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By Alison Compton Ngallaba

Alison first went to Tanzania with Wycliffe in 2006, serving as a linguist and literacy advisor. In 2012 she married Solomon Ngallaba, a Tanzanian. The Ngallaba’s are currently on furlough in the United States.

It was December 2003 when I received a letter from Wycliffe Bible Translators accepting me as a missionary. As I reflect back on my calling into the ministry of Bible translation, I realize the Scripture God used to call me is just as relevant now as it was then.

My journey to missions started in 2002 when I was working at Johnson University. I developed a thirst for learning more about the Bible. Even though I had a Bible degree from Johnson, I was excited about the Word in a new way and was thirsty for more. So I signed up to take Greek on my lunch break. One day a Bible translator spoke to our Greek class advocating for Bibleless people. I was shocked! I thought everyone had a Bible. (I grew up here in the “Bible Belt,” after all.)

I kept thinking about the Bibleless people. I couldn’t get them out of my mind. The Word meant so much to me! What would it be like to be without the Bible? But I didn’t think I could possibly go.

This same semester, I attended Bible Study Fellowship on Monday nights. We were studying the Gospel of John. One verse captured my heart and convicted me, leading me into missions: In the first chapter of the Gospel of John, two of John’s disciples saw Jesus pass by. They followed Him. Jesus knew He was being followed; He turned around and asked them, “What do you want?” They wanted to know where He was staying. Jesus’ reply is what got me: “Come, and you will see.”

Over the next nine or ten months, I thought of those Bibleless people. And I was filled with a long list of doubts and fears. “God, I don’t speak any language except English.” He replied, “Come, and you will see.” “God, I’ve never lived anywhere but Tennessee! Can I really move overseas?” God replied, “Come, and you will see.” “God, what if I get sick?” “Come, and you will see.” “What if I miss my family?” “Come, and you will see.” “What if something bad happens?” “Come, and you will see.”

This continued until I finally said, “Yes, Lord, I will come!” I’ve never regretted that decision even for one day.

Now here I am, a decade later. I still find myself filled with doubts and fears. “God, what will it be like to live in the United States for a year? I haven’t lived here for that long since 2005!” “Come, and you will see.” “God, what will it be like being a mom and raising our daughter overseas?” “Come, and you will see.” “How will we live in America on an African budget?” “Come, and you will see.”

Just as it took me some months to say, “Yes, Lord, I’ll come!” I find myself in that process again. I am slowly uncurling my anxiously clenched hands and letting God fill them. He is faithful and His Words are true.

By Melissa Paredes

Many of us in the Western world forget that literacy is a privilege — one that many people across the world don’t experience. Learning to read and write is a skill that opens doors to countless education and career opportunities, as well as direct access to the Word of God. Yet many have never even had the opportunity to learn how to write their own name.

That’s why literacy classes are so crucial, and are one way that Wycliffe desires to bring hope to communities. Without this foundation, written Scriptures won’t be able to touch the hearts and lives of those receiving God’s Word in their language for the first time.

In a community in Bangladesh, an adult literacy class is opening new opportunities as students learn to read and write in Bangla, the national language of the country.

Prior to attending the literacy course, many of the adults had never had the opportunity to hold a pencil or a book. Now they are not only holding pencils, but also learning to write! And they are learning how to read books so that they can continue to expand their knowledge.

Hope Through Written Words

Photo by Zeke du Plessis

Many had also never learned to write their name, so they had to use their fingerprint as their signature on legal documents. Now, they’re able to sign documents with confidence.

Around 25 people, from the ages of 20 to 50, are participating in the literacy program, which lasts for eight months.

Everyone has a different reason for joining the group. For some it’s the chance to finish their childhood education; for others it’s the first classroom opportunity they’ve had in their life. One woman shared, “Now I can count out the amount, pay bills and take change from the shopkeeper.”

Whatever their past educational background, this is a great opportunity for them to sit in a class and learn these valuable new skills.

Many work hard throughout the day before coming to class in the evening. It’s a big commitment, but they want to keep learning. They tell their instructors, “We want to learn more, not stop here. Please don’t leave us.” Despite the challenges, their interest has helped them continue, and all are making progress.

As the adults learn how to read better, they’re able to delve into deeper topics relevant to their community. The books they read also help them learn interesting stories to tell their children, and now parents are growing more confident in helping their children with reading and writing assignments from school.

As these adults learn valuable literacy skills, attitudes are changing. More and more people are seizing the opportunity to take literacy classes, and access to these classes is helping these adults take further steps in developing their communities, and even their country.

Literacy offers a chance to change a life, bring hope, and open the door to a new world of opportunities. But most importantly, it gives people the opportunity to learn how to read the Scriptures— the greatest gift that anyone could ever receive. There is hope found through written words, and this community is experiencing that firsthand.

By Konlan Kpeebi with Richard Gretsky

Konlan works for the Ghana Institute of Literacy, Linguistics and Bible Translation (GILLBT) as translation coordinator and the Konni language translation project manager.

The Conversion of Lamini - Nangruma Church

Laminu comes from Nangruma, one of the Koma villages in Ghana that has neither a formal school nor a church. He learned how to read and write Konni in the Konni literacy class that was started in his village.

When the Konni New Testament was dedicated in 2006, he bought one for himself. As there are no churches in his village, we also gave him numerous Scripture guidebooks to help him and others in his village understand God’s Word. After reading through the books and portions of the Bible, Laminu was convinced that the Konni New Testament was truly the Word of God, and he therefore decided to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour.

Because there was no church in his village, nearly every week for a year, Laminu rode his bicycle more than seventeen miles one way to Yikpabongo, another Koma community that has a church.

Finally, Laminu was able to start a small fellowship in his own village, and it continues to this day, six years later.

Laminu’s testimony proves that God’s Word translated into minority languages can lead people to Christ.

Please pray for Laminu as he runs the Christian race—dealing with physical ailments and discouragements from many locals who think he is a deviant and is being punished for turning to Christ. And pray that additional vibrant churches will spring up in the Koma area.

By Konlan Kpeebi with Richard Gretsky

Konlan works for the Ghana Institute of Literacy, Linguistics and Bible Translation (GILLBT) as translation coordinator and the Konni language translation project manager.

The village of Nangruma, in Ghana, has no trained pastors. As a result, I usually visit them to share the Word of God. The members of this fellowship used to meet in a classroom, but the last time I visited them, they were holding their services in a dilapidated thatch shed. They told me they have been ejected from the classroom because some locals in the village accused them of always making noise.

I asked them whether they would like me to plead to the chief and his elders to release the classroom for them to continue to worship there. However, Nbatima, a man who’d accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior two years prior, gave me this Koma proverb: “Lagɩŋ juule yaa nyʋʋsɩ!” (Together, living has smoke!)

My beautiful pictureI asked Nbatima to explain the meaning of the proverb to me. He said that if you live together with another person under the same roof, and the other person does not like you, anytime you set your fire, because the other person does not like you, he or she will always complain that there is too much smoke in the room.

Idiomatically, this means once someone does not like you, he or she will always find fault with whatever you say or do.

Nbatima told me that if I should plead for them to be allowed to use the classroom, they would still find another excuse to complain about them or even eject them again. So, he said, they would continue to worship in the dilapidated shed until they were able to build their own structure.

The Word of God has enabled Nbatima and his fellow believers in Christ to know God in a way that has made them more tolerant of those around them, more content in their situation, and more hopeful for their future.

I am sure there will be many people in Heaven who came to the saving knowledge of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, because of Koma believers and their dedication to God and His Word.

By Kim Hansen and Amanda Swift, with Richard Gretsky

In the Tanzanian village of Bwitenge, an elderly man came in and sat down at the end of a meeting between the Ikoma translation team and the Ikoma language committee. After the discussion ended, the man stood up, greeted everyone, and started giving his testimony.

In his old age, he had become blind. Because of a friend’s recommendation, he had seen an eye doctor in Nairobi, Kenya, who gave him two pairs of glasses, one for reading and one for regular use. But standing in front of the crowd of people, the man no longer needed the glasses—God had healed his eyes.

Pausing from his speech, clearly seeing the crowd of people in front of him, the man looked to the table next to him and saw a printout of the Lord’s Prayer in the Ikoma language. He picked it up and read some of it out loud to prove that he was able to read without using his glasses. He gave glory to God and expressed deep appreciation for God’s healing power and goodness. He also shared that he had long been praying that Scripture would someday become available in the Ikoma language.

At the end of his testimony, some people from the group gave him the publications of the Gospel of Luke, Ruth, Jonah, and the Lord’s Prayer—all in the Ikoma language.

Soon after, two members of the translation team saw the man again while they were walking down the street. He enthusiastically greeted them. To explain how thankful he was, he compared the gift of God’s Word in his own language to ugali,* the beloved, staple food of his home country.

He said, “Nimebarikiwa sana. Nimepewa chakula kitamu sana kuliko ugali.” (I have been very blessed. I’ve been given food sweeter than ugali.)

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*Ugali is a dish of maize flour cooked with water to a dough-like consistency.

By Melissa Paredes

God’s Word in a person’s heart language opens their eyes to who God is, what his character is like and how much he loves them. When people get the opportunity to hear the Scriptures in a language they understand best, life takes on new meaning and purpose as the Bible convicts and encourages them.

God Does Not Eat Alone2As the New Testament was translated into Makonde, people learned something new about God — that just like them, he too values generosity and sharing. Makondes value these traits in their community above all else, and anyone who doesn’t live them out is called a person “who eats alone” — one of the greatest insults a Makonde can receive.

Reading the New Testament in Makonde showed people that God not only values generosity and sharing, but that He also displayed the greatest act of generosity and sharing when he gave his one and only Son as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. And because of that sacrifice, we have the opportunity to live with him forever.

On the day that the Makonde New Testament was dedicated, people gathered together and listened to Samuel, a Makonde man, share about the significance of this lesson, both for him and for the Makonde community as a whole.

God Does Not Eat Alone

“Our God is not a grasping God. He is not a keep-it-to-yourself God. Because of his love for us, and his desire to bring us to heaven, he did not hang on to his Son. Truly our God does not eat alone.”

And that day, as this community in Mozambique gathered together to celebrate the gift of the New Testament in their own language with music, dancing and feasting, no Makonde had to eat alone either.

After 20 years of work, the Makonde people were able to celebrate the arrival of God’s Word in their heart language. Pray that it will change lives and be used widely throughout this community.

God Does Not Eat Alone3

By Richard Gretsky

In college, Amy was passionate about art. But for a vocation, she realized how difficult it would be to make a profession out of. Because of that, and because she had so many things she wanted to do, she decided to try pursuing other professions. She tried camps and considered the Air Force, but while both of them held a special place in her heart, she felt an increasing pull to get involved in an old family business: missions.

She’d long believed that Bible translation was important but was never sure how her particular skills would translate into helping provide people with the Bible. She knew that it was finally her chance to find out.

“I’ll just go to TOTAL It Up! and see what happens,” she said.

The Art of Translation - TIU 2014

The translation and linguistics course met and surpassed all her expectations.

“I loved all the linguistics stuff, hearing about all the people waiting for the Bible, and the stories of what happens when people finally receive God’s Word in their language … (they) moved me,” she said. “’If nothing else,’ I said, ‘I’ve got to do something about this.’”

If that wasn’t enough to solidify her leap into Bible translation, while Amy was at TOTAL It Up!, she heard about a Race to 2025 event nearby and said, “That is so me, I have to do that.” Just over two months later, she participated in the race that marries outdoor adventure and translation challenges.

The Art of Translation - Helmets

“The race itself was so fun … especially after I let go of my competitive side and just enjoyed it,” she said. Between the different activities, the linguistics tasks and group time in the evenings — spent singing and hearing stories from the field — Amy was inspired.

“I’m not sure how it happened, it just kind of solidified that in me, the passion and calling to be part of Bible translation and be someone actually going to serve,” she said. “I wasn’t even sure at that point if it was going to be in a linguistic role, though that’s what I was leaning toward, but I knew that I needed to go.”

Amy signed up with Wycliffe and — after training and partnership development — she’ll be heading to Papua New Guinea in September of 2015 as a Language Program Intern.

And what caused her to lean towards translation?

The Art of Translation - Kayaking

Was it because she found translation work interesting, because she found in translation another outlet for her creativity, or because she took joy in discovering how God created languages and allowed them to be made?

Absolutely. But more than any of those, Amy wanted to be involved in translation because she knew that the results of that work matter tremendously.

“Maybe the most beautiful thing is that when people are receiving God’s word, they’re receiving life,” Amy said. “That has got to be the most beautiful thing about it. They’re receiving life when they get that.”

And for Amy, any profession that allows her to help people experience that reality is artistry enough for her.

The Art of Translation - Teaching

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