stories … even what our friends post on social media! Reading is integral to our lives, yet millions of people around the world haven’t had the opportunity to learn this important skill.

You can help change that.

And it all begins with something as simple as collecting your loose pocket change.

Join Kate and Mack on their latest adventure through their “Pocket Change Challenge.” It’s an easy way to teach your kids about giving while promoting a need that we can help tangibly meet. No matter how old you are — whether you’re five years old and just learning to read or 75 years old with years of reading behind us — you can play a part! We especially want to encourage young kids to get excited about reading. How amazing would it be that they can make a difference by helping kids, just like them, learn how to read?

Because when people learn how to read, they’re given the ability to read the most important book of all — God’s Word in their heart language.

Join us in celebrating International Literacy Day! If you love to read or simply know the benefits of this life-changing skill, consider doing something to help someone else learn how to read, too.

Photo by Zeke du Plessis

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Nigeria is one of three areas with the greatest remaining need for Bible translation in the world. With 512 languages spoken across the country, more than 300 languages still need a translation started. If the goal of seeing a Bible translation in progress in every language that needs it by the year 2025 is to be accomplished, Nigerian Christians will have to play a critical role. The biggest need centers on training and equipping Nigerians to serve in key roles as translators, linguists, recording specialists and more.

In 2005 the Theological College of Northern Nigeria established a four-year bachelor of arts program in Bible translation. Several years later a two-year advanced master’s program and a one-year postgraduate diploma were added. Currently, more than 35 Nigerians are enrolled in these programs.

In addition to specialized courses targeting Bible translation, the linguistics and translation department has provided reliable Internet connection, back-up generator power, printers and a well-stocked library. To date, graduates from the program have had an impact in more than 33 Nigerian languages, and are ready to assume leadership roles in all aspects of Bible translation.

One of the second year students in the Linguistics and Translation Department, Samuel*, was struggling with the question of whether doing Bible translation in minority languages was really worthwhile.

During the Field Assignment part of his training, he was stranded in the village in which he was working due to unrest, unable to communicate with the outside world. He saw one villager killed and another forced to flee for his life; these were men who had helped him on translation.

God used this situation to renew Samuel’s vision for the work of Bible translation. He realized that he had to complete the work God had called him to, so that every people group has the hope of God’s Word in a language they understand. Now his wife desires to join him in this ministry and plans to complete the same degree when Samuel has finished his studies.

In addition to degree-level training, another project offers up to 20 workshops per year, providing training in translation, Scripture use, literacy and language software topics. These workshops serve our partner organizations in Nigeria and help provide better quality support for Bible translation projects as well as allowing flexibility to respond to specific training needs as they arise.

Support Wycliffe’s translation and literacy efforts.


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By Melissa Paredes

Many of us in the Western world forget that literacy is a privilege — one that many people across the world don’t experience. Learning to read and write is a skill that opens doors to countless education and career opportunities, as well as direct access to the Word of God. Yet many have never even had the opportunity to learn how to write their own name.

That’s why literacy classes are so crucial, and are one way that Wycliffe desires to bring hope to communities. Without this foundation, written Scriptures won’t be able to touch the hearts and lives of those receiving God’s Word in their language for the first time.

In a community in Bangladesh, an adult literacy class is opening new opportunities as students learn to read and write in Bangla, the national language of the country.

Prior to attending the literacy course, many of the adults had never had the opportunity to hold a pencil or a book. Now they are not only holding pencils, but also learning to write! And they are learning how to read books so that they can continue to expand their knowledge.

Hope Through Written Words

Photo by Zeke du Plessis

Many had also never learned to write their name, so they had to use their fingerprint as their signature on legal documents. Now, they’re able to sign documents with confidence.

Around 25 people, from the ages of 20 to 50, are participating in the literacy program, which lasts for eight months.

Everyone has a different reason for joining the group. For some it’s the chance to finish their childhood education; for others it’s the first classroom opportunity they’ve had in their life. One woman shared, “Now I can count out the amount, pay bills and take change from the shopkeeper.”

Whatever their past educational background, this is a great opportunity for them to sit in a class and learn these valuable new skills.

Many work hard throughout the day before coming to class in the evening. It’s a big commitment, but they want to keep learning. They tell their instructors, “We want to learn more, not stop here. Please don’t leave us.” Despite the challenges, their interest has helped them continue, and all are making progress.

As the adults learn how to read better, they’re able to delve into deeper topics relevant to their community. The books they read also help them learn interesting stories to tell their children, and now parents are growing more confident in helping their children with reading and writing assignments from school.

As these adults learn valuable literacy skills, attitudes are changing. More and more people are seizing the opportunity to take literacy classes, and access to these classes is helping these adults take further steps in developing their communities, and even their country.

Literacy offers a chance to change a life, bring hope, and open the door to a new world of opportunities. But most importantly, it gives people the opportunity to learn how to read the Scriptures— the greatest gift that anyone could ever receive. There is hope found through written words, and this community is experiencing that firsthand.

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By Hannah Weiand

Hannah is a Wycliffe USA intern, attending Oral Roberts University. She will graduate with a degree in writing in May 2015.

a woman reads her Bible to her friend

Photo credit: Marc Ewell

Here at Wycliffe Bible Translators, we believe everyone needs the Bible in a language they can clearly understand. Well-meaning people sometimes ask, “Why not just teach people English?” Well, that would be like asking a native English speaker, “Why not just teach you Latin?”

It sounds funny put that way, but before the late 14th century, when John Wycliffe and others translated the Bible into English for the first time from Latin, that’s exactly what English speakers had to do if they wanted to read the Bible.

John Wycliffe believed the common person should be able to read and understand the Bible in their own language. But at that time in history, many people thought English was a vulgar language, unfit for God and his holy Word. So when Wycliffe and others translated the Bible, many church leaders were angry. Years after John Wycliffe died, they were still so angry that they dug up his bones to burn and destroy them. And they took one of his followers, John Huss, and burned him at the stake for telling people that everyone should be able to read the Bible in their own language.

Today, thanks to the sacrifices of John Wycliffe, John Huss and others, we can read the Bible in our own language. And we believe other language groups around the world should be able to have that opportunity too.

When Wycliffe Bible Translator’s founder, Cameron Townsend, went to Guatemala to sell Spanish Bibles in 1917 — before he ever started thinking about Bible translation — a number of people asked him why God didn’t speak their language. Cam was troubled to learn that they couldn’t clearly understand the Bible in Spanish. Their need inspired him translate the New Testament into Cakchiquel, and ultimately, to found Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Photo credit: Elyse Patten

Photo credit: Elyse Patten

That’s why we think Bible translation is so important — because we want people to fully understand what God is saying. When people learn a new language, they usually don’t understand it as well as their first language, so it’s difficult to fully grasp the power and the meaning of the Bible in that language.

Bible translation is important because of the way it transforms people’s lives when they can clearly understand God’s Word. It’s not just about being able to read the Bible – it’s about being able to connect with what it says. Having the Bible in their own language allows people from around the world to make that connection.

This post is part of our Wycliffe 101 series. Click here to read the previous post, or here to start at the beginning.

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By Melissa Paredes

The Advocating ChiefJohn Sethy is a husband, a father, and the chief of his small village of Nivenue on the island of Epi in Vanuatu. Those responsibilities all keep him busy, but recently he took on a whole new responsibility—becoming the advocate for the Bible translation in his own heart language of Lewo.

It took several years for John to reach this point of helping his people receive God’s Word in the language they understand best. In 2010, members of the Vanuatu Building for Tomorrow group (VBT) and the SIL* team came to John’s home village to hold a literacy workshop and record some of the Lewo New Testament. They came in response to a request from Kapiapo, one of the village’s church elders and long-time lead translator for the Lewo project. Kapiapo wanted his people to become more aware of the translation work in their language—work that had been ongoing for the last twenty years.

While in the area, the team members attended a Sunday church service. During the service, John stood up and read fluently from 1 John in the Lewo language. Everyone was impressed with John’s abilities, his humble attitude, his cleverness, and his passion for God’s Word.

Three years passed. VBT and SIL planned to host a workshop that would help equip people across Vanuatu to read, understand, and teach the Scripture. As they thought of potential participants, John was one of the first people who came to mind.

John would be difficult to get in touch with, because his village is in a hollow, and contacting him by mobile phone would be a challenge. But the team decided to try, so they called another man from John’s village to see if he could help them get in touch with John.

Amazingly, John was standing right next to the man when the team called. He accepted their offer with excitement.The Advocating Chief 3

With great enthusiasm, John attended the workshop and absorbed as much as he could during his time there. He was particularly enthralled by the study of God’s Word through learning more about the historical and cultural context of the Scriptures, and ways to deepen his understanding of it. With this approach, he’d be able to help learn about the true meaning of the Scriptures and could then help teach his people about what the Bible was saying.

John returned to his village, excited to test out his new skills with members of his community. People really enjoyed the new insight he could provide. John shared, “I started [using my knowledge] with my family and that was good. But I am a chief, and I see that these skills in working through problems directly apply to my work. … I can help people to analyze the problems now as I ask them questions. It makes my job much easier!”

Since the first workshop, John has attended several more. He’s also taken over the Lewo translation project with another man. Elder Kapiapo chose John as his replacement on the project team when he learned that he had liver cancer. He passed away in 2013—the same year the team first asked John to attend their workshops. But John has faithfully taken up the torch in Kapiapo’s place, helping to bring the Scriptures to the Lewo people.

John is continuing to learn more about God’s Word and how it can impact both his life and the lives of people in his village. “I see that people are mixing belief and traditional thinking, but I have seen through this course that everything depends on belief in Christ,” John said.

???????????????????????????????It’s that belief that is helping him deepen his knowledge of God’s Word. The Lewo New Testament is still waiting to be published, so pray that it would be printed quickly and distributed among the people. John isn’t just the chief of his village; he’s also working to teach and explain the truths found in Scripture, and to help his people learn how to really use it for themselves.

*One of Wycliffe’s primary partners

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By Katie Kuykendall

Lamine Thiabou, a literacy project coordinator for Manjak speakers in Senegal, takes notes during a literacy team review. Working with missionaries from New Tribes Mission, he was one of the first to help develop Manjak into a written language, despite being initially rejected by his family and community because they didn’t see any value in his work. Today Manjak is recognized as an official language, thanks in part to the work Lamine has been doing. Within the local community, which includes speakers of several languages, Lamine and his team are well-known and appreciated for the work they are doing to make adults and children literate. The literacy program isn’t just benefitting Manjaks, but many others in the community.

The Manjak literacy program is coordinated by SIL International, one of Wycliffe’s primary partners. 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 funding the New Testament translation for Lamine’s language group.



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