Official languages

Official languages of African countries

Official languages of African countries

Most countries in Sub-Saharan (Africa south of the Sahara Desert) Africa have one official language. Furthermore, the official language of most of those countries is only spoken by a small percentage of its citizens, and only a few of those speak it as their heart language (mother tongue). In general, the official language is the language of the former colonial power. In former French colonies the official language is French; in former British colonies it is English; and in former Portuguese colonies it is Portuguese. Sometimes an African language is given official status in addition to the language of the former colonial power. So Sango is an official language of the Central African Republic alongside French. In most of those cases, the European language still dominates. Laws and regulations, for example, are generally distributed only in the European language in spite of the official status of the African language.

Since the 1960s, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have spent all their educational resources to teach their citizens to speak, read and write their official languages. They are still far from accomplishing that goal. Let’s take Ghana as an example. English is the official language of Ghana. When you arrive at the Kotoka International Airport in Accra, you will be greeted by officials who speak English. You will find taxi drivers who speak English eager to give you a lift. If you go to a hotel, a restaurant or a store, you will find staff who speak English. You might get the impression that everyone speaks English. Understandable, but false nevertheless.

Bilingualism is a funny thing. A person can be very good in a second language in one area and not in another. For example, my Ghanaian car mechanic whose mother tongue is not English knows the names of car parts in English that I don’t know. That does not mean that he can talk about every topic in English with the same proficiency I have. It is mistake to have a satisfactory talk with hotel staff in English about hotel stuff and conclude that they can also carry on a conversation in English about politics, family life or religion with the same degree of fluency. It is possible to learn another language in a way that is deep yet narrow. People do it all the time. Then other people hear them talk fluently in that one area and conclude, wrongly, that they know English perfectly. When someone says: “Everyone speaks English”, I always take that with a grain of salt.

In Accra, Ghana’s capital, there is a proliferation of businesses that help Ghanaian high school and university graduates improve their English to get jobs or to prepare them for English proficiency tests some employers and universities require of Ghanaian applicants. If the secondary schools and universities were giving Ghanaians excellent English, these would have no reason to exist, much less abound.

Professor Gilbert Ansre is one of the leading authorities on languages in Ghana. As a linguist, he did research into the use of languages in Ghana. At an event a few months back, he said this about English in Ghana.

There is an erroneous belief that English is actually preponderantly used in Ghana. This is really true only of its enforced use in the educational system, on government and civic official functions such as now, in documentation and when the speaker is unable to use the commonly used language of the locality. Even the most highly educated Ghanaian prefers and frequently uses a Ghanaian language commonly shared.

The use and actual usefulness of English as a tool for wide spectrum National Development, especially at the “grass-roots” level is highly debatable to say the least.

Professor Ansre with his family

Professor Ansre with his family

He went on to say that:

… the quality of English as spoken and written in Ghana is drastically on the decline …

The official language of a country tells us in what language its laws are written and what language its elites master. The language(s) in which the people can grasp the Gospel, or even needed health information, might not be the same at all.

Countries have official languages. God’s people, the church and God’s Word should not.

Clusters

When I talk to groups in the US about the accelerated pace of Bible translation, people often jump to the conclusion that the cause of the acceleration is technology. Technology has indeed increased the pace, but other things have increased the pace even more than technology.

One of them is clusters.

Translators from several languages in a cluster, praying during a training session.

Translators from several languages in a cluster, praying during a training session.

It used to be that the translation in every language was a stand-alone activity. A missionary-linguist moved into each language area and learned each language. Each one did research on the language to which they were assigned, trained local people and lead the translation effort. There was some cooperation between the translation efforts in different languages. It was often sporadic and informal in nature, depending on times when the missionary-translators would get together for another reason.

I’m not sure who discovered it, but a solution to a translation problem in one language can often be used in other languages. I saw it myself vividly. I was at a training course for national translators in Burkina Faso. They were all grappling with the same translation problem when one of the students – not one of the staff, mind you – came up with a solution they all could use. The solution had to do with how the passive voice is used in many of the languages. So the solution was not just for one verse, but for many of the of the times the passive voice is used in the Bible. That one solution could save days, weeks perhaps even months of work because the passive voice occurs many times.

Fabien Dapilla who leads two new clusters in Ghana

Fabien Dapilla who leads two new clusters in Ghana

From this kind of experience came the idea of clusters – doing translation with a group of languages together, all at once. It looked like that would make translation go faster and cost less. In many cases, it has. But it has done more. In projects staffed entirely by national translators in Congo, we found that clusters increased morale among the translators. Surprisingly, along with increasing morale, accountability was also increased. So we got speed increases, cost reductions, increased morale and increased accountability.

When we came to Ghana, we found that there were lots of opportunities to speed translation by starting clusters.

A word of caution. The clusters sometimes cost less in the long term and more in the short term. The cost of getting translators together on a regular basis meant that the budget for each translation for each year increased. However, the number of years needed decreased. So the cost per year went up, but the total cost for the translations went down. It is my experience that under-funded translation programs actually cost more, sometimes a lot more, in the long term even though they cost less in any given year.

Unexpected

I came to Africa with pretty well-formed ideas in my head about how my career in Bible translation would work out. It hasn’t been anything like that. And that’s a good thing. This story is about one of the people who caused my career to deviate from the path I had assumed, Marc Zalve.

Mark Zalve preparing a quality control

Mark Zalve preparing a quality control

I was overseeing translation work in a number of languages where missionary-translators were working. In one of them the missionary-translators had to return to their home country, stopping the translation in that language. A short time later I received an unannounced visit from church leaders from that language. They wanted to restart the translation. They proposed that Marc Zalve lead it in the place of missionaries. He was the Director of a Bible School and an ordained pastor.

I agreed to look into it. I had to find funding and convince others that this was a good idea. The first was easier than I thought and the later much more difficult. In the end, Marc Zalve lead the efforts to translate the Bible into his language. Since then, he has helped translators in ten other languages to produce accurate translations.

The fact that an African church was willing to let one of their key pastors leave an important role to work on translation showed me that they were serious about Bible translation. It was but one in a series of actions by churches and individual Africans that did not conform to my well-formed ideas about my career and Bible translation. It took a lot of such incidents to get me to question my ideas and even more to reshape them.

Frempong and Zalve

Frempong and Zalve

This all came back to me powerfully when I ran into Marc again at the Dedication of the Bible into Sisaala in Ghana in 2013. That translation was lead by a Ghanaian, Justin Frempong (on left in photo). Justin was the first Ghanaian to lead a translation associated with Wycliffe in Ghana. To that point, that had been the realm of missionaries. And there was Marc Zalve (on right in the photo), the first to lead a translation associated with Wycliffe in Burkina Faso. When I greeted Marc, he reminded me of the struggle we had together. Not a few opposed this new thing, and some of them had quite a bit of influence.

When I first came to Africa, I thought that I knew all my call to Bible translation. But God was not through unveiling it and I still had more to learn about it. My call shifted from doing translation myself to being involved in mobilizing Africans and their churches to do their own translations. A missionary call, I came to realize, is not a static thing, any more than our God is static or my relationship with him static.

Our religious world

ReligionsIn 2013 the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon Conwell Seminary released a results of research entitled “Christianity in its Global Context, 1970–2020: Society, Religion, and Mission“. One of their findings is that the world is getting more and more religious. The graphic to the right shows the details. The report states:

In 1970, nearly 82% of the world’s population was religious. By 2010 this had grown to around 88%, with a projected increase to almost 90% by 2020.

This finding contrasts sharply with some in the West who seem to believe that religion is dying. Dr. Rodney Stark, internationally known author, and co-director of the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University is authoring a book entitled “The Global Religious Awakening” because, he says, “there is more religion going on in the world than ever before”.

Rene Padilla, a leading Latin American missions leader has written:

..there is plenty of evidence to demonstrate that we are today in the midst of a great religious revival. The order of the day is not irreligiousness but religious pluralism.

It does not surprise me that the Western press seems unaware of growing religiosity in the world, but it does bother me when missions, missionaries and churches don’t take it into account.

Today, most Christians in the world have neighbors who are highly religious. Many live in an environment where there are two or more competing religions.

A colleague of mine working overseas sponsored a young man he met to go to Bible School run by a mission agency. When he returned after the first year, my colleague asked him what courses he had taken. The young man responded that he had taken a course in proofs the existence of God. The thing is, everyone that young knows believes in God, even the non-Christians. Here is a young man taking a course in his first year of Bible school that is relevant to the place the missionaries come from, but which is quite irrelevant to his life and ministry. The world in which we are doing mission is a religious world. All Bible translation programs in Africa are carried out in very religious environments.

Akan proverb (from Ghana): Obi Nkyere Abofra Nyame
Translation: No one points out God to a Child
Meaning: It is obvious even to children that God exists. Even to children, the fact that God exists is self-evident. (Note that this proverb existed before missionaries arrived.)

Christian books, TV broadcasts and Bible school courses designed to reach atheists and agnostics are irrelevant in this context. Films like “God is not dead” which address real issues in the West don’t fit the context in which I work, where I would have to search a while to find someone who believes that God is dead, and many don’t even know that some people think God is dead.

When Dayle and I were last in the US, we ran into publications and believers talked to us about creationism and intelligent design. That is all well and good, but I meet very few Africans who do not already believe that God created everything. That’s just not an issue here.

Historic Mosque

Historic Mosque

In addition to the mission field being a very religious place, many Christians around the world live in places where there are two or more competing religions, and quite a number live in places where Christians are a minority. Christianity has been dominant in the West for so long that Western Christians have little practical teaching to offer to believers who live where another religion is the dominant feature on the religious landscape. Let me even suggest that the church in the US is still figuring out how to react to the fact that the majority culture is increasingly hostile to its beliefs and values. If we haven’t figured that out for ourselves, how will we teach others?

I had an interesting talk with a church leader in Ghana who told of places where the Bible is now in the language of the people and a good number of Christians have taken literacy classes so that they can read. He said that this results in places where those promoting other religions have no success because of ordinary people who read the Bible for themselves and can therefore explain their faith.

Rather than exporting our answers to the issues we face as Western Christians, we need to do mission in a way that is relevant to an increasingly religious world – one where some of the key battles facing the church in the West are not very relevant. Our mission efforts need to help believers develop answers relevant to their environment. The Bible in people’s language is a key resource for that.

How words get their meaning

Humpty DumptyIn Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, we find this exchange about the meaning of words between Alice and Humpty Dumpty:

“When I use a word”, Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master— that’s all.”

What about Humpty Dumpty’s approach; can words really mean whatever the person saying them wants? Can I say “house” and mean “flower”? The problem, of course, is that if everyone did that, words would end up with no meaning at all.

SelfieThe people who create dictionaries comb through masses of data including ­ newspaper articles, books, magazines and more. That is how they determine what words mean, and that is how Oxford dictionaries named “selfie” word of the year for 2013. My word processor has not caught up. It is still marking selfie as a misspelled word!

ColoredDictionary makers also track changes in the meaning of words. An interesting case is word “colored” especially in the phrases “colored people” or “people of color” which are now offensive. It was once considered a term of racial pride. But in the 1960s, “black” replaced “colored people” as the acceptable term.

The fact that it used to be acceptable is shown clearly in the name of an organization – the NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

dictionariesHumpty Dumpty’s approach is the wrong one. The meanings of words are established by collective use, not by the pronouncements of any one person, no matter how expert. Dictionary makers know this, so they compile how people really use words and they produce new dictionaries to keep up with the changes.

This leads to a difference I have with some theologians who are critics of some translations of the Bible. While they are experts in the languages of the Bible – Greek and Hebrew – their approach to English can sometimes be that of Humpty Dumpty when they declare that this or that English word is the correct translation for this or that Bible word. Sometimes I read such pronouncements and wonder how the theologian can be so out of touch with the way people actually understand the English word (or phrase) in question. That a word used to have a meaning or should have a certain meaning is not as important as how people actually understand it.

A good translation of the Bible uses words as people really understand them, not how a theological tome defines them. The great reformer and Bible translator Martin Luther said that a translator should study how ordinary people speak. He wrote:

“For one must not inquire of the literal Latin language for how one should speak German . . . instead one must ask the mother in the house, the children in the street, the common man in the market about this, and listen very closely how they speak and then translate accordingly so that they understand it and realize that one is speaking German to them.” (quoted in Luther’s Translation of the Bible by Birgit Stolt)

In other words, Bible translators should know how ordinary people use the language into which they are translating. Fortunately, almost all modern English translations take this approach, but some critics use Humpty Dumpty’s method.

It is very good to be concerned that translations of the Bible be faithful to the original languages. But we need to be equally concerned that translation is faithful to English (or whatever language) as people really understand it. When Jesus spoke, he spoke using words as the people of his day understood them, so did the prophets and the apostles. A translation, therefore, dare not use words in other ways.

Divine communication is never in a sacred, esoteric, hermetic language, rather it is such that ‘all of us hear … in our languages … the wonders of God’ – Kwame Bediako

Ladies reading a new translation to see if it communicates

Ladies reading a new translation to see if it communicates

One of the steps used is a solid translation programs is called testing. After a first draft of the translation is created by translators, another group of people meet (usually called reviewers or testers), read it, and comment on what it means to them. If it means something different to them than what the original text means, then the translators have to revise the draft until they find a translation that has the same meaning as the original.

Tumultuous Urgency

Dayle's feet in the Ambulance and me following in our carUrgency with inner tumult, that’s what I felt when Dayle was very ill, especially when she was having heart arrhythmia that was frightening her and when she woke so dehydrated that she couldn’t move. I wanted something done NOW! I wanted the doctors and nurses to feel and act with the same kind of urgency. Of course they don’t.

Not only do they not share my turmoil of urgency, they shouldn’t. Doctors have to act with urgency, but it can’t be the kind with inner emotional turmoil, or they would be less effective. I found myself in the moment wanting the doctors to be rushing the way my emotions were rushing. But even when they acted with urgency, it was a calm, controlled kind. I could only appreciate that when I was calm again myself.

But there’s more. Not only shouldn’t the doctors share my tumultuous urgency, they can’t share it. If I have the same emotional reaction to seeing Dayle in serious health problems as people who don’t know her, then what can I say of my love for her? The doctors and I should have different reactions; that’s what is good, natural and proper.

I struggled to let everyone have their healthy, normal and helpful reactions to Dayle’s illness in its acute moments – to understand that my turmoil as a husband was my legitimate reaction and mine alone.

It was mine to take to the Lord who welcomed me with my tumultuous urgency. But it was not mine to shove down the throats of others.

Why the Old Testament – War

ONUC Peacekeeper in Congo Deploys to Combat Zone, UN Photo/Marie Frechon

ONUC Peacekeeper in Congo Deploys to Combat Zone, UN Photo/Marie Frechon

A few weeks ago, I introduced a series of blogs on the rationale for translating the Old Testament into the languages of Africa. There are quite a number of languages in Africa with the New Testament, no Old Testament and no plans to translate the Old Testament. As I stated in the introduction, there are a number of good reasons to translate the Old Testament. I am limiting myself to one proposition – that God has revealed himself in the Old Testament in ways that give his comfort, encouragement and instruction for many of the most burning issues facing African Christians, while the New Testament has little to say on those burning issues.

In February, a friend of mine who has worked in Sudan, posted on Facebook this lamentation from by a Sudanese woman:

I was born in war.
I grew up in war.
I got snatches of simple schooling in war.
I hid in mango groves to hide from war.
I wore leaves as clothing in war.
I married in war.
I bore children in war.
From birth to now I am still in war.
I probably will die in war.

You may think that all of Africa is embroiled in conflict. That is certainly not true. But it is certainly true some parts of Africa are in long-term conflicts or wars. Sudan and Southern Sudan come at the top of that list. It is also the case that conflicts sometimes break out in peaceful parts of Africa, last for a while, then go away. Côte d’Ivoire is a good case in point.

Camp for displaced people in Congo, photo Julien Harneis

Camp for displaced people in Congo, photo Julien Harneis

Unless you count the book of Revelation, the New Testament contains very little military conflict. On the other hand, the Old Testament tells the story of hundreds of years of conflict between the descendants of Abraham and the Philistines. That conflict ebbs and flows, throughout the books of Samuel, I Kings, II Kings, I Chronicles and II Chronicles. And that is not the only military conflict in the Old Testament.

Westerners can have difficulty making sense of the story of the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, the deportation, exile and eventual return; so much so that we need to read explanations. But to people in Southern Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, such stories sound all too ordinary.

But the Old Testament goes beyond simply telling stories of conflict and war. In the prophets we get God’s perspective on those conflicts. Through the voices of the prophets we hear God’s evaluation and his remedy. But that is not all. In the Psalms and in Lamentations we hear cries from the souls of those caught in the horrors of war. In those books, wars cease to be just historical fact or acts condemned by God. They take on a human face. We are shown the gut-wrenching effects they have on real people.

My eyes are red from crying,
my stomach is in knots,
and I feel sick all over.
My people are being wiped out,
and children lie helpless
in the streets of the city.
A child begs its mother
for food and drink,
then blacks out
like a wounded soldier
lying in the street.
The child slowly dies
in its mother’s arms.
Lamentations 2:11-12

Some Christians may say to people in caught in the troubles of war that they don’t have enough faith. The health and wealth Gospel tells those in the poverty of war that they need to claim God’s promises. Some Africans would say of that God has cursed those caught in conflict. But the Old Testament does something different – it validates the suffering of those caught in the horrors of violent conflict. We comfortable Westerners find the lamentations in the Old Testament difficult to understand, but for those living in war, they bring release, comfort, and even encouragement because they parallel the own tears and feelings. They are real-world examples of the New Testament injunction:

… casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
I Peter 5:7

The Sudanese woman quoted above was not exaggerating, not even a little. I’ll bet that if she were to read the book of Lamentations in her language, she would find her feelings validated and it would give her hope. There’s nothing like it in the New Testament.

Why translate the Old Testament? Simple, so that woman, and millions like her, will have the passages in the Bible God wrote just for her, passages that let her know his presence, consolation, encouragement and gentle instruction for her exact situation.

Why the Old Testament – Traditional Religion

This is the fifth in a series of six blogs on the rationale for translating the Old Testament into the languages of Africa. As I stated in the introduction, there are a number of good reasons to translate the Old Testament. I am limiting myself to one proposition – that God has revealed himself in the Old Testament in ways that give his comfort, encouragement and instruction for many of the most burning issues facing African Christians, while the New Testament has little to say on those issues. Last week, I dealt with poverty. This week, my topic is living surrounded by traditional religion. To Westerners, it may be the least understandable of my blogs on this topic. But it may also be the most important reason to translate the Old Testament into more languages in Africa.

Africans live surrounded by religion. This is because their worldview does not separate the religious from the secular. This is one of the features of all primal religions around the world. Every ethnic group (the word “tribe” is considered inaccurate and pejorative) in Africa has its own religious beliefs. Everyone knows that the spirits they venerate and the religious rites they practices are different from their neighboring ethnic groups.

This is a situation very much like the Old Testament, where the Israel worshiped Jehovah using specific religious rituals while other ethnic groups worshiped different gods using different rituals. The Philistines, for example, worshiped Dagon. Every ethnic group follows its god and its religious practices. In this system, a person is born into his ethnicity, language and religion. Religion is not a choice, it is something people inherit.

The stage on which much of the Old Testament plays out is one of multiple religions. In this multi-religious setting, the God of Israel vies for his rightful place while the people of Israel sometimes adopt the gods and religious practices of neighboring groups, having lost confidence that they can trust Jehovah alone. There are dramatic stories of the conflict between Jehovah and his prophets and the god Baal and his prophets, such as the one on Mount Carmel. The prophet Isaiah conveys the supremacy of Jehovah in eloquent passages such as Isaiah 40. We love the powerful words of verse 31:

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.

But we forget (or perhaps we didn’t know if the first place) that Isaiah wrote these verses as part of a passage comparing the Lord to gods of wood, silver or gold, and touting the value of following the Lord compared to the uselessness of following other Gods. Soaring high on wings of eagles is not promised the followers of other gods.

The Old Testament is a world of rivalry between the One God and other gods. This rivalry is very real. It plays out in the fertility of the land, who wins battles, whose kings is the most prestigious, who has the most righteous laws, etc.

We Westerners need to spiritualize passages about idolatry. For example, we rightly see the love of money as a kind of idolatry. Most Africans need no such spiritualization. The idols, the worship of different gods by different peoples and the conflict with the true and living God are part of their everyday lives. The Old Testament passages about such things hardly need interpretation for them. They match the primal religion out of which many African Christians are moving and the religion in which quite a Africans few still practice. Those who are Christians still find that their former religions tempt them back. In Ghana which is some 70% Christian, there has been a recent resurgence of traditional healers and shrines. There are even a few who claim to be Christian pastors who argue for the practice of traditional religion alongside Christianity. Just as the confrontation between Jehovah and false gods and flowed in the Old Testament, we should expect that African Christians will experience struggles as they put their faith in the one true God.

One of Africa’s most well-known theologians, Prof Kwame Bediako has noted that the Old Testament is rich in instruction for African Christians in dealing with the primal religions in their backgrounds and in their communities. He notes that the Old Testament has a constant call to turn from primal religion to Jehovah.

We only get hints of primal religion in the New Testament. On the other hand, the Old Testament is chocked full of the stories and teaching needed for evangelizing people steeped in primal religion. Those same stories and teaching are needed if African Christians are to grapple effectively with their primal heritage rather than have their Christianity weakened or even destroyed by it.

Why translate the Old Testament? So that the hundreds of millions of new Christians who live every day in the conflict between the one True God and the gods of the religions they have just left will have the parts of the Bible that deal directly with the spiritual conflict in which they live day in and day out.

Why the Old Testament – Poverty

Four weeks ago, I introduced a series of blogs on the rationale for translating the Old Testament into the languages of Africa. As I stated in the introduction, there are a number of good reasons to translate the Old Testament. I am limiting myself to one proposition – that God has revealed himself in the Old Testament in ways that give his comfort, encouragement and instruction for many of the most burning issues facing African Christians, while the New Testament has little to say on those issues. Last week, I dealt with the issue of ethnic tensions and rivalries. This week, my topic is poverty.

Combined HDI and Translation mapsThe map to the right shows the human development index for the countries of the world. The places in red score low on the index, meaning that people there are poor not just in terms of income, but also in terms of access to health care and in many other ways. If you compare the red and orange zones on that map with the map below it showing where there are the most languages without a translation of the Bible, you will see that there is a very significant overlap. In other words, poverty is a part of life for most peoples without the Bible.

The Old Testament deals extensively with the subject of poverty. Much of the Old Testament treatment of poverty is in the form of story. The whole book of Ruth, for example, is a story of a family falling into poverty through a set of circumstances over which they had no control – a famine and then the death of the men in the family – followed by a partial recovery of prosperity. The Old Testament is rich in stories of oppression, wars, famines, widows, and orphans — all of which are related to poverty. As a rural farming society, God’s people were subject to the changing “fortunes” of the weather. Their crops were also subject to disease and insect pests. So we read of famines caused by lack of rain, and by pests, especially locusts. Africa is 60% rural and much of Africa’s rural population lives through subsistence farming. So its people face many of the same issues.

Mobiot QuoteThe Old Testament lists several causes of poverty in addition to kinds of calamities listed in the previous paragraph. The book of Proverbs lists laziness as a cause of poverty. Poverty is also attributed to unjust economic practices and shows how that can be eliminated through righteous and unselfish leadership.

The Old Testament paints a very realistic picture of poverty and its causes. Neither God nor the human authors of the Old Testament books hid the hard times God’s people went through. Many traditional religions say that calamities come when a person breaks the taboos of the religion. Or they may attribute them to the evil actions of others (i.e. witchcraft). The first blames the poor person for his the poverty caused by calamity and the second sows discord. The health and wealth gospel tends in the same direction – blaming the poor person for their poverty saying that they don’t have enough faith. Hardly any churches, however, go as far down that road as does the JCC church in Kenya where the pastor warns poor people not to attend.

The Old Testament warns of the poverty-inducing effects of laziness and foolish decisions. But it also  displays a great deal of sympathy toward the poor. It has a message which poor believers in many parts of the world need, and need desperately — that their poverty is no their fault nor is it necessarily a judgment from God. The following verses are a good example of the Old Testament approach to poverty:

But you are a tower of refuge to the poor, O  lord , a tower of refuge to the needy in distress. You are a refuge from the storm and a shelter from the heat. For the oppressive acts of ruthless people are like a storm beating against a wall, or like the relentless heat of the desert. But you silence the roar of foreign nations. As the shade of a cloud cools relentless heat, so the boastful songs of ruthless people are stilled.
(Isa 25:4-5)

Why translate the Old Testament? First, to counter the wrong messages about calamity and poverty found in traditional religions and even in the teachings of some churches. The messages about poverty in the Old Testament  give the world’s poorest people, including its poorest Christians, the comfort and instruction God has given for their situation, while the New Testament has much less to say on the topic.