Language: the Human Essence

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“When we study human language, we are approaching what some might call the ‘human essence’…” -Noam Chomsky

Language plays an integral part in our lives, to an extent that we sometimes aren’t aware of, especially when we speak a widespread language such as English or French. Our world caters to our linguistic needs and we don’t think about what it must be like to not fully understand what we hear or read. Our identities, linguistically and otherwise, are respected and provided for. When we go to church, we are spoken to in our first language. When we read the Bible, we read it in our first language.

What if you are a Meqa speaker in Ethiopia, with only 1% of the entire Bible (3% of the New Testament) translated, and not even printed yet? Or a Matengo speaker, with only 10% of the Bible (44% of the New Testament) translated?

Think of the nuanced complexities of the Word of God – and now imagine having to read it in a second, third, fourth, or even fifth language. Imagine feeling like God does not speak your language – does not understand that very crucial, underlying aspect of your identity and your culture.

That is what we seek to change. To learn more and get involved, start here.

-Veronique Kruger

Free Indeed

The Word of God brings freedom! Victor Muhando, a man from the Zigua-speaking village of Kwediboma in Tanzania, was saved from alcoholism and his smoking addiction when he read the Bible in his own language and encountered God for the first time. He first received scripture in Zigua in 2015, and when he started reading it, he was drunk and ill with liver and skin diseases because of his drinking.

He was touched in his heart after reading that God has a good plan for eternal life for every human who accepts Him. He went straight to the church where he was led in a prayer of repentance. He began going to church every Sunday and reading the Word of God, and was inspired to change his life and become healthy again.

Now, two years later, he is still regularly attending church and says that he likes to serve God by using his language to speak to his own people about the Lord. Praise God for freedom and victory in Christ!

Story and photos supplied by George Chombo.

Persecution and Perseverance

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Bahadur*, our translator from a community in South Asia, was facing a lot of resistance from his friends, relatives, and elders of the village. However, he continued with the translation and used to share from the books of the Bible that the tam had translated so far. Their community has no other written material in their own language. Fascinated by the text in their own language and Bahadur’s commitment to the project, his people continued to visit and talk to him.

The governing body in the village, hearing of his determination, took him to task. They decreed that he should either leave the Christian faith or face excommunication. This meant that he had to leave his house, family, relatives, and friends to go somewhere else to start his life anew. Since Bahadur has been translating the Bible, he drew strength from it and decided to stand firm for the name of Jesus. He bid farewell to everything he had known so far and without hesitation left the village.

Bahadur’s daunting and courageous stance convinced his parents and some friends of his faith to trust Jesus. Reading from the Word of God lent credibility to his words. The story of Jesus, his persecution, and death mirrored the situation they saw in the case of Bahadur. In time his sister and brother-in-law began to see the hope of salvation in Jesus and became believers. Soon he started getting visits from others who kept their faith in Jesus a secret. Over time, inspired by Bahadur's stance they started making their faith public. They have now decided to voice their right to live and believe in Jesus, in as much as those who oppose them. They are preparing to start a church in the very village that once excommunicated Bahadur!

Our hopes and prayers are that the Church, based on the Word, will be an enduring hope for those seeking truth and salvation in that community.

*pseudonym

 

Eyes of Light

Jesus made some pretty profound statements while he was here on this earth. Often times, a simple-seeming metaphor is not just food for thought, but a complex, sixteen-course, dining adventure for your mind! One of the great tasks for a Bible translator is to unravel these complexities and to make them clear in his or her own language and culture.

While working through the Gospel of Matthew, Soli translators working in Chongwe, Zambia got stuck on one such passage. In chapter 6, Jesus compares our eyes to lamps and says, “if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” The Soli words for lamps connotate electricity, wires, and switches, so do we have Jesus talk about turning on and off lights? Do we change the metaphor or educate about Jewish lamps? How can we say the same thing differently? And, the questions are not only about a word, but the concepts too—how can light be darkness? Is this talking about the medically blind or the spiritually lost? What does God want to say to the Soli people?

Well, He not only gave insight to the translators but this passage became a larger metaphor for the project itself. Instead of talking about physical lamps and bulbs, the translators were inspired to talk about “sources” of light and darkness. This took on special meaning for the translators, because the Soli Bible Translation project has been a source of light shining in some dark places and situations.

Now, with the entire New Testament available in Soli, Jesus’ powerful and oft enigmatic words can be heard and understood in new and amazing ways! Yes, Jesus speaks Soli and now the New Testament messages of truth, love, and light are available for the Soli people to understand clearly—in their own language.

Joel Brown

What Does the Bible Mean to You?

Spiwe Masikasika is a woman of the Ndau language group from Chipinge, Zimbabwe. They already have the complete Bible in their heart language of Ndau. The translation of the Bible into the Ndau language began way back in the early 1900s, and was published by the Bible Society of Zimbabwe. See more info here.

I visited Spiwe at her home in Harare, Zimbabwe recently to find out how she feels about having the Bible in her heart language. Spiwe is, as she says, “thrilled” with the way the Ndau translation was done and says that it is understandable, clear, and natural to her to read.

As heard from the testimonies by Spiwe, when people receive the word of God in their heart language, it is more effective in transforming their lives and building their relationship with God. People are transformed and lives are restored and communities are equipped for the benefit of the body of Christ.

Your continued support in whatever form to the work of The Word for the World is greatly appreciated. Become part of the vision to bring God's Word to all people in their heart language by 2050 and visit our Give and Volunteer pages to see how you can get involved.

-Piniel Tawanda Zimbizi

Soli Deo Gloria!

A couple of weeks ago our minister gave a sermon on Jesus telling his disciples that one can tell a mountain to go and jump in the sea and it will be done. That reminded me of a message from the International President of The Word for the World on the same subject, saying that he knew how it could be done: by taking a shovel and a wheel-barrow, going to the mountain, and saying: “Thou shalt be removed!”, and then start working on it.
 
Looking back on my history with TWFTW, I can still see us going to Malawi (the Funnell family), Ethiopia (the van As family) and Zaire (yours truly), with our imaginative spades and wheel barrows and much faith in a good God, doing just that. In hindsight I can only testify about the abundant blessings of God on the work accomplished in His Name, and the fact that he gave us excellent leaders to direct and drive this wild cart and keep it (and us) on track! And we did have some serious road works on the way.
 
I always say I work for God with TWFTW, because at the end of the day one’s walk depends on obedience to God. Herewith I add that there is no other organisation that I would rather work with. Our vision in TWFTW is to have 500 complete Bibles by 2050 – hopefully by then I will be sitting next to Jesus, cheering everyone on. At the moment we are working on 109 projects in many different countries, mainly in Africa. We also have 10 full time consultants and 19 in training; 364 students, and 325 full time translators. We also run literacy courses where people cannot read – because the Bible is not like a lucky charm to be displayed or dusted when the pastor visits. And all this because of God’s grace and to His glory.

Nel Claassen, a TWFTW translation consultant

Empowering Consultation

Translating the complete Bible into a language which has never had one is a big project; and like other big projects it takes a team of empowered, skillful, and dedicated practitioners, all operating in different roles and functions. On twftw.org, we talk a lot about our translators—teams of well-trained and Spirit-filled men and women who tirelessly explore the depths of meaning found in the Scriptures and carefully transcribe them into their own heart language--and they really are stars. However, today, we want to take a moment to celebrate our consultants and consultants-in-training.

Describing the role of a translation consultant can be difficult. The job requires extensive knowledge and experience in academic and religious topics like Biblical language and culture, exegesis, cultural anthropology, and textual criticism. The job also requires practical, business skills like project management, conflict resolution, mediation, and mentoring. Also, don’t forget to add in practical and theoretical linguistics. Translation consultants come alongside translation teams, working verse-by-verse through their translations helping solve all types of linguistic, historical, cultural, and theological problems. It is a job that requires diligence in balancing compassion with academic know-how—and results in clear, accurate, and natural translations.

Last year, TWFTW held a Translation Consultant Training event which gave 20 consultants-in-training (CiT’s) the opportunity to enhance their skills and to be placed into our Consultant Growth Plan. Some of the CiT’s are translators being promoted into new roles and some are from outside the organization—all of them are passionate about showing people that God does indeed speak your language!

As an organization, we are thankful for all the consultants, both in and out of TWFTW, who are a part of our team—and we are incredibly excited about the consultants God is raising up into the great calling of empowering mother-tongue speakers to translate the Bible into their own language!

Explore ways to partner with our teams, and get involved with TWFTW!

Joel Brown

A Soli Celebration!

It is a warm, Friday afternoon—the day before the Soli New Testament Launch—and six of us are tightly packed into a car, traveling through the Soli-lands, east of Lusaka, Zambia. I have never travelled through this part of country after the rains, and my heart is happy to see fields of corn and flowers stretching as far as I could see; all underneath the striking blue and white of the cloudy and endless African sky.

The rest of the day is busy with preparations; meetings with the High Chieftainess, headmen, and Soli Committee; and ensuring that nearly four thousand Soli New Testaments are delivered and secured. As I return home late that evening, I find myself still basking in the excitement—for tomorrow we celebrate something truly special: a people receiving something that is both a result of their own dedication, as well as the generosity of others—something which took faith and hard work—a longed for destination which is also the start of a new journey of discovery and understanding. The Soli New Testament is truly a gift from God, and the Soli are literally and metaphorically about to turn the page, and begin a new chapter in their walk with God.

The program reads as a tightly-packed, two-and-a-half-hour event—but you should know, there is no Zambian celebration that fits into a morning session! Dancing, music, and speeches abound—and we hear stories of victory and loss—of blessing and sacrifice. Throughout the many, varied, and colorful presentations, the heart and hand of God becomes clear—for the Soli people have come, just as they are, and they are loved by Him.

Joel Brown

“Yes, I speak Soli!”

“Yes, there are many things happening in Zambia tomorrow, but here in Chongwe, the day is all about celebration, as we receive the New Testament in our OWN language, and the Soli can read the Bible in Soli for the FIRST TIME EVER! Praise be to God!”

These were the words of one of the Soli translators as he was being interviewed on the radio the day before the Soli launch. The morning of the launch was filled with excitement, but for me, there was one moment that said it all: the first time the Soli Bible was read publicly to the Soli people.

When our lead Soli translator took the stage, with tears in his eyes, a watchful quiet started to rise. The silence gained strength as he opened the Bible and started reading; and when those first Soli words were read aloud, something amazing—reminiscent of Pentecost—occurred. A moment of intense silence instantly stuck the crowd as a palpable spirit of understanding, astonishment, and joy spread like a wildfire amongst the gathered Soli.

Even up to this moment, some were skeptical, asking themselves—Can I ever really understand what’s in this Bible? Can these local Soli men really translate the holy book? Will we be abandoned or forgotten? Does God actually speak my language? It was in this moment that their skepticism was dismissed, and the astonished silence gave way to the most jubilant and resounding cheers of the day as God made it abundantly clear, “Yes, I speak Soli!”

Joel Brown

Jesus Speaks Soli!

This Saturday, April 28th, the Soli people in Chongwe, Zambia will be receiving the New Testament in their own language for the first time! Through difficult circumstances these Soli translators endured it. Limited office space, sickness, deaths of friends and reviewers, and old computers are only some of the trials and challenges they faced while working on the translation. However, the team has faithfully sought after God in the face of these troubles, and have found the peace and strength needed to carry on. Together with reviewers, consultants, and partners, we are all looking forward to when the Soli people will hold the New Testament in their heart language! Audio Bibles will also be distributed so that everyone will have access to the Word of God in Soli.

When crowds were first able to see and hear the Jesus film in Soli, many were awestruck, saying, “Jesus speaks my language!” Now, with the entire New Testament available, Jesus’ powerful and oft enigmatic words can be heard and understood in new and amazing ways! Yes, Jesus speaks Soli and now the New Testament messages of truth, love, and light are available for the Soli people to understand clearly—in their own language.