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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 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 Katie KuykendallFamata-and-son

In a small village in southern Senegal, a young woman sits in the shade of a large tree with her son in her lap, watching a man read a small paperback book. It’s printed in their language, Manjak. A smile comes across the man’s face as he slowly sounds out the words in his language for the first time.

The woman, named Famata, listens quietly. She learned to read Manjak for the first time not too long ago, and it has changed her life.

In Senegal, school is taught in the official national language of French. But most people in Senegal don’t speak French as their first language. So kids are being asked to come to school and learn in a language that they do not speak at home. And they’re being taught by teachers who in many cases haven’t mastered the French language themselves.

Understandably, Famata struggled with education from the start—so much so that it took a serious toll on her self-esteem from a young age. Before long she felt like she was hopeless, that school was pointless, and she’d rather give up.

“I had difficulty reading and writing, and I told my mom I was going to leave school,” she said.

Then, at fourteen years old, Famata became pregnant. With her spirits already low, money running lower, and a baby on the way, she dropped out of school.

Unfortunately her story is not uncommon in Senegal and other developing countries, where girls typically aren’t expected to excel in school. They’re taught that their place is in the home, not the classroom. And since schooling is costly and money is always tight, most families believe it’s more worthwhile to invest in educating their brothers and male peers.

Famata didn’t have high hopes for her future. But that started to change when Wycliffe began funding a Manjak literacy program* in her village. Through the program, all the men and women in the community were invited to learn to read and write in their own language.

Suddenly Famata had the opportunity to try class again—this time for free and in the language she knows and loves. She thrived in Manjak literacy, impressing her teacher and her peers alike.

“She spent all her time reading,” said her Manjak teacher, Abdoulaye Ndiaye. “She didn’t find it difficult [to learn Manjak] because she loved what she was doing.”

Often when Famata read out loud in class, her peers thought she was a teacher because her skill level was so much higher. Though she once walked away from her own education, in the Manjak class she helped other students succeed at reading so they wouldn’t make the same choice.

“She encouraged people in class…who were sometimes absent,” Abdoulaye said. “She said ‘Don’t be discouraged!’ She was a great support.”

Famata-edited

The changes in Famata’s outlook and self-confidence are evident to everyone, including Famata.

“They [the instructors] have given me knowledge [and skills] by teaching me to read and write in Manjak,” she said. “I am taking hold of that with both hands.”

She had the courage to return to French school where she’s ranked near the top of her class, thanks to the confidence and skills she gained in the Manjak literacy class.

Soon Famata will be writing text for the literacy project. She aspires to be a teacher, and she’s going to start by teaching her own son.

“Since I know how to write Manjak, I’ll teach my child to read and write Manjak,” Famata said. “Pray for my child, that he would have good health and that he would be able to enjoy the richness of his language.”

Today, as she sits under the shade of a tree with her son watching a man read his language for the first time, she can see firsthand how Manjak literacy is growing. And she can know that one day she’ll be helping others in her community gain the ability to read in Manjak too.

*The Manjak literacy program is coordinated by SIL International, Wycliffe’s primary strategic partner. 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 Famata’s language group.

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By Katie Kuykendall

Kéraba Wallou, a young boy in the Sototo village of Senegal, stood humiliated in front of his classmates.

He’d been playing a game with his friends in the schoolyard when a boy asked him if his father had returned yet from a recent trip. Kéraba responded without thinking.

“A bándi tákal,” he said in his language, Manjak. Yes, he came back yesterday.

Kéraba had committed a grave mistake by speaking his first language during school hours.

Laughing, the other boy ran off to tell the teacher what Kéraba had done. Kéraba was then forced to wear a symbol of shame—a bull skull and horns—while the other students laughed and teased him. He’d have to keep it on until the end of the day, or until another child spoke in their own language.

FRE_7542edited

Photo by Katie Kuykendall

If you had to wear the bull bones, chances are at the end of the day you’d be further harassed while students threw stones at you.

Historically throughout Senegal, the classroom has been no place for minority languages. Children are taught in the official national language of French, and are expected to speak, understand, read, and write it—or be punished.

Even today there are stories about teachers and schools still employing these humiliation tactics, but many other schools are embracing multilingual education, allowing students to be taught in their first language as well as the national language. Arfang Goudiaby, head teacher of one such primary school, said he pushed for Manjak literacy classes to be in his school because he saw the positive impact it had.

“When the children would come in contact with these [Manjak] texts, the smile on their faces, the change in their behavior… frankly they were struck by the book. The book wasn’t something foreign to them,” he said. “The children began to get more confident. The fact that they had the book, they could read the book, and they could understand what the book said…gives you greater self-confidence. The book becomes your friend.”

Because of literacy classes in their language, Manjak speaking students are learning new skills, gaining more confidence, and improving their ability to learn French and other subjects, Arfang said. They don’t have to be ashamed of their language, like Kéraba was once made to be. Instead they can be proud to read and write in Manjak because it’s helping them succeed in other aspects of life.

Now an adult, Kéraba is a project supervisor for the Wycliffe funded Manjak literacy program* in southern Senegal. He has taken the class himself, and taught the class for several years before becoming supervisor. He’s also proud to be teaching his four kids to read and write Manjak.

“There has been an important impact on my children,” Kéraba said. “Even today their teacher says to me, ‘Really your children don’t have any problems at school,’ and I’m really pleased to hear that.”

“Some people thought being a Manjak teacher is a waste of time. Then they realized that it’s important because learning Manjak literacy is part of their development,” he said. “Reading and writing—there’s nothing more important than that.”

Keraba

Photo by Rachel Wolverton

*The literacy project is being coordinated by SIL International, Wycliffe’s primary strategic partner. 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 translating the New Testament for the Manjak people.

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mother1

Imagine what it would be like if you had never held a pencil, never written a letter, never read a word.
Nearly 300 million women fit that description.

Around the world, literacy rates for women lag behind those of men. Girls are less likely than their brothers to have the opportunity to attend school, and those that do attend are often forced to drop out before completing secondary school. But when women do receive literacy training, they are better able to affect change, combating destructive conditions like poverty, illiteracy, and discrimination.

Linguists have found that majority culture often places a low value on minority language. Many times the minority language speakers begin to accept the negative view of themselves and their way of life. But when individuals learn to read and write in their own language, it can help them realize the significance of their culture. Seen as the primary guardians of indigenous culture, it is especially important for women to gain the capacity and skills necessary to preserve it.

More than Reading and Writing

When women attend literacy classes, they learn much more than how to read and write. By the end of a typical program, participants are able to write notes, stories, and letters; read letters and books; tell time; add, count money, and read scales. Suddenly they can interact with the world in a new way, gathering information through reading and expressing themselves through writing. Using their basic knowledge of mathematics, women can shop at the marketplace without fear of being cheated. It is also easier for an individual to bridge into the national or trade languages once they learn to read and write in their mother tongue.

mother2Reading gives women access to information on a variety of topics like health care, nutrition, hygiene, childbirth, and disease prevention. The lifestyle changes that result battle dangerous global diseases like malaria, hepatitis, and HIV/AIDS.

The “poorest of the poor” in almost all societies are women and children. Literacy gives women the skills they need to manage rural micro-economic businesses, or “cottage industries.” These endeavors give women their own source of income, promoting independence and equality and enabling them to improve their homes, buy food and clothing for their families, and pay school fees for all their children—not just boys. As a result, literacy is seen as the foundation for all sustainable community development.

Literacy Brings Lasting Change

The influence of literacy is seen not only in the lives of the women who achieve it but also in the lives of those around them. Women who have been transformed are strongly motivated to provide education for their community, guaranteeing that any investment in women’s education is sustained from generation to generation.

The single most valuable reason to improve literacy is the opportunity for every woman to read the translated Word of God in her own language and begin or strengthen a relationship with her Savior. Without the ability to read, the translated Scriptures have little impact.

Literary projects are often part of Wycliffe’s Bible translation process, teaching both men and women how to read and write in their language and preparing them to access God’s Word for themselves.

You can help support Wycliffe literacy projects by visiting http://www.wycliffe.org/Give/CurrentProjects/–MothersDay.aspx

mother3

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By Katie Kuykendall

Looking for ways to get your family or class interested in Bible translation? With these seven unique opportunities that cater to a variety of time commitments and budgets, Wycliffe’s got you covered!

 

1.      Pray for a Bibleless people group together.

No matter their age, your children can take part in Bible translation by praying for a people group without Scripture in their language. Through our FREE Bibleless Peoples Prayer Project, you and your family will receive e-mails to encourage you as you pray, a printable how-to-pray bookmark, and information about your people group as it becomes available.

 

2.      Make a treat with a recipe from a Wycliffe missionary.

The Wycliffe Cookbook can be a great tool to support Bible translation while teaching your kids about life in the mission field—and making great memories in the kitchen together! Our cookbook has delicious recipes and fun anecdotes submitted by missionaries. You are sure to find treats and activities the whole family will enjoy like Whimsy Sculpture Bread, Baked Monster Pancakes, or Crispy Critter Cookies, to name a few!

 

 

3.      Give a Christmas gift that can transform a life.

This year help your family experience the power of generosity by giving a gift with eternal rewards! The 2012–2013 Wycliffe Gift Catalog is filled with ways you can help bring God’s Word to people still waiting.

Let your kids pick a project that your family can help fund, like creating video Bible stories for Guatemalan children or supporting missionary families.

 

 


4.     
Explore the world of Bible translation together at the Wycliffe Discovery Center.

Field trip! At the Wycliffe Discovery Center, kids can travel the world and dive into the life of a Bible translator without ever leaving the country. They’ll experience people and cultures they’ve never seen before through interactive games and activities. There’s also a chance to hear exciting stories from a real missionary about doing God’s work around the world.

 

5.      Teach lessons that will benefit them for a lifetime.

Check out Wycliffe.org for dozens of resources and FREE downloadable curriculum perfect for your family or Sunday school class. Whether it’s a story and coloring book like Angel Tracks in the Snow, or free lessons about prayer and the steps of Bible translation, you’ll find countless ways to teach kids about Bible translation.

 

6.      Learn about life overseas with a fun game.

Take a trip to MakaziVille. (No passport required!) This fun, FREE computer game from our partners at The Seed Company lets your kids become missionaries in a foreign land. They’ll move into MakaziVille and learn all about living in a different culture while translating the Bible and sharing the Gospel. Check it out and let the fun begin!

 


7.     
Introduce them to The Story of Jesus for Children.


Next time your family is in the mood for a movie night, we suggest The Story of Jesus for Children. Created by The JESUS Film Project, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, this video is the retelling of the true story of Jesus through a child’s eyes. It includes some footage from the original “JESUS”film—which is translated into languages all over the world and shared with people who may never have heard the Gospel before—making it a great way to introduce kids to one of the many kinds of media used in Bible translation.

 

Interested in resources for students? Click here to see what we have to offer!

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