“My words became like sawdust in my mouth, because I knew we would never have enough expatriate staff to send to each language group,” commented Russ Hersman, former director of SIL Sudan. Russ was recalling a time in Sudan several years ago when delegations from various language communities would come and ask for help in writing their language, promoting literacy, and starting translation projects. There weren’t enough expatriate translators to meet all the requests for Bible translation.
Usually at least one community a month would send a delegation to his home in Sudan. One month delegations from five language communities requested help. “It felt like telling cold and hungry people, ‘be warm and fed,’ and then sending them away with nothing to meet their need,” Russ said.
“At that time we knew there were potentially 90–105 more languages in need of translation. My leadership team and I met and said, ‘what can we do to use the resources we have more effectively to reach all these languages in our lifetime?’”
The answer was to equip the Sudanese to become linguists and translators, and then train them to become trainers themselves. Russ’s team decided to host a workshop on translation principles—the start of the Sudan Workshop Project. They hoped for a turnout of fifteen people from six languages, and were thrilled when fifty-one people representing seventeen languages showed up on the first day.
Since that start, the Sudan Workshop Project has continued to offer workshops in writing, Scripture use, translation principles, biblical exegesis, computer training and software use, and other topics to help meet the needs of the Sudanese people.
Thirteen mother-tongue translation projects receive expert help in translation, linguistics, literacy, and Scripture use during workshop sessions throughout the year.
In a recent Scripture-use workshop attended by twenty-two people from six different language groups, participants learned how to use Scripture in their daily lives. Some had gone through difficulties in their church life, and some were ready to assume leadership roles in translation work if they could get help from their local churches. The workshop was led by a Sudanese national.
Through this workshop, Sudanese churches, communities, and individuals learned how to use Scripture in their mother tongue, and as a result, their lives will be transformed. One topic discussed was HIV/AIDS and how Sudanese churches can deal with this devastating disease in biblically and culturally appropriate ways.
Generous gifts helped provide funding for the various workshops in this project! The goal of the workshop program now is to continue to provide resources and assist the local church in Sudan to start work on the remaining translation needs.