It Will Not Return Void
People do not have to read God’s Word for it to impact them. Hearing can be just as—and even more—impactful, especially for the 80% of the world’s population who identify as oral learners.
Isaiah tells us that God’s Word will not return to him void. Read how his Word is making a great impact among language groups in Mexico, Uganda, and Burkina Faso as people listen to it in their language for the first time!
In a part of Mexico, some indigenous people retain much of their original culture, which predates King David. Among one such people group, an Oral Bible Translation (OBT) workshop conducted by Faith Comes by Hearing (FCBH) and partly funded by JAARS taught local people how to orally translate the Bible into Zapoteco de Santa Ana del valle, a dialect of Zapoteco.
From the first day of the workshop, the head trainer, Allen Pierce, challenged the local translators to tell the story, which they had internalized during their devotion time, to members of their family or community every evening.
The translation team is composed mostly of members of one church, and the church decided to hold a story time every Tuesday night.
The translators invited friends and neighbors to come to the church and hear stories in the Zapoteco dialect. That had never been done in the church.
The pastor has had Bible training in Spanish and has preached for years in Spanish, having always been afraid that if he tried to preach in Zapoteco de Santa Ana del valle, he might corrupt God’s Word.
“But now [after the workshop], they are able to internalize the stories and think through how they should say these things, correctly, in Zapoteco,” Allen explained.
That night at the church was the first time some of the attendees had ever heard God’s Word in their dialect of Zapoteco. Some of them confessed that it was the first time they really understood the message presented, because even though most of them know Spanish, it just doesn’t speak to them the same way.
The way the team learns to translate a Bible story differs from how a preacher talks. In FCBH’s model, everyone learns to retell and rebuild the story together. Everyone can learn the story, and everyone can be an evangelist because all that is required is to tell the story and then teach it to those eager to learn more or share it with others.
After listening to the story, three people asked what they should do to receive Jesus! The pastor presented the gospel to them, and they accepted it. Now they will be able to share that story and others they learn!
The Reli people had waited for their own Bible for over a century. The first mission workers who came to their land introduced worship and the Word of God in a language of a wider community called Madi. The Reli people couldn’t understand the Scripture in this language because it shares few similarities with theirs. Therefore, many Reli people converted to another major religion, and today, more than 65% of the Reli people follow this false major religion.
But hopefully that number will shrink because of an Oral Bible Translation project in the Reli language! When the project was launched in March 2022, the Reli, regardless of their denomination or religion, united to support the project. They willingly participated in community checks and Scripture engagement. They have launched a fundraising drive to support the OBT project.
The Reli community was ecstatic when the first two stories in the book of Luke were approved. One member commented, “I am very happy and excited to listen to the Word of God in my own language!”
Since then, the Lord has been transforming lives through his Word in the Reli language. Translators themselves found emotional healing in the words they translate.
One woman on the translation team had suffered emotional trauma due to a domestic crisis, had low self-esteem, and found it hard to fit in with the team.
When she was assigned to record the part of Scripture about Jesus calming a storm, she cried and confessed that she feels her issues can be calmed only by Jesus. The team prayed with her, and she was emotionally healed. “If I had not [had] this opportunity to translate the Word of God, my troubles would have killed me,” she said.
Praise God for working among the Reli people!
Oral Bible translation is important for African people because many of them are oral learners and don’t read. As one of the translators for the Viemo people in Burkina Faso said, “Many people can be touched by this opportunity, as they can hide themselves and listen to God’s Word. I spent more than 20 years in written Bible translation. With my experience of four years in OBT, I think the OBT work impacts more than written Bible translation. People in Africa prefer audio to reading.”
The Viemo Oral Bible translation team reads portions of the book of Luke in their devotion time each morning before starting their work. During this time, two translators who followed a false major world religion accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. One of them, Boukari, is grateful to God for saving him through Jesus Christ. He had heard about Jesus in the past, but now, through the translation work, he has gained more understanding about Jesus through the translation work.
“I became a Christian [through] the word of God with the Viemo translation and thank God for that opportunity,” Boukari said. “I was touched with the Word of God in my language. The Scriptures give hope to those who lost hope.”
A month later, another of the translators who also was part of this religion accepted Jesus Christ with his older brother.
Once the audio passages from Luke were ready, the translators shared them with the community. God’s Word did not return void; it produced fruit: Five women and three men became Christians after listening to these passages in their language!
Thank you for your help in overcoming the barriers of illiteracy for the people in West Africa and elsewhere! The translation team in Burkina Faso can’t currently work in its language area because the area lacks electricity, good infrastructure, and a good internet connection.
Consider giving to Technology Solutions so we can help our brothers and sisters overcome these barriers!