When I relocated to a small town with Lutheran Bible Translators several years ago, one of the first things my sister asked was, “Is there a library?” She and I both love to read. From childhood, we always had access to a huge supply of books and materials, either at the local library or our school libraries.
So it’s hard for me to imagine 1) not being able to read my language, 2) not having reading materials available in my language, 3) my language not being used and taught in my school.
That was the prevailing situation for speakers of Khwedam, a small language community in northern Botswana. The Khwe believed their creator god had stepped back from them, leaving them subject to the whims of their ancestors. Fear was prevalent in their culture as they sought to appease angry or displeased forebears. They had no Scripture in their language to teach them otherwise.
In 2005, LBT’s Rev. Tim and Lisa Beckendorf began translation ministry with the Khwe people. The goal: create a Panoramic Bible, which contains portions of both the New and Old Testaments, offering a broad view of God’s story through Scripture. As the translation progressed the demand for literacy classes increased and continues to grow today. Tim reports that project team members Splash and Moronga have been kept busy conducting literacy training workshops. Many trainees have kept them up late into the night, practicing and asking questions. Translation portions have been used as part of the training, prompting a number of students to create drama, songs, and poetry based on Scripture. Communities are already thinking of ways to celebrate when the Panoramic Bible—now nearing completion—is dedicated.
Another cause for excitement: Khwedam will now be included in the curriculum in primary schools in areas where Khwedam is spoken. The translation team is working to create a Khwedam primer that will be presented to the Ministry of Education for approval. As Tim says, “This is quite a milestone for the Khwe community! Please pray for us. We have a lot of work to accomplish this coming year!”
Of course, this is a simplification of a process that has been 16 years in the making. But the fact remains. Things I have always taken for granted are now happening for the Khwe—access to Scripture in their language, the possibilities presented through literacy, the affirmation of the worth of their language and culture. A language community that was largely ignored is now coming into its own.
I am blessed—and always have been—to live in an area that has a great school and library system. Please pray for those who do not have such resources, for those still waiting for translation and literacy programs that will help transform their communities. Help us put God’s Word in their hands!