Archive for the ‘translation’ Category

I have just written this article for the upcoming May edition of Wycliffe News, the prayer magazine featuring Wycliffe members from Ireland. One of our former members, Gareth Dalzell, worked with Sam Mubbala in Uganda.
Sam Mubbala, Gwere Bible translator

Sam Mubbala, Gwere Bible translator

Note: Gwere or Lugwere are names for the language spoken by the Bagwere people of Uganda

In March this year, the Gwere team joined three other Ugandan teams to remember and to celebrate what God had done for their projects over the years. It was a significant milestone after waiting so long to have God’s word in their heart languages.

Our story starts in 1971 when a missionary teacher at a secondary school in Uganda asked a student called Sam Mubbala if he would like to translate some Bible passages into the Gwere language. Sam, then just 17, had no idea what translation was all about, but said yes. That seed grew into a dream that has survived closed doors, frustrations, disappointments, war and tyranny.

As Sam began to translate the Gospel of Mark into his language, he realised that the message he was translating had the power to save him. God translated Sam through his Word before Sam finished translating it! He gradually came to understand how important it was to translate the Scriptures so that other Bagwere people could have the same experience.

Idi Amin became President in 1971 and his reign of terror meant expatriate Christians had to leave Uganda. Sam was isolated from outside help. He completed the draft of Mark’s Gospel but could find no one to publish it. Later Sam met an organisation interested in translation in minority languages – Wycliffe Bible Translators. Things were looking up! He was asked to help with a survey of six languages, including Gwere, which confirmed a definite translation need.

It was encouraging to learn more about the translation process but Sam soon realized that his draft translation of Mark was far too literal to be understood – another disappointment. Over the years, Sam came up against obstacle after obstacle – a dream with no prospect of becoming reality.
In 2001, Sam began an MA in Translation Studies at Nairobi Evangelical School of Theology (NEGST). After two tough years, he graduated, soon became the translation project leader and was joined by Richard Ngozi, another NEGST graduate in 2004. Together they started translating fulltime in January 2005.

In the 2004 edition of Wycliffe UK Words for Life magazine, readers responded to this prayer request:
Please pray that there will be no more dead ends and that at last Sam’s dream will become a reality – that Bagwere people would come to know God through his word in the language that speaks to their hearts.
Over the years those prayers have been answered.

Fast forward to the March 2015 celebration mentioned at the start: One speaker recalled God’s instructions in Joshua 4 to set up twelve memorial stones to remind them what God had done. These four Ugandan language teams decided to do something similar to commemorate the completion of the draft New Testament translations. As one translator from each language lifted up a memorial stone bearing the name of his language, the smiles on their faces reflected their joy of celebration, their sense of accomplishment, their anticipation of imminent publication.

The four language memorial stones

The four language memorial stones

Currently, the translators are going through a long process of detailed checks to ensure accuracy, consistency and naturalness in the language. Then they will work with a typesetter to prepare the text for publication.

Please pray for patience and stamina for Sam and the others, as well as God’s protection for them and their families during this important work. As we give thanks to God for enabling these people to receive God’s word in their language, please pray that God will prepare hearts to receive it and to be transformed.

Text adapted from Wycliffe UK Words for Life 2004 Issue 3 and TheTask.net November 2006 and March 2015

Read more at http://www.thetask.net/gwere/his-undying-dream and http://www.thetask.net/uganda/remember-and-celebrate

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Sarah BuchananThis is the second of a series (currently a series of two, but you never know) of guest blogs from Sarah Buchanan, a PhD Translation student at Queen’s University, Belfast who loves languages and the Bible!

Sarah asked my colleague Marlene in the Wycliffe Bible Translators office in Belfast to help her access a Bible translation workshop in Africa. This is Sarah’s second Encounter story from that trip…


Marc KousiballeLet me introduce you to Marc, an ethnomusicologist and Bible translator from the San Maya people group in Northern Burkina Faso.

I first met Marc as he stood at the front of our morning worship at the translation workshop. He played his guitar and led some singing, then shared his thoughts about sowing and reaping spiritually from 2 Corinthians 9.

Marc comes from a family of 15. His family was greatly impacted by the life of one lady, whose name will probably not be recorded in any great volumes of Christian history. She was  an unassuming female missionary who came to his village and gave his aunt a wheelchair, which she so desperately needed. There was something so consistent and pure about this lady’s character that although uninterested in Christianity, many of his family started going to church, and now all but two are devout Christians. What a beginning.


Marc was one of the brightest children in his class so he continued his education as far as he could. He ended up teaching Mathematics at the University of Ouagadougou. Yet after some years in the capital city, there was a sense of unrest in his heart, and when he was approached to take up a temporary teaching post in his village, he accepted and returned.

While back in Tougan, Marc was approached by SIL about a Bible translation project that would use the translation for the Southern San language, and adapt it for the people in the North and West. The team was looking for the most educated people to complete the project. Marc fitted the job description and he had peace about accepting the role. Meanwhile, he got involved with working with the youth in his village as he worked on the project. Then Marc met his bride and had a son, who is now 2 years old.

Marc’s wife, a schoolteacher, shares his vision and helps him teach a Sunday school, welcoming the young people of the village into their home, although sometimes Marc has to say “can you please go home now” to the young people who would stay just as long as they used to before he had a family! Marc continues working on the Bible translation and developing other projects, borne out of his own vision and passion for the people of his community. Marc is taking courses on Scripture Use through SIL, which help him as he travels from village to village after harvest time with a small projector, creating dramatic productions of Bible stories with the local people, and sharing the good news. He writes songs in his own language with local instruments, as this speaks more powerfully and maintains the traditions and language of the San Maya people.

No doubt, things are not always easy for Marc and he worries about his wife who has to take a dangerous journey by motorbike to work at the school, yet he has a deep faith and prays fervently as he seeks to make innovative plans to share God’s love and impact his community. He plants ground nuts and sesame, employing teenagers in his village and thereby teaching them new skills. Marc dreams of building a storehouse to increase this enterprise, and of setting up a library with the funds to help educate the young people: he asks us to pray for the young people and for these two projects.

Marc’s story inspires me in a few ways. The testimony of the lady shows me the importance of living a consistent and authentic life. His own story reminds us of the power planting the seed of God’s word in different forms in peoples’ heart language, and it challenges us to pray for our brothers and sisters in West Africa, while asking, what does God want us to do in our own communities?

Sarah with the other workshop participants in Burkina Faso

Sarah with the other workshop participants in Burkina Faso

I would love to post more of Sarah’s Encounters En-route stories from her trip to Burkina Faso… what about it, Sarah? Meanwhile look up Sarah on her translation Facebook page

In this post, Sarah talks about ethnomusicology, Bible translation, teaching and Scripture Use – see roles with Wycliffe in these areas

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Carrowdore PCThis morning I fulfilled an invitation to speak about Wycliffe Bible Translators at Carrowdore Presbyterian Church annual PW (Presbyterian Women) service. Before the service started, the minister’s wife who is President of the PW, asked what I was going to talk about. If she had seen what I tweeted a few days ago, she would have had a glimpse into one of the greatest challenges facing me as part of the UK Church Engagement team.

John Hamilton (@john_nornirn)
10/03/2015 16:22
Preparing to speak at PW service this coming Sunday ‪#‎befuddled‬ just too many wonderful things to say about ‪#‎bibletranslation‬ @wycliffeuk

There are just too many great stories out there about my colleagues and our partners engaged in linguistics, translation, literacy, IT, teaching, flying planes, etc etc etc [I hate using etc, but what options do I have? The list goes on and on.]

Faced with this “biggest challenge” question, I’m sure my colleagues in Wycliffe would come up with many answers.

A while back, I read a blog by Canadian Wycliffe colleague Jack Popjes in which he comments on a question he was asked in a radio interview…

“What are the biggest challenges facing Bible translators today?”

I’m not usually stumped since I’m often interviewed when on speaking trips. This question, however, was not an easy one to answer. The differences among translation programs are enormous. There simply is no “typical” translation program.

Jack went on to attempt an answer to the question. Perhaps some of the situations are less common today, but he certainly gives a flavour of the wide variety of contexts in which Bible translation can and is happening.

Some translators work in languages which have never been written, others work in communities that have a long tradition of literacy in their own language.

Some translators work in isolated valleys, or distant islands, or in inhospitable regions of the world where there are no physical amenities like clean water, electric power, easy communications or transportation. Others work in or near cities where all these services are taken for granted.

Some translators work in areas of the world where the Bible is appreciated and respected, while others work in countries dominated by non-Christian world religions with adherents that are strongly antagonistic to any religion other than their own.

Some translators work right in their co-translators’ community, others work with co-translators who are living outside their country.

Some translators work face to face with their co-translators, others work via email and Skype communications.

Jack concludes that with so many different translation contexts, there is no “biggest challenge” just lots of different ones.

Perhaps I’ll get some other interpretations from Wycliffe colleagues around the world, but perhaps the biggest remaining challenge is the need of 1,860 languages for Bible translation.


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Sarah BuchananThis is the first of a series (currently a series of two, but you never know) of guest blogs from Sarah Buchanan, a PhD Translation student at Queen’s University, Belfast who loves languages and the Bible!

Sarah asked my colleague Marlene in the Wycliffe Bible Translators office in Belfast to help her access a Bible translation workshop in Africa. Read on…


In June 2014, I had the privilege of attending a Bible translation workshop in Burkina Faso for 10 days, with the help and encouragement of Marlene Ferguson and others in the Wycliffe office. Let me introduce you to a couple of people I met there, over the next few blog posts.

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso

Struggling with French and straining to understand the West African dialect I think I managed a Bonjour as I sat down on the plane from Paris. Sitting next to me, this middle-aged man from Mali with a friendly demeanour was my first impression of Africa. We started talking about family and respective countries. Why was I going to Burkina? Who was I staying with? Did I realise Burkina Faso was known as the furnace because of its heat, even among Africans? He helped me with my TV and headset as I get incredibly confused with anything technological.

A little while before landing, the flight attendant handed out cards to fill in all the whys and wheres of one’s trip. I diligently filled mine in, worried that I might write a dash or a full stop in the wrong place. I noticed Mr Traore didn’t have a pen, so I offered him one. He declined politely. I waited and wondered and then I realized, much slower than I should have, that he hadn’t read the in-flight magazine or any books; that he hadn’t read anything during the whole flight. I had heard about illiteracy but had never met anyone who couldn’t read or write, nor had I really considered the implications. Eventually he handed me his passport and asked me to fill out his form.

Ouagadougou International Airport

Ouagadougou International Airport

We arrived in the early evening, and entered a room in an airport with a few desks, a number of insects, and a mass of people. Suddenly my heart sunk and my imagination fuelled a state of panic with the realization that I had forgotten one very important item: my vaccination card. What am I going to do? There isn’t even a British Embassy in Burkina. I froze for a moment, managed “J’ai oublié mais j’ai eu les vaccinations”, and waited some more as a sea of travellers poured into the airport in front of me. Eventually, I got a nod to walk on through, praise God.

By this time, I felt a bit disorientated…until I heard the call, “Fille!” It was Mr Traore, who moved me right to the front of the queue beside him, signalling to others that I was his friend. He guided me through the next hour that ensued, switching from one queue to another, until we were able to walk through into the arrivals area where a taxi driver waited to take me to the SIL centre.

Sometimes it’s the simple meetings that are most memorable. You might see nothing special in this encounter, but I do, just like many of the encounters that happen in Belfast or Ballymena or Ballygawley contain something special we choose not to see because we’re busy thinking about the next job on our list. In this case, I met someone that I wouldn’t usually encounter and struggled to communicate, yet I see acts of hospitality in the invitations I received: the invitation to converse, the invitation to listen to Mr Traore’s family and story, the invitation to share (my family, my faith, my interests). I was invited to help in a very small way, and in return, to accept help on this part of the journey.

Meanwhile statistics on illiteracy left the pages of NGO leaflets to take on shape and form in real life, albeit in a passing moment.

I see God’s provision and protection in this encounter, and am reminded that even when there is much misunderstanding (linguistically, culturally, politically…) there’s usually the possibility to learn and gain something from another person who is quite different to us, as we have to strain our ears and listen more closely.

Look out for Encounters En-route number two soon and look up Sarah on her translation Facebook page

Sarah focussed on literacy in this post:find out more about literacy and other roles with Wycliffe or investigate Two Week Stint in the south of France this summer which has both literacy and linguistic tracks.

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NH2013A radical obedience to His word is the title for New Horizon 2013 20 – 26 July 2013 at the University of Ulster, Coleraine

The word of the Lord came and said… live, speak, surrender, repent, forgive. Spoken into every age the word of the Lord assures us… have courage, do not be afraid, I am with you. Through the Word made flesh He gave His life so that we might have life.

His radical Word spoken over all time, now seeks our time, our lives, our radical obedience. Will we listen? Will we live? Will we lose ourselves in and for the living Word of God?

What’s this got to do with loving God with your liver?

I will be presenting a seminar at New Horizon on Monday 22 July 2013 on behalf of Wycliffe Bible Translators along with my friend Stephen Cave from Biblica. We’re hoping the catchy title will attract the punters; we shall see.

Here’s the seminar blurb…

No, it’s not about alcohol, but our passionate belief that no one should have to learn a foreign language to hear about Jesus! We will explore together the challenges and issues facing brand new translations – including why it makes much more sense to ‘Love God with all your liver’ as opposed to ‘your heart’ – and also look at why even trusted translations need to be revised and changed as language and knowledge develop, such as was the case with the recent revision of the much-loved NIV Bible. The principle of speaking to us in language we understand comes from heaven itself, underscored in the incarnation of Christ. It must be a priority for the mission of God in the world that everyone from Coleraine to Caracas has the same opportunity to hear his Word in the language they understand best.

I’m doing some preparation this week before going on holiday… guess I should be praying that the title will entice a goodly seminar audience and that together, Stephen and I will fit our seminar both to our purposes and to the New Horizon theme – A radical obedience to His word!

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‘No one should have to learn a foreign language so that they can hear about Jesus.’


Thanks to the work of the Ndop Cluster Team in NW Cameroon, the Bamunka people dedicated the Gospel of Luke in March 2012 – the first Scripture in their language.

To learn more about how to help get God’s Word to every language go to

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‘No one should have to learn a foreign language so that they can hear about Jesus.’

Photo credit Clare Kendall

Biblefresh 2011 Photo credit Clare Kendall

Thanks to financial gifts during the 2011 Biblefresh year, the Bible is now being translated into Francois’ language Bissa Barka.

To learn more go to

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