“Most people have no personal interaction with written materials, like Scripture, in a way they can understand,” says missionary Ruthie Wagner. Ruthie and her husband Josh live in Sierra Leone, helping translate Scripture into Themne, one of over 20 languages spoken in this West African country.
In Sierra Leone, the literacy rate in the local languages is less than 20%. But that is changing, as the Wagners witnessed during a visit to the Kailahun District in eastern Sierra Leone, where the Kissi language is spoken.
The full Bible has been available in Kissi since 2014. Lutheran Bible Translators has provided support for literacy efforts for many years.
“The Kissi literacy classes were jaw-dropping,” according to Josh. “We saw crowds of people, reading in their own language.”
Students, many of them women, proudly demonstrated their ability by reading from the Kissi Bible. Ruthie couldn’t help but exclaim, “Seeing the joy on the faces of those people touched my heart! As a mother, I appreciate that nursing babies and rambunctious toddlers did not stop these strong women from receiving the gift of literacy. It is free, but requires hard work and dedication.”
Participants often walk for miles to attend classes.
“When I thought I couldn’t be more impressed, I saw a woman in her 80s,” Ruthie says. “Gripping her pencil, she sang songs about the empowering value of reading in her own language. In her last years, she flourishes alongside others who are also able to read and engage more deeply with God’s Word than ever before.”
What a treasure to read again and again, a verse, a chapter, a book, the entire Bible.