The simple answer is that we bring God’s word to the peoples of Africa. Many peoples in Africa are marginalized because they have to learn about the Gospel and other things in other languages.
The Key Fact
How we go about Bible translation is shaped by what we see God doing in Africa. He is raising up educated African Christians with a vision for translating the Bible into their own language or other languages without the Scriptures. We believe that our most effective role, and the one which God is calling us to, is that of cooperating with this movement of God’s Spirit. Se we are involved in mobilizing and training of Africans for the task.
Isaac Ada Louka
In 1979 while working in Burkina Faso, we met Isaac Louka Ada, a young man just finishing his Masters degree in Mathematics. He was very interested in translating into his language – Kasem. He doggedly pursued being involved, giving of his time for many years. Isaac was the first of many dedicated Africa Christians who believed that God was calling them to Bible translation. I do not have the space to write you about others such as Boureïma Ouédraogo, Sami Tioyé, Nessiel Nodjibogoto. Through them we found God telling us to radically change how we were doing Bible translation. So today we are involved in training them and helping African churches develop their own translation efforts.
We then worked in the Democratic Republic of Congo where we found the same thing. For example, Andy Alo is a Congolese held in very high regard by his church who graduated with high honors with a Masters in Bible translation and is now completing his doctorate. He is preparing to become a Bible translation consultant and is teaching of translators at the Shalom University of Bunia.There are a good number like him. In fact, by the end of our time working in Congo, there were more Congolese in advanced translation roles than there were westerners. There is still a need for westerners, but the majority of those who will finish the remaining translations in Africa are African.
The second man from the left, in the Ndruna team photo (above, right) is named Avuta. He rode his bicycle many miles with a broken wrist to take training in the Congo. As you can see, there was no plaster to make a cast for his wrist! A year later he was captured by soldiers and beaten so badly it took him over two years to recover. Some thought that he would never walk again.
These are but some examples of what God is doing today in Africa today. We (you, Dayle and I) are trying to be part of what He is doing
Many African Christians and church leaders are convinced that their people need the Bible in their own languages if the church is to grow and deepen. But they don’t have what they need to get the task done alone. They need information, training, equipment, and prayer support to assure quality — a total team.
What Africans Say
Masumbuko (in center of photo), a translator in the Tembo language in the Congo wrote: “…in the [Tembo] translation office, we receive letters from Tembos who testify of their edification in reading the Gospel of Luke which they understand because of the naturalness of the language much more than Swahili or French. So, without the translation, these Tembos would lose the ability to understand the Word of God…”
Anthony Aliu, a Christian journalist in Nigeria said in May 1998: “In the 1970s and 1980s everyone in Nigeria was interested in church planting. Many churches were planted. Then there were all sorts of problems in those churches. They struggle. Now we know that these churches cannot be strong without Bible translation.”
Many Africans are cut off from God’s word. Many Christians in Africa cannot read the Bible either because there is no Bible in a language they understand or because they do not know how to read. This means that most African Christians cannot teach a Sunday School class, participate in a Bible study, read the Bible to their children, or have a foundation upon which to witness.
Over the last 5 years, Congo as seen a series of wars and ethnic clashes which have left an estimated 2 million people dead of direct and indirect causes. Dr. Alo, the president of a seminary in Congo said: “If we are going through very difficult times in our country, it is because God’s Word has not been rooted in our people’s hearts. If that could happen by making God’s Word accessible to them, if God’s Word could be closer to them, then things would change. We believe that the Bible can have its rightful impact in the Congo through the techniques of Bible translation.”
Dr. Alo’s own 8 year-old grandson was kidnapped by a rival ethnic group (tribe). His body was found two weeks later. From his condition, it was obvious that he had been tortured for days before dying. So Dr. Alo does not make recommendations for solving the tribal conflict lightly.
When Dr. Alo said “techniques of Bible translation” he is referring to a solid, academic and linguistic approach to translation. He has seen translations done without that basis and he has seen that they are often unreadable and unusable. He is saying that for translations to really get close to people and have impact, they have to be linguistically based.
Start translations in all remaining African languages needing in the next 15 years by training Africans and mobilizing African churches. To do that we are working with others in carrying out the following tasks:
- Stimulating and informing African church leaders and interested Christians. Some African churches have the organizational and spiritual capacity to carry out a complex task like Bible translation. To become involved, they need information.
- Working with church leaders to set up support structures for the translation projects run by the churches.
- Moving successful Africans translators into advanced roles such as training and quality assurance.
- Working with linguists to devise ways to speed the work by using discoveries and solutions in one language in other closely related languages, and get these faster and cheaper methods in wide use.
- Conduct evaluations of progress
- Seeking prayer support
We will carry out our work from Ghana. A good part of our work will be in that country, but Ed will also travel to other countries to do the same kind of work there.
This page describes our work in general. To see our current activities check out our prayer page. If you have questions about Wycliffe or generally about Bible translation, see Wycliffe’s FAQs at http://www.wycliffe.org/ContactUs/FrequentlyAskedQuestions.aspx. Or, you can always drop us an email.