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By Terry Schram with Richard Gretsky

Mazatec Scripture Dedication — Banner

In September of this year, Terry and Judith Schram rejoiced with the Mazatec people at the official presentation of the Mazatec New Testament in Jalapa de Díaz, Mexico. After more than thirty years working with the language group, the long-awaited event was the official culmination of their, and others’, years of diligent work—it was truly a celebration.

Approximately four hundred people came; they praised God and, according to Terry, seemed extremely excited to hear the Scripture readings and speeches about the Bible.

The presentations were done almost exclusively in Mazatec, not Spanish. This was a Mazatec Scripture Dedication — Shirtparticularly poignant statement about the value of this language that often takes second fiddle to Spanish in the area. Félix Ventura, an assistant pastor and recordist for the Mazatec Scriptures, showed how the translation was not taken from Spanish, but directly from the Greek. Additionally, a representative of the Union of Indigenous Translators spoke about the importance of translation, and the head of a seminary in Mexico City spoke about this particular translation and prayed for God’s word in Mazatec.

Mazatec Scripture Dedication — BiblesThe people rejoiced together, and at the end of the celebration, Mazatec men, women, and children were able to purchase copies of the Bible in their language, which many did.

Terry believes that there is much hope for the people and the Mazatec project. “God is doing something significant in that place,” Terry said after the presentation, “…[and] one day, there will be people of every tongue and nation before the throne, praising God and saying ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ in the language they use to respond to Him.”

And that includes Mazatec.

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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.

workshop1

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!

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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.

Read Part 1: A Man with a Vision or Part 2: One Person at a Time

Starting a mission organization with the goal of translating the Bible worldwide is a daunting task. During the early years, Wycliffe founder Cam Townsend encountered many people who weren’t confident that the mission would succeed. The odds stacked against it just seemed too high!

But God is much bigger than any of these odds, and in the face of every obstacle, He has proved faithful.

When foreign missionaries weren’t allowed in to Mexico in the 1930s, God opened an unexpected door. Although Cam and others were not allowed to enter the country officially as Bible translators, the government did recognize a need for assistance in studying the rural education system. To Cam, the solution was obvious. “We will enter Mexico as linguists rather than as missionaries,” he decided.

Cam shakes hands with men he knew as boys when he lived and worked in Mexico.

Cam shakes hands with men he knew as boys when he lived and worked in Mexico.

Although it wasn’t their official job in Mexico, Cam’s colleagues were still able to help with Bible translation. But when Cam got a request from an official to send translators to the Lacandons, a tribe of only two hundred people, he was faced with a dilemma. He knew that tribes with large populations needed the Scripture, but did tribes of two hundred merit the lifework of an educated linguist?

As Cam pondered the question, he was reminded of Jesus’ parable about the shepherd who sought the one lost sheep. Yes, he decided, even the small tribes needed the Bible in a language they could understand. But where would he get the volunteers?

At that time, there were forty-four workers under Cam’s leadership. He decided to ask, “Will each of you be responsible before the Lord for one new recruit for Bible translation? … I’m sure He would give us six extra for good measure.” Sure enough, by the end of that year, Cam had fifty new volunteers for Bible translation—plus one more for good measure!

When finances were limited, God sent other believers who gifted the money to Cam and the work of Bible translation. From simple needs like the monthly $5 to rent a vacant farmhouse for the beginning of Camp Wycliffe to $10,000 to build a clinic and dwelling places in Peru, God always came through.

LL-EdnaLegters_WCT

L.L. and Edna Legters pose with friend and Wycliffe founder, Cam Townsend.

The journey was never easy. Gaining access to countries where missionaries weren’t allowed was difficult and trying. Finding volunteers who were willing to dedicate their lives to linguistics and translation sometimes seemed overwhelming and impossible. Supplying funds for the projects in various countries seemed unfeasible. But each time, God opened another door.

Though the odds stacked against them seemed high, God is more powerful than any obstacle. As L.L. Legters, one of Cam’s friends and a fellow pioneer of Bible translation, would sing:

Faith, mighty faith the promise sees,
And looks to God alone.
Laughs at impossibilities
And shouts, “It shall be done!”

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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.

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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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