Training and Literacy

It’s no secret that The Word for the World is a Bible translation organization. What drives us is the belief that God wants every person to have access to the Bible in their own heart language so that they can understand God’s Word as clearly as possible and know that God speaks their language. But with that mandate comes two other very important tasks that you may not know about! Both of these are crucial to the work of Bible translation.

Training: TWFTW has developed a program that provides training for all the different participants (nationals) involved in the translation process: prospective Bible translators, testers, stylists, and church leaders. It’s aimed at arousing the desire for lifelong learning and providing a solid academic grounding so that students can continue with their studies.

Literacy: We also work with language communities to plan and initiate mother-tongue literacy programs alongside Bible translation that teach people to read and write. Many languages we work in have never had a writing system! Based on their sound system, a writing system is developed, usually using the alphabet of the state language as the basis. We then provide training and workshops to the people in how to set up, implement and run literacy programs in their communities.

Veronique Krüger

Onward in Slovakia

With the Romani New Testament translation in Slovakia being finished, it’s onward to new things – or, more accurately, old things. The translation of the Old Testament is two years in and, incredibly, ahead of schedule! Thirteen of the historical books have already been translated. In the last year, a third translator, Michal Becvar, joined the other two and has been working with them over Skype, all the way from Israel. How amazing is technology!

As for the New Testament, it is currently being revised so that a parallel Romani-Slovak translation can be printed and distributed. The Slovak Bible Society and the Eastern European Mission are partnering with The Word for the World in this endeavor so that 3,000 copies of the parallel translation can be made available for free.

In the meantime, the Romani New Testament is being distributed far and wide, all the way to England and Germany. Everyone who speaks Romani can now have the Word of God in their heart language. No matter where they are or how far outside of Slovakia they find themselves, God speaks their language.

Veronique Krüger

“My heart is jumping a lot. It’s a miracle.”

These were the words of Tamene, a translator from the Maale region of Ethiopia, after I asked him what it meant for him to have a Bible in his mother tongue. For his entire life, he has had to read the Bible in a language not his own. He and his people had to read God’s Word in Amharic, which some of them don’t even understand.

Until he came into contact with The Word for the World. A few years after high school, he attended a translation training event in Addis Ababa hosted by TWFTW. It took another five years of study in order to begin translation of the Bible into his mother tongue.

“In the beginning, I was frustrated,” he said. “How can I translate this holy book? The holy Bible! How can I translate it into my language when I have so much fear in my heart?”

But he pushed through with the encouragement of his community and the members of TWFTW. Finally, after 14 years, he along with his team finished translating the entire Bible into Maale. It took a further 3 years for it to be published in 2016. Today, he can read the Bible to his children in their language and they can fully understand God’s Word.

After the dedication of the Maale Bible in 2016, Tamene started further training so that he can help other language groups to gain access to the Bible in their mother tongue. I asked him why. After all, his work for his people was done. Addis Ababa is a long way from his home and he missed his family. Why continue his studies when he could just go home?

He said to me, “I see the need of other people. My own people have the Word of God in their mother tongue and I am very happy. But there are other people who also need the Word of God in their heart language. My heart is driving me to help them.”

Conner Krüger

A Heart that Hears

I visited the house of an 86 year-old man named Hodlam Chisongela, who lives in east-central Tanzania. He hasn’t been able to hear for many years, but he can read and speak.

He was once a Muslim, but he is a Christian now. Pastors in the community were telling me about this man, as he has a powerful testimony in the church and in his village. While he and I were eating together, he began to tell me about himself. Since having access to a Bible in his heart language, Nguu, he feels that he has “other ears” within him with which he can “hear” the Word of God. He says that when he reads the Nguu Bible, he is always full of joy at “hearing” what God says in his heart.

He also told me that after he asked God to be able to hear His voice, he had a dream where he saw a new city coming from the sky. A voice came from the beautiful city saying, “My son, I welcome you in this city. Soon this will be your home.” He told me that if this city is heaven and if the voice was God’s voice, then he is ready to go to heaven. Before I left, we prayed together, because in Christ we are one.

When he reads the Bible in his own mother tongue, this deaf man hears the voice of God. How great is our God!

TWFTW is ever so grateful for all the partners and workers involved in Bible translation, to bring the Word of God to everyone in their heart language.

George Chombo and Veronique Krüger

“The unfolding of your words gives light…”

The Yem people, who live in south-western Ethiopia, are another step closer to receiving the complete Word of God in their heart language! Antoinette van der Meulen, one of the Greek and Hebrew experts who work in TWFTW, finished checking the Yemsa New Testament with the Yemsa translation team in mid-May. These consultant checks involve making sure that the translation is accurate regarding the original Greek or Hebrew text, that it is clear in its meaning, and that it is as natural as possible so that the language community will not feel as though they are reading a translation.

In 2007, when the most recent census was taken, there were an estimated 160,500 people who spoke Yemsa as their first language, not including children. How incredible to think that soon, all these people will have access to God’s Word in their mother tongue! As Psalm 119:130 says, “The unfolding of your words gives light…” May the Yemsa people soon be flooded by the light of God’s Word. Please continue to pray with us as we work to finish the process so that the Yemsa people can have access to the Bible as soon as possible.

The Jesus Film in Chikunda

After recording the part of the Jesus' film when Jesus asked Peter to give him his boat so that he can preach to the crowd, we decided to have a real experience of getting into a boat. Not in the Jordan River, but in the mighty Zambezi River!

The team is still busy filming the movie. Already the excitement among the Chikunda people is growing. The anticipation of watching the Gospel of Luke on film in their heart language is something they hardly ever expected would happen.

The translation team is advancing fast to the completion of the whole Bible in Chikunda. The New Testament has already been published. All the books of the Old Testament have been reviewed by mother tongue speakers of Chikunda from Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The team is working with consultants (Greek and Hebrew experts) to ensure quality translations.

Context of Scripture

One of the important parts of TWFTW’s work is partnership! The Word for the World is a member of the Forum of Bible Agencies International, or FOBAI. A few weeks ago, FOBAI had their regular annual meeting, but for the first time ever it took place in Jerusalem, hosted by the Jerusalem Centre for Bible Translators. The theme of the conference was “The Contexts of Scripture in the Land of the Bible”.

For obvious reasons, Israel offers significant resources for Bible translators! It is a huge advantage for a translator or consultant to be able to see and experience the land of the Bible. JCBT, as an accredited and established Hebrew University study program for translators, with its focus on the study of the language as well as the land, has been an innovator in the forefront of such training for translators and consultants. As they themselves say, “What better investment than to support a translator who will provide accurately and naturally translated scriptures for a whole people group!”

Janet Morgan, FOBAI Chairperson wrote: “I am sure that our immersion intellectually, emotionally and physically in the Context of Scripture will be inspiring and impact members’ work well into the future ”.

Piercing the Darkness

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In the region around Lake Abaya in Ethiopia is the language community that speaks Baiso. Soon, the Baiso-speaking people will have the Word of God in their heart language for the first time!

One local elder, who is a member of the Baiso review committee, had this to say about their excitement at having a Baiso Bible: “I and my community are now sensing our own identity as people who are loved by God, and becoming part of a global community through the Word of God. We were locked in the Island from the rest of the people group, and lived in darkness, worshiping lifeless gods. Now we are enjoying God’s light as we anticipate having the Bible in our heart language.”

How incredible that the light of God’s Word will soon be piercing the darkness and bringing life and salvation to the Baiso communities!

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105, NIV

Life-Giving Water

Photo courtesy of Rafal Cichawa

Photo courtesy of Rafal Cichawa

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them…” Romans 10:14, NIV

And how can people truly understand the Word of God unless they can read or hear it in their mother tongue?

There is a man in Ethiopia named Galaso Gambazo. He is 45, married, and has 5 children. He heard the Word of God in his heart language (Dawro) for the first time through an evangelist. The story he heard was from John chapter 4, the one about the Samaritan woman who meets Jesus at the well. The evangelist was reading and explaining this story to Galaso Gambazo, telling him about the water which gives life and never runs out, unlike ordinary water. Mr. Gambazo understood what was told to him and he came to believe in Jesus Christ as his personal savior. His life was transformed by the Word of God, which was translated into his heart language. God is always at work through his Word!