Locals Assume Ownership in Sahel
In a part of Africa’s Sahel region where Christianity is a minority, Bible translation partners chose three language groups with established Christian churches. Their goal: to strengthen the churches’ reach and effectiveness through Oral Bible Storytelling (OBS).
When a fourth people group without an established church heard of the OBS initiative, a member of the majority religion said, “Can we join? We would like to learn how to tell Old Testament stories too.”
The fourth group sent three translators to the OBS workshops. By the end of the second gathering, all three made professions of faith. And even though these new believers receive pushback in their community, they are courageously living for Christ.
Scott Crickmore, Seed Company’s area director overseeing the Sahel region, says with excitement, “Local communities are taking initiative. They are owning the vision and running with it.”
Finishing the Task
Many traditional missionaries have had to leave sensitive areas because of violence and a lack of security. In turn, nationals have responded to the need for Scripture by becoming translators for their language groups. They have entered internship programs and assumed leadership roles.
“And local churches and organizations of the Sahel are rising up to finish the task,” Scott says.
But this shift is not merely a response to finishing projects nearing completion. In fact, the identified needs for translation are greater than ever. For example, although Niger has only a few languages without Scripture, Chad still has more than 24 Bibleless languages. Mali, Burkina Faso, and the Ivory Coast also have varying needs.
In one West African country, coordinators of a cluster project of four related Kuluso languages plan to add a new language every year or so. The whole staff is Kuluso people, from top to bottom. The translation coordinator and project manager both completed Seed Company internships, and the translation facilitators are Kuluso pastors.
Recently, the church there chided Seed Company and its partner, SIL, as they prepared for the first workshop. Because of a change in software, the project was delayed for a couple of months. Church leaders asked, “Why are you delaying this? We want to do it now.”
That eagerness signifies real passion.
Though primarily a community of subsistence farmers, they manage to contribute several thousand dollars a year to the work of translation. The people are hungry for the Word in their own language, and they’re beginning to say and believe: “We can do this for ourselves.”
Scott says that, in the past, Seed Company and others have facilitated oral translation of the “JESUS” film into various languages. Missionaries trained and organized workers, taking up to four weeks to adapt the translation of Luke into a film script. “Now, with a 100-percent Kuluso team, this is happening in 10 days,” he says enthusiastically.
Clearly, momentum is building in the Sahel region as communities take the lead in bringing Scripture to those who are waiting.