Posts Tagged ‘Mozambique’

A Chuwabu leader in Mozambique sought out publishers of a grammar booklet his son had given him. “Who was it that made this book, which mentions things we use in Chuwabu?” the leader asked the translator. “I will pay you any price! I didn’t know that in this small book one can find such interesting things.”

The translators were elated. They’d hoped the booklet in Chuwabu would draw interest in their translation of mother-tongue Scripture. Now this important leader of a religion generally antagonistic toward Christianity was intrigued.

“Please inform us about any material you produce in Chuwabu,” the leader continued. “We want to study that God in our own language!”

Translators eagerly agreed. Mark’s Gospel and Genesis are in process.

Girl selling peanuts on the bridge over the Zambezi River in Tete

Photo courtesy of The Seed Company Field Sources

This is one of many stories published in the February 2013 issue of SeedLinks, a quarterly publication of our partner The Seed Company. View the whole issue by going to www.seedlinks.org and clicking on the “View the online edition” link.


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PA070011John & Susan Iseminger (left) with children Emily, Laura, Mary (L), and Andrew. (photo courtesy John Iseminger)

Story by Craig Combs

One long night, when he was just fifteen years old, John Iseminger found himself in a struggle, one that kept him awake and wouldn’t let him go.

“I was reading Tortured for Christ, about Richard Wurmbrand and what he went through for the sake of Christ,” said John. “I’m reading this and said, ‘If that’s what it means to be a Christian, count me out!’ I threw the book across the room and turned the light out.”

He still couldn’t sleep. He lay still, thinking about what it meant to follow the Lord.

“I realized there is a cost to following Christ. Is it all real?” said John. “I could see from Jesus’ life, my father’s life and other people’s lives that it was real. I got down on my knees and said to the Lord, ‘I don’t like this, but I know you’re there. I know you are listening, and you want me to serve you.  If it means giving my life like Richard Wurmbrand, okay. I’ll do that.’”

When Susan Foster was fifteen years old, a missionary came to speak at her church in Toronto, Canada. The missionary challenged the youth to consider serving abroad, and Susan remembers that challenge as a key event in her life.

“The challenge from the visiting missionary affected my thoughts and plans for the future,” Susan recalled. “As I made decisions for life choices I remember always thinking, How is this decision going to get me into missions?

John spent his summers in Canada with his parents, who volunteered at InterVarsity’s Pioneer Camp in Ontario.  After university, John decided to volunteer at Pioneer Camp just one more time before he began his enlistment in the U.S. Navy.

John’s bus ride to camp was perhaps the most important one he’d ever take. When he climbed off at a gas station to catch the bus for the last leg of his journey, he ran into Susan Foster, also on her way to work at Pioneer Camp. This was the beginning of their relationship.

Yoked together for mission

After that summer of work together, John went to join the Navy in California while Susan stayed in Toronto. They wrote letters to each other for two years, and at the end of the second year, John asked Susan to be his wife.

Their mutual desire for cross-cultural work was established from the start.

“Literally on our honeymoon, we decided we were serious about missions,” said John. Now it was a matter of discovering what their future service would look like.

God had already provided signposts along the way. At around 18 years old, John had committed himself to reading the entire Bible in one year. He continued to do the same thing each year that followed. “By the time I was trying to decide on a mission, the Bible itself already had a huge role in my life,” said John. He knew Wycliffe was one of the organizations he and Susan should consider.

The same week John’s enlistment with the Navy ended, the Isemingers went to the Wycliffe offices to ‘enlist’ in the ministry of Bible translation.

Working on establishing their partnership base, the Isemingers decided to move close to Susan’s home church in Toronto, which had a strong missions focus.  It soon became evident that this church would be that base.

“They were very supportive, saying, ‘Please come here. Study here. We want to support you and encourage you,’” said John.

Focus: Mozambique and Meetto

During a church mission conference John and Susan were introduced to a visiting speaker. When he asked where they were going, the Isemingers said that they didn’t know yet.  The speaker encouraged them to go to Mozambique.  John remembers thinking, Mozambique?  Where’s that? The speaker told them more about the country and urged them to pray about it.

“From the day he mentioned it, we were both at peace with… where God wanted us,” John said.

Zilangalile, night guard in Balama

John with Zilangalile, the night guard, at the Meetto translation office in Balama, Mozambique. (photo by Søren Kjeldgaard)

On their arrival in Mozambique in 1993, John and Susan spent time in Maputo, the nation’s capital. They were introduced to the Makhuwa-Meetto language group, a group of over one million speakers, with no Scriptures in their own language. The Isemingers realized that the Meetto would become their focus.

A local church leader, responsible for the Isemingers’ invitation to work in the Meetto area, introduced them to the Meetto churches in 1995.

John recalled the leader’s introduction.  “[He told them], ‘Now you are receiving John here. He is not a tomato planter.  He is not going to produce immediately.  You are planting a coconut tree with John.  It’s going to be five to ten years before he starts giving fruit.  But when he starts producing, it will be in big amounts and there will be a big impact.  Just wait for the plant to grow.'”

Indeed, it took some time to see fruit.  John remembers a low point in those early years that illustrated how much of a difference there is between having Scripture and valuing it.

“The real wall we hit was at the time we were at a Jonah [translation] workshop in 1998,” said John.  “When it was all done, we printed up about 100 copies and presented them to the church.  The next Sunday, there was no celebration of any kind.  Now, one of the decorating habits around here, in the church, is to take bits of old paper and make cut-out snowflakes from it and hang it from the bamboo rafters in the church. So we came back the next Sunday, and there was Jonah, cut up into pretty snowflakes hanging all over. Talk about a wake-up call!”

The Isemingers had been living in the regional capital, where Portuguese was the preferred language, even in churches. Their real breakthrough came when they decided to move to a village at the geographic center of the Meetto language area.

“When we moved out there, it changed everything,” John said.  “It changed our outlook and everyone’s outlook toward us. It shocked the church because their view of Christianity was that if you are living in a village and you come to Christ, you need to get out of the village and into town.  We went counter to the whole thing. We, the educated expatriates, are going to live in the village and support that little congregation out there. Everybody was initially scandalized.  But in a short time we were getting stories back: You know, Jesus did that too!  He left the comfortable land to go live on earth. That was the big breaking point for the church. They started to take notice and say, ‘There really is something to this.’ It was at that point we started to get some Scriptures out.”

“Let them run…”

In 2008, SIL Mozambique selected John to serve as Director, calling him to administrate and coordinate their language work throughout the country.  Susan took on the job of branch personnel coordinator. These roles have moved them away from daily involvement with the Meetto work, but the Meetto people

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For more on the Meetto translation project, see Long Journey: The Story of the Scriptures in Imeetto.

Editor’s note: Craig Combs is a communications consultant with the Wycliffe Global Alliance Communications team. This story was originally written for Wycliffe’s Africa Communications Network.

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Bonifacio Paulo, Pastor, Consultant in training, administrator in NampulaPhoto by Søren Kjeldgaard

Story compiled by Craig Combs

My name is Bonifácio Paulo. Sometimes I don’t know where things started in my process of becoming a Christian. I guess it began when my aunt married an influential leader in the Catholic Church. He came to me and said that the priest wanted some young people who would be willing to go to the seminary. At that time I never went to church. I started going to regular meetings and I began to understand what Christianity was. I still didn’t know what salvation meant.

I joined the Church of the Nazarene in 1992, through the influence of my brother. When the pastor of that Nazarene local church learned I was from the Catholic Church and seminary, he began to talk to me about salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. Soon he began to sense that God might have special plans for my life, so he encouraged me to go to the Nazarene seminary in Maputo, [the capital of Mozambique]. There, the process of my salvation took direction. I don’t remember a day that I can point to and say, this is the day I gave my life to Jesus. What I do know is that my salvation is a miracle.

While I was studying in Maputo, the seminary asked John Iseminger of SIL International to teach a course about the principles of Bible translation. That’s when my interest in Bible translation started. I remember thinking, “If I cannot understand Portuguese very well, even though I read and speak it, how much more for those who are not educated? They use the Portuguese Bible and Portuguese songs, but how much do they understand?” That’s what motivated me to get started in translation.

God speaks to our hearts. Most of the time, I can read and understand the Portuguese Bible. I can read and understand the English Bible and even a little of the Greek Bible. But the way I understand it is somehow only on a superficial level.  I can take [a] passage, read it, and find no change. I can even laugh! The terms do not get deep into my heart because they can’t. But I can read the same terms in Makhuwa, [my mother tongue], and it’s like I’m naked before God. That’s what God says to me. That’s the impact the Makhuwa Bible made in my life. I am where I am spiritually because of the Makhuwa Bible. When I read, I clearly hear God speaking to my heart.  It goes deep.

At the end of my time in Maputo, I received a scholarship for theological studies in Swaziland, but I told John Iseminger, [the director of SIL Mozambique], he should keep in mind my interest in Bible translation. While I was in Swaziland, I translated spiritual songs from Portuguese to Makhuwa and produced a book of songs we use in our church.

John kept my interest in mind. He came to me in 2007 and said, “I know what you are doing, what you are interested in and what you want to achieve. Would you like to work with us?” I said, “Oh yes!” By that time I had signed a contract with the Ministry of Education, and I was teaching full time. At the end of 2007, I canceled my contract and joined SIL.

For the first two years at SIL, I worked among the translation reviewers as part of the exegetical personnel. I would go with the translation groups, sit with them and serve as the exegetical adviser.  Now I am being trained as a translation consultant. I spend time with the consultants to see how the work is done.

DSC_0088Bonifacio with his wife, Busi, and their children at their home in Nampula, Mozambique. Photo by Craig Combs

In Africa, when you get into someone’s home and they give you a chair, you don’t say, no. You sit down. You don’t say, I came here only for this and this. If I’m to work with SIL and Wycliffe, not just through a one or two-year contract, why not be a member? I feel 100 percent comfortable to work in Bible translation. I want to join Wycliffe, to work with them and give as much as I can, knowing that I am at home. It is the best fit for my calling.

Bonifacio and his wife, Busi, are in the process of joining Wycliffe Africa.

Here’s a way that you can participate in supporting those being trained in Mozambique.

Editor’s note: Craig Combs is a communications consultant with Wycliffe International Communications. This story was originally written for the Wycliffe News Network.

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A view of Angoche, Mozambique, the homeland of the Koti people. Photo by Søren Kjeldgaard
A view of Angoche, Mozambique, the homeland of the Koti people.
Photo by Søren Kjeldgaard

by Craig Combs

God is in the business of redeeming and transforming humanity.  He takes special delight in doing this where all seems hopeless and impossible.

From a hilltop near the coastal town of Angoche, Mozambique, one can see the entire area comprising the homeland of the Koti people.  The view takes in Angoche town, the beautiful Indian Ocean coastline and numerous offshore islands on which many other Koti live and work as fishermen.  In all, there are about 64,000 speakers of EKoti, the language of the Koti.

Photo by Søren Kjeldgaard
A fresh catch of fish is brought in to a coastal village just outside of Angoche.
Photo by Søren Kjeldgaard

More than 500 years ago, two languages, Kiswahili and Makhuwa, fused through speakers’ intermarriage and coastal trading around Angoche to create EKoti, a whole new language distinct from both of its linguistic ‘parents.’

For hundreds of years, the slave trade thrived in Angoche.  The Koti became middlemen in the trade, capturing neighboring Makhuwa people and selling them to Arab and Persian slave merchants.  Some Koti even sold their own difficult children into slavery.

A serious degradation of the value of human life spread through Koti culture over time.  The practice of throw-away marriages became common – marriages discarded as easily and thoughtlessly as a soiled piece of clothing.

Communication of the Good News would have to be relevant to these key elements of Koti culture, or have little impact.

Beginnings:  A Team Assigned

In late 1996 Wycliffe workers Ada and Chris Lyndon and their infant daughter, Rebekah arrived in Angoche to begin the long process of building relationships, learning Koti and eventually facilitating the translation of Scripture into the language.  They faced a huge uphill struggle even getting started.

The Lyndon family at their home in Mozambique. Photo courtesy of Chris Lyndon.

“After 9 months we realized we had been straining to get a working relationship with people who were just not interested,” Chris said.  “That left us very frustrated, discouraged and feeling alone.  One of the things we did was pray to God to send somebody to come and specifically share and teach the Good News.  Out of the blue in August 1998 a team from a Japanese church came as an answer to those prayers.”

Blessing from a shipwreck

This team came on the scene in a manner reminiscent of the Apostle Paul’s shipwreck experience on the island of Malta.  A storm blew them ashore on an island they didn’t expect to be able to visit.  Meeting with local people, they immediately began to speak about Jesus – and people responded to the message!

Why did they respond?  What was different from so many other, failed attempts to reach the Koti?

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Pray for the Koti project

Editor’s note: Craig Combs is a communications consultant with Wycliffe International Communications. This story was originally written for the Wycliffe News Network.

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