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Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada • Spring 2009

Nothing thrills—or frightens—a fun-loving

Danny Foster like coordinating Bible translation
for clusters of languages in Tanzania.

World Wycliffe After All’s

Translation Launches Said and
Update Children’s Done. . . .
Spring 2009 • Volume 27 • Number 1
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. Magazine Makeover
Editor: Dwayne Janke Dwayne Janke
Designer: Laird Salkeld

Senior Staff Writer: Doug Lockhart
Staff Writers: Janet Seever, Deborah Crough
ou don’t have to click far through today’s “reality”-
Staff Photographer: Alan Hood
obsessed, multi-channel TV universe to realize that
Director of Communications: Dave Crough
“makeover” programs are popular with viewers. It can
Word Alive is published four times annually by Wycliffe Bible be interesting, informative and, of course, entertaining
Translators of Canada, 4316 10 St NE, Calgary, AB T2E 6K3. Copyright
2009 by Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada. Permission to reprint to see the change from the “before” to the “after.”
articles and other magazine contents may be obtained by written In such makeovers, canine handlers and super nannies stop the
request to the editor. A donation of $12 annually is suggested to cover chaos created by misbehaving dogs and out-of-control children.
the cost of printing and mailing the magazine. (Donate online or use
Interior decorators and hyperactive construction crews work their
the reply form in this issue.) Printed in Canada by McCallum Printing
Group, Edmonton. magic to spruce up single rooms or rebuild entire homes for fami-
Member: The Canadian Church Press, Evangelical Press Association. lies that want face-lifts to their living conditions. Fashion experts,
For additional copies:
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To contact the editor:
with bad self-images into confident, diva-like dazzlers who impress
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For address updates:
Though it will never be featured on TV, magazines need make-
Note to readers: References to “SIL” are occasionally made in
Word Alive. SIL is a key partner organization, dedicated to training, overs too. Occasionally, periodicals must be given careful improve-
language development and research, translation and literacy. ments, new looks and altered content to keep them fresh, and to
better communicate their message to readers. We at Word Alive
have been doing some redesign thinking over the past year, led by
our busy designer Laird Salkeld. The results of that process can be
seen starting in this issue.
Our magazine cover nameplate (“Word Alive”) has a new look.
Wycliffe Canada Vision Statement: A world where translated
The lettering reflects the solid, foundational and ancient character,
Scriptures lead to transformed lives among people of all languages.
but also the dynamic, modern relevance of the Scriptures (and the
Translating Scripture, Transforming Lives
Hebrews 4:12a basis for Word Alive’s name).
Together with partners worldwide, we serve indigenous people through
language-related ministries, especially Bible translation and literacy. Our Departments, including this column,
goal is to empower local communities to express God’s love in Word We have made Word Alive have been renamed for continuity (“word”
and deed—for personal, social and spiritual transformation. Wycliffe is in every one of them). Some sections are
personnel currently serve globally in nearly 1,500 language projects for visually cleaner and more relocated and enlarged (such as the news-
more than a half billion people. However, about 2,400 minority groups
still wait for the power of God working through their own languages. contemporary. We hope oriented “Watchword” on pages 4-5). All
Wycliffe invites you to participate in this effort through prayer, service have been refocused or even created anew
and funding. you like the changes. (e.g. “Beyond Words” on pg. 34). Behind
Canadian Head Office: 4316 10 St NE, Calgary, AB T2E 6K3. Phone: every department name (look at the top
(403) 250-5411 or toll free 1-800-463-1143, 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. of this page, for example) you will notice
mountain time. Fax: (403) 250-2623. Email:
a light, supporting graphic, with ties to our translation work on the
Cover: Wycliffe Canada’s Danny Foster relaxes during a visit field. The strange-looking symbols are actually how each depart-
to Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park (see story, pg. 6).
Photograph by Alan Hood
ment name is written with the international phonetic alphabet that
is used by Bible translators to record unwritten languages.
The layout grid and lettering of this magazine have been
reworked too. Overall, we have made Word Alive visually cleaner
In Others’ Words and more contemporary. We hope you like the changes.
Speaking of makeovers and redesign, the face of Bible translation
“The Bible appeals to me strongly . . . has been changing for centuries—and chronicled in this magazine
because it is such excellent medicine; for 25 years. In this particular issue, we take you to Africa, for sto-
it has never failed to cure a single ries about Canadian Wycliffe personnel working in something new
patient if only he took his called “language cluster projects.” In these, Wycliffe workers serve
prescription honestly. . . .” a group of languages that may be linguistically related and/or are
from similar geographic regions or cultural backgrounds. Language
—Dr. Howard A. Kelly (1858-1943), cluster projects are part of a strategy to do work smarter, not harder,
renowned surgeon and scientist,
in A Scientific Man and the Bible.
to accelerate the Bible translation effort worldwide.
Who can argue with that kind of makeover?


6 One Cool Coordinator Nothing thrills—or

frightens—a fun-loving Danny Foster like coordinating
Bible translation for clusters of languages in Tanzania.
Articles By Doug Lockhart • Photographs by Alan Hood

16 A Show of Unity In Tanzania’s Mara region, church

denominations are putting their differences aside to focus

16 on Bible translation for nine related languages.

22 Sonrise in a New Dawn An international team,

including Canadians, helps Bible translation move forward
in 10 related languages of Cameroon.
By David J. Ringer • Photographs by Alan Hood

28 Alphabet Makers Linguistic research, new software

tools and community input craft an alphabet for an oral
language in Africa.
By Curtis Hawthorne and David J. Ringer • Photographs by
Alan Hood

32 They Now Have “God’s Paper” The Chachi

speakers of Ecuador are among another 30 groups globally to
receive God’s translated Word in their language.
By Janet Seever


22 3 Foreword Magazine Makeover

4 Watchword W
 ycliffe Canada Launches
Children’s Ministry

34 Beyond Words Cross Watch

Photograph by Alan Hood

35 Last Word A fter All’s Said and Done. . . .

By Dr. Mike Walrod

Word Alive • Spring 2009 • 3


Wycliffe Canada has launched a new Children’s Ministry program to inspire
youngsters for future work in missions and Bible translation.
Paul Meisner, Wycliffe Canada’s public relations director, says the research is
Forty Adventure
Seekers Raise $36,000
clear: before the age of 14, children tend to make life-long decisions to enter in
to the mission field full time. Children simply can’t be overlooked.
Today’s six-to-nine-year-old children will be the Bible translation personnel
T en teams of adventure seek-
ers raised more than $36,000
for crucial Bible translation
Ministry integral to helping “Vision 2025” become a reality, says Meisner. Vision 2025 is projects in West Africa this past
a call to action by Wycliffe and others to see Bible translation started in every one of the world’s September.
languages that need it, by the year 2025. The 40 participants competed in
Meisner has appointed Christy Edwards as coordinator of the new ministry. She envisions Wycliffe Canada’s weekend Race
assisting childrens’ leaders—including parents, homeschoolers, church kid’s ministry staff and to 2025: Cameroon held in the
Christian teachers—to inform, inspire and involve kids in missions and in fulfilling Vision 2025. Canadian Rockies near Nordegg,
Edwards has been charged with helping develop programs and resources to meet the need for train- Alberta. They climbed rocks,
ing children. Wycliffe Canada has already set up a kid’s section on its website []. rappelled cliffs (below), rode
mountain bikes, canoed rivers and
trekked mountains. In an ethnic
Wycliffe Joins WEA for Bible-based Transformation
linguistics challenge, they also

W orld Evangelical Alliance (WEA) has

welcomed Wycliffe International as its
newest “Global Partner,” boosting the alliance’s
“Our ministry and all whom we represent
respect the impact WEA is having around the
world,” he says. “Our particular focus is a good
discovered a hidden village where
they attempted to speak and write
a language they didn’t know.
efforts to promote Bible-based transformation. fit with WEA’s desire to extend the Kingdom Race to 2025 bridges the gap
WEA Global Partner membership, which of God by proclamation of the gospel to all between the passion for adventure
now stands at 11, is given to international orga- sports among young Canadians
nizations that specialize in a field that contrib- and the eternal adventure to
utes to WEA’s mission and objectives. which Jesus called His Church—
“We are delighted that Wycliffe International making disciples of all nations.
has become a WEA Global Partner,” said Dr. The race was the third in 12
Geoff Tunnicliffe, WEA’s international direc- nations and by Christ-centred transformation months. They have yielded more
tor, who is from Canada. “As a global network, within society.” than $88,000 to fully fund projects
Wycliffe is one of the best known and respected WEA is a network of churches in 128 nations in Africa and Southeast Asia.
Christian ministries in the world. forming an evangelical alliance, and more A comprehensive mother
“WEA clearly supports the aims of Wycliffe than 100 international organizations. It gives a tongue Bible literacy initiative
to be a catalyst for God’s solutions for the com- worldwide identity, voice and platform to more in Ghana, Africa, is the fund-
munities of the world who don’t have His Word than 420 million evangelical Christians. ing focus of the next demanding
in their own language.” Wycliffe International consists of 49 autono- winter race, to be held February
Kirk Franklin, the head of Wycliffe mous Wycliffe organizations, including Wycliffe 13-15. For details, visit <www.
International, is excited by the new partnership. Canada.>. (See also
the related reply form.)
JAARS Inc. Gets New Leadership

avid Reeves, a Wycliffe member for 24 years, is the new president
of JAARS Inc., an arm of Wycliffe that provides technology and
support services to speed Bible translation.
Reeves (at left) and his wife Jane have served with JAARS in com-
munication and aviation services in its Waxhaw, N. C. headquarters, as
well as in Indonesia. He also held multiple management and supervi-
sory roles with YAJASI, JAARS’ national partner in Papua, Indonesia.
“I am courageously confident that the Lord is using Bible translation
to change the face of His church and His Kingdom,” says Reeves, when
asked about filling his role as JAARS leader. “We need to expand our
comfort zones and to open our minds to new perspectives.”
Reeves succeeds Jim Akovenko, who has led JAARS for a dozen years and now moves on to
senior leadership with The Seed Company, a partner organization to Wycliffe, based in the U.S.

4 Word Alive • Spring 2009 •

Guyana police have issued
warrants for two Brazilians
Issued in accused of killing Wycliffe’s
over the men. Police suspect that robbery was
the motive for the murders, which included
setting fire to their house.
Wycliffe Richard and Charlene Hicks Richard, a dual Canadian/U.S. citizen, and
Couple’s in 2005. The two accused, who
were ranch hands on the couple’s
Charlene had worked in Bible translation among
the 7,500 Wapishana people since 1994 (see
Death farm and are now believed to be Word Alive, Summer 2008).
in Brazil, each face one count of murder. Bev Dawson, who started the language project
A police spokesman said that while Guyana that the Hicks later joined, has nearly completed
does not have an extradition treaty with Brazil, the New Testament with several Wapishana
it would ask its southern neighbour to hand language helpers.

Wycliffe Book, Bible Translation

Workshops Training Boosted
Healing Trauma in Africa
T housands of trauma vic-
tims in Africa are building
new lives out of their pain,
T wenty-three theological
schools in francophone
Africa have agreed to offer a
thanks to workshops and course on Bible translation by
the book they are based on: the 2009-2010 academic year.
Healing the Wounds of Trauma: Painstakingly developed by
How the Church Can Help. Wycliffe personnel, the curricu-
Four Wycliffe Scripture use lum was outlined during a major
and mental health specialists presentation to 82 representatives
Michael Johnson
wrote it after church leaders in from 27 schools at the Council of
Africa asked for help as they Theological Institutions in Togo
encountered trauma among
war victims and refugees. The
book explains basic important
Wycliffe Staff
Translate HIV/
W ycliffe staff serving in Papua
New Guinea (PNG) have cre-
ated an HIV/AIDS-fighting DVD and
this past June.
Adoption of the course is
an enormous opportunity to
mental health principles within AIDS Media accompanying booklet for use among encourage more African Bible
a biblical framework for those the country’s many language groups. translators in French-speaking
suffering from war, crime or Entitled “Kisim AIDS—Kisim Taim” (Get AIDS—Get countries.
natural disasters. Trouble), the DVD dramatizes how the disease affects the whole Located in west-central Africa,
Harriet Hill, Scripture use family. It was produced and performed in Melanesian Pidgin by these nations are home to 261
coordinator for SIL’s Africa Wycliffe workers. languages requiring Scripture
Area and one of the authors, The accompanying booklet, HIV and AIDS Information, translation, one of the largest con-
says the book has been reprint- clearly describes the causes, consequences, preventive measures centrations of need in the world.
ed three times. Six Africa-wide and care needed for victims.
workshops have been held It has already been translated
for church leaders, and those
and printed in more than 30
Word Count
trained have conducted hun-
dreds of local seminars.
Now published in 20 lan-
of PNG’s 800-plus languages.
In the next 10-15 years, 1,953 N
 umber of languages with current
the infection rate in PNG Bible translation projects worldwide.
guages (including Tarok in
Nigeria, pictured above), trans-
lation of the book is under-
is projected to skyrocket.
Unfortunately, low literacy
72% P
 ortion of current Bible translation
rates and lack of access to
projects involving Wycliffe.
way in more than 40 others.
Workshops outside of Africa
have been held or requested in
reliable information mean
that many PNG residents 568,000,000 P
 eople speaking the
Papua New Guinea, Asia, Latin face this sickness with Languages in those
America and India. misconceptions. projects.

Word Alive • Spring 2009 • 5

Alan Hood
t the wheel of his family’s
sturdy Land Rover (above),
Danny Foster is doing
his best to dodge pedes-
trians, pedlars and pushcarts
as he drives along a bustling
downtown street in Musoma,
Danny, his wife Ranette and
Nothing thrills—or frightens—a their sons Josiah, 3, and 18-month-old Isaac, are heading to a
nearby restaurant as lunchtime approaches on a hot Saturday
fun-loving Danny Foster like morning in this east African country.
coordinating Bible translation for “I love this,” says Danny of the marketplace buzz surrounding
them. “I’m still a city kid at heart.”
clusters of languages in Tanzania. Eyeing a rough, washed-out dirt road to his left, the Toronto
native voices his temptation to use it as a shortcut, but after
By Doug Lockhart some thought, abandons the idea.
“I hate to be defeated by a road,” Danny mutters.
Photographs by Alan Hood
“You mean, defeated by anything,” Ranette counters with a
knowing smile.
Few of Danny’s friends and co-workers in the Uganda-
Tanzania Branch of SIL, Wycliffe’s key partner organization,
would refute Ranette’s observation.

6 Word Alive • Spring 2009 •

Danny’s outgoing personality and
fluency in Swahili have enabled him
to build an ever-growing network of
friends that include Charles Papaa
(left), an experienced guide who
knows his way around the vast
Serengeti game reserve.

Word Alive • Spring 2009 • 7

Brimming with energy and blessed with an ear-to-ear grin
that lights up a room, the affable 38-year-old teacher, linguist
“Danny’s energy “He has a big personality, and when he
walks into a room . . . he gets lots of atten-
and former pastor seems ideally suited as a leader of the Mara
Cluster Project. The innovative project is starting New Testament
is infectious. tion. As a result, I sometimes lose the trans-
lators’ attention,” he adds with a smile.
translation in nine related languages—simultaneously—in He really does But Rietveld says Danny, who served as a
Tanzania’s Mara region.
have . . . a
pastor for eight years with the Pentecostal
To start with, Danny—a Wycliffe Canada member and gradu- Assemblies of Canada (PAOC), clearly has

ate of the Canada Institute of Linguistics (CanIL) in Langley, a heart for people.
B.C.—speaks fluent Swahili. Add to that a friendly, easy-going “I wasn’t surprised when I first heard he
manner, a first-rate education in linguistics and translation
and a God-given gift for teaching. The result is someone well belief in the had been a pastor. You can see that.”
Danny’s co-workers see a man not only
equipped—and apparently chosen by God—to coordinate train-
ing for 18 Tanzanian translators. power and intent on facilitating Bible translation in
Tanzania, but also someone who is sensitive
He also leads an office staff of 27 expatriate and Tanzanian
workers. They include Ranette, who handles finances for the ability of to his colleagues’ needs.
“If one of us is dealing with personal
project, and Rachel Workentine, a fellow Canadian and CanIL
graduate who serves as a translation adviser.
God, as well.” issues, Danny’s quick to see that,” adds
Brewerton, “and he’s got good ideas about
Although Danny seems to exude confidence, he admits to wres- how to address them.”
tling with an underlying fear, one his colleagues know little about. For Danny, it boils down to a simple philosophy.
They just appreciate the skills he brings to the leadership team, as “There are two things that will last forever: The Word of
together, they develop a cluster strategy for this particular group God—and people. Those are the two things we need to be
of Bantu languages (see “Meet the Bantu Family,” pg. 19). investing in.
“It’s too easy, in this cluster approach, to focus on speed and

A Pastor’s Heart efficiency and getting Bibles translated—too easy to leave people
behind and forget about them.”
“Danny’s energy is infectious,” says Dave Brewerton, manager of

More Than He Dreamed

operations for the Mara project. “He really does have . . . a tre-
mendous belief in the power and ability of God, as well.
“On the other hand, I struggle to keep up with him sometimes.” While Danny clearly demonstrates compassion for people and a
Another SIL colleague, Patrick Rietveld, finds it challenging high level of competency as a teacher, administrator and linguist,
when he and Danny work together to provide training for local those who know him also see a man who’s living out his dream.
translators. After they arrived in Tanzania in 2004, the Fosters began serv-

8 Word Alive • Spring 2009 •

“My life dream was, if
I could just see God’s ing with SIL in the southern region of

Word translated into Mbeya. There, they helped coordinate

a program to train mother tongue

one language . . . and translators working in 10 related lan-

some language com- With that project now well under-
way, Danny and Ranette joined
munity had the Word of the Mara project in February 2007.
Encompassing translation for 19 lan-
God—what a feat!” guages, the Mbeya and Mara cluster
projects could potentially impact
about four million people by providing them with Scripture in
their heart languages.
Those statistics far exceed the life goals Danny had set for
“My life dream was, if I could just see God’s Word translated
into one language . . . if I died and some language community
had the Word of God—what a feat!”
The seeds of that dream were first planted in Danny’s heart in
1989, during his studies at Eastern Pentecostal Bible College in
Peterborough, Ont.
That year, Wycliffe Canada’s Ross Errington visited the cam-
pus and spoke to students about the need for Bible translation.
Errington’s challenge rocked Danny.
“Here we were, studying all these issues about missions . . .
and then I found out there was an even more fundamental need;
that all these millions of people didn’t even have a Bible in their
own language.”
In his current role as branch training coordinator and interim
team leader of the Mara project, Danny doesn’t do any actual Bible
In his home on the outskirts of Musoma (opposite), Danny unwinds after a
translation. But he’s definitely a driving force behind the work.
full day at the office by preparing a gourmet meal. It’s one of many interests
and hobbies that help the former Ontario pastor make room for fun in his
busy schedule as interim leader of the Mara Cluster Project.

Tanzania At a Glance
Official Name: United Republic of Tanzania. Population: 40.21 million (20% greater than Canada). Bible translation status: Bible/NT available - 12 languages
NT/OT translation in progress - 44 • Possible remaining Bible
Location: Eastern Africa, bordering the Indian Ocean, Peoples: 99% African in 160+ indigenous ethnic
translation need – 74.
between Kenya & Mozambique; includes islands of Pemba groups; 92% are Bantu peoples.
& Zanzibar. Capital (designate): Dodoma – 250,000 pop. Literacy Rate: 78% of adult population (2003 est.).
Religion: Christianity 44%; Islam 33%; traditional
Commercial capital: Dar es Salaam - 3 million pop.
religion 23% (SIL figures).
Geography: 945,087 sq. km
Languages: 124 – of which, Bantu languages make up Uganda
(roughly the size of British
the largest group. Official languages – Swahili & English. Lake
Columbia). Includes a hot/ Victoria Kenya
humid coastal plain; semi-
arid, temperate highlands in
the north and south; and a

central plateau. Home to Mt. Zaire Tanzania •Dar es Salaam


Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest


Indian Ocean
point, near the border with Kenya. Woodland and brush
cover more than half the country. Zambia
Lake Nyasa

Government: Republic with National Assembly; Mozambique

multi-party democracy; has 26 administrative regions. Malawi

Economy: One of the world’s poorest countries; depends

heavily on agricultural subsistence economy. Industry has
traditionally featured processing of agricultural products
Danny Foster

& light consumer goods. Sources: The World Factbook; Operation World (21st Century Edition); Wikipedia, SIL Uganda-Tanzania
At the office, Danny prays with some of the 27 local and expatriate team mem-
bers involved in the Mara project. While Danny is excited about furthering Bible
translation for nine related Bantu languages (see sidebar, pg. 19), he believes it’s
just as crucial to invest in the lives of the individuals involved.
Ranette Foster
During a camping trip in the Serengeti National Park, Danny surveys
a herd of Cape buffaloes—one of Africa’s “Big Five” game animals “There are tons of people involved, but to be on the ground
coveted by hunters. His wife Ranette (opposite, holding 18-month-old implementing it all, running the training workshops, choosing
Isaac during a Sunday morning church service) doesn’t hunt, but she, the translators and setting it up . . . it’s pretty amazing.
Isaac and three-year-old Josiah enjoy camping and other outdoor
activities with their adventurous husband and father. “It’s a riot. We have an awesome team up here,” says Danny
with his characteristic broad, toothy grin, “a really fun group of
people to work with.”

“I’ve got to be able to The Fun Factor

laugh at least once a day. The word “fun” crops up regularly in Danny’s conversations.
Some people might conclude—mistakenly—that having fun is

That’s my thing. I tell all the“I’ve

most important thing in his life.
got to be able to laugh at least once a day,” says Danny.

the people I’m training, students laugh once a day.’ ”

“That’s my thing. I tell all the people I’m training, ‘Make your

‘Make your students getting

Despite his fun-loving nature, Danny’s dead serious about
mother tongue Scriptures into the hands of Tanzanians,
laugh once a day.’” are hard to understand.
who only have access to Swahili translations which, for many,

However, Danny sees no reason why he can’t enjoy life to the

fullest. And the slender, 6-ft.-2 in. Jamaican-Canadian, who’s most
comfortable in a T-shirt and jeans, has been finding ways to have
fun ever since he was a teenager growing up in Bancroft, Ont.
Even in his work, he gets a kick out of using some of the
“toys” a generous supporter and best friend has donated, like his
BlackBerry smartphone, a state-of-the-art laptop computer and
the GPS navigation device that helps him find his way around
the Mara region.

12 Word Alive • Spring 2009 •

Good News for the Last Languages
D uring a break at a Scripture translation workshop this past fall for the Mara Cluster Project
in Tanzania, Danny Foster took a moment to check email messages on his mobile phone.
A broad grin lit up his face as he read one particular message in his inbox. He immediately
alerted two other project leaders, SIL colleagues Dave Brewerton and Tim Gilmore (below).
Rumours of a major donation to the work of Bible translation had been confirmed. SIL’s
Uganda-Tanzania branch (UTB)—and the Mara Cluster Project—would be one of the ben-
eficiaries of a $50-million gift to Wycliffe U.S., whose Last Languages Campaign aims to help
fund the Last Languages Initiative (LLI).
The initiative is part of Vision 2025, a global vision to accelerate the pace of language
development and Bible translation for the world’s remaining language groups. About one
third of the world’s 6,900 language groups still have no Bible translation program in place.
Vision 2025 aims to see Bible translation projects started, in all these remaining groups,
over the next 16 years. Innovative “cluster” projects, like the one in Tanzania’s Mara region, are
helping make the vision a reality by grouping related languages together in joint, coordinated
translation efforts.

“He loves his gadgets,” says Ranette, rolling her eyes. For the Mara Cluster Project, UTB’s share of the colossal donation will ensure that money is
Danny’s other passions include gourmet cooking, as well as a in place to hire 18 mother tongue translators, two for each of the nine languages.
variety of outdoor pursuits like camping, riding motorcycles and It will also cover costs to build a new administrative centre in the city of Musoma, and sup-
mountain biking—to name a few. ply the translators with reliable computers and translation software.
Mountain biking is a hobby he shares with Ranette, who vig- But Danny Foster is especially pleased that with funding now in place, the branch can invest in
orously maintains she was quite innocent when, as a single girl the lives of gifted translators and begin building capacity for additional Bible translation projects.
back in 1997, she invited Danny to join her for a day of biking. “We’re going to have a lot of Tanzanian people trained in these workshop programs,” says
“Danny might have been expressing some interest in me,” she Danny, “so we can start assisting qualified translators to receive further education.”
says with a smile and a faint blush on her cheeks, “but I was not The Last Languages Initiative is touted by Wycliffe, SIL and partner organizations as a
picking that up.” “comprehensive, coordinated and corporate” response to the challenges of Vision 2025. The
Some time later, Ranette started working with Danny on a scope of language work will expand, for example, to include planning that covers an entire
job that had them cleaning up a burned-out factory. Sparks country or region, rather than projects that impact just a single language.
from that fire had long since cooled—but they were heating up Furthermore, LLI will broaden the number of partner agencies involved in funding and
between Danny and Ranette. fieldwork. Currently, 110 organizations around the world are affiliated with Wycliffe, working
Later that same summer, she and Danny went canoeing with churches, language communities and partner organizations to accomplish Vision 2025.
together. Last November, Wycliffe’s U.S. organization launched the Last Languages Campaign, an
“That weekend—and he cannot deny this—he said, ‘I’m not ambitious fundraising strategy that aims to raise more than $1 billion in gifts and pledges to
looking for a girlfriend, I’m looking for a wife,’ ” Ranette remi- LLI over the next 10 years.
nisces. So far, the campaign has attracted about $120 million in gifts and pledges—including the
“And I’m thinking, ‘Great—I’m in a canoe in the middle of a $50-million donation from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous.
lake. What am I supposed to say?’ ” Campaign goals include engaging with current and new donors, raising awareness of the
The couple married in 1999 and while they share many inter- need for Bible translation, mobilizing more volunteers and cultivating prayer for field work.
ests, Ranette is resigned to live with Danny’s other love—hunting. Wycliffe Canada is set to play a significant role in the LLI through its project-funding partner,
It’s been one of his favourite pastimes since he was 14. He dreams Global PartnerLink (GPL). As the largest Wycliffe fund-
More On The Web: To learn more
of bagging a Cape buffalo, one of the most sought-after big game
about GPL’s projects around the world, ing organization outside of the U.S., GPL aims to involve
animals in Africa because of its reputation as a dangerous, unpre- Canadians and mother tongue Bible translators in help-
dictable adversary. ing fulfil Vision 2025.
“By 2010, we plan to focus on language projects in three countries,” says GPL president
François Robert. “Projects in Guinea-Bissau, Cameroon and a region in Asia should account
for 50 per cent of all language projects we support, thus aligning our efforts with the Last
Languages Initiative.”
Word Alive • Spring 2009 • 13
Radical Change
Danny’s love of adventure and just plain fun stems, in part, from
the commitment he made to Christ at age 17. Back then, he was
into a whole different kind of fun—the kind he’s reluctant to talk
about today.
Although Danny lived in Toronto until he was 11, he moved
to Bancroft in 1981 with his parents and two of his six older
“I never considered myself to be part of an ethnic group until
I moved to Bancroft,” he says with a smile.
In the small southeastern Ontario town, he endured taunt-
ing from local kids because of his city roots, his darker skin
and a racial heritage that includes Jamaican, African and Jewish
Danny had received Christ at the age of seven, but in high
school his grades began to nosedive and he drifted into the party
scene. One summer morning, alone in a Toronto-area park after
a night of partying, Danny decided to get serious with God.
Away from his family to attend summer school, he had become
disgusted by his own behaviour and determined to change his
But there was one thing he refused to change.
“I decided that serving Christ . . . didn’t have to be boring. I
decided to serve Him with as much passion and fervour as I had
served the world and myself.”
Before long, Danny also began reading a Bible his brother
Jonathan had given him.
“The Word of God took on a new meaning in my life at that
point,” he recalls.
Ever since that August morning in 1987, the hand of God has
clearly been on his life.

Sense of Destiny
Signs of God’s leading and provision in Danny’s life have been,
at times, miraculous. For example, while attending Eastern
Pentecostal Bible College, he pleaded with God to heal his
lifelong struggle with chronic asthma so he could become a
Concluding that his prayer needed to be followed up by “an
act of faith,” he discarded his asthma inhalers. Since that day in
1989 when he prayed for healing, he estimates he has only used
five or six inhalers.
Then in his last year of Bible college, Danny’s oldest brother,
Tim, told him, “God’s going to do some big things in your life.”
On another occasion, while studying at Pan Africa Christian
College in Nairobi, Kenya, for one year as part of his degree
program at Eastern, a missionary friend told him, “If you’re not
careful in your walk with God, you could miss out on something
really, really big.”
Danny believes God inspired those words—and others—to
encourage him. During a Sunday morning church service in Musoma, Danny receives prayer from
“Those two comments have always echoed in me, says Danny. Lukasi Munumbo, a pastor with the Pentecostal Assemblies of God, and congregants.
“They’re just hiding there in the back of my brain like a little Missionaries from the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC), where Danny still
holds pastoral credentials, founded the East African denomination. Danny has just
motor, just running and running.”
disclosed that he is feeling discouraged by some challenges in the project and by
some bad news just received: his close friend Steve Rehn, whose mother Linn volun-
teers at Wycliffe’s Calgary office, was killed in a road accident while cycling in Nigeria.
14 Word Alive • Spring 2009 •
Danny stops to chat with friends—in Swahili—in front of their small shop
He’s amazed at what God has
done through him already—but “When I walk into the in the city. While Danny is quick to emphasize he’s just part of a team, it’s
equally true that he brings to the cluster project a vast reserve of skills,

office every day, I

energy and enthusiasm. Once a rebellious church kid growing up in rural
also terrified.
Ontario, Danny stands in awe that God is now using him to help provide
“When I walk into the office His Word for up to four million speakers of Bantu languages in Tanzania.
every day, I feel like I could mess
everything up. I know my weak-
feel like I could mess
nesses. . . .
“My whole life intimidates me,”
everything up. I know
he says, laughing. “It scares the
living daylights out of me, what
my weaknesses. . . .”
I do and the responsibilities I have. I really feel like they’ve just
happened around me; I don’t feel like I’ve made them happen. I
have no clue how it’s all been put together.”
But he clearly knows who’s behind it all.
“It’s just completely God.”

Word Alive • Spring 2009 • 15

In Tanzania’s Mara region, church denominations are putting their
differences aside to focus on Bible translation for nine related languages.
ust a few years ago, many of the church leaders
now involved in the Mara Cluster Project rarely
worked together for a common cause.
But since its formation in 2005, the advi-
sory committee of the Mara Vernacular Bible
Translation Ministry has demonstrated an unprecedented show
of unity. Twenty-seven church denominations and three non-
government organizations—including the Uganda-Tanzania
Branch of SIL, Wycliffe’s key partner organization—are coop-
erating to further New Testament translation for nine related
Bantu languages.
On the advisory committee, Baptists sit with Pentecostals and
Lutherans with Catholics. Other groups represented include
Mennonites, Methodists and Moravians.
Based in Musoma, a city in Tanzania of more than 100,000
inhabitants located on the eastern shore of Lake Victoria, the
committee has chosen to focus on Scripture translation, rather
than doctrinal differences.
“Many people thought we’d be talking about the beliefs of our
different denominations, but it wasn’t like that at all,” says Jacob
Lutubija [loo-too-BEE-ja], a denominational leader who serves
as the current chairman of the advisory committee.
That they were meeting together for any reason was a surprise
to many Tanzanians in the area.
“Before this ministry started here in the Mara region, we
weren’t together like this as denominations,” adds Lutubija. “We
didn’t have meetings together with the other churches . . . but
after SIL came, they brought us together because of the languages
we share here.”
In his role as training coordinator for the Mara Cluster Project, Danny joins
in a prayer session (opposite) following a computer workshop for potential
Focus on Church leaders in the Mara region are strongly mother tongue translators. Above, candidate translators Rachel Manyori
Essentials motivated to see the New Testament translation (left) and Diana Kitaboka begin translating the first-ever verses of Scripture
program succeed. First, several of the languages have not yet into their language, Ikuzu, from Luke’s Gospel.
been written. They will benefit from the development of alpha-
bets and a writing system, and all will eventually benefit from
Scripture use and literacy programs.
Second, Scripture in their mother tongues will help individual
believers grow spiritually and strengthen the entire Church.
Although English and Swahili are Tanzania’s official languages,
most speakers of minority languages find English and Swahili
Bible translations difficult to comprehend. “Before this ministry . . . we
“The Church in Mara is struggling,” says Chris Kateti, a
weren’t together like this as
former teacher and evangelist who now serves as partnership
officer for the Mara Cluster Project. He believes that in rural denominations. We didn’t
churches especially, being limited to only Swahili would be
have meetings together
“If they receive teaching in Swahili only, they can’t understand with the other churches…
but after SIL came, they
The veteran educator and leader has done an outstanding job
as partnership officer, says Danny Foster, team leader for the brought us together
cluster project (see related story, pg. 6).
because of the languages
“Kateti has played a key role in bringing all of these denomi-
nations together. He visits, he talks to the bishops, the pastors; we share here.”
he really communicates well the work SIL is doing. He’s able to
focus on what’s important and doesn’t get sidetracked from the
goal of facilitating Bible translation.”

Word Alive • Spring 2009 • 17

The chairman of the advisory committee for the Mara project, Jacob
Lutubija (above, centre), emphasizes a point while meeting with Danny Thanks in part to Kateti’s efforts, members of the advisory
and the project’s partnership officer, Chris Kateti. The chairman and church committee are sold on the need for mother tongue Scripture.
leader says the participation of 27 denominations, in any church-related
activity, is unprecedented in Musoma. Their chairman, Lutubija, has also helped them stay on course
and avoid potentially divisive issues.
“The work we do really is one work,” says Lutubija, “and that’s
to preach Jesus Christ.”
Lutubija has been very effective in directing the diverse group
of church leaders, says Foster, citing one meeting where some
leaders began discussing ideas outside the scope of the commit-
tee’s true purpose.
“But Rev. Lutubija said, ‘Look, you do what you want in your
“T he work church. Our job here is to get the Word of God into these lan-
we do really “He catches even the slightest diversion,” adds Foster, “and I
is one work think his ability has really helped us to have that unity.”
and that’s to Joint The advisory committee’s goals for the Mara
preach Jesus Effort Cluster Project include facilitating Bible transla-
tion and literacy programs, as well as producing booklets and
Christ.” pamphlets. Future plans include publishing histories of the local
language groups and health-related publications to help prevent
the spread of HIV/AIDS, for example.
Currently, the group advises SIL’s Musoma team on planning,
language development and even the selection of potential trans-
lators to attend training workshops. Members of the committee
also hope to hold fundraising events for the project.
SIL provides computer training and, of course, training in
translation, linguistics and literacy.
Last October, during a historic three-week workshop held

18 Word Alive • Spring 2009 •

Meet The Bantu Family
By Dwayne Janke
Languages in Tanzania’s Mara Cluster Project have brothers, sisters, greater speed, efficiency and quality so that Bibleless Bantu
uncles, aunts and cousins, of sorts, living all over the southern half speakers have access to Scripture.
of Africa. How? By working together to develop, test and share language
They are part of the far-flung Bantu [BAN-too] family of about program strategies, linguistic tools, computer software and training
500 languages. About 200 million people, stretching from the resources that can be used more broadly because of various similari-
equator to South Africa, and from Cameroon to Kenya, speak ties among Bantu languages and cultures. Since 2000, for example,
languages from among this group (see map below). These Bantu SIL personnel have been developing and testing tools for use in
tongues share a family resemblance, linguistically speaking, working on phonology (language sound systems), grammar, dis-
because they developed historically from a common ancestor. course, dictionaries and alphabets to serve many Bantu languages.
About half of these Bantu languages have something else in “This approach encourages simultaneous linguistic and transla-
common—they are without the translated Scriptures. These tion work among the various languages in a cluster,” says Ken
languages represent 14 million speakers in 17 countries and about Boothe, director of SIL’s Bantu department, “reducing the time
a quarter of the remaining languages that still need Bible transla- and human resources needed to complete the task without
tion to begin in Africa. The average population of these groups is reducing the quality of the materials produced.”
50,000-60,000. Language cluster strategies are a major part of the Bantu
The five countries with the greatest Bible translation need for Initiative thrust. The Mara Cluster Project will provide valuable
Bantu languages are: Democratic Republic of Congo (99 of 142 experience in joint planning and decision-making with partners,
Bantu languages need Scripture); Tanzania (40 of 94); Congo (26 as well as testing the Bantu linguistic and cultural tools that are
of 34); Gabon (22 of 28); Cameroon (19 of 43). being developed.
To address this big need, Wycliffe and its key partner, SIL in Africa, Representatives from the Bantu Initiative agencies, such as
joined the United Bible Societies, Pioneer Bible Translators, and Bible Wycliffe and SIL, see great potential in its approach.
Translation and Literacy-Kenya in 2003 to form the Bantu Initiative. Hardly surprising, really—that’s what happens when you work
It is a multi-organizational effort to see translation proceed with together as a family.
Africa’s Bantu Languages & Their Translation Status

While Scripture is available in Swahili—as

seen on the T-shirt above—it’s not always
clearly understood by people, especially
in rural areas. Members of the advisory
committee have united around the goal of
providing mother tongue Scripture transla-
tions for each of the nine languages repre-
sented in their ranks.

No adequate Scripture - 270 languages

Translation needs revision - 10
Work in progress -73
Translation status colours on this map are
from August 2004. Numbers of languages

Has New Testament - 120
No project anticipated - 45
for each status category (at left) are for
2008. No political statement is intended
by any language or international boundar-
ies placed on this map, nor are they
necessarily authoritative.
Source: SIL International, used with permission
in Musoma, translators from each of the nine language groups
began translating Scripture passages from the Gospel of Luke
into their languages. Using a specialized computer software pro-
gram called Adapt It, translators can quickly produce a rough
draft by translating from a closely-related language that already
has the Scriptures.
The advisory committee aims to publish the Christmas story,
Members of as related in the first two chapters of Luke’s Gospel, by December
2009. In addition, two translators from each language will eventu-
the advisory ally be hired to begin translating the rest of the New Testament—a
committee task that could take anywhere from five to eight years.
Foster says these translators must be paid competitive salaries
pray together to draw quality people and retain them.
and they hope “I believe you’ve got to take care of the people who are com-
ing to do the Lord’s work,” he says. “If we pay well, we’re going
Canadian to get the best people; we’re going to keep them and the work is
believers will going to be strong.”
Chris Kateti agrees.
join them. “Some of the translators have been employed as teachers,” he
says, “so it is very difficult for them to give up teaching to join this
project. They have had good salaries, so when they come to join us,
we need also to offer a good salary so they can continue with us.”
Furthermore, SIL leaders in the country want to assist promis-
ing Tanzanian translators by helping them access further educa-
tion in linguistics and translation.

Leaders of the translation workshop (including Canadian Rachel Workentine, centre)

debrief after a day’s work. The team’s chemistry is one reason Danny so enjoys his
20 Word Alive • Spring 2009 • work in the Mara Cluster Project. “There are no ‘cowboys,’” he says, “nobody trying to
run the whole thing or take credit for it. Everybody’s just trying to do their part.”
Pastor Albinus Chokera (foreground)
Prayer leads a lively song of spiritual warfare
Good planning, training and competitive salaries will during a morning session at the
Needed go a long way to reach the goals set by the committee. translation workshop.
But Lutubija believes prayer is even more vital. Members
of the advisory committee pray together and they hope
Canadian believers will join them.
“Pray for success,” pleads the chairman of the advisory com-
mittee. “We haven’t gotten very far yet, so we really want to see
success in this work . . . and that the unity we have between all
these churches would continue.”
The committee’s remarkable unity has surprised many—
including some of its members.
“Before the cluster project began,” Kateti recalls, “some of “We are coming together
them asked, ‘How can we try to be together, because we have
different doctrines, different practices, different faith? How are
as Christians. We are
we going to come together and what are we going to talk about?’ going to talk about the
“But we said, ‘We are coming together as Christians. We are
going to talk about the Bible; we are not going to talk about your
Bible; we are not going to
doctrine, your liturgy, or how you conduct your service.’ talk about your doctrine,
“And they agreed. We thank God for that.”
your liturgy, or how you
conduct your service.”

Word Alive • Spring 2009 • 21

etween two towns on the Ndop Plain, two men survey a The project aims to translate Scripture into the languages of
grassy plain in the cool light of dawn (above). I can’t read the Ndop Plain and to see the Scripture having an impact on
their thoughts, but I wonder if they are thinking about people’s hearts and lives.
the future of all the people who live in this region of These days, cluster projects are a hot topic in the Bible transla-
Cameroon, Africa. They might even be thinking about the tion world. It’s not a brand new idea, nor is it a complete solu-
future of Bible translation itself—big thoughts to be sure. tion to immense and complex challenges that translators face.
Novethan Shanui and Dan Grove are one face of an But in more and more places around the globe, Wycliffe and its
increasingly important strategy for Bible translation and related partners are recognizing that cluster projects are smart, effective
ministries around the world. ways to work in a rapidly changing world.
Novethan is a young Cameroonian pastor. He was born in So what is a cluster project? Clusters necessarily look very dif-
Bambalang village on the Ndop Plain, and his mother tongue ferent in different parts of the world, but in general, the idea is
is Chirambo. Dan is a Canadian pastor-turned-Bible-translator to share ideas and expertise, maximize resources, increase com-
who lives in Cameroon with his wife, Melody, and their chil- munity motivation and involvement, and build capacity for future
dren, Caleb, Sam and Anna. work by working with groups of related languages instead of
Together, they are part of the Ndop language cluster project. working separately on individual language projects. Cluster proj-

22 Word Alive • Spring 2009 •

An international team, including Canadians,
helps Bible translation move forward in 10
related languages of Cameroon.
By David J. Ringer • Photographs by Alan Hood

ects tend to emphasize training, workshops and group sessions at derivative of English.
a common location, such as a regional centre or provincial capital. Animism is the dominant belief system, though sometimes it
In some places, travel even over short distances is very diffi- is dressed in the trappings of Christianity or another religion.
cult, and sometimes languages have no close relatives. Not every “They can go to church in the morning and sing, dance and
situation is suited to a cluster approach, but in much of Sub- pray and then go home in the afternoon and sacrifice a chicken
Saharan Africa, groups of related languages do occur in reason- for a dead ancestor,” says Dan. “Are they reached even though
able geographic proximity to one another. The Ndop Plain is one they have a church to go to on Sunday? For me the answer is a
of those places. resounding ‘NO!’ ”
Thus, the area was identified as having a high need for Bible
The Ndop Cluster translation and also as being a good candidate for a pilot cluster
includes 10 languages on the Ndop Plain, which is home to project.
about 180,000 people. Their cultures and ways of life are simi- Dan and Melody, who grew up in Ontario and New
lar; most people are subsistence farmers who live in mud-brick Brunswick respectively, moved with their family to Bambalang
family compounds. Most people on the plain are monolingual in 2003, beginning an early phase of the project. They were soon
or have only “market ability” in Cameroon Pidgin, a simplified joined by Cam and Valerie Hamm (see story pg. 28) and then by

Word Alive • Spring 2009 • 23

Jon and Sandra Blackwell (from Ireland) and Christine Devisser
(also from Canada).
The teams decided to settle in different villages and begin
learning different languages. They identify with the project as
a whole and do their planning together. But they believe it is
important to build deeper personal relationships and learn more
language and culture by concentrating on specific communities,
particularly in the early stages of the project.
Their first job was to build vision and support for the work
among local church and community leaders. Traditional author-
ity structures are strong in this part of Cameroon, and when
the fons (kings) (see photo, pg. 31) and traditional councils lent
their support to the project, the doors were open to proceed.

From the beginning, the teams took the approach that they had
Wycliffe Canada’s Dan Grove talks with local council leader Emmanual come as mentors, facilitators and consultants—not to do all the
Sancho about language development courses offered in the area. Such
work themselves. So, they began asking church and community
efforts are helping build relationships and a sense of ownership among
local church and community leaders, as they work towards translating leaders to identify people who could work with them as the
Scripture for the 10 language groups involved in the project. project got underway.

“It will help the people to be better

Christians [when they can] read the Bible
and reason things out for themselves.”

Improved literacy skills may help prevent frequent drowning in this

serene-looking reservoir, by equipping local villagers with basic
24 Word Alive • Spring 2009 • water-safety information.
Most languages on the Ndop Plain did not have any sort of
alphabet at the time the cluster project began, so one of the ini-
tial project goals was to develop or finalize an alphabet for each
of the 10 languages. Working in cooperation with local language
committees and several short-term volunteers, that goal was
completed in early 2008.
Many people, from young children up to government leaders,
have expressed their excitement at seeing their language writ-
ten down for the first time. Novethan and his brother Franklin
(a school teacher) say that the ability to read and write in
Chirambo will bring about a better future for their people.
The brothers believe that illiteracy and the lack of educa-
tion affect their people’s entire outlook and way of life, keeping
them impoverished not only physically but also spiritually and
intellectually, as well. For example, villagers regularly drown in
the nearby Bamendjing Reservoir because they refuse to fol-
low basic water safety procedures. Wild rumours, like the story
of a huge bomb planted underneath the reservoir, periodically
sweep through the village, causing irrational panic and alarm.
Christianity is perceived as a foreign, white man’s religion that
has little or no relevance to daily life.
Novethan and Franklin hope to see these things change as a
result of literacy and Bible translation.
“Somebody lives better when he is able to read and write, even
if he doesn’t have a white-collar job,” says Novethan. “The per-
son will reason better.
“Because we don’t know how to read and write, it has affected
Christianity so much,” he continues. “It will help the people to
be better Christians [when they can] read the Bible and reason
Pastor Novethan (right) congratulates fellow pastor and translator,
Edward Woghombong, following his graduation from the Cameroon
things out for themselves.”
Baptist Theological Seminary. The seminary now offers a four-year
degree program in Bible translation.

Cameroon At a Glance
Official Name: Republic of Cameroon southwest, a dissected grassland plateau in the centre, Bible translation status: Bible or
mountains in the west and plains in the north. Climate varies NT available – 49 languages • NT/
Location: Western Africa, bordering the Bight of Biafra,
with terrain and with the season. It can be very rainy in the OT translation in progress – 64 • Chad
between Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria.
tropical south, and is semi-arid and usually hot in the north. Remaining Bible translation need Nigeria

Capital: Yaoundé–1.5 million pop. (definite or possible need)– 84

Government: Republic with National Assembly; multi-party Central
languages, spoken by about Cameroon African
Geography: 475,440 sq. km (about as big as Canada’s Yukon presidential regime; has 10 provinces. •Yaoundé

761,000 people.
Territory). Diverse, with a coastal plain and rainforest in the
Economy: One of Sub-Saharan Africa’s best-endowed Congo
Literacy Rate: 60% of the adult Gabon
primary commodity economies, based largely on favorable
population, 2/3 of these being
conditions for agriculture and modest oil resources.
Population: 18.46 million (56% of Canada’s pop.).
Peoples: It is one of Africa’s most complex countries with
nearly 300 indigenous ethnic groups, 60% of which are Bantu.
Religion: Christianity 40%; Islam 20%; traditional,
indigenous religions 40%.
Languages: 279, mostly indigenous. Official languages –
English & French.

Sources: The World Factbook; Operation World (21st Century Edition); Ethnologue; SIL Cameroon
Members of the Chirambo language
committee question the Groves
about the orthography, or writing
system, being developed for their
language. Linguists must often help
people in language communities
understand some of the unique
features of their languages, such
as unusual sounds, which need
corresponding alphabet symbols.

In March 2008, translation officially began in Bambalang and
Bamunka villages. Dan describes feeling “a shift in the universe”
as he realized that God’s Word is finally coming to the Ndop
Plain in a way that people will understand deeply. “It will never
God’s Word is finally coming to the Ndop be the same again,” he says. “We will begin to see the Sonrise in
Plain in a way that people will understand a new dawn.”
deeply. It will never be the same again. The teams still have much foundational and relational work to
do in order to see translations started in the remaining languages.
They hope to have work in all 10 villages underway by 2010.
“Our biggest prayer would be for the Lord to show us godly and
qualified men and women from each of these languages, so we can
begin helping them prepare for the start of translation,” Dan says.

The cluster team says goodbye to

Njeck Mathaus, who worked with
them for five years and completed
alphabets for three languages in the
cluster project. Mathaus left to work
in another language-related project
in a different region of Cameroon.

26 Word Alive • Spring 2009 •

Pastor Novethan (left) greets members
of his congregation following his Sunday
morning sermon, which he preached in
Pius Mbahlegue, another young pastor from Bambalang, Chirambo. Since he started preaching in
his mother tongue, church attendance
thanks the Canadian Church as he reflects on all he has seen in
has increased.
the last few years.
“Thank you for sending us people like Dan who have a heart
for God and who teach the people practically and live the life,”
he says. “Dan will go into the mud [to help us]. We like people
like that to work with us.”
Dan and Melody believe that mentoring young men and
women like Pius and his wife, Delphine, and the brothers
Franklin and Novethan, is one of the most important things that
they can do. These young people are the future Bible translators
“Thank you for sending us people
and Christian leaders in their communities. They and others like like Dan who have a heart for
them will be the ones who work to achieve the transformation God and who teach the people
they long to see in their people’s lives.
After all, a completed book is of little value if no one has the
practically and live the life.”
skill or the vision to use it. But a group of knowledgeable and
passionate people with the Word of God in their hands? Well,
they could change the world.
David J. Ringer is a communications consultant with Wycliffe International.

Word Alive • Spring 2009 • 27

Linguistic research, new software tools
and community input craft an alphabet
for a language in Africa.
By Curtis Hawthorne and David J. Ringer
Photographs By Alan Hood

28 Word Alive • Spring 2009 •

alerie Hamm stands at the chalkboard with her
husband Cam (left). She has a twinkle in her eye.
She sees a breakthrough coming! Children peer
through the classroom windows as puzzled expres-
sions on their elders’ faces dissolve into wide white smiles. It’s
a monumental day, an historic day. The language committee in
the African village of Bafanji is reading and writing the Chufie'
language for the first time.
Letter by letter, their new alphabet is introduced. Example
words illustrate each new sound. At first, people are hesitant to
try reading. The room falls silent, and finally someone volun-
teers, shyly sounding out the word. But by the end of the ses-
sion, committee members are able to read short stories written
in Chufie'—slowly and with hesitation, but they are reading!
Valerie and her husband Cam are linguistic specialists, from
the U.S. and Canada respectively, serving in the Ndop Language
Cluster Project in western Cameroon (see related story, pg. 22).
They live in Bafanji village and are learning the Chufie' language,
which is spoken by about 20,000 people. The Bafanji people do
not have any Scripture in their language, and until very recently,
their Chufie' language did not have a written form.

Tonal Challenge
Chufie', like many languages in Sub-Saharan Africa, is tonal. In
tonal languages (Chinese is a well-known example), the pitch at
which certain syllables are pronounced can change the meaning
of a word or a sentence. This makes the language hard to learn
for people who speak a non-tonal language like English, and it
also makes the language difficult to analyze.
Cam and Valerie have been using a software tool called
PTEST, the Phonology Template Editor and Search Tool, to help
them with their analysis of Chufie'. PTEST was developed under
the Bantu Initiative, a language-family strategy to help speak-
ers of Bibleless languages in the Bantu family have access to
Scriptures (see related sidebar, pg. 19).
About 500 African languages are classified as Bantu languages;
all of them are related and present similar challenges for linguists
and translators. Rather than trying to solve the same problems
over and over, common processes and tools like PTEST were cre-
ated to help all Bantu translation teams speed their work.

Although PTEST has proved to be less useful for studying

tone in Chufie' (owing to its distant relationship to Bantu lan-
guages), it has been useful in the analysis that leads to letters of
the alphabet in many languages in Cameroon. Chufie' and the
other languages in the Ndop Cluster aren’t technically Bantu
languages, but they are related to the Bantu family. Tools like
PTEST are still very helpful.
“I’m pretty sure it would cut the time in half for doing phono-
logical analysis,” Cam says.

Word Alive • Spring 2009 • 29

Phonological analysis is the process of examining and figuring some feel that “p” and “b” should be written as separate letters
out a language’s sound system, an important precursor to alpha- in Chufie', even though the sound distinction does not separate
bet design. The first step in the process was to collect at least 500 one word from another.
basic nouns and 500 basic verbs to get a good sampling of words
and sounds in Chufie'. Expertise-based Input
With a growing list of basic words, the Hamms started to ana- The Hamms are working as linguistic consultants to the Bafanji
lyze the language to create an alphabet. One of the basic steps language committee. In the end, they can’t tell the community
toward alphabet creation is to determine what “minimal pairs” what to do, but they do try to inform them based on their
exist in the language. Minimal pairs are pairs of words that differ linguistic analysis and expertise.
from each other by only one sound. For example, in English, the The experience and insights that the couple gains through
words “pat” and “bat” are distinguished only by the sounds “p” their work in Bafanji is preparing them to serve as linguistic
and “b.” But using PTEST, the Hamms determined that in Chufie', specialists for the rest of the Ndop Cluster Project. They are also
the difference between the “p” and “b” sounds never changes the looking forward to the day that Bible translation will begin in the
meaning of a word. So, while English requires different letters in Bafanji community, which they expect will be in 2009 or 2010.
the alphabet for “p” and “b,” Chufie' might not. The Bafanji church is very small. Most people practise tradi-
tional animistic rituals, even many of those who say that they
More Complex are Christians. If any Christians do refuse to participate in ani-
It may sound relatively simple to develop an alphabet based on mistic festivals and sacrifices, they are subject to persecution by
that information, but alphabet creation is much more complex their family and friends.
than just processing linguistic data. Every week, a small, interdenominational group of Bafanji
“You have to deal with social factors and political factors,” says Christians has been meeting to pray for the Bible translation
Cam. “People have to agree that this is how they should write project. They are eager to see the Scriptures available in a
it or a different way is how they should write it . . . there’s never language that will impact their community.
the ideal way of writing something.” But first things first. It all has to start with an alphabet.
Many people in Bafanji are literate in English, and because David J. Ringer is a communications consultant with Wycliffe International. Curtis Hawthorne,
they are used to seeing different ways of writing the “p” and “b,” who did an internship with the Wycliffe International communications department in 2007,
now works at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland.

Little Noah Hamm rests comfortably in the arms of a local woman as Cam
and Valerie enjoy a casual chat in Chufie’ in front of their village house. It’s
30 Word Alive • Spring 2009 • a nice break from the Hamms’ more formal work analyzing the language.
From making alphabets to ultimately finishing the Bible translation,
it is key in language projects for the Hamms and their colleagues to
work with local authorities, such as His Royal Highness the Fon (King)
of Bamunka (HRH Fon Feunghi IV). Here he poses in front of paintings
of his father and grandfather.

“You have to deal with social factors

and political factors. People have to
agree that this is how they should
write it or a different way is how
they should write it. . . .”

Word Alive • Spring 2009 • 31

i s p e a ke r s of
The Chac n g a n other
re a m o
Ecuador a l y to re c eive
g ro u p s g lobal
30 W or d in
sla te d
God’s tran
ei r l an g u age.
By Janet S

fter decades of hard work, the New Testament with
Genesis and Exodus is now in the hands of the Chachi OVERCOMING THE CHALLENGES
people. They number almost 10,000 in villages along Over the years, the Wiebes overcame numerous challenges to
the Cayapas River and other rivers in the northwestern reach the milestone celebrated this past summer. One of them
province of Esmeraldas, Ecuador. came in 1992, when SIL International (Wycliffe’s partner organi-
Wycliffe U.S.A. members John and Carrie Lindskoog origi- zation) closed down its branch offices as work wound down in
nally started the work among the Chachi people in 1955. After Ecuador. As a result, the few remaining translators—including the
a six-year period from 1964 to 1970, when no Wycliffe team Wiebes—were “loaned” to other missions, isolating them from
worked on the project, Wycliffe Canada members Neil and Ruth their colleagues. They keenly felt the separation from their families.
Wiebe took over. On August 17, 2008 (exactly 38 years later), The Wiebes also suffered from a lack of continuity in co-
the translated Chachi Scriptures—called Diosa' Kiika (meaning workers on translation.
“God’s Paper”)—were dedicated in an overflowing church at “We did not have a regular co-translator for long periods at
Zapallo Grande, a village on the Cayapas River. a time,” said Neil. “Having to train new ones repeatedly was
The dedication service began with music, including hymns discouraging. Supervising Chachi co-translators who lived and
composed by Mártires Tapuyo, the Wiebes’ main co-translator, worked at the west coast of Ecuador (a day’s journey from us)
and his nephew Darwin. Several participants, Chachi and proved to be only partially successful. After Mártires Tapuyo
others, spoke of their gratitude for the translation. Twenty- volunteered to work with us on site in a town near Quito, and
eight of the people attending were expatriate guests, including then persisted in his commitment, we experienced the dramatic
81-year-old John Lindskoog, now widowed, who came to the improvements that daily face-to-face interaction provided.
dedication with his five children and six of his grandchildren. “We thoroughly worked through the linguistic and theo-
Melody Willms, one of the Wiebes’ two married daughters, also logical bottlenecks that would otherwise inhibit the average
attended. Several canoe-loads of Chachi people travelled two Chachi from comprehending the biblical message in Spanish.
hours downriver from a new Chachi congregation, pastored by Consequently we feel that we have an accurate and clear transla-
a Spanish-speaking man, and from the village of Loma Linda, tion and are well satisfied with the final product.”
where Neil and Ruth spent 12 years.

32 Word Alive • Spring 2009 •

READING PRIMER FOCUS served as a consultant for the project, her last effort after a lifetime
of service in Bible translation. A woman with a quick wit and dry
Ruth taught their two daughters with a B.C. correspondence sense of humour, Con retired this year at the age of 80.
course through grades four and five. With their neighbour In Guatemala, cheers went up from the 800 lay people and pas-
Santiago Añapa, she wrote the Chachi reading primers and tors at a celebration held for the completion of the New Testament
illustrated them for the bilingual schools. After their daughters in the Nebaj Ixil language—spoken by 35,000 people. Present was
left for university, Ruth focused on making translated Chachi Wycliffe member Ray Elliott, who spent 46 years of his life (1953-
Scripture available to the people. As soon as the consultant 1999) working on the project. Although his wife Helen was unable
approved Scripture that had been translated, Ruth produced to attend for health reasons, their eight children, with spouses and
illustrated Scripture booklets, which they printed. She solicited some of their children attended, for a total of 34 family members.
the co-operation of Chachi schoolteachers to encourage the After the Elliotts retired in 1999, Dwight Jewett took over work
children to read the booklets and to send a copy to each home. on the translation but died suddenly in July 2006. Juana Raymundo,
Ruth and Mártires spent years developing a plan for ongo- one of the three Ixil translators, died five months later. David
ing promotion of Chachi Scriptures and evangelism in outlying Henne, who had worked on a related Guatemalan language at one
communities. A lot of effort went into digital audio record- time, was able to help the struggling team bring the project to
ings. Twenty sets of 40 audio CDs have been made for outreach completion.
by responsible Chachi Christian leaders. Thirty-four of the
CDs in each of those sets are used to record the entire Chachi
Scriptures, five give a Bible teaching panorama focusing on the
character of God, and one has 24 Chachi songs or hymns. They Global Translation Summary
are intended for each community to be able to listen to Chachi Scriptures translated with Wycliffe involvement were dedicated
Scripture and understand God’s message whether the listen- in 30 languages, spoken by nearly 4.3 million people, since we
ers are literate or not. With the JESUS film DVD also available, prepared our last “Translation Update” report in Word Alive a year
the Chachi community now has the translated Word of God in ago. The following table provides a regional global breakdown of
print, audio and visual formats. the affected language groups, with their populations.


In communities where Mártires has gone to introduce God’s Location No. of Groups Combined Total Populations
Word to the people, they have listened intently to the CDs of Africa. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,886,200
Scripture recordings, and responded to his invitation to learn Asia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45,000
more about God. In one place 40 people agreed to adopt his
Pacific. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 232,100
suggestions for change in their lives, because, they said, Mártires
“is offering the message in our own language, and has written Americas . . . . . . . . . . . 5. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100,600
materials in Cha'palaa” (the name of the Chachi language), not Totals . . . . . . . . . . 24 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3,263,900
in Spanish. The DVD of the JESUS film in their language brings
the same response of intent listening, interaction, and commit-
ment to follow Christ. One lady, who has heard the gospel for New Testaments + Old Testament Portions
years, says: “I understand the Bible and its message well, but Location . . . . . . No. of Groups. . . . . . Combined Total Populations
now that I hear it in my own language it reaches into my heart.”
Americas . . . . . . . . . . . 2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13,000
During the dedication ceremony on August 17, four Chachi
believers held up the four elements of the listening program: Totals . . . . . . . . . . . 2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13,000
battery, solar panel, boom box, and an album of CDs. When
Mártires announced that the recording and copying was com-
pleted, and that this equipment would be used to evangelize new Whole Bibles
communities, the audience burst into applause. Location. . . . . No. of Groups . . . . Combined Total Populations
Africa. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100,000
OTHER TRANSLATIONS OF NOTE Asia. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24,300
In other notable translations around the world, the Digo people
of Kenya, numbering 300,000, received their New Testament in Pacific. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 845,100
December 2007. Missionary linguists Martien and Arisa de Groot, Americas . . . . . . . . . . . 1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15,000
from Holland, began the translation in 1987. Others later joined ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Total. . . . . . . . . . . . . 4. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 984,400
the team to provide God’s translated Word for these people.
Con Naish, a British Wycliffe member who lives in Canada,
Total Scriptures. . 30 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4,261,300

Word Alive • Spring 2009 • 33

Beyond Words

Cross Watch
Photograph by Alan Hood

A Bafanji Christian woman joins a weekly, interdenominational

group from among her people who gather to pray for their Bible
translation project in Cameroon, Africa (see related story, pg. 28).
Eager to see mother tongue Scriptures impact their community, this
small prayer group looks to the cross of Jesus. Their example would
please Wycliffe’s founder Cameron Townsend. In 1961, he exhorted
Wycliffe colleagues to look to Christ’s sustaining power for the Bible
translation task: “Only under His blessing, only under His miracle-
working power, can we go forward and obtain the goal. The methods
are secondary. Trust in Him is basic. He will never let us down.”

34 Word Alive • Spring 2009 •

Last Word

After All’s Said and Done. . . .

By Dr. Mike Walrod

onsider the heading of this new never thought to use anything but that when I
magazine column: Last Word. That pray.”
reminds me of certain idioms we That afternoon Michelle called the group away
use: “The bottom line is. . .”; “At the from alphabet development work to spend some
end of the day. . .”; and “After all’s said and done time praying for the upcoming translation proj-
. . .”. I have sometimes pondered what it would ect. She asked them to pray in Zanaki instead of
be like “after all’s said and done,” since there Swahili, and they hesitantly agreed.
would be nothing left to say or do! That would For the first time ever, the elderly pastor and
make most of us very uneasy. the others in the group spoke to God in their
Anyway, don’t panic, because it seems that own language. After they said “Amen,” they
time will never come. We are told in the Bible looked up to see tears running down all of their
(Revelation 7:9,10) that there will be people faces. One man said, “This is very good.” He
from every tribe and tongue and nation, at the added that he was going to teach his children
throne of God praising Him for eternity. that they could use their own heart language
In the meantime, we believe that our mission for talking to God. If a single session of prayer
at the Canada Institute of Linguistics (CanIL), as in Zanaki has this kind of impact, imagine
Wycliffe’s training partner, is to recruit and train what will happen once the community has the
young people in linguistics and translation prin- Scriptures in their language.
ciples, so that they can be part of the worldwide Hundreds of our trainees from CanIL are now
team who will share this good news with people positioned around the globe. They are partner-
of every tribe and tongue ing with people of many nations, saying and
and nation! Some of their doing the things that communicate the good
But there is still a stories are in this issue. news of God’s plan for humankind.
lot of work to do. We hear from our But there is still a lot of work to do. CanIL
alumni almost daily, from trains so that “all people may have access to the
CanIL trains so that their places of assignment Bible in their own language.”
around the world. Recently The job is a huge one and training our CanIL
“all people may have Michelle Smith returned students is not without challenge. Still, after all is
access to the Bible in to CanIL and gave a report said and done, could there be any greater privi-
of her work as a linguist in lege than equipping dedicated students so that
their own language.” Tanzania, in the same Mara someday they help communicate His love for all
language cluster project as people?
Danny and Ranette Foster I don’t think so.
(see related stories, pgs. 6-21). She gave exam-
ples of how her training at CanIL was being Dr. Mike Walrod is president of the Canada Institute of Linguistics
(CanIL), located on the campus of Trinity Western University in
used in her fieldwork. Our current students were Langley, B.C.
encouraged to persevere with their studies. Our
teaching staff were encouraged that their class-
room instruction methods are effective.
Michelle shared a story about one day when
she was working with a small group of people
from the Zanaki language in Tanzania. They
had been working on developing an alphabet for
their language. One afternoon she learned that
an elderly pastor in the group had never prayed
in his own language, but instead had always
used the national language, Swahili.
“I believe God understands Zanaki,” he said,
“but because the Bible I have is in Swahili, I
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