“I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.” – Isaiah 43:19
Just this week, one African Bible translation consultant told us that, during the 12 years he invested in completing a translation of the New Testament in his language, only two churches among his people group showed any interest. However, following the terrible civil war in his country this year there is a now a church in every village and they are using God’s Word in their own language.
After 25 years serving under SIL International in Africa, Gary and Glenys Sweetman were given the privilege of providing leadership to the Bible translation work across a vast area known as the Francophone region. Gary and Glenys have been sent out jointly by Hillsborough and Masterton Baptist churches and are also supported by the Baptist churches in Taupo and Lower Hutt.
Opportunities are opening up for partnerships between organisations with the desire to see positive, long-lasting and sustainable spiritual impact in Francophone Africa, an area stretching across the middle of the continent. In this region there are currently 349 Bible translation projects underway, 64 whole Bibles, 166 New Testaments, and 73 languages with portions of Scripture. There have also been a significant number of ventures into non-print media.
However, it’s not just about language development and Bible translation – it’s about the
spiritual transformation of 209 million people living in West and Central Africa where the national language is French. Gary has been the catalyst for a growing relationship between SIL and collaborative partners, which is now known as the Francophone Initiative (FI).
After just two years of working together as FI, and in consultation with theologians and church leaders across the region, a curriculum for Bible translation and the church was developed. This has been adopted by 27 different seminaries as a core subject, meaning the next generation of pastors will understand the importance of using Scripture in a language that best communicates the Good News to their people.
There are challenges, however. While there’s an open door at present, the situation is precarious. Francophone Africa includes some countries that are difficult to access and several already have virtual no-go areas for outsiders.
God is at work in Francophone Africa, however. There are creative and strategic ways to join him in the task of creating rivers of life in the dry wastelands of this region, which will lead to its transformation for eternity. Please remember to support us in prayer.
• Glenys and Gary Sweetman, SIL – Africa