Posts Tagged ‘Burkina Faso’

white as snow

the little red cardinal has no hope of the snow camouflaging his presence!

If you are familiar with the Bible, you have probably heard the phrase “white as snow” – although you may not know where it appears in The Bible. Isaiah 1v18 is one place. Below you can read the verse from two translations in English.
“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD:
though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”
Isaiah 1.18 ESV
‘Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the Lord.
‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.
Isaiah 1.18 NIV UK
Recently Wycliffe friends and colleagues Colin and Dot Suggett, who work in Burkina Faso raised an issue that I have often met before – what if the culture of the language that this phrase is being translated into, has no concept of snow. I first came upon through an Irish colleague who has worked in the Amazon jungle of Brazil and they certainly don’t get snow there!
Colin and Dot sent this back translation from the Turka language of Burkina Faso…
The Eternal-God says, “Come, let us discuss:
though your sins are red like fire, they shall be white as milk;
though they are red like blood, they shall be white like cotton.”
Isaiah 1.18 (Turka back translation)

… and then continued.

Readers familiar with English translations of the above passage will note a change in the colour similes in our Turka translation. That’s because the Turka language does not have a lexical means of distinguishing “scarlet” from “crimson”. (We only have one generic word for the colour “red”.) Now, scarlet is a “brilliant red colour with a tinge of orange”, whereas crimson is a “strong, bright, deep red colour combined with some blue and/or violet, resulting in a tiny degree of purple”. Our solution to this particular translation problem was to insert the simile “red like fire” to correspond with scarlet, and “red like blood” to correspond with crimson.

In addition, the similes “they shall be as white as snow” and “they shall become like wool” in this verse are likewise problematic. It turns out there’s not much call for snow in Burkina Faso (though, on rare occasions, it has been known to hail), and people do not exploit sheep’s hair to make wool. Consequently, we made use of two white commodities which are commonplace among the Turka: milk and cotton.

The above verse is just one of a large selection of key Old Testament passages which will be integrated into a chronological teaching series we are preparing for a radio play. This series provides a sweeping overview of the Old Testament with a view to prepare Muslim-background Turka listeners for a fuller understanding and appreciation of the coming of Jesus Christ into this world. We praise the Lord that this Old Testament translation work is approaching completion and should be wrapped up before the end of this year.

Meanwhile, translation work on the New Testament continues to move forward with first drafts prepared for most of the remaining books.

If you’re someone who prays, please pray for Colin and Dot and their Turka colleagues.

We covet your prayers for health, strength, spiritual vitality, and for healthy and fruitful interactions with our Turka colleagues, Foromine and Jeremy, and the Turka population.



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A few days ago, someone looked at a blog I posted just over four years ago. Since that one person hopefully found it interesting, I thought I would re-blog it.

Besides the comments that I made and the comments that I quoted are still both interesting and relevant – what do you think?


An old copy of the King James Bible, thought to be a rare original 1611 edition has been found in a village church in Wiltshire.

There are fewer than 200 original printings of the King James version known to exist. And it is believed that the rediscovered Bible is one of the few remaining editions printed in 1611.

As a former historian, this news appeals to me; original documents are the stuff of historical research, but the Bible has never been lost to us. The King James is just one of a long line of translations into English, all of which sought to make the Bible accessible to people in a way they could understand.

This year is of course the 400th anniversary of the first edition of the King James Version being printed in London. At that time, no one could have envisaged the impact that the translation would have: since then the King James Version has become the biggest selling book in the English language – apparently it has also been the most shop lifted book in history. It has shaped the English language and had a huge effect on the English speaking world. The King James Version has become a cultural icon.

But the Bible is far more than just a piece of literature, far more than a cultural icon – we believe it is the story of God’s involvement with the earth and its people from creation to the end of the world. Wycliffe Bible Translators wants to concentrate less on Bible historic and more on Biblefresh – whether that be people in the UK re-engaging with the Bible in ways that enables God to speak to them afresh or people in Burkina Faso and elsewhere receiving the Bible in their heart languages for the first time.

Geoff Procter is a member of the parochial church council where the rare original was found; I like his comment.

Mr Procter said the most important thing about the Bible was that it was meant to be a living working book for people to live by.

“Well I think what it’s going to do is enable us to talk about the Bible,” he said.

“Because in a secular world it’s seen as an important document it will actually bring the opportunities to us to go and discuss it in more detail.

“When we took it for evaluation to the curator of a Bible museum, one of the first things he said was whatever you do you must display this so that people can read the word.

“That stuck with me – you know the fact that it’s what it says rather than what it is.”

In a blog discussing reading the Bible together online in a variety of ways, Richard Littledale reminds us of the danger of God’s Word getting lost in the 2011 media plethora about the King James Bible…

Although people are talking at length about the linguistic heritage of the Bible in the English language, there is a danger that it becomes little more than a piece of heritage – like a stately home or a love letter preserved behind glass. We cannot afford to do this – which is why we must embrace these Twenty-First Century media to encourage a wholehearted debate about a book whose pages we regard as sacred.

This is the vision of Wycliffe Bible Translators – could you be a part of this?

By 2025, together with partners worldwide, we aim to see a Bible translation project begun in all the remaining languages that need one.

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Oku couple, NW Cameroon, reading their newly published New Testament

Oku couple, NW Cameroon, reading their newly published New Testament

Often when I speak in churches, I encourage people to listen to the familiar Easter story as if for the first time. There are three reasons why I think this is a good thing. First, as Christians it is good to re-visit the reality that is the basis of our faith. Secondly, others may come to faith. And thirdly, it helps people appreciate what it means to literally hear the story for the first time!

So when my friend, Marlene Ferguson, recently wrote an article for her Ballyhenry Presbyterian Church website, I asked her permission to re-blog on John 20:21.

A woman from Burkina Faso, baby tied to her back, clutching the New Testament which she had just received in her Bissa Lebir language


Imagine that this year you hear the Easter story and truly understand it for the first time…

Jesus willingly allowed men to kill him in an extremely brutal way.  Why? Because he loved us.  He did it because we deserve a brutal punishment for selfishly sinning against God, but He wanted to save us from such punishment.  He did it because no-one else could have stood in the gap like that for us.  He also knew that only He could conquer the power of death and when he rose from the dead, death was conquered – once for all.

Jesus’ death and resurrection was a ‘once for all’ event.  Once only did he die; once, through which all men might receive salvation. After he rose, he asked the apostles to make disciples of all nations. He still asks that of us. Indeed, it is prophesied in the book of Revelation that there will be people from every nation, tribe and language worshipping the Lord in Heaven.  That’s all nations, all tribes and all languages represented before the throne of God, adoring him with one unending song of worship.

Unfortunately, there is much confusion among people who still don’t have access to God’s Word in their language.  A pastor of an Asian language group without God’s Word once asked “Is the resurrection for white people only?”  Of course not! The resurrection is for all people.  Wycliffe Bible Translators are working to ensure that all language communities receive this message in a language that they can understand and Ballyhenry is playing its part to support this goal. Through God’s power at work in us, people from all language communities will have the opportunity to respond to Jesus’ invitation to worship the Lamb in eternity.

There are 2,195 Bible translation projects currently underway around the world and it is thought that 1,860 are still in need of work to begin in their language!  Wycliffe Bible Translators supports Bible translation in order that all people will be able to hear the Easter message of salvation in a language that they can understand.

I’d encourage you to check out a short video on YouTube by one of our partners, the Seed Company, entitled ‘The Gamo see Jesus’ to be refreshed by the reactions of a group of Gamo people of Ethiopia as they watch the Jesus film (based on Luke’s Gospel) dubbed in their language for the first time.

This Easter imagine that you are one of those people who will finally hear the Easter message and understand it for the first time.

Thank you, Marlene!


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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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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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Je n'ai pas de chevre

“Je n’ai pas de chevre”

The book was sent by a friend and former member of Wycliffe Bible Translators from N. Ireland who spent some time working with Wycliffe Switzerland. Recently she has been in Switzerland at the 50th anniversary of Wycliffe Suisse.

The book contains 50 stories celebrating those 50 years written by Swiss members who have lived and worked in Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Cameroon, the Gambia, Nepal, Cambodia, Chad, Togo, Benin, Papua New Guinea, Congo Brazzaville and Brazil.

wycliffe suisse card

Wycliffe Switzerland have produced cards like the one above. On the reverse side it says…

La Parole de Dieu est indispensible pour traverser le fleuve de la vie. Vraiment? Intéressé à d’autres cartes? fr.wycliffe.ch/cartes

Some of the story writers in the book are former colleagues from our time in Ivory Coast. It is a pleasure to celebrate with them!

And like them, I remember the 1,919 languages of the world still awaiting the indispensable Word of God.

wycliffe suisse_logo

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After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem              Matthew 2:1

We all know that the Magi, the Wise Men, the kings (?) bringing gifts of gold , frankincense and myrrh to Mary and Joseph’s baby boy… came from the East. But mistakes can be made.

Historically one of the most dubious was the Wicked Bible… also known as The Adultery Bible!

wicked bible

This is a reprint of the King James Bible published in 1631 by royal printers Robert Barker and Martin Lucas. Rather unfortunately one of the typesetters left out a little three letter word. King Charles I and the Archbishop of Canterbury were not well pleased. They ordered all the copies to be burnt and Robert Barker and Martin Lucas were perhaps fortunate to escape with the loss of their printers’ licence and a heavy fine!

It can happen so easily… and so in one draft translation of Matthew ch1 in more recent times… the wise men were coming from the west.

We really want the Bible to be translated accurately, clearly and naturally. And so it’s good to pick up these human or typographic errors as early as possible in the translation process. It was Brian, a Volunteer Bible Scholar from Belfast, poring over the text looking for such more obvious errors, who was able to set the geography right both for the Magi and for the translation team.

I learnt all this when I attended a Volunteer Bible Scholar workshop last Saturday in Belfast.


Michael Jemphrey, workshop leader, multi-tasking just before we started

The workshop was attended by by two existing Volunteer Bible Scholars and eight others there to find out if they could also help out. Michael was assisted by Philip and Heather Saunders.

Here’s how Michael, who previously worked on the Supyire New Testament in Mali, explains the whole concept of Volunteer Bible Scholars…

Before ploughing a new field the Supyire farmers in our village in Mali have to clear it of rocks and larger stones. It is a time consuming task but it makes the ploughing so much easier and effective. The work of a Volunteer Bible scholar is similar. Using the ease of global communication today, the volunteers clear the most obvious mistakes in a draft translation of the Scriptures before it comes before the eyes of a consultant. The consultants then can concentrate on the nuances of the translation and ensure that it is accurate for printing. Sometimes it’s an obvious typo; sometimes half a verse has been missed out. Like clearing out the stones, this is slow, methodical work and the harvest is still some way down the line. But it is an essential part of the teamwork providing the food of God’s word accurately translated for language communities hungry for it.

Here’s another way to look at why we are looking for suitable Volunteer Bible Scholars to help Wycliffe Bible Translators. In some parts of the world and particularly in Africa, lots of translated books of the Bible are waiting for a consultant to check the accuracy, clarity and naturalness of the text. Currently there is a shortage of consultants… creating a bit of a bottleneck in getting the work done.

Find out more about Wycliffe Bible Translators and Bible translation and how you might get involved.

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