The Giryama: milestones and goals in Bible translation

Kenya (MNN) – The importance of having Scripture in all heart languages cannot be overstated. In fact, just because someone can read the Bible in a second language does not mean they can internalize it the same way as if they had the Bible in their mother tongue. This is the motivation behind the work happening through Wycliffe Bible Translators USA and their partners and the focus of their recent Giving Tuesday campaign.

In Kenya

Swahili spread across southeast Africa along trade routes. Today, it is an official language of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi, and Rwanda. Millions speak it as their first language, and millions more speak it as a common second language. The Giryama people in Kenya, for instance, can speak some Swahili. But the Swahili Bible left them in the dark about many basics of the Christian faith.

Chris Winkler of Wycliffe USA says the Giryama is about 750,000 strong. They’ve had the New Testament since 2004. But, he says, “They’ve been waiting for the whole counsel of God’s Word, the whole Bible.”

He continues to explain the Giryama’s dilemma: “A lot of people know Swahili to a certain extent. But not all of the words came over exactly as they would have come over. So, this great meaning that I know when I read the English Bible, that I get out of Scripture, they weren’t able to access in this same way.”

He shares an example of what kinds of things can be missed when trying to comprehend Scripture in a second language:

“The word for sin in Swahili … is the word that we use for that fizzy feeling that you get in your nose when you drink soda, too fast… And so when they heard about what Jesus came to do when Jesus came to save them from sin, they heard, ‘Jesus came to save them from that fizzy feeling that you get in your nose when you drink soda.”

God surpasses expectations

Today, the full Giryama Bible is complete. Now, it’s time to print and distribute as many Bibles as possible so people can continue to deepen their relationship with and understanding of God.

Winkler says, “We were looking for a project to feature for Giving Tuesday that we thought would really resonate with people here in the US, but also where there was a great need.”

Giryama-- kenya

(Photo and header photo courtesy of Wycliffe USA)

The Giryama printing project fit the bill. For the overall project, Wycliffe set a goal of an initial print of 5,100 copies of the full Bible. They hoped to accomplish a fraction of the fundraising during Giving Tuesday with the help of old and new friends to Wycliffe.

“It was a dollar handle that a lot of us could really relate to. So, $8 was the cost to print one Bible,” Winkler says. So on Giving Tuesday, they invited the Body of Christ to be a part of this accessible goal.

“We didn’t know what to expect going in. Giving Tuesday has been around for a few years now. So, last year raised about $15,000 over the course of the day which was great. We were really excited about it…. We set what we thought was a reasonable goal this year.”

This was $12,000—about 30 percent of the overall project goal. But God blew them away. A lot of people caught the vision for this project and contributed. Overall, they raised about $37,000. This is enough to print 4,641 of the 5,100 Bibles.

Just a little way to go

Now, Wycliffe is working to raise support for the final copies. This is one way you can contribute. If you’d like to give a financial gift for the Giryama Bible project, check out the gift catalog, here.

Either way, you can also be praying. Ask God to make a huge Gospel impact in the Giryama community with the distribution of this Bible. Pray for a radical change in the hearts of those who receive a copy.

Winkler says they are blessed to be able to work with people like you in order to resource and equip the Body of Christ worldwide.