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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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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 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.

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This story was originally featured at Mission Network News.

What if you showed up to your first day of school and couldn’t understand what you were supposed to learn because your teacher was speaking a foreign language?

Maybe that was your experience. Maybe it wasn’t.

But for thousands of children in marginalized communities, education can be a struggle when they have to learn school material through a new language.

That’s why Greg and Diane Dekker with Wycliffe Bible Translators conduct Multilingual Education (MLE). Diane explains, “Multilingual education begins with the learner’s first language–the language they first learn to speak at home–and helps them learn the curriculum content in school in that language. Then it adds other languages that they need to learn, like perhaps the national language or English in addition.”

And just so children don’t get overwhelmed, Diane says, “[It] plans for introducing the other languages in a progressive manner. They’re learning one thing at a time, step-by-step, rather than immersing children in languages that they do not know.”

Why is it so important? “There is this big gap between English language learners and their achievement in school, and mother-tongue speakers of English and their achievement in school,” Diane says. “Sometimes that is blamed on other issues, but really if we create a scenario where these kids who don’t speak English as a mother tongue can actually learn through their mother tongue, then it helps them learn English better.”

Click here to read the rest of this story from Mission Network News.

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By Katie Kuykendall

“Language is the blood of the soul into which thoughts run and out of which they grow,” said Oliver Wendell Holmes, American jurist.

Linguistic analysts predict that more than half of the world’s nearly seven thousand languages will disappear by the end of this century. Researchers at National Geographic reported that languages are disappearing at such a rapid rate that many have declared a global language extinction crisis. At the top of the list are Australian indigenous languages, according to an article by the Radio New Zealand News.

Today only 20 of an original 250 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages are still commonly spoken in Australia, the article states. With the disappearance of those languages goes each people group’s sense of culture, heritage, and personal pride. This is the power of a local language.

“How much more powerful is that language when it is inextricably tied to the landscape, when it is seen as defined by the very place it’s spoken? And what happens to a culture and a community when that language changes over time?” asked Jennifer Cook, host of the Up Close radio broadcast from the University of Melbourne, Australia.

This is the case with many of the indigenous languages of Australia. Many of them have no Scripture. And once they’re gone, they’re gone. If a language isn’t preserved and strengthened, speakers frequently succumb to pressure by their country’s government and majority language groups to assimilate into other cultures, leaving their heritage behind.

Wycliffe often works on projects in which cultural preservation can be one of many community benefits to Bible translation. Providing an indigenous people group with written Scripture for the first time is like providing them with the tools for survival. History can be written, documented, remembered, and celebrated. Their ethnic identity can grow as they gain more confidence interacting with other people groups.

Most importantly, preserving a local language through Bible translation means its speakers will gain access to God’s Word in the language that truly speaks to their heart. If a language dies out before it can be written and Scripture translated into it, how will the Gospel become personal to them? How will they know that God speaks their language?

Check out this video to learn more about Wycliffe’s heart for cultural preservation.

Click here for ways you can pray for indigenous languages and Wycliffe projects in Australia.

Interested in donating toward our projects in Australia? Click here to visit Wycliffe Australia’s website and make a financial contribution toward our goal of making God’s Word accessible to every people group in the language that speaks to their heart.

“There are many different languages in the world, and every language has meaning.” (1 Corinthians 14:10, NLT)

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