Wilf Flores is a member of Hillsborough Baptist Church in Auckland. He and his wife, Anita, work as Bible translators with Wycliffe Bible Translators New Zealand (WBT-NZ), in Mexico.
Wilf and Anita have discovered the value of discipling people in their own language. Working in south-eastern Mexico, Wilf has been reading Biblical text translated into Chinantec with a group of women.
He’s noticed the difference between using Chinantec, their native language, as opposed to Spanish. When reading Spanish, they ask few questions, even when teachers or pastors encourage them. But when these people read or hear the Gospel in their language they respond immediately, talking and asking how they can apply the Scriptures in their lives.
Wilf’s journey to this region of Mexico has been a circular one. He’s from a small isolated town near there called San Pedro Sochiapam. Chinantec is his language.
In 1993, David and Christine Foris, members of WBT-NZ who translated the New Testament into Chinantec, sponsored Wilf to come to New Zealand to provide language information while David completed his PhD. During that time Wilf learnt English well enough to attend high school.
Towards the end of high school, Wilf took a summer linguistics course with a focus on serving the Lord cross-culturally. During that time he felt God’s call to Bible translation and began to work towards that goal. In January 2000 he studied at Laidlaw College (then BCNZ), graduating with a BMin.
While at the college, the Lord confirmed Wilf’s call to Bible translation through the joy of reading and the love for Biblical languages. He went to the South Pacific Summer Institute of Linguistics in Melbourne to study Bible translation methods. In 2005, he completed his Masters’ degree.
After looking at various places to serve, God led Wilf back to his own people and the challenge of translating the Old Testament into Chinantec. So, in 2008, he began working with the same group of men, including his father, who had been part of the New Testament translation many years ago.
That same year he married Anita Leander from the USA, who was working with a translation team in another part of Mexico. Anita creates and designs literacy materials. She is learning Chinantec while caring for their son, William.
Wilf says the work is one filled with blessing. “We are blessed to work with a team of Chinantec people who want to see the Scriptures available in their language. Their enthusiasm is such that we have drafted about 40% of the Old Testament text in just four years.
“Recently we met a few elderly people who had taught themselves to read through the Chinantec Scriptures and are now teaching their grandchildren. Several of them have come to our translation centre looking for copies of Psalms, Proverbs and whatever other text has been drafted, such is their hunger to read God’s word.”