This post is taken from a story recently shared with us by Bob Creson (our friend and president of Wycliffe Bible Translators USA). While it takes place in Uganda, it just as easily could have happened here in Nigeria!
On the way to his office one day, Pastor Timothy Bandirana, coordinator of the literacy and Scripture use team for the Bwisi of Uganda, stopped at a school for young children between the ages of four and eight. Tucking a few Bwisi Scripture posters colored by American children under his arm, he went in to visit the headmistress.
“Could I encourage you to teach your students how to read in Bwisi?” he asked.
‘No,” said the headmistress, “these children are too young to learn to read the local language.”
“But this is their own language,” said Timothy. “How can you expect them to understand what you are teaching them in English if they do not first understand in their own language?” Two pupils came into the office just then, and Timothy turned to them, holding up the posters. “Do you know how to read these words in Bwisi?”
The boy, whose name was Ntamuhira, replied, “Somebody teaches Bwisi literacy classes at my home. I always attend these classes in the evening and I can read the words on that poster.” The girl, Irene, said, “My mother always teaches me how to read the book about Kande in Bwisi.”
The headmistress listened as the children confidently read the posters in their own language: “Jesus said, ‘Follow me’ (Mark 1:17)” and “Love your neighbor as you love yourself (Mark 12:31)”
Impressed, she asked for a supply of the posters, saying, “It is difficult for the children to memorize verses in English. English words soon disappear out of their minds, but in their own language, the verse on paper might disappear, but the words remain in their minds.”
When you think about it, this isn’t just about children reading and writing their mother tongue—this is about something much larger. These children represent the future of their community… the future of the church in the Bwisi community. It’s a church that knows fear and heartache because many in their community suffer from HIV and AIDS, but it’s also a church that knows hope. They now have an alphabet, the first Scriptures in their language, and “Kande’s Story,” which addresses the issues surrounding AIDS in a culturally and Scripturally appropriate way.
With their early exposure to literacy in their mother tongue, these children are equipped to read the translated Scriptures—the solid foundation and future of the Bwisi church. And with the Kande storybook and communitywide seminars, they are better equipped at an early age to deal with things that most of their age-mates in the USA have not yet needed to think about.
Pray especially for Irene. Her mother was one of the victims of HIV and has now died because of AIDS. This may be one reason why she taught her daughter to read Kande’s Story. By the time Irene was eight years old, she was an orphan and responsible for her younger brother, Tumwesige. “I’m going to love him and take care of him, just like Kande cared for her siblings,” Irene told Pastor Timothy. “That’s what my mother told me to do.”
When “God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son,” He did it in response to the fear and hopelessness of a world marred by sin. When His Son died on the cross, He opened the way for reconciliation with God and renewed hope and joy. It is our amazing privilege to share in this ministry of reconciliation by helping people the world over gain access to God’s Word in their mother tongue—their best opportunity to understand this eternal truth—and learn to apply it to their spiritual and physical needs.
The pace of Bible translation continues to quicken and one day in the not-too-distance future, God’s Word will reach the last people group on earth in a language they can understand. What a day that will be!
You can read “Kande’s Story” in English here. The story has been translated into more than 150 languages, mostly in Africa but also in Asia and the Pacific. And to find out how your children can make Scripture posters to send to children in Uganda, go to Wycliffe’s website here. Children helping children to memorize Scripture—what a great ministry for God’s youngest disciples!