In today’s world 758,000,000 adults over the age of 15 are illiterate, unable to read their own, or any, language. This presents a huge challenge for Bible translators. Though missionaries with Lutheran Bible Translators help create literacy materials, train teachers and develop literacy classes alongside translation projects, the reality is that many people will not learn to read and write. Older individuals often find classes too challenging. For others, no classes exist near them. In other cultures, oral communication is still preferred over reading and writing.
The Bible in the bush
A number of years ago, Splash, one of the translators serving on the Khwedam Bible Translation team, traveled each Sunday to a village far out in the bush of northern Botswana. Because many of the people were unable to read, he took audio Khwe Scripture portions with him for use in the weekly Bible study.
Anna had been coming to the Bible study on a regular basis, often inviting her uncle. But the uncle declined, declaring, “It’s just another church where you go and listen for hours and don’t understand anything.” His only experience was hearing Scripture in Tswana, the national language, not his own Khwedam. Anna persisted, and her uncle finally came with her one Sunday. After listening to the audio recording for a while, he stood up and spoke to everyone there. “For us, we cannot read; but now we are walking around carrying the Bible in our minds.” Hearing God’s Word in his own language changed this man’s opinion about worship, providing him with an understanding of Scripture he’d never had before.
An app inspires literacy
Today, interest in literacy is growing among the Khwe, thanks to Splash and fellow translator Moses. They continue to visit Khwe villages, encouraging people to learn to read and write. They are also helping to create literacy materials for use in future classes. Moronga, yet another team member, has been using a specially developed smart phone app to text message in Khwedam. As people see the Khwedam keyboard—and see their language in written form, many for the first time—they want to know how to get the keyboard and learn to use it, fueling even greater interest in literacy.
The Khwe have been marginalized because of their small numbers and minority status. The Khwedam Bible translation project is bringing people into a Christian relationship with God and expanding social empowerment as they learn their worth in the eyes of our Creator.