A Story to Tell Everyone

By Rachel Greco

There was only one known believer among the Ayri* in Africa, until… they began listening to God’s Word in their own language.

For years a local pastor, who is also a Bible translation consultant, had encouraged the Ayri to do a Bible translation with him. Until recently, the people, who follow a world religion mixed with Animism, weren’t interested.

Then, God changed their hearts.

Incredibly, both the head religious leader of the village and their shaman agreed that having “holy Scriptures” in their language—even the Bible—was a worthwhile cause. The religious leader said, “We can’t keep forcing our people into one religion. They can hear other holy books and make their own decision. Even if one of my children chooses to become a Christian, I will not stop them.” When Faith Comes by Hearing (FCBH) started an Oral Bible Translation project for their language, he backed up this statement by sending his child to be one of the translators on the project!

Faith Comes by Hearing (FCBH) is partnering with an African Bible translation organization and JAARS to help the Ayri translate God’s Word in their language. The Ayri language, spoken by a group of about 21,000 oral people, has never been written down. To prepare a translation for a language like Ayri, the Oral Bible Translation (OBT) process uses the Render software program. Render walks users through each step of oral Bible translation and records and manages the thousands of audio files they produce.

With your help, JAARS partnered with FCBH by supplying the OBT trainers and translators with the Render software and brand new laptops, USB headsets, speakers and other devices to help remove any equipment obstacles that often challenge translation work. Even in this relatively small village in Africa, most of the team members have smart phones and know how to use technology.

The FCBH trainers arrived in Africa** in December to begin the process. They were joined by two Christian pastors from a neighboring village, who came to guide the translation, and a certified Bible translation consultant, who came to oversee the project and approve the translated Scripture. The translation team of four mother tongue translators were all proficient in French as well. And they all proudly told the trainers on the first day that they were non-Christians, followers of a world religion.

Members of the translation team learning how to use the Render software

During the three-week training, the translators often worked past hours to complete their work. First, they learned the basics of the Render software. Then they listened with great respect to the French translation of the Gospel of Luke. After that, they talked through the passage and internalized it by acting out the scene, describing it with objects, and drawing it on a storyboard. This helped them see, feel, and understand the Scripture.

With help from the pastors and consultant, the team then drafted a recording of part of Luke in their Ayri language, using the Render program. They also learned how to submit the once-completed draft for peer review. Later, their community will listen to their draft and offer feedback. Finally, the consultant will check each passage for accuracy and send it back to the team with questions or changes.

As the training wrapped up, the translation team prepared to take their new skills, knowledge, and equipment back to their village to continue their work. The four non-Christian translators had heard God’s truth for the first time, and it had already begun sinking into the soil of their souls.

The Ayri translation team watching a video about Jesus

One of the translators told the trainers, “Every December 24, we watch the JESUS film in the village. The only thing we remember is Jesus being mistreated and crucified. But now, I can see wonders Jesus has done and remember them like a story I can tell everyone. Next year, instead of watching the JESUS film, I will tell them the story of Jesus.”

Another translator asked the trainers questions. He longed to know: “How can someone know if Jesus forgives his/her sins?” One of the trainers from West Africa explained how the Bible says we are saved by faith, through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

When asked if the translator wanted to trust in Jesus, his answer was a resounding, “Yes.”

With his acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior, we can say with joy that the Ayri community now has at least two known believers! We are trusting and praying for many more.

Please pray with us that the Lord blesses the translators’ work by showing them and their community his vast love and mercy.

*Name changed for security reasons

** Exact location not noted for security reasons