It was an inspiring day at the LBT Service Center in Aurora, Illinois, as Rev. Tim and Lisa Beckendorf shared with the staff about how the Khwe people of Botswana are encountering God through his Word.
Of more than 29 languages in Botswana, Tim says, citing Ethnologue.com, only an estimated seven or eight have Scripture.
There are an estimated 5,000 Khwe speakers living in Angola, Namibia, and South Africa as well as Botswana. Tim and Lisa moved to Botswana in 2005 at the invitation of the Khwedam language community. At the time, the Khwe people were developing an orthography- a language system – but there was no church.
The Khwe live on the periphery of local society, often in poverty, and even those who are educated can’t find jobs. In addition, AIDS has ravaged the people. Botswana’s life expectancy has plummeted from 65 years in 1990 to only 35 years in 2005, according to the United Nations Fund for Population Activities.
However, there is hope for the Khwe. God has raised up a team to translate Scripture into the vibrant Khwedam language. The people want to learn to read, and God’s Word is highly valued.
Tim shared how the decision was made to start with translating a panorama—select Scripture portions from both the Old and New Testaments—instead of the entire New Testament. “There’s a lot of context missing in the New Testament, so including portions of the Old Testament is foundational to understanding,” he says. “Creation shapes peoples’ image of God, and is a new idea people wrestle with after learning evolution in schools. The story of the Flood introduces issues the Khwe have never encountered. God holds people accountable for sin and punishes those who sin? God keeps his promises? They have so many good, deep questions.” The Khwe are not only engaging the truths of Scripture, but they’re actively wrestling with them.
Tim’s primary role is to check the text and ensure that it accurately communicates the original intent of Scripture in Hebrew and Greek. He checks grammar, syntax, and spelling. Moses and Splash, two local translators, check for clarity and make sure the overall phrasing and word choices are natural. The local community checks the text for comprehension. After a consultant checks the work, these Scripture passages are recorded so they can be made available in audio format, as well as written books. It’s certainly a team effort.
Tim and Lisa are in the States now for partnership development—raising finances and prayer support to return to their work. They look forward to adding to the 2,500 verses that are already available in written form and the 1,041 verses in audio form.
The project isn’t yet complete, but God’s Word is already going forth. Tim recounted the story of a friend who had been walking around in a game park near Khwe territory. “I could hear the Bible going through the bush!” Compelled to find the source, he discovered it was a game warden walking around with the AudiBible.