I’ve titled this post “Exodus” because that’s the book the team is currently working on. According to Wiktionary, “exodus” also means “expedition, procession, departure.” It is a reminder that the journey of the Nyungwe Bible translation is drawing to an end – at least for this phase of the process.
This week, the team is finalizing the book of Exodus in the Old Testament. Nyungwe was approved to have a New Testament + Genesis and Exodus translation to lay some of the historical background of the Bible. There are only a few chapters left to “team check” and then send final versions to a consultant for review.
The Nyungwe team is nearing the finish line! The remaining texts that need approval for publishing are being checked off, one-by-one. Finalizing these texts takes concentration and perseverance. Most of this phase is a little boring! Are all the “jots and tittles” in place? Footnotes? Spelling and quotation marks? It is all part of the process.
As the Nyungwe church awaits the published book of Scripture, there are portions of Scripture already available for churches to use! Every week, there is a kind of “procession” of Nyungwe Bible stories and booklets that spreads across Tete through community reading programs and church Sunday schools. We pray that this beautiful parade of Nyungwe literature will root people in God’s Word even before “the book” gets here!
Children show off their parable booklets in a Tete suburb.
Community volunteers share Nyungwe stories with kids every week!
Mikael and Jeni Bister
As the work draws to a close, the team will say good-bye to our family. We have been a part of the Nyungwe team since 1999! It has been a wonderful journey of living and learning and growing as a family in Mozambique. We have seen the team grow as well in ability and commitment to excellence. They will carry on to the end, but it is time for us to move on.
The three men remaining in Tete will need all of our prayers as they walk through the remainder of the expedition of God’s Word arriving for the Nyungwe people! Let’s lift up Semu, Bata and Bernardino as they lead Nyungwe churches and pastors to know and study Scripture in the language best understood in so many congregations. Let’s join in prayer as they share truth with those who have never known that God does indeed speak Nyungwe!
Our last consultant visit at the Nyungwe office in Tete.
In September our team hosted their last official Bible translation consultant! Hessel Visser (2nd from right) worked through 30 chapters of Exodus with the team. The remaining chapters of Exodus will be checked electronically: a Bible translation software program called Paratext makes this possible, along with Skype and email and online updates!
While the work that remains is somewhat tedious, it is very important. Please keep the team in prayer as they make final corrections. Anyone who has done editing of a large document knows that this is never really “finished” but just “as good as we can get it”. Footnotes? Consistency in spelling? Commas before or after quotation marks? Each of these small decisions impacts the publication of the Nyungwe Bible. Your prayers for health of the team and strength of concentration as the hot season approaches will make a difference. Pray for good internet connections so all changes are backed up properly. Pray for security as computers are locked up each night as the team goes home. God is in control of all aspects of preserving and spreading His Word. Stand with Nyungwe translators as they do their part!
In the previous post, I briefly introduced Veronica, our community reading specialist. Here is Veronica in action. Several days a week, children crowd her yard asking for a story. They stop their play and sit in the shade. She pulls a book from the stack of Little Zebra Books published by our partners. Many of these books contain scripture direct from the translation desk. In some cases, children and their families around Tete City are receiving the very first passages to be published.
Through donations to Little Zebra Books, we distribute THOUSANDS of these folding storybooks. Always for free. Always read with the children in their heart language. Always shared by a trained, caring adult who helps them understand the message of the story. Here we have the parable of the Good Samaritan – Mwanzangu Mbani? Who is my neighbor? The text in this book comes directly from the passage in Luke translated by the team back in 2000! Parables are a big hit in the community reading programs!
We thank Little Zebra Books for making Nyungwe a priority! We also thank all of you who pray and give to support the Nyungwe translation team! We are all part of a growing partnership that reaches further than we imagined in the beginning. God is so good!
Veronica and Jeni from Little Zebra Books*, Pastor Bata-team admin, Mikael-exegetical adviser, our visiting reviser, Bernardino-Nyungwe team, Jim- the Seed Co. consultant, and Pastor Semu- the Nyungwe team leader.
Over the past two weeks, the Nyungwe translation office has been extra busy. We have had a visiting Bible translation consultant working through the book of Hebrews with the team. Jim is part of the Seed Company which heads up the funding of the Nyungwe Bible Translation. His role is to visit our team and assure that the translation is faithful and natural. He keeps the team accountable for the key terms they are using. He brings lots of knowledge of Greek. He looks at the text objectively as an outsider- when you have worked through a text from the beginning, you sometimes become blind to your own errors. His questions really help the team to be SURE they have done the best job possible. Now he has left them with a stack of homework: several issues that need to be corrected, checked with revisers or confirmed before moving along.
Consultants like Jim are a real necessity for all Bible translations. Here in about 9 countries of southern Africa, there is a shortage of consultants to draw from. These guys need to understand how the Bible communicates to Africa. They need to understand how African languages work to communicate to their people. They need a good knowledge of Greek or Hebrew. They need to be good at nit-picking through texts and working in several languages at a time! They cover everything from the “big picture” of the story of the Bible, to the smallest detail of Bantu grammar. In a time when most Bible translation programs are running without any resident missionaries in this region, the consultant encourages the team to keep going when it gets tough and helps them wade through the steps towards completing well!
The Nyungwe program is getting some priority “booking” since this is our LAST year- only a few more books need to be Consultant-checked! We will see Jim again in March for 1 & 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, Jude and Revelation! Please pray for the consultants who are responsible for making sure translations speak clearly to the many language groups.
*Little Zebra Books Veronica and I visited the team last week to give the team some new children’s books based on Bible texts provided by the Nyungwe Bible translation project. I will write about how these two programs benefit each other in a post later on.
Government officials having a look at Nyungwe materials at a public event several years ago.
Just a week after the Matsamba kuna gereja was printed, the Nyungwe Bible Translation Team went to ask for an audience with the Tete Provincial Governor. The current governor isn’t native to Tete. He didn’t have much background on this project. He asked many questions about their work and history with the Nyungwe project. He was quite impressed with their initiative and consistency and general perseverance, I think.
At the end of the meeting he asked how the funding for the publishing works. Our Admin guy explained that printing depends on gifts and donations from interested partners. Some money comes from outside Mozambique. People must pay something for these new books because the funding isn’t unlimited and the books must be valued by the ones who receive them.
After hearing this explanation, he decided to give to the printing of more copies of Matsamba kuna gereja himself! When they returned later in the day and envelope had been prepared for them. The amount he gave will print at least 200 more copies of these epistles!
Sometimes we wonder if the people here understand the importance of having a Bible translation in Nyungwe. Meetings like this encourage the team to keep going. They need to know that the efforts they are putting into years of careful work are not in vain. The governor has recognized the importance of this work in a personal way. God is faithful and uses even earthly rulers to bless His purpose. Praise the LORD!
Four letters from two apostles to first century churches: what do they have to do with our friends in Nyungwe churches in Mozambique today?
Apparently, quite a lot! Our translation team was really touched by the letter James wrote to churches he felt responsible to teach and guide new Jesus followers. They felt that their own churches should have this book as soon as possible. A recent gift of $100 made that possible. We would get James out there as soon as possible!
But as long as we were printing, why not do a 36-page booklet? You see, average staplers struggle to grasp more than 10 sheets of paper. 9 sheets of paper are needed for 36 pages of half-A4 booklets (like folding a stack of letter-sized paper in half). We add a cover, and get a booklet that we can produce locally.
The team decided that Galatians was worth adding… then thought about what would fit and make sense to complete our 9 sheets of paper. First and second Thessalonians filled things out nicely. So we have three letters from Paul and one from James. All written to believers struggling to follow the unusual walk of grace that Jesus teaches. They talk about how tradition isn’t the basis for our walk. They talk about how we must love and humbly serve our brothers and neighbors and even out enemies. This is good stuff we all need.
Last week I carried a flash drive (pen drive) to the local photocopy shops and found one that could print a master with the right page order. They couldn’t handle our photocopies for the booklets, so I went off to my favorite shop – they had nearly doubled their price per copy in the past few months. Shop 3 would do it… and collate it, but they charged double for the cover! Back at shop 2 they would print the cover. By Friday afternoon I had covers and insides all at Shop 2 where they would fold and staple my books. With all that research under my belt, I feel totally prepared to turn over printing runs to someone else!
Today, the translation team is busy stapling booklets (Shop 2 couldn’t manage that last bit in good time). They will visit many of the provincial and city government offices and offer a free copy to local leaders. The rest will be sold at cost through their churches and proceeds will go to printing more copies as needed. So a gift of $100 makes it possible to get the Word out to those who will use it. Pray with us that God speaks clearly through the these letters to His Church in Mozambique!
Last week the translation team made a trip to Mpakasa about an hour out of town. They wanted to check some of the newer translated passages with a new church that they hadn’t visited before. One of the pastors at the meeting showed them his Gospel of Mateu in Nyungwe. “Where did you get that?” asked the translator.
“My friend from Messaua gave it to me,” he responded. “Now I don’t use the Shona Bible to preach from any more. I use this to preach. Everyone can understand it and I don’t have to have a translator for the preaching.”
This is the third story like this that I have heard in the past week! We have waited years to have this kind of reports of pastors using Nyungwe Scripture to teach their congregations. We gave out thousands of copies of the Gospel of Matthew in Nyungwe… praying that the pastors who received it would not just hold on to the box of portions, but that they would pass it on and give it away to others who can use it. They are doing just that!
I just got an email from someone reading this blog. She’s an American and her son recently moved to Nyungwe-land half an hour North of town with the Peace Corps. He told his Mom that in church last Sunday the pastor was preaching from Mateu… a Nyungwe translated Scripture portion! I got tears in my eyes hearing that. God is faithful. His Word will bear fruit. His people are sharing the good news and it will take root in their lives.
Also last week, a missionary from several hours away came into town. She has been using 20 copies of the Mateu in her area as well. She says that everyone understands it. It is much better for her groups than the neighboring language of Chichewa. They are reading Nyungwe and preaching from it and doing Bible studies.
I didn’t promise weekly updates, but sometimes news is very good and we just want to share it! I expect we will have more and more stories like this to share with you in the next few months. In the mean time, remember that this is the beginning of the hot dry season in Tete. Last year there wasn’t enough rain. It is a hungry time and still a few months until the rain is expected. Please pray for Nyungwe families as they stretch what they have and trust God to send enough rain in the right time this year.