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Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada

Fall 2012

Breaking New Ground

Guinea-Bissaus Evangelical Church leads a dynamic Bible translation-literacy program, aided by Wycliffe staff & Canadian donors.

UNESCO Commends Work in Ghana + Translating the Gospel + Working in the Rain

Fall 2012 Volume 30 Number 3 Word Alive, which takes its name from Hebrews 4:12a, is the official publication of Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada. Its mission is to inform, inspire and involve the Christian public as partners in the worldwide Bible translation movement. Editor: Dwayne Janke Designer: Laird Salkeld Senior Staff Writer: Doug Lockhart Staff Writers: Janet Seever, Alexis Harrison Staff Photographers: Alan Hood, Natasha Schmale Word Alive is published four times annually by Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada, 4316 10 St NE, Calgary AB T2E 6K3. Copyright 2012 by Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada. Permission to reprint articles and other magazine contents may be obtained by written request to the editor. A donation of $20 annually is suggested to cover the cost of printing and mailing the magazine. (Donate online or use the reply form in this issue.) Printed in Canada by McCallum Printing Group, Edmonton. Member: The Canadian Church Press, Evangelical Press Association. For additional copies: To contact the editor: For address updates:

Where the Spirits Come
Dwayne Janke
s we waited between interviews in the shade at the Evangelical Church headquarters in the city of Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, a woman with black and brown dreadlocks sat down beside me. Cezalta Barbosa, a 32-year-old university student and Christian, had come to the offices of the churchs translation project (featured in this issue) to collect a paycheque for the literacy planning work she had done. Discovering she spoke English in this former Portuguese colony, I got around to asking Cezalta if her entire family were believers. She immediately shook her head, obviously perplexed. Its very hard to reach them, she told me. They cling to their animistic practices, Cezalta explained, fearing that if they turn to Christ they will be harmed by the spirits that they try to influence and appease. Like the majority of GuineaBissaus population, her family members seek advice from animistic priests and priestesses. They spend thousands of francs for counsel at ceremonies and sacrifices where spirits are believed to enter into these religious channelers. I asked her if she could take me to such a ceremony. Using her cellphone, Cezalta tracked one down. Then she led photographer Natasha Schmale and me through a maze of traffic, seller kiosks and back streets. Boom boxes blared out of windows, kids chased piglets over bare ground and a chained monkey screamed at us. Cezalta spotted a ceremonial cleansing water bowl and spoon perched on a long stick poking out of the soil outside a home (see photo, pg. 13). This is the place where the spirits come, she explained. It is a sign. Cezalta told us to wait outside before she disappeared into the darkened doorway. After a few minutes, Cezalta reappeared and waved for us to come inside. As our eyes gradually adjusted from the bright sunshine outside to the inky blackness inside, I could see two ladies Cezaltas sister and aunt. They sat on white chairs, holding cellphones. As my eyes peered into the corner, I saw a woven cloth altar and, in front of it, a sacrificed chicken lying dead on the floor. Its blood oozed across the dirt floor. They sit here until the devil comes, Cezalta says. When the spirits make their entrance, news gets around and customers line up to pay for spiritual advice. I asked Cezalta what she felt about the scene in front of us. They feel sad about me going my [Christian] way, she replied. I feel sad because I know the Truth, but they dont want it. After seeing these animistic practices firsthand, I realized anew that the truth of Gods Word is desperately needed in GuineaBissau, as it is in a legion of places around the globe. Too many people misguidedly sit in darkness waiting for spirits to come, not understanding that Jesus is knocking at the door, ready to bring true light and freedom.

Wycliffe serves minority language groups worldwide by fostering an understanding of Gods Word through Bible translation, while nurturing literacy, education and stronger communities. Canadian Head Office: 4316 10 St NE, Calgary AB T2E 6K3. Phone: (403) 250-5411 or toll free 1-800-463-1143, 8:30 a.m.4:30 p.m. mountain time. Fax: (403) 2502623. Email: French speakers: Call toll free 1-877-747-2622 or email Cover: Taking a break from their indoor session, a class of Jola-Bayote children in Guinea-Bissau, Africa, goes outside to practise their new mother tongue literacy skills by writing in the soil. See related story, pg. 14. Photo by Natasha Schmale

After seeing these animistic practices firsthand, I realized anew that the truth of Gods Word is desperately needed in Guinea-Bissau.

In Others Words
When we pray, we speak to God; when we read the Bible, God speaks to us.
Aelfric of Canterbury (955-1020 A.D.), English abbot and prolific writer.
2 Word Alive Fall 2012

Photographs for all articles by Natasha Schmale

Blind, But Now I See

Rafael Coli and a team of mother tongue translators are bringing the light of Gods Word to Guinea-Bissaus Jola-Bayote people. By Alexis Harrison

12 A Double Vision The Evangelical Church of Guinea-Bissau sees

Bible translation as crucial to church-planting. By Dwayne Janke

14 Drawing in the Sand

For Jola-Bayote children, the roots of literacy are sprouting in their mother tongue, planted there firmly by Evangelical Church-run classes. By Alexis Harrison

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18 A Bridge Called Martin This former typewriter mechanic

connects Canadian donors with national Bible translation teams in Africa as a program manager with Wycliffe partner, OneBook. By Alexis Harrison Guinea-Bissaus story-loving people through easy-to-remember, easy-to-repeat Bible stories in Creole. By Alexis Harrison

24 Yearning for a Good Yarn Presenting the gospel to 26 The Heat is On Fellow translators are eager to get their
hands on Scriptures produced by the Creole Bible translation team. By Dwayne Janke

28 Guinea-Bissau or Bust The road to service for Bible 34 Breaking Through the Silence A fledgling sign

translation in Africa was much farther than a Brazilian Wycliffe couple ever expected, but they stayed on course. By Dwayne Janke

language project aims to minister Gods Word to Guinea-Bissaus Deaf. By Dwayne Janke

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Foreword Where the Spirits Come
By Dwayne Janke

18 28

Watchword UNESCO Commends Work in Ghana

By Hart Wiens

36 Beyond Words Translating the Gospel, Parts 3 & 4 38 A Thousand Words Caldron of Sorrow 39 Last Word Working in the Rain
By Roy Eyre

Word Alive Fall 2012

Wycliffe partner agency in Ghana, Africa has been commended by UNESCO for literacy and education work among 22 language groups in rural areas. The Ghana Institute of Linguistics, Literacy and Bible Translation (GILLBT), says UNESCO, has transformed the everyday lives of its students in its successful, community-based literacy program. People now sign their names instead of using thumbprints and are able to arrange hospital identity cards for their children, explains the UN agency. Many learners have found jobs, or entered formal schools or tertiary institutions. UNESCO says that GILLBT creates and uses culturally sensitive instructional methods and materials, and commends its large volunteer force of teachers and supervisors at a grassroots level that helps the program remain sustainable. Basic reading, writing and numeracy skills are provided by the program. Functional literacy training is followed by advanced literacy in the local language and English to provide further learning opportunities. Other parts of the program include HIV prevention, income-generating activities and a rights-based approach to empowerment. Since 1972, GILLBT has taught 500,000 people to be functionally literate. About 10,000 graduates have made the transition to formal education.
Hugh Steven

UNESCO Commends Work in Ghana

Work Progesses in the Two Sudans

ible translation is progressing steadily in Sudan and the newly created nation of South Sudan, where 20 projects are underway. In Khartoum, Sudans capital, the Episcopal Church of the Sudan Diocese of Khartoum Translation Department, and the Bible Society of Sudan, continue to work faithfully to translate the Scriptures into the languages of the north. Ten projects, including two Old Testament translations, are ongoing. In Juba, the capital of the new country of South Sudan, there are another 10 projects, including the Old Testament for the Dinka people, the largest tribe there. Meanwhile, Faith by Hearing has recorded the New Testament in six languages in rural areas of South Sudan. Part of each project includes setting up listening groupspeople who gather around a Megavoice digital audio player to hear Scriptures and afterwards discuss what they have heard and learned. As well, a project to translate the Gospel of Luke into three languages of South SudanBongo, Jur Beli and Mandariwill result in the dubbing of The JESUS Libya Egypt Film into these languages in 2012.



New Plane Begins Service in Central Africa

new jet-fuel-powered airplane is being used to help the Bible translation effort in Central Africa. The Soloy Cessna 207 (pictured below) arrived in Cameroon in April after crossing the North Atlantic from North Carolina-based JAARS, a technical partner agency of Wycliffe. The aviation department of SIL Cameroon will use the aircraft to continue and expand its service in Central Africa.
Courtesy of JAARS


South C.A.R. Sudan Ethiopia

Democratic Republic of the Congo

Understanding Stories Important to Translators

Nigerian Translators Pin Down Faith

ible translators found a culturally powerful way to write faith while they completed translation of the book of James into 19 languages at a workshop in Nigeria. As they discussed the challenge of expressing the word, one team explored their culture, finding the expression of pinning heart on someone. The verb relates to dropping anchor while in a canoe to pin you to a single spot, or staking something to the ground so it cannot move. They found 18 instances in the text of the book where it was appropriate to use the expression. For example, in James 1:6 the back translation into English of their rendering is: If someone begs God for a matter, he should pin heart and not allow heart to shiver (waver) If we say this, the translators said, everyone will understand it without any explanation.

istening to the stories of the language group they serve is often an important way for Wycliffe linguists to develop cultural understanding, so they can more effectively translate Scriptures and minister to people. The Bororos people at Corrego Grande, Brazil, for example, told their own story to Wycliffe linguist/ translator Tom Crowell and his wife Jan. A long time ago, the Bororos believe, God called all of the people of the world before Him to dance. He liked the way the city people danced, so he gave them cars, airplanes and radios. However, he didnt like the way Bororos danced, so he gave them only bows and arrows. The Crowells have been privileged to assure the Bororos that God loves them so much that He sent His Son to die for their sins. Tom and Jan are trusting that many more Bororos will join the small number of believers in this group.

Word Alive Fall 2012

Alan Hood

Wycliffe Deepens Performing Arts Focus

lthough normally the laws allow for freedom of religion in the former Soviet Union, many Christians in Central Asia continue to be harassed and threatened with harm for their beliefs. In one Central Asian country, the climate of oppression is so great that believers are afraid to have a copy of the Scriptures in their personal possession or at home because doing so would put them in danger. As a result, Wycliffes main partner, SIL, and other agencies involved with Bible translation, are relying on distribution of Gods Word via cellphones. Believers, gathering in groups of three,

Digital Scripture Increasingly Important in Central Asia

arrange meetings a couple of times weekly in a car, a park, walking down the street or sitting in a caf. They are able to read Scripture from mobile phones and pray together. In another nearby nation, translated Scriptures in a languagein which the New Testament is done and the Old Testament is in progressare being increasingly sent out through digital media. Restrictions in the country have made it difficult to distribute Gods Word in print, but Scriptures in non-print form are less of a danger. Church leaders have requested alternatives to traditional books, which can lead to interrogation and imprisonment. DVDs, downloadable computer files and cellphones are meeting this need.

ycliffe is expanding its work in ethnomusicologythe study and promotion of indigenous musical styles among the language groups it servesto include other performing arts, called entho-arts. Ethno-arts and vernacular media consultants specialize in reaching out to many language groups for whom Gods Word must go beyond the printed page, to culturally appropriate media such as songs, dance, drama, poems, proverbs, riddles and stories. These become crucial for communicating translated Scriptures. Leaders in ethnomusicology and ethno-arts met this spring in Dallas to reformulate current field strategies and develop a five-year plan for comprehensive projects.

he light of Gods Word in Malis Minyanka language continues to reveal new things to the people who listen to it or read it. This includes those who are leading churches among the group. Ever since studying to be a pastor at Bible school, explained one pastor named Joel, I have had a sickness for which I had not found a cure: I could not understand the book of Revelation. But now that Ive heard it in Minyanka, it is so much clearer in my language. Minyanka is spoken by more than 700,000 people in the African country.

Shedding Light on Revelation

Wycliffe Agency in Brazil Partners in Bilingual Education

17% 36% 47%

Word Count

LEM, the Wycliffe Global Alliance organization in Brazil, is taking the lead role in a new, threeyear bilingual and intercultural education program for three language groups in the country. The 10-module project is training teachers and pupils to write their indigenous languagesspoken by nearly 30,000 Kaiw, Guarani and Terena people in Braziland produce materials in them. ALEM, in partnership with Dourados city council and the municipal secretary of education in Brazils southwestern state of Portion of Bible translation projects, involving Wycliffe and SIL staff, where Mato Grosso do Sul, is promottheir involvement is tertiarystaff offer ing the project. Raquel Alcantara, supportive services, such as consulting. ALEMs literacy consultant, will oversee the work. Portion of Bible translation projects Various missions, a federal uniwhere involvement is secondarystaff versity, several school boards and have significant participation, but are departments of education, SIL not leading. (Wycliffes main partner organizaPortion of Bible translation projects tion), individuals and volunteers are where involvement is primarystaff also partnering in the effort. act in a leading role.
Source: Wycliffe Global Alliance, Sept. 2011

IL International, Wycliffes key field partner agency, is part of a new group working to complete a comprehensive plan for meeting the needs of language groups in the Republic of the Congo, Africa. Called The Forum of Partner Organizations for the Development of Congolese Languages, it is assessing what is needed in the areas of literacy, linguistics, training and language development among the nations 60-plus languages. Forum representatives (which also include those from government ministries, churches, United Bible Societies and other associations) are forging ahead with their work before they share their progress at a meeting again later this year.

Forum Gauges Language Needs in Congo


R ChadI
C. A. R.


South Sudan

Cameroon Republic of Congo

Democratic Republic of Congo

Angola Zambia

Rafael Coli and a team of mother tongue translators are bringing the light of Gods Word to Guinea-Bissaus Jola-Bayote people.
By Alexis Harrison Photographs For All Stories By Natasha Schmale

Worshipers spend time praying during the first-ever Jola-Bayote church service held at the village of Arame, in northwestern GuineaBissau, Africa.

afael Coli grew up in the rural animist village of Arame at the end of a long, rutted road in northwestern Guinea-Bissau, Africa. During the rainy season, the road becomes impassable; its safe to say Google Street View doesnt zoom in here. As a boy, Rafael (pictured on pg. 8) helped harvest his familys cashew crop. A former Portuguese colony, his country is, after all, the worlds fifth largest producer of cashew nuts, behind India, Ivory Coast, Vietnam and Brazil. The pear-shaped false fruit that the cashew tree produces contains a yellowish juice, a substance that is reminiscent of the days before the gospel took root in Rafaels heartbefore God fitted his feet for bringing the gospel of peace to his people in a form they could truly understand. I had a spiritual battle, says Rafael, whose squinting, bloodshot eyes are a telltale sign hes had trouble with his sight. I dreamed during the night, and when I [woke up] in the morning I couldnt see. Tears ran from my face and fell onto my shirt and it stained my shirt like cashew stains, he adds. After I became a Christian that ended. Rafael, 34, spent 11 long years in the army, specializing in topography for field artillery. During that time when I was in the army I felt Satans oppression, recalls Rafael. His eye sickness began in 1998 from an unknown cause, and the debilitative disease, fraught with nightmares, seemed to flare up every payday. His military salary couldnt satisfy the appetite of his medical expenses. My problem was that I always felt shame, he says. Sometimes I stayed in my room from morning until evening.

Looking for God


It wasnt until he left the army, started attending an evangelical church in 2009 and became a born-again Christian, that Rafaels life began to improve spiritually, socially and economically. In his dreams he began to see a person holding an open Bible, warding off the evil presence that afflicted him in his nightmares. His illness stopped and he is now in recovery. His In his dreams Rafael paycheques dont have to be spent at the pharmacy any longer. He credits all began to see a person of this to his belief in Jesus Christ. holding an open Bible, At the evangelical church . . . I had warding off the evil the experience of looking for God, says presence that afflicted Rafael. When I was learning to look for God, then I started to find freedom. him in his nightmares. This transformed my life completely. Today he is husband to Damiana and father of their three children. Since October 2010, he has also been one of five Guinean team members who are translating the Bible into the language of Jola-Bayote on behalf of approximately 3,000 speakers. The book of Mark is now completed, along with Luke and chapters one to 24 of Acts. Because Satan knew that [the translation project] was going to be here tomorrow, that is why I had that battle, says a now victorious Rafael. It is Sunday, November 13, 2011, and the village of Arames first-ever church service for Bayote-speaking Christians is underway. A tin roof is no barrier to the memorized, a cappella wordsformed on the lips of those unable to read or write their own languagethat are being sent heavenward this morning. Jesus is the Person who God sent, they sing. He died for us.
Word Alive Fall 2012 7


(Above) Rafael Coli reflects on growing up in the rural village of Arame, Guinea-Bissau, where he helped harvest his familys cashew crop from trees like this one. (Below) Today, Rafael resides in Guinea-

Bissaus bustling capital city of Bissau, where he is one of five team members (inset) who are translating the Bible into the Jola-Bayote language.

Word Alive Fall 2012

Morning light filters in through honeycomb-like windows. The stiff, inanimate cement structure is temporarily brought to life as the worshipers sway to the rhythm of the music they are making (see photo pg. 11): My brothers, I will show you who saves. Jesus saves. Women dressed in colourful, traditional garb take turns dancing up the aisles. As they do, they are spurred on by the intensifying, More on the Web: To listen rhythmic clapping of their fellow believers. I invite my brothers to come and folto the Jola-Bayote believers vibrantly worship God, visit low Jesus. More words begin their journey <>. toward heaven, though the maps of GuineaBissau on the walls and the words themselves are reminders that their message will eventually reach the worshipers fellow countrymen. The church service is only a one-time eventfor now. Its purpose is to rally the community around the Jola-Bayote language project, and to cover the village in prayer. The rest of the service is spent encouraging the audience to take ownership of and be inspired by the Bible translation and literacy project that is happening in their heart language. Estevo Bezerra is a missionary from Brazil, where Portuguese is the official language just as it is in Guinea-Bissau, a former colony of Portugal. Being a Portuguese speaker, Estevo has come to Guinea-Bissau to oversee the Jola-Bayote language project along with eight others (see Guinea-Bissau or Bust, pg. 28). He is invited to the front to speak. If you say, We want solar panels, somebody can steal them, he continues. Or you can get a generator, but somebody can steal it. We want to help you with knowledge, because when knowledge is inside your mind, even if somebody wants to, they cannot steal it. Rafael, who currently resides in the capital city of Bissau 200 kilometres away, has come home for the occasion. I knew before I got there that God would do miracles, he says. Like the loaves and the fishes, a miracle of multiplication indeed happens. Before the service that day, We want to help you there were zero Christians living in with knowledge, Arame. Most of the people at the service, like Rafael, are not residents of because when Arame, but have travelled all the way knowledge is inside from Bissau to attend. your mind, even if Now there are two followers of Jesus somebody wants to, in the village. I want to become a Christian, Victor they cannot steal it. Badji, one of the converts, informs an Evangelical Church deacon, Joo Manga, following the church service. The young Bayote man, neighbour to Rafaels family in Arame, explains that he has been looking for the good way for some time. My heart will be free! says a joyful Victor after sharing his news with Joo (who is also the facilitator of the Jola-Bayote Bible translation team for which Rafael works). Joo commits to staying a few extra days in Arame in order to begin discipling Victor, and to connect him with a pastor from a neighbouring village. Since the translation into Jola-Bayote is not yet complete, Victor will have to use a Creole Bible for now. Nevertheless, That name, I just love it, Victor says of his newfound Saviour, Jesus.

They Cannot Steal It

The sights and sounds in Arame are as intriguing as the village is remote. Outside this grass hut, one lady sat and sifted out runt grains of rice. Inside, this woman cooks the rice for the school children.

Word Alive Fall 2012

more deeply, says Joo. The teams goal is to have the entire New Testament and portions Back in Bissau, Rafael and team members Luis Manga, Carlitos of the Old Testament translated and available to the public by 2021. Sanha and Cloquet Manga are bent over open Bibles. Their eyes are bright and smiles big as they continue translating the book of Acts, That is when they expect that the majority of Bayote people will be or Atos, into Jola-Bayote. A single ceiling fan rotates furiously above able to read, thanks to the projects literacy component. Then the church will grow with the Word of God in their their heads in the small office, flipping over the page of a Bible. mother tongue, says Joo. One window looks out onto the busy Bissau street, but otherwise the door and second window are People will Admiring Paul shut up to keep the heat out. Rafael quietly understand murmurs to himself as he works on translat- Since the days when he used to wake up blind, Rafael has grown the Bible much ing Acts 23:9, which says: There was a great immensely. Its evident that his growth has happened in large part thanks to the nourishing Scripture that inspires him daily. The more deeply. uproar, and some of the teachers of the law verse he is translating today, Acts 23:9, speaks of Paul, who also who were Pharisees stood up and argued vigorously. We find nothing wrong with this man, they said. What experienced blindness and great growth. I like the story of Apostle Paul, says Rafael. He changed into a if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him? person who preached the Word of God. Thats why I admire him The intricacies of translating this single verse out of the so much. Scriptures in Guinea-Bissaus Creole trade dialect and into Rafaels Rafael also enjoys reading the books of Jeremiah and Jonah heart language may be astounding, but so are the benefits once it simultaneously, in order to contrast their obedient versus is complete. disobedient reactions to Gods call on their lives. A case study is project facilitator Joo himself. When he first I feel that God has called me, as God called Jeremiah, Rafael became a Christian, the Portuguese Bible was all that was available. says, to stand in front of the king, to stand in front of his people, Without the Word of God in a language the church truly underto tell them to repent from their sins. stood, its pastors couldnt teach Scripture in context. Gone are the days of cashew-like stains on Rafaels shirt. Gone also It created a lot of problems in the I feel that God has church, says Joo. are the days of scarlet stains on his heart. His Saviour, who undercalled me, as God When the Bible came in Creole, there stands all hearts and all languages, has made them white as snow. And because Rafael and others are faithfully obeying Gods call was a great change in the church because called Jeremiah, on their lives to create a Bible in Jola-Bayote, many more hearts its the language we most spoke, he to stand in front will be purified among the Bayote people of Guinea-Bissau. explains. People could get closer to the of the king, to Word of God. Alexis Harrison volunteers her writing skills to Wycliffe Canada. She works full time stand in front of with NeighbourLink in Calgary. For those whose mother tongue is Jola-Bayote, the translation work that his people, to tell Postscript: Rafael Coli and his wife lost their six-month-old baby, who Joo, Rafael and the rest of the team are passed away this past May. Pray for the couple as they grieve, and for Rafaels them to repent family members, who are not all Christians, that they would come to know completing is invaluable. from their sins. People will understand the Bible much the peace that Jesus gives.

The Church Will Grow

Guinea-Bissau: At a Glance
Name: Republic of Guinea-Bissau. Area: 36,125 sq. km (half the size of New Brunswick); 22% water. Location: Western Africa, bordering on the North Atlantic Ocean, between Guinea and Senegal. Geography: Low coastal swampy plain, rising to savannah in the east. Population: 1.6 million (est.) Capital: Bissau (pop. 309,000) People: 27+ ethnic groups.



Economy: One of the poorest nations on earth, depending mainly on farming, fishing and cashew nut crops. Little developed as a former colony of Portugal; devastated by the long war of independence; hampered by unstable governments. Religion: Syncretism of Islam and Catholicism with African traditional religions makes accurate figures difficult to determine - Muslim 50%; indigenous beliefs/animism 40%; Christian (mostly Catholics) 10%. Languages: 25, mostly indigenous languages. Official language, Portuguese, is spoken by only 15% of the population, as a second

North Atlantic Ocean


language. Creole, a Portuguese-based trade language, is spoken by most of the population. Languages with Scriptures: 2 have Bibles; 5 have New Testaments; 8 have Scripture portions; 9 have work in progress, 5 still need work to start. Literacy: 2% (functional literacy rate in peoples first language).
Sources: World Factbook; Operation World, 7th Edition; Ethnologue; SIL

(Above) Victor Badji and one of his relatives work together to split the trunk of a palm tree. The resulting slabs of wood will be used to build a house, a labour-intensive effort using hand tools.

(Below) Inspired by worshiping God in her heart language of Jola-Bayote and encouraged by the claps of her fellow believers, a woman dances up the aisle during Arames first church service.

The Evangelical Church of Guinea-Bissau sees Bible translation as crucial to church-planting.

By Dwayne Janke
ranslation of Gods Word for the languages of Guinea-Bissau, Africa, is an indigenous, home-grown movement, initiated by the countrys main Protestant church. The Evangelical Church of Guinea-Bissau (abbreviated in Portuguese as IEGB) has supplied dedicated local believers from its own congregations for the nine mother tongue Bible translation and literacy teams now hard at work in the nation. It is part of an impressive vision for the young and relatively small church, already committed to aggressively spreading the gospel as a new face on the religious landscape in West Africa. Under Portuguese rule, the Catholic Church functioned almost as an arm of the colonial government in Guinea-Bissau. When new evangelical missionary activity started about seven decades ago, the resulting new believers faced discrimination, says Pastor Augusto Indi, the 49-year-old vice-president of the IEGB (pictured above). People became Christians and the Church was growing. Alarmed, the Portuguese government falsely suspected that foreign missions were a veiled attempt to mobilize the nations African population to rise up against its colonial rulers.

Church Birthed

Members of our government . . . practise animism, says Indi. They worship idols and do practices like that. They believe that to grow in power in order to get a higher position in their place of work, you need to worship idols. They live in fear because they feel unsafe. People are used to seeing their fathers worship the idols, so they believe they cannot leave that custom, he adds. They believe that the gospel is a thing that the white people brought; it is not theirs.

Since Guinea-Bissaus independence from Portugal, however, freedom for Christian activity has steadily increased. WEC, until 1990 the only Protestant mission allowed in the country, birthed IEGB, which became an independent indigenous church in the early 90s. Since then, IEGBs growth to 50,000 members has been paired with a steadily increasing desire to establish congregations nationwide, says Indi. Churches are planted throughout almost the entire country. Almost is the operative word. In eastern Guinea-Bissau, Christian influence is still sparse. Islam has a strong foothold and those who do become Christians face persecution from their own families. Many of them want to become Christians but they are scared. Less than 10 per cent of Guineans are Christians, and the vast majority of those are Catholics, whom Indi says are nominal believers who follow out of a sense of family tradition. And of those who practise Catholicism or Islam, many mix in a blend of African traditional beliefs. Animistic spirit worship, sacrifices and appeasement is still at the heart of many cultures in Guinea-Bissau, from the poorest families to high-ranking government leaders.

People are used to seeing their fathers worship the idols, so they believe they cannot leave that custom.

Still, many Guineans realize that the Evangelical Church offers a power different from other religions, says Indi. They confess we are different. Even when a person is a Catholic, and they face a problem or a disease, he runs to the Evangelical Church to ask for prayer. If he is a Muslim, he asks evangelical people, Christians, to pray for him. Indi is quick to acknowledge that the Evangelical Church still has much work to do. As IEGB has ramped up that work to spread the gospel and plant churches, it has come to realize that one of the key barriers it faces is Guinea-Bissaus 20-plus languages. Most of the people who have entered the Evangelical Church fold are not well educated, and unable to read the Bible in the national language of Portuguese. Necessary interpretation has often been inaccurate and doctrinal teaching is shallow. Translation is indispensable for us, says Indi. It is critical that we can have a Bible for each group in their proper language. The Word of God will always have something that will challenge you when you read it.

Running for Prayer

12 Word Alive Fall 2012

(Opposite page) Like other leaders in the Evangelical Church of Guinea-Bissau, its vice-president Pastor Augusto Indi dreams of reaching the entire country with the gospel and nourishing the faith of believers, with Gods Word in their heart language. (Left) A challenge to the gospel is animism, which has a firm grip on Guinea-Bissaus population. Commonly practised throughout the West African nation, animism is symbolized here by a cleansing bowl outside a home where spirits are consulted (see Where the Spirits Come on pg. 2).

A decade ago, the IEGB leadership went to neighbouring Senegal to approach SIL, Wycliffes main partner organization, for help. IEGB envisioned a nationwide Bible translation and literacy program for which it simply could not provide technical and financial resources. SIL agreed to supply personnel to train dozens of the most mature Christians that IEGB could find from within its own ranks. SIL came to give us huge help in this work, says Indi. All of the people who work in the project from Guinea-Bissau, they learned their skills from SIL. They have come to show us how to do things that will last forever. We thank God because of SIL. SIL has also been training Guineans to teach mother tongue literacy as part of the Bible translation projects. Education and literacy is one of the goals of the Evangelical Church of Guinea-Bissau, explains Indi, because it is one of the ways to reach more people. The Church works to show the mercy of God. We do not look to the government. If the government does not do anything, we can call their attention to it, so that they can understand that the presence of Translation is indispensable God is here.

Training Forever

for us. It is critical that we can have a Bible for each group in their proper language.

While IEGB has supplied mother tongue translators and SIL the training, about 100 Canadian donors have been giving the funds to run eight language projects through Wycliffes partner organization,

Inside Their Hearts

OneBook (see A Bridge Called Martin, pg. 16). Its a fact not overlooked by Indi. We say thank you so much, he says, directing his comments specifically to those Canadians who have donated. We feel you inside our hearts. Unfortunately, you are so far away, but we know we are close. We have noticed your love for us. We cannot forget the millions of dollars you are giving. We want you to keep doing this because the name of God is being praised more and more here. Indi points to the example of his own mother tongue, Papel. Spoken in the north of Guinea-Bissau, the countrys fourth largest language already has a New Testament translation and The JESUS Film, shown for the first time several years ago. When people were hearing the Word, and they were watching the film, some said, He is speaking our language! He is white, but he is speaking our language! It was a great joy. Most of them converted to become Christians. That kind of result must be repeated countless more times across this West African country before the IEGBs vision is finally fulfilled and Bible translation is a key to making it happen. IEGB leaders would love to see the translation of Gods Word done for all of GuineaBissaus language groups right away, but they are also realistic about doing the job responsibly and carefully. If you are hungry, you may want to see things cooked fast, Indi says. But you also need to understand that food must be prepared well in order for people to eat it.

Word Alive Fall 2012 13

Estela Coli, a teacher in the Jola-Bayote language, peers over the shoulders of her young students as they fine-tune their artistic skills in the sand outside their classroom in Arame, Guinea-Bissau. The preschool they attend is the first of its kind in their mother tongue.

Drawing in the Sand

By Alexis Harrison

For JolaBayote children, the roots of literacy are sprouting in their mother tongue, planted there firmly by Evangelical Church-run classes.

hould Jesus be drawing in the sand today, hed likely be crouched down next to Vanessa, Fernando, Louis and their classmates, scribbling pictures of hens on the ground outside their classroom. This is the five- and six-year-olds schoolyard: a sandy patch of earth in the grass beyond the door of their one-room schoolhouse. Across the red dirt road is the rest of their hometown, Arame. The rural village, in Guinea-Bissau, Africa, is composed of a network of trails leading past thatch-roofed homesteads and termite mounds, or baga-baga as the locals call them. Two government-run school buildings are each a stones throw away from an enormous tree under which town meetings are held in the shade. As the government schools break for recess, students from Grades 1, 2 and 3 flood the area, striking up lively games of dodge flip-flop and footlimethe local versions of dodgeball and football. The government does not run nom dya Mulha or Lets Make an Effort, the school across the road that Vanessa, Fernando, Louis and 27 other children attend. It is operated by the translation project of the Evangelical Church of Guinea-Bissau, which is making an effort to teach these children how to read and

go to the unknown things, says Marli Oliveira, a Brazilian Wycliffe missionary serving the Evangelical Church. She oversees mother tongue education in the six communities that speak Jola-Bayote. When they start to know their origin, their identity will not be lost, she explains.

Lemon Learning

When they start to know their origin, their identity will not be lost.
write in their everyday languagetheir first language, their heart languageof Jola-Bayote. It is funded by Canadians through OneBook, a Wycliffe partner organization. The students are tracing hens, fruit, trees, people and tools in the sand as part of their classes. These are objects they interact with daily in their village. Our objective is to start from known things. After, we can

Endon, tigha, fazi! (in English, One, two, three!), the students shout eagerly as their teacher points with a metre-long stick to the numbers one through 10 on their classrooms chalkboard. A little later another teacher holds up More on the Web: a simple drawing of a traditional home. Listen to the kids take Volunteers race forward in order to point at turns leading their classmates to count to each two-dimensional object and name it. 10 in their Jola-Bayote During math class, several students line up mother tongue. Visit at the front of the room. One subtracts him<>. self, counts the others and sits down, and the equations continue. Another exercise finds a young boy holding a lemon in his hand for all his classmates to see. Together they discuss different ways they could put the lemon to good use. The childrens class has been running for just a month, and as of yet its the only one of its kind amongst all six Bayote villages. Children will attend the classes for two years, advancing through two levels of literacy before enrolling in the government education system at age seven. The preschools purpose is not only to prepare children for academic success in public school where only Portuguese is allowed to be taught. (Guinea-Bissau is a former col-

They tell me being illiterate causes a lot of shame for them. When they have to sign a document, they dont know how and so they just use their fingerprint.
ony of Portugal.) It will also provide the foundation for a lifetime of personal success using the mother tongue. Four adult literacy classes, each of which has an average of 20 students in attendance, are also underway in three Bayote communitiesone in Arame, one in Jobel and two in So Domingos. Their purpose is to help adults be literate in their everyday language. Then they can perform simple communicative tasks, such as using a cellphone, calculating numbers in the marketplace and writing their own names. They tell me being illiterate causes a lot of shame for them, says Marli. When they have to sign a document, they dont know how and so they just use their fingerprint.

Starting with Desire

Literacy materials translated into minority languages in GuineaBissau are the only kind of storybooks most of these children get to enjoy, and are essential to their learning.

The free adult courses run for six months at a time, throughout which students are required to meet at least three times per week for class. Its not surprising that their difficult lives present plenty of challenges to these would-be learners; in many ways education seems like a luxury when their need to survive is so real. We are leaving the end of the rainy season [right now] and people are still busy with their rice plantations, says Marli, explaining one reason why its difficult for students to come to class consistently. This is very important in order to survive. Not only does their work present obstacles to their becoming
Word Alive Fall 2012 15

A young student eagerly points to a familiar item in the picture of a village scene and says its name aloud to her teacher, Teodoro Sanh, in her Jola-Bayote mother tongue. She is learning that a three-dimensional object which she can see, feel and hold in real life is still the same object in a two-dimensional drawing.

literate, so does their culture, Marli says. In Guinea-Bissau the average life expectancy is 46 years for men and 50 for women. Funerals can last up to a week. If four acquaintances of a student die in one month, thats a lot of lost learning. Nevertheless, the desire to become literate originated in the hearts of the Bayote people and it will be sustained by them too. If you start with people who have a desire, I will know that one day, even if I do not keep coming, they will keep going, says Marli, who has no intention of leaving anytime soon.

between villages. This is not so easy to do in crowded taxis on rutted roads, which is why shes learning to ride a motorcycle. A nasty gash on her heel, sustained during one such lesson, is now healing. After her recovery she says shell be back mastering the bike.

Strengthening Identity

If you start with people who have a desire, I will know that one day, even if I do not keep coming, they will keep going.
The 44-year-old is in love with her work, which includes training locals to teach the literacy classes and providing them with their teaching materials. Amongst other meetings, she visits the classes once per week, travelling up to eight, 10, even 35 kilometres
16 Word Alive Fall 2012

Marli certainly has a sense of strength about her, this Brazilian missionary with a scarf in her hair. She has been in Guinea-Bissau since 2008though she nearly didnt come at all. Previously, after receiving training in teaching, missions and finally linguistics back in Brazil, Marli knew she wanted to work with other languages in a country where there was a real need in the education sector. The great need in the Asian nation of East Timor seemed to match her desire perfectly, so it was there that she hoped to serve after her training was complete. But then she heard about Guinea-Bissau, and felt a pull there as well. She fits right in being a speaker of Portuguese, the official language of Guinea-Bissau, just as it is in Brazil.

Brazilian missionary Marli Oliveira, who serves with ALEM (the Wycliffe organization in Brazil), is in charge of distributing literacy materials to the Jola-Bayote teachers. Like the several other Brazilians serving in the Evangelical Churchs translation project, she is a speaker of Portuguese, the official language of Guinea-Bissau.

At that time, I became confused: East Timor or Guinea-Bissau? So I prayed to God, says Marli. I dont know why, but I felt that God wanted me in GuineaBissau. God affirmed her decision by swinging the door wide open in front of her. Her church at the time gave her its blessing, and after a two-month practicum spent with Brazils indigenous Kayap people, Marli moved across the Atlantic Ocean to Guinea-Bissau.

Later that evening, Marli enjoys the coolness in the courtyard outside her live-in motel room, nearly a two hours drive by rutted road from Arame. There she says something so profound it should be inscribed on library walls the world-over: The power of reading, it transforms the life of a manhe can reach the world. That person can live in one village, but he will know the world from within his world.
Postscript: Unfortunately, shortly after the author visited the village, leaders in Arame decided to close the Jola-Bayote literacy preschool, due to their concern about the schools Christian influence and other reasons. However, several children who attended the preschool have now entered year one of the government school program. Thanks to their time in preschool, albeit brief, these students have stood out both for their learning abilities and for participating well in class. There are communities nearby that are interested in starting similar preschools; however, the Jola-Bayote literacy team plans on doing more public relations work before launching any new programs. Please pray for wisdom and encouragement for local and field staff as they continue to promote mother tongue literacy in JolaBayote amongst both children and adults.

The power of reading, it transforms the life of a manhe can reach the world.
She first began her literacy work with the Bayote people group in January 2009 and continues to tout its benefits before village leaders. Under the enormous tree in the centre of Arame, Marli stresses to the village chief that the literacy project will strengthen their cultural identity and help them preserve their precious language.

Word Alive Fall 2012 17

A Bridge Called

This former typewriter mechanic connects Canadian donors with national Bible translation teams in Africa as a program manager with Wycliffe partner agency, OneBook.
By Alexis Harrison

itting in the Lisbon airport, an air-conditioned stop on one of his annual trips to Guinea-Bissau, Africa, Wycliffe Canada member Martin Engeler laughs at the adoration he has for his homelands renowned sweet treat. I couldnt be a Swiss and not like chocolate, he readily emphasizes, before acknowledging the incompatibility between the candy and his job. The problem with Swiss chocolate, he explains, is that it is not really made for the tropics. It melts too fast. That is a drawback for Martin, one of six field program managers for OneBook, a partner agency of Wycliffe Canada. His busy role finds him, more often than not, travelling dusty byways under the glaring sun in Cameroon, Kenya, Burkina Faso and Guinea-Bissau. Fortunately, unlike the milky bars that he misses but must leave behind while travelling, Martin doesnt seem to dissolve in the heat of his demanding career. In fact, he seems to thrive on it, drawing

18 Word Alive Fall 2012

Estevo oversees Bible translation and literacy projects in nine of the countrys 21 languages (see Guinea-Bissau or Bust, pg. 28). These languages represent approximately 350,000 speakers. Over the next several days, Martin will be meeting with Estevo more than once to discuss the projects varying progress and needs. Amongst shirts and sandals, Martin has also stuffed some less-obvious articles into his suitcase for Estevo and his team to unpack: accountability sessions and evaluative questions, suggestions for best practices, and capacity-building resources. I dont see my role as a policeman, to see that they all do their jobs or do their jobs correctly, says Martin, but I see it as a helper, a mentor.

Keeping Sides Connected

As taxis trundle by in the busy Bissau streets, Martin Engeler extends a hand during an introduction to Creole translation team leader Pastor Blulu Bitam (left) and a friend. Martins down-to-earth personality not only warms him to both friends and strangers alike around the world, it helps him bridge Bible translation work from Africa to Canada.

the admiration of those he serves. This is evidenced several hours later, upon arrival in the sultry night air of Guinea-Bissaus darkened capital city of Bissau, as the small Swiss Martin is engulfed in the big bear hug of Brazilian

Imagine a bridge spanning thousands of miles from Canada to Africa. Martin is that bridge. On the African side stand missionaries and national translation teams that Martin oversees in the four aforementioned countries. On the Canadian side stands OneBook, an organization that supports Bible translation projects both financially and organizationally in 13 countries and 107 languages. Standing behind OneBook are its 2,400 Canadian donors and supporters. As a program manager, Martins job is to help keep the African and Canadian sides connectedand contented. Several days after Martins arrival in GuineaMore on the Web: To Bissau, Estevo sits on the portico of his home on find out more about Wycliffe Canadas partner, the translation projects rural training compound OneBook, and its projects, of Lendem, an hours drive outside Bissau. He too visit <>. has an analogy for Martins role to the translation effort in the country. Estevo refers to the compounds water tower that stands not quite as high as the nearby towering trees, but taller than the termite mounds dotted around it. Say that [Martin] is the pipe of that water tower, and we are the recipients. If there is not a pipe to connect the water tower to us, then we arent going to have anything. It is very, very important, the work that he does here. Liz and William Nicoleti call Lendem home too. Theyre a married couple with Wycliffe who have been in Guinea-Bissau for three-and-a-half years working on the translation projects. Martins annual visits once or twice per year, Liz says, have brought clarity, flexibility, understanding and good ideas to the tableas well as some Canadian maple syrup, a memo-

I dont see my role as a policeman . . . I see it as a helper, a mentor.

Wycliffe missionary Estevo Bezerra. The night around them doesnt hide the fact that these two men couldnt look more different. Their languages arent even the sametheyll need an English-Portuguese translator if theyre to get any serious business accomplished beyond friendly salutations. But beneath differences in appearance and language, both are investing their lives in bringing Gods Word to people who dont have itincluding the 1.6 million people who live in GuineaBissau, Africa. rable treat for the missionaries. He is not just somebody on the other side of the ocean demanding reports from us, says Liz. Hes our friend and hes hoping to build up the infrastructure in our project. On this visit, Liz is excited to show Martin her new office, while William says the fact that the compound now boasts working electrical power, Internet and computers is amazing.

Word Alive Fall 2012 19

No Perfect Projects

These may sound like small successes by North American standards. But this is Guinea-Bissau, one of the 10 poorest nations on earth. Its infrastructure is lacking even when compared to other African countries, explains Martin. The challenge in Guinea-Bissau, for example, is there are no public power lines or transmission lines in the villages or in the capital, Martin says. So in all the projects, we face the

prove to be a problem toonational team members who may have all the passion required to work on a translation project, but little of the education. Before the Portuguese pulled out of Guinea-Bissau in 1973, their focus wasnt on developing a nation and educating a people, says Martin. As a result, the current adult generation has had a Grade 4 education at bestand likely less. Basic computer skills are often non-existent, therefore teaching adults those first is a prerequisite for their training in the more

There is seldom a project that goes perfectly, where everything is just fantastic.
challenge of how do we provide power, be it through generators or through solar panels. Some of the challenges Martin helps the teams face include a lack of readily available resources other than power, such as computers, which are essential tools for translation teams. In addition to technological restraints, human resources can complex translation and linguistics software. There is seldom a project that goes perfectly, where everything is just fantastic, explains Martin. So it seems that on one side you see that God is really building His kingdom in a community, [but] on the other side you also see there is opposition, or there are struggles on various levels.

Martin spends a lot of time in airports, travelling one or two times per year to each of the four national projects he oversees for OneBook in Africa.

Between meetings, Martin catches up with field staffers, who are also his friends.

20 Word Alive Fall 2012

Impacts, but Organic

The invitation to begin helping financially sponsor Bible translation in Guinea-Bissau was extended to OneBook by the Evangelical Church of Guinea-Bissau in 2006 (see A Double Vision, pg. 12). The churchs inspiring initiative had OneBook written all over it. After all, the organization, a spin-off of Wycliffe Canada, exists to assist nationals to reach their own people with the gospel. That means Martin has the delicate task of nurturing a translation movement thats native to Guinea-Bissau, not North America; a movement where the need for Western values such as above-average productivity is like some plants need for sunlight: partial, not full. We want to see impacts, says Martin. On the other side, we realize also that the work has to grow organically. What better place to look for signs of growth than in the hearts of those working at the heart of the translation projects: local personnel. And growth is evident; the same light that shines in Martins eyes also shines in theirs, the light of the knowledge of the glory of God (2 Cor. 4:6 NIV).

What really excites me is to have the opportunity to work with Christians in those various countries, in those various projects, who have a real passion for Christ, for the Lord, for the ministry. And to see how God has chosen them and empowered them in that ministry, says Martin, who is obviously passionate himself.

Spurred on for Missions

God first chose and led Martin to pursue a life of missions at age 18. It was at a youth conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he not only first started thinking about missions, but also made a first-time connection with Wycliffe Bible Translators. When I talked with one of the members there, they said, We dont just need translators or preachers or whatever. We can use your practical skills, says Martin. At the time, he was apprenticing as a typewriter mechanic. Three-and-a-half years later he entered the mission field at long last, spurred on by his pastor. He asked me, Martin, do you plan to fix office machines all your life? Or have you ever considered going to a Bible college? Now 55, Martin has since been carrying his treasure in a jar

Technology used to be the lifes work of this former typewriter mechanic and audio technician. These days Martin uses photography and videography to capture stories from the field for donors back in Canada.

Word Alive Fall 2012 21

(Left) In-country, Martin is transported place to place by his national hosts. On this particular trip, the Evangelical Church of Guinea-Bissau provides a truck for his travels. (Below, left) Listening carefully, Martin takes notes during an important meeting with the Kobiana translation team. Their answers to his questions such as, How happy are you with the progress of the work? will help him and OneBook better meet the teams needs. (Right) The majority of Martins meetings during his visits to Guinea-Bissau are with Estevo Bezerra (centre left), director of Guinea-Bissaus translation projects.

of clay around the globe, a journey that led him to Cameroon in 1985. For a whirlwind 12 years, he worked there for Wycliffes partner organization SIL as an audio technician. He helped translation teams supplement their written work with audio Scriptures and dramas, as well as music. During that time, he also married his New Zealander wife Chrissy and began parent-

Because of his support we are here. W we have many

ing their two children before coming to serve Wycliffe Canada in 1997. He was seconded to work at OneBook (then called Partners with Nationals) in 2005.

Amen for Computers

Back to the future in Guinea-Bissau, Liz says of Martin, I think its good that hes had experience in other African countries because he then comes here and knows that plans always change and things happen here all the time that you are not expecting.

22 Word Alive Fall 2012

Sometimes, however, Martin likes to turn the tables on the unexpected by planning a few surprises of his own when visiting the translation teams. On this trip he has a special treat for the Jola-Felupe team, which is translating the Bible for speakers in Guinea-Bissau, and potentially for those in neighbouring Senegal, as well. Sitting in their humble, humid office in the village of So

water tower. When he returns to Canada and reports back to OneBook and its donors about the successes and challenges hes seen and experienced in the field, it will fill up the water tower, says Estevo. The water is, of course, the prayers and financial support of the generous Canadians who support the translation projects, providing basic resources to make it all happen. Laptops

e have electricity, we have laptops, other materials. So we do not have any words to thank him.
Domingos, project facilitator Pastor Forma Dumena expresses their need for a second laptop mere seconds before Martin announces that he has brought one from Canada. Laughs, claps, an Amen! and a Hallelujah! are the thanks he receives. Because of his support, we are here, says a grateful Pastor Forma. We have electricity, we have laptops, we have many other materials. So we do not have any words to thank him. The truth is, as Estevo says, Martin is simply the pipe on the are one thing; Try reading the Bible without paper, says Estevo . After receiving Martins signature on their translation of the book of Luke, the Jola-Felupe team is going to require paper soonits up next for printing and then distribution to the 25,000 souls who need the Scriptures in their heart language.

Word Alive Fall 2012 23

g the gospel to Guinea-Bissaus story-lo resentin P easy-to-reme ving people throu mber, e asy-to-re gh peat Bible stories in Creole.

n rriso xis Ha By Ale

t certain hours of the night and day in Guinea-Bissau, Africa, clusters of men, women and children can be found congregating under mango trees, at storefronts and inside each others homes. Theyre gathering around good stories. Oral story-telling, whether in person or via radio soap operas, is one focal point of this multi-faceted, multi-lingual nation. A new radio station is using the cultures yearning for a good yarn to its advantage by airing one such story about a girlfriend and boyfriend as a promotional gimmick. As the drama unfolds night by night, listeners can call in and comment about the couples relationshipthe good, the bad and the ugly. What the majority of Guinea-Bissaus story-lovers dont know is that a small team of behind-the-scenes story-tellers are preparing to introduce them to the Story of all stories: the gospel. American Sarah Bauson, and Guinea-Bissaus Bernardo Domingos Te, Tino Demea and Rubem Embana make up the Creole OneStory team. Funded by Canadians through Wycliffe partner agency OneBook, the project is designed to present the gospel, via a series of easy-to-remember, easy-to-repeat Bible stories, to hundreds of thousands of speakers of the Creole, the trade

language in Guinea-Bissau (see also The Heat is On, pg. 24). The concept fits like a glove in this orally-oriented society whose Bible-learning has, until now, been unclear in Portuguese and tainted by ancient animistic beliefs. The goal is for these stories to be told in such a way, that they will want to go and tell them to their friends, says Sarah, the team facilitator, serving with Wycliffe. The goal is also to have each story be under three minutes, easily repeatable and using words that somebody who has never heard the Bible will understand.

Testing, Testing

Sarah, 25, moved to Guinea-Bissau from Indiana in September 2010 to work on the project. She guides the otherwise national group members organizationally, and also helps keep them on track biblically. This morning, she and fellow team member Bernardo are sitting out on Bernardos veranda with a young man named Heine Duaite Vieira. Bernardo holds a small voice recorder up to Heines ear. With the click of a button, pre-recorded words pour out of the little machine, telling him the story from Matthew 9 of

24 Word Alive Fall 2012

the woman who was bleeding for 12 years before being healed by Jesus. Several minutes later Heine repeats the story back to Sarah and Bernardo from memory. This listening test is really a litmus test to see if the stories are told in such a way that hearers can understand them, retain them and repeat them. Because Heine has been tested on this story before, he remembers it fairly well. If the listener is unable to repeat the story after hearing it six times maximum, then Sarah, Bernardo and the rest of the OneStory team know theyve got some more work to do.

The goal is for these stories to be told in such a way, that they will want to go and tell them to their friends.
I like that first story because the woman thought that if she touched the clothes of Jesus, her illness would be cured, says Heine, who is a non-Christiana requirement for the teams test listeners. After she touched him, her faith cured her. Today Heine listens to two additional stories for the first time. The second one is about Jesus healing a demon-possessed man who was both blind and mute. In the story, Jesus counters the religious leaders accusations that he was casting out demons with the power of the devil. Christ insists that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Its a complex story, and not surprisingly, Heine finds it difficult to understand after hearing it just once. Sarah says his confusion is a good indicator that this particular recording will require more refining. Next up is the story of Daniel surviving the lions den. Heine finds it easier to understand, but only time will tell if this third story is indeed a success. If by the end of todays testing session he can retell it from memory, then it is.

decide which points of the story are most important to communicate and if there are any words or phrases that would cause misunderstandings. Another team member then records the story, after which it is typed out. We go through line by line and make sure we can connect it to a verse thats in the Bible, stresses Sarah. We dont want to be adding things or losing them. Once the team is satisfied with their recorded story, they take it to a non-Christian who can translate it phrase by phrase back into Portuguese to ensure accuracy. If all is well, the team finds two more non-Christians like Heine to listen to the story. Several inference questions that the team has prepared for their testers will indicate whether the listeners are comprehending the storys meaning. And, as with Heine, each listener must be able to re-tell the story accurately after hearing it a maximum of six times in order for it to be considered a success. Finally, the team types out all their findings and emails them off to SIL consultants. Usually the consultant has the final say on whether or not the story needs major, minor or no adjustments.

On the Streets

Panorama of Stories

The team has recorded 35 stories so far, along with five Scripture songs that are based on a selection of them. Right now they have eight stories that have been given preliminary consultant approval for general use. Obtaining a consultants approval is the final step in the teams workflow of creating a successful Bible story. The first step is choosing a theme, then selecting several stories from the Bible that fit within it. We start out with 15 stories and then within those 15 storieswe call it a panoramawe cover all the points of the Apostles Creed, says Sarah. Certain team members then read each selected story from a variety of sources, including the Portuguese Bible. Together they
(Opposite page) Creole speaker Heine Duaite Vieira (left) listens to the story of Daniel in the lions den among others during a test session led by Bernardo Domingos Te. Bernardo and three other Creole OneStory team members are working to spread the gospel by word of mouth. (Left) The Creole OneStory team uses simple, but powerful tools to communicate the life-changing message of Gods salvation.

The Creole OneStory teams goal is to have between 40 and 50 stories recorded by the end of 2012 that are being shared in the streets, discussed in church groups and broadcasted over radios. The power of God over Satan is not only the teams current story theme; it is also something team member Bernardo saw play out in a very visible way during his childhood. My mom married somebody before she converted, he says, referring to his father. But after, since they lived close to the church, my mom became a Christian. My dad would always bring idols and would tie something around my waistpart of the idols, he continues. If my mom saw it, she would cut it off. What Bernardo calls a tug-of-war continued, with his mom on

If you are telling a story that happened, then people will come in and listen, and pay more attention.
one side taking him to church, and his dad on the other pulling him to animistic ceremonies. I could have gone to my dads side, but I think the prayers of my mom took away the things of Satan, so that I wanted to go to church, says Bernardo. My mom won because she was on the side of God. Real-life stories like Bernardos are powerful testimonies to the miracles God can do, even in the worlds most spiritually dark places. Similarly, its the truth behind the Creole teams oral gospel that will lend the stories success on the streets of Guinea-Bissau. If you are telling a story that happened, then people will come in and listen, and pay more attention, says Rubem. No doubt that is the longing of Gods heartthat the people of Guinea-Bissau would tune in to the voice of the One who created them, the Author of their salvation. Were asking God to continue to help us, so this work can go forward, because it will win many souls for Christ, says team member Tino. That is whats important.

Word Alive Fall 2012 25

Fellow translators are eager to get their hands on

astor Blulu Bitam and the Creole New Testament translation team he leads are feeling the heat. They know that they cannot rest on their laurels after completing three key books of the Bible in draft form: Mark, Acts and Genesis. These are not published, but the teams doing translation in other languages are already using them, he says. We are feeling the heat, because they do not stop; they keep working. Thats the pressure we are feeling. Teams with the Evangelical Church of Guinea-Bissau are eagerly looking to their colleagues translating Gods Word into Creole. It is a model translation and key resource for the translations into the countrys other minority languages, since many of the translators dont have a good grasp of Portuguese and the Portuguese Bible. Despite sensing the push to keep ahead of the other translation teams, Bitam and his teammates are pleased that their efforts on this source text translation are appreciated. They say that the work is good, says Bitam. We are trying to do the Creole translation in more simple language in order to help people understand it. Portuguese may be listed as the official language of Guinea-Bissau, but it is Creole that you will usually hear on the streets as the actual language of wider communication. And it is Creole that is a key to the Bible translation effort in this West African nation. Some estimate that Creole is spoken by 60 per cent of GuineaBissaus 1.6 million people, at least as a second language. The trade language has its 500-year-old origins in the colonial conquest of Guinea-Bissau by the Portuguese, who initially used the country as a source for their slave trade. Creole started almost when the Portuguese colonists arrived, explains Bitam. When the Guinean nationals tried to speak Portuguese, the Portuguese vocabulary started to mix Creole . . . up with certain indigenous languages. The vocabulary developed until it formed Creole. developed It developed accidentally. accidentally. Initially, Creole was spoken mainly in Bissau, the countrys capital. Surrounding villagers spoke their own local languages. But now, some people in all the villages speak Creole, says Bitam. The youth and teenagers now speak it everywhere. The majority of the young people who were born here in the city [Bissau] do not speak their mother tongue. They speak only Creole. Guineans who visit a government office may be given documents written in Portuguese, but they will converse with bureaucrats in Creole. It is also the dominant language used in the courts, the marketplace and on radio.

Scriptures produced by the Creole Bible translation team.

By Dwayne Janke

Developed Accidentally

(Above) The Creole language team is pushing hard on translating the New Testament as a reference for colleagues translating Gods Word into other languages of Guinea-Bissau. (Below) Outside in the shade, Pastor Blulu Bitam, who leads the Creole team, reviews a draft translation of the book of Acts. (Right) While Portuguese is the official language of the country, Creole is heard commonly in the streets, including at this market in the capital, Bissau.

26 Word Alive Fall 2012

Lobbying efforts to make Creole an official language in 1980 failed, says Bitam, because a small elite of the country insisted it is best that only Portuguese be recognized. Bitam, who worked in the literacy depart- We want to make the ment of the federal government before effort in order to see becoming a church-planting pastor with the Guineans read and Evangelical Church of Guinea-Bissau, says write in Creole. the government formalized an alphabet for Creole and has promoted some literacy. But he estimates that less than one per cent of Creole speakers can actually read the language. The Evangelical Church is very involved in primary education within the country and has been encouraged by the government to start as many primary schools as it can. Bitam is eager to see that Creole is an important part of literacy promotion. We want to make the effort in order to see Guineans read and write in Creole. We dont just want to end up doing a [Bible] translation. We want to formalize the grammar and many other things. We want to do many things in order to help Guinea-Bissau. Actually, Bitams team is revising an existing translation of a Creole Bible, completed by expatriate missionaries with WEC International in 1999. While it is used widely and greatly appreciated in many churches, the Evangelical Church decided it needed revision. It was translated in an English-like style, explains Bitam. We are translating it in the style that Creole is actually spoken in Guinea-Bissau. In addition, Creole has evolved since the 1990s when the first translation was done, he says. Creole from yesterday is different than the Creole spoken today.

Readers Needed

Limits to Creole

Creole may be used widely in Guinea-Bissau, but Bitam cautions that the Creole Scriptures will not meet the needs of the entire country, with its 20-plus languages. The 46-year-old mother How God speaks with tongue speaker of Balanta recognizes that growth in Christ is dependent on all Guineans them in their language having Scripture in their own heart languages is different than how learned at their mothers knees. God speaks with them What we express in our languages, we canin Creole. not express in Creole in the same way, Bitam explains. How God speaks with them in their language is different than how God speaks with them in Creole. So while all is busy on the Creole translation front, scores of other Guinean translators are looking to the resulting Scriptures as a source to provide Gods life-changing Word for their own people. No doubt Bitams Creole team will continue feeling the heat to keep Gods Word coming for some time.

Word Alive Fall 2012 27

The road to service for Bible translation in Africa was much farther than a Brazilian Wycliffe couple ever expected, but they stayed on course.
By Dwayne Janke

28 Word Alive Fall 2012

says Estevo, sitting outside the couples home on the projects Lendem training centre, an hours drive from the nations busy capital. Because after 15 years of waiting, having been here for only a year, it seems like an hour. Frankly, as you hear their stories, it is quite amazing that the couple is even alive and/or living as Christians, let alone serving in administration as missionaries from ALEM, the Wycliffe organization in Brazil.

Departure and Return

he Brazilian couple is still pinching themselves. Estevo Bezerra and his wife Gloria Black (above) can hardly believe that they are actually in western Africa, directing the translation project of the Evangelical Church of Guinea-Bissau. You cant blame them, really. It took a-decade-and-a-half of preparation, numerous delays and a lot of God-given patience before they finally arrived in Guinea-Bissau in early 2011. We are still in the phase of believing, realizing we are here,

Estevo [es-TAVE-oh], 49, grew up in an evangelical Christian home in Brazil. But at age 11, his mother left his dad, a pastor. No longer able to be a minister according to church rules on divorce, Estevos dad had to work double time in a secular job far from the church, and run a busy household alone. The stresses and strains of this new situation soured Estevos view of Christian faith, and his sisters. Because of this, I distanced myself from the church, says Estevo, speaking through an interpreter. I left the church, basically, until I was 18 years old. Living those teenage years without God was difficult, though Estevo credits his church upbringing for instilling moral principles that kept him out of trouble. And as Estevo began reflecting on the Bible lessons he had learned in Sunday school as a kid, he took steps to return to Christ and church again. God started to really work in my heart to have a real strong relationship with Him. Looking for job stability, at 19, he combined the nurses training he had taken, with his service in the Brazilian military police. He ended up working in an eight-storey military hospital in Rio de Janeiro. After a 24-hour shift one day, Estevo fell asleep at the wheel of his car and smashed into a telephone pole. His vehicle was destroyed. Seatbelts were not commonly worn in those days. Estevos chest took the full force of the steering wheel and his face smacked the windshield. I was very badly hurt, he I thought, If I didnt recalls of the life-threatening have a chance to incident. I lost a lot of my actually wake up teeth. I fractured my jaw, top again, where and bottom. My ribs were browould I actually ken and my lungs punctured. be? Would I be As Estevo regained conwith God or not? sciousness in a hospital room crowded with medical equipment used to treat him, an unsettling question arose in his mind: I thought, If I didnt have a chance to actually wake up again, where would I actually be? Would I be with God or not? After that point, I dedicated my life completely to the Lord.

Consecrated to the Spirits

Glorias background in Brazil was entirely different than her husbands. Partly descended from African slaves, Gloria grew up in a home that practised spiritism. I was consecrated to the spirits by my parents, she explains. In spiritism, I had to drink blood of [sacrificed] animals to be able to receive forgiveness of sins . . . . My parents made me. When Glorias parents separated, she lived with her grandmother
Word Alive Fall 2012 29

because her mother worked long hours. The sacrifices and spirit manifestations continued, but Gloria searched elsewhere. I always had a spiritual tendency to look for God, says the 49-year-old. I was looking in other placesBuddhism, Catholicismuntil I came to the evangelical church. This is where I heard about the blood of Jesus Christ shed on the cross that forgives sins. Finally, I saw the truth. . . . So I decided that my life would be for Jesus Christ. Several of her family members went to the church, as well. But after the church began to practise some questionable theology, Gloria found another church grounded on more biblical principles. Some of We felt that what we were her family viewed her as a traitor for switching. doing wasnt Starting at age 14, many of Glorias sufficient and school years were interrupted by her that God was need to work to buy basics such as calling us to shoes and clothes. She worked in sales, do more. did secretarial jobs and made jewelry, until she took nursing courses in high school. That is where she met Estevo. Their relationship started on a bad note. Estevo misunderstood that Gloria wanted to remain committed to an existing boyfriend. He walked away, leaving Gloria so upset she quit the nursing course. It wasnt until a few years later, when Gloria moved to an apartment with her mother in Rio de Janeiro, that she sent Estevo a Christmas card. He located her, they began dating, and six months later were married.

With technical and professional skills scarce among Guineans, Estevo and Gloria must do more than provide administrative leadership to the Evangelical Church of Guinea-Bissaus translation project. On a day-to-day basis, they are called to a variety of things. (Above) Estevo tackles electrical maintenance at the projects Lendem training centre. (Above, middle) He and Gloria dress the wound of colleague Marli Oliveira, who cut her foot during a motorcycle trip to an outlying village (see Drawing in the Sand on pg. 14). (Above, right) Estevo removes a broken AC compressor from the translation projects truck, at an impromptu stop during their trip, because the mounting bracket had sheared off, due to potholed roads. (Certified mechanics are rare in Guinea-Bissau and wait times for their services are long.) Estevo and Glorias duties are a good example of why support workers are often an important part of the Bible translation effort worldwide. Estevo talks about the benefits of the translation project with village elders at Arame, in the heart of the region where Jola-Bayote is spoken by about 3,000 people. Coming from Brazil where Portuguese is the official language, Estevo can converse easily in Portuguese, also the official language of Guinea-Bissau.

Hitting the Streetsand Books

During their first few years of marriage, the couple had two children, bought their own house and did extensive evangelism ministry, even in campaigns in other cities of Brazil. But they

yearned for more. We felt that what we were doing wasnt sufficient and that God was calling us to do more, explains Gloria. We needed more preparation and needed to know more of the Bible. The couple decided to go to seminary in Brasilia. In 1993, as part of their studies, they were required to take a linguistics course from ALEM, the Wycliffe organization in Brazil. Attending the same course was a pastor from Guinea-Bissau. He was studying in Brazil because instruction was in Portuguese, both countries mutual national language. This contact planted a lifes vision for Estevo and Gloria. We spent an entire day sitting at a table talking about GuineaBissau, recalls Gloria. And we decided that we should really prepare ourselves to go to Guinea-Bissau. That is where the love for Guinea-Bissau arose. Gloria says despite her challenging family upbringing, she realized that Guineans faced much bigger difficulties. Others could do the ministry they were doing in Brazil; they wanted to do morein Africa. Little did the couple realize how long it would be before their dream came true.

We know that without good administration and good structure, . . . that our translations and our linguistics will have problems.

ister in Guinea-Bissau. They had grown to love the Bible translation focus of ALEM, but discovered the agency was only serving Brazils indigenous people groups. Still, in 1997 Estevo and Gloria decided to begin serving with ALEM in an area they realized was crucial administration. We know that without good administration and good structure, and people in the background, says Estevo, that our translations and our linguistics will have problems. That is how God showed us our ministrythat He wanted us to be involved in the work of Bible translation. An initial one year of office service (a requirement of ALEM at that time) turned into seven, when a civil war in Guinea-Bissau kept them from pursuing full-time ministry there. Still, ALEM was turning its focus outward, including doing several small projects in Guinea-Bissau, with assistance from Estevo. When support from their church stopped because they were not going overseas full time, Estevo and Gloria left ALEM to take jobs in secretarial and church rolesfor another four years.

During this time, I was trying to create a basis to be able to come to Guinea-Bissau someday, says Estevo. We never gave up. In 2000, the couple was sent to the country for two months to do language survey research. SIL International, Wycliffes key field partner, and ALEM were trying to determine whether extensive Bible Surprising Support translation was viable. With increasing interest to sponsor the work Estevo and Gloria felt God wanted them to step out in faith. He quit in-country coming from the Evangelical Church of Guinea-Bissau, a his public service nursing post after 13 years and sold an auto body Bible translation program did indeed become viable. shop he ran as a sideline. Gloria also walked away from her well-payBetween 2004-11, Estevo continued pastoring a church in Brazil. ing secretarial job. Living off some of Estevos accumulated vacation He also helped plan a strategy for Bible translation in Guinea-Bissau pay, they returned to Rio de Janeiro to continue seminary studies. (with multiple visits each year). All the while, Estevo painstakingly A pastor they didnt know invited them to his church, and by the raised financial support so he and Gloria could go to the African end of that Sunday, the congregationwith only 55 members in a country to provide leadership for the translation project. poor neighbourhooddecided to support them financially while So it was last year that God opened doors and God gave us supthey studied. port for three years, says Estevo. The pastor said, Dont ever ask me why Im doing thisit is What kept them motivated for so long to come to Guinea-Bissau? between me and God, recalls Estevo. We went to the seminary We always believed in the timing of God, explains Estevo . . . for four years and thankfully every month our salary was paid by matter-of-factly. this church! Adds Gloria: Ever since 1993, weve always somehow been conFinishing seminary, the couple began considering options to min- nected with Guinea-Bissau.
Word Alive Fall 2012 31

The Timing of God

Estevo draws from his administrative training and experience to guide expatriate and Guinean personnel working on nine Bible translation and literacy projects in Guinea-Bissau. They include Creole OneStory team members Sarah Bauson, Bernardo Domingos Te and Tino Demea. Managers and administrators are one of Wycliffes greatest personnel needs.

Now that they are on-site, Estevo and Gloria have their hands fullvery full. Estevo estimates he probably spends about 40 hours per week in meetings, and works about 12 hours each day. We have about 70 people working in this project, plus 15 missionaries. Seventy-five people are basically considered a business, and so day-to-day needs are huge. Sometimes it takes up to a week to resolve one problem. On her list of responsibilities, Gloria does everything from running the household, giving teacher training for literacy classes and doing secretarial work for Estevo. Most of her time, however, is spent leading the fledgling Guinea-Bissau sign language Bible translation project (see Breaking Through the Silence, pg. 34). Estevo receives regular reports from the teams running the nine Bible translation and literacy projects he oversees. I take those reports, see the needs of each team, and try to resolve the problems that are there. And help stimulate what they are doingto be able to motivate them as well. Since the translation project is really a partnership between three organizationsthe Evangelical Church of Guinea-Bissau, SIL Americas and OneBook (the project-funding agency in Canada)Estevo essentially has three bosses. Its a very big challenge, he says, tongue planted firmly in cheek. I blame everything on them! Seriously, Estevo says he loves the complexity of the multifaceted project with a trio of different stakeholders.

Hands Full

Drawing on Experience

32 Word Alive Fall 2012

What God has given me the capacity to do . . . is to understand each vision of the three, he says. This whole thing of co-ordinating projects and leading projects has always fascinated me, even while I was studying nursing. For 11 years back in Brazil, he worked in a surgery ward, co-ordinating four different rooms, always in an atmosphere of medical emergencies. He went on to earn a masters This whole thing degree in project leadership. of co-ordinating Now I understand why projects and leading God was teaching me; why projects has always I did all those things in the fascinated me. past, he says. God has given me experience and knowledge of co-ordinating. Now Im taking care of three institutions and co-ordinating all these partnerships. Its hard, but its good. I like it, he concludes. I feel really good doing it. Indeed, after 15 years of waiting for the chance, how could he not?

Coming from their relationship-based homeland of Brazil, Estevo and Gloria are well suited to work with Guineans. They know how to balance the project orientation of the West with Africas more laid-back culture.

Word Alive Fall 2012 33

Breaking Through the Silence

A fledgling sign language project aims to minister Gods Word to Guinea-Bissaus Deaf.
By Dwayne Janke

t the back of a classroom lit with a couple of fluorescent bulbs, three young Guinea-Bissau men are running a video recording session. One stands in a white-chalked square drawn on the concrete floor, using sign language to tell a story. The other two watch and run a small video camera and monitor, as the story proceeds. Gloria Black, from Brazil, interrupts, stepping into the scene to help the signer fine tune his communication. She energetically retells a phrase or two with hand movements and facial expressions. I like to work here, because of the silence, Gloria jokes in Portuguese (through an interpreter), after getting out of camera view In this otherwise quiet corner of the noisy capital city of Bissau, the camera operator counts to four on his fingers and the signer starts again. Aside from Gloria, all of the team is deaf,* and they are quietly making history: Gods Wordin this instance, the story of the disciples miraculous catch of fishis being translated into Guinea-Bissau sign language. Gloria brought this vision all the way from her homeland. There she learned Brazilian sign language after many initially frustrating encounters trying to reach the Deaf while doing evangelism with her husband, Estevo (see Guinea-Bissau or Bust, pg. 28). She asked the Evangelical Church of Guinea-Bissau for a place to run a sign language project and they appropriately gave her this building, originally designated for ministry to the Deaf and blind. Im the only foreign person in the whole country who is interested in this work, she explains. This is the first translation work in sign language. Government census statistics indicate that there are only 1,700 deaf people in Guinea-Bissaus population of 1.6 million. But Gloria

says that figure is much, much higher in reality. She believes many villages were not included in the census and many Deaf have simply not been diagnosed. Disease, armed conflict and genetics contribute to the cause of deafness in Guinea-Bissau. I think there is more [deafness] because of malaria, meningitis and [the countrys past] civil war with its bombing, she explains. Theres also intermarriage within the families. Like the Deaf in many regions of the world, those Im the only in Guinea-Bissau are often mistreated and ignored by society at large, their communities and even foreign families. While there is a Deaf association in the person in country, you will not find interpreters provided for the whole the Deaf in government classrooms. Because many deaf Guineans are isolated from one another, their country sign language is not well developed. The vocabulary who is is limited. interested Gloria says Guinea-Bissau sign language needs to in this be thoroughly analyzed by a linguist. But until that happens, she is pressing ahead with the early stages work. of Bible story translation as a means to begin gathering signs and giving the Deaf a glimpse of Gods love. Unfortunately, that will happen without involvement of the Deaf association, which is not in favour of Evangelical Church involvement in the project.

Here with His Heart

* To emphasize that Deaf cultures are distinct from hearing cultures, people often write Deaf when referring to a linguistic-cultural group, and deaf for the audiological condition of people. This approach is used in this article.
34 Word Alive Fall 2012

Frustrated by the associations stance, one of its teachers, Domingos S, left his post to come and serve with Gloria and the team. I felt happy to come to this project and be part of it, he says. Im here with my heart. I said to God in my prayers, I dont have experience in this work, but God has experience. Then we started to work. Deaf since he was 13 because of an illness, Domingos is a believer

who can lip-read, read text, and sign. He often pays for other sick deaf colleagues to get doctors care or medicine for fevers, when their families ignore them. The 28-year-old is passionate that other It is important Deaf find Christ, because few are believers. In for them to churches, deaf people sit on the benches but learn the they dont hear. Word of Domingos has unsuccessfully lobbied larger churches to provide sign language interpretation. God in sign I told them there are many deaf people like me. language; it They dont know how to read and they need will be easy salvation. I said, You need to learn our language because it because there are deaf people among you. Frustrated, but not bitter, Domingoswhom is their Gloria calls Gods gift for this ministryis language. directing his energies to the sign language Bible translation effort. It will be the Bible that will break the hold of animistic charm-wearing on many Deaf, who believe this gives them protection or favour with gods.

It is important for them to learn the Word of God in sign language; it will be easy because it is their language, he explains. If you write a letter to give to a deaf person, he cannot learn it quickly. But if you sign for him, he will learn fast. Gloria sees the Bible translation effort as having the potential to bring many Deaf together around the Scriptures in their heart language. For some deaf people, it will be like a club, she explains. This is good because they will be there to hear the Word. This is one of our strategies. Indeed, several small groups of Deaf have already been brought together to watch and give feedback to Bible stories in sign language, recorded on video. What was the verdict at the end of the first session? The Deaf wanted to gather again a week laterto test the signs of a new story.

Give Us More

(Opposite page) A video camera records the Guinea-Bissau sign language presentations about the New Testament story of the disciples miraculous catch of fish. (Above) Gloria Black and members of the sign language

team, Domingos S and Martinho Gomes, consider optional ways to sign the story. Thats a challenge, since the vocabulary of Guinean-Bissau sign language is not yet large or well-established.

Word Alive Fall 2012 35

Beyond Words
Translating the Gospel
By Hart Wiens

Part 3

Translation and Interpretation

an loves a w
a man loves when a

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

The challenge for the translator is to capture thoughts in a way that is clear and natural.

e oth love a m



am oth ers

36 Word Alive Fall 2012

I lo ve


cre am

I lo ve i ce c ream

I love ice cream

oth ers love


Editors Note: This is the second in a series of articles reflecting on the verse John 3:16 word by word. The series will illustrate some of the challenges Bible translators face as they seek to present Gods Good News in every language spoken on earth.

o such a tiny word! Surely it cant present much of a challenge to the Bible translator! The length of a word really has nothing to do with the degree of difficulty a translator is likely to face in accurately representing its meaning in another language.Also, the fact that this word is tiny in English obscures the fact that in the original Greek is a word of normal length and just as complex in meaning as most. The structure of the English language, which tucks this tiny word between the powerful words God and loved, also tends to downplay its significance. In the Greek, comes first in the sentence.It establishes the context for what follows. A paraphrase representing one meaning of this word might read something like, God loved the world so much that. . . .Many modern versions have done just that.We tend to see so as an adverb used to express the degree to which God loved the world.Many Greek scholars, however, understand the word as an adverb of manner. Most interlinear Greek texts render it as thus.Another way of paraphrasing it is, This is how God loved the world. . . . Often the intended meaning is so rich that it is impossible to capture it fully in any one version.In this case, John may well have intended to express both the degree to which God loved the world as well as the manner in which that love was expressed.The challenge for the translator is to capture both thoughts in a way that is clear and natural. I believe Dr. Eugene H. Petersons The Message comes about as close as possible to expressing in English what John intended.He accurately captures the complexity of the little word so when he says, This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son.And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. The Bible is like a precious multi-faceted diamond.The different versions are like the different surfaces that a skilled jeweller cuts into the gem to bring out the light.Reading the Bible in different versions helps to expose the brilliance of its eternal message.

n he an . . . w


oman . . .

s er oth am

Part 4

Translation Across Cultures

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. ove is the heart of the gospel message. Greek and Hebrew have many different words for love. The Greek verb agapao () used here is just one of several. By contrast, most languages (including English) are impoverished in their love language. So we face huge challenges when searching for suitable ways to represent what the Bible says about love. The love of a mother for her child is quite different from the love expressed by a man for his wife. Yet in English we use the same wordlove. The Greek language has two very distinct words to express these different kinds of love. The Greek-English Lexicon, edited by world famous translation scholar Dr. Eugene A. Nida, lists 25 entries under the topic of love, based on at least seven different Greek root words. The gospel message is about the love God has for us. Conveying this is complicated in cultures where the concept of a god who loves people is not familiar. Animistic cultures are more concerned about the many gods who might harm them. In Kalinga, a language spoken in the Philippines, the word used for love really means to want or desire. It may also carry sexual connotations. In one African language the only word available for love means to please. This would imply that the world pleased God so much that. . . . In such circumstances, we struggle to find ways to minimize the likelihood that people will misunderstand the gospel message. With complex and loaded words like love, it is almost always impossible to discover the precise equivalent in another language. English has only one word for a range of concepts requiring a number of different Greek words, so it cannot possibly express the meaning as powerfully as the original. We translators do our best to express the intended message clearly and precisely. People benefit from reading the Bible in many versions. Each one helps to illuminate the rich meaning of the original.
Reprinted with permission from the Canadian Bible Societys Translating the Gospel article series, written by Hart Wiens, CBS director of Scripture translation. Wiens and his wife Ginny served with Wycliffe Canada in a Bible translation project among the Kalinga people in the Philippines for 19 years. More recently, Hart has been a Wycliffe Canada board member.
r God so loved . . .
G For For God so loved . . .

We struggle to find ways to minimize the likelihood that people will misunderstand the gospel message.


I love my family I love my family

lov e


ily fam my I love my family I love

co un try

F or
Word Alive Fall 2012 37

lov e

of c fc ountr eo y For lov

so lov ed

. . . Fo
ou ntr y

A Thousand Words
Caldron of Sorrow

Natasha Schmale

Two children play by a rusting metal tub inside the Portuguese-built, 16th-century fort at Cacheu, in northwestern Guinea-Bissau. The caldron was used to feed groups of slaves whom the Portuguese colonialists shipped elsewhere, mostly to the Brazilian colonies in the 17th and 18th centuries. Cacheu, a town situated on the strategic river by the same name, was the official slave trading point for the Portuguese in the Upper Guinea region of Africa. No doubt included in this woeful human export were ancestors of present-day Guineans, now finally receiving mother tongue Scriptures as Bible translation advances in their nation.

38 Word Alive Fall 2012

Last Word
Working in the Rain
By Roy Eyre
he former chairman of Phillips Petroleum once said, We cant wait for the storm to blow over; weve got to learn to work in the rain. When our writers and photographer visited GuineaBissau for this issue of Word Alive, there were no storms on the horizon. But Africas political climate is known for its storms. Thus Guinea-Bissau became the second African country in a month to face a coup. Many of the expatriate Wycliffe personnel featured in this magazine temporarily left the country until things stabilized. We in North America cant comprehend the danger, ambiguity, and loss inherent to Africa, and much of the rest of the world. Here in the stable context of North America, we cant truly take in and appreciate a world of risk and instabilityand who God is there. How do we explain tragedy striking down a translator as the translation project reaches sight of the finish line? Or a tsunami killing half of the population in a language group where a Bible translation is well underway? Or a missionary kid who loses both of her brothers in one week and then her parents in an airplane crash? These are not idle questions, nor theoretical. Wycliffes Grace Fabian, John and Bonnie Nystrom and Erin Chapman will attest to the gut-wrenching challenges to their theology and understanding of God that resulted when they faced these tests. Is our theology, our understanding of God, robust enough to allow for a God who chooses not to bring His kingdom to earth in the way we would like? And is it any safer here at home? One of our colleagues laboured every day for 25 years in a sensitive country of Eurasia. Her parents worried about and prayed for her safety. As they spoke at her funeral earlier this year, they openly questioned how a simple car accident in Wyoming could claim her life. A number of years ago, I checked in on a friend who had just been evacuated back to the United States from the middle of a coup in Cote dIvoire, Africa. He pointed out that he felt safer in Africa than in Maryland, where he and other state residents had faced three terror-filled weeks of random sniper attacks.

Is our theology robust enough to allow for a God who chooses not to bring His kingdom to earth in the way we would like?

Our brothers and sisters in Africa, Papua New Guinea and Guyana have a lot to teach us in North America about a theology of risk and suffering. If we listen, theyll teach us how faith can thrive in a world where they dont expect it to get better. Theyll teach us that Gods presence extends to the farthest sea, even in evacuations, persecution and hiding. Theyll teach us that Gods sovereignty survives intact in spite of our fears, doubts and insecurities. So how do I, as president of Wycliffe Canada, lead an organization when I dont have all the answers myself? How much risk can I legitimately accept for my staff? And how can I make long-term plans in a world of uncertainty, a world of storms? Jesus said that to whom much is given, much will be required (Luke 12:48b). The Canadian reputation is stellar on the world stage. Our golden passport that gives access to many of the globes regions is a huge responsibility, as well as a privilege. What is our obligation within this polarized world in the next 15 years? The challenge of reaching the remaining languages with Bible translation is great, at last count numbering about 2,000. Many of the minority languages of the world are found in the most difficult places, where turmoil and risk are the norm rather than the exception. An organization like Wycliffe has to approach these challenges receptive to the work of the Holy Spirit, but also careful and measured in dealing with the risks we can control. God continues to call us to work among the oppressed, the forgotten and the isolated. To do so takes a large dose of courage, wisdom and faith. We cannot be among those who lose courage and shrink back.
Roy Eyre is the president of Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada.

Word Alive Fall 2012 39

PM 40062756

Deliver to:


We have lift-off!
A new section highlighting Wycliffe Canada projects at home and overseas Regular prayer alerts and blog posts from various Wycliffe Canada ministries Staff profiles with photos, prayer letters, links and videos Whats more, weve added a cross-Canada events calendar, a revamped online store and a wide range of handy online tools to help you manage your donations, personal information, subscriptions and more! Its all designed to serve you better. Were excited about our new website, and were sure you will be too. Visit us today at wycliffe.caand fasten your seatbelt!

eve launched an entirely new website, with improved features and tools that will make it even easier for you to participate in the work of Bible translation. They include: