How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 and how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
The passage above highlights a real dilemma for those attempting to minister in Africa, for reasons which will be outlined below.
Today at church we were treated to a presentation by Anna Beth Wivell, a bible translator who left Australia to spend the last 15 months in Chad (Africa). She accepted the Lord as her Saviour at age 5, was baptised at 6, then completed bible translation work in seminary. Anna now works as a translation consultant for an organisation called Bibles International.
Some background on Anna’s life in Chad:
Chad is 1.3 million square kilometers, which is roughly the same size as Australia’s Northern Territory. About 12 million people live in the area, most in the South where the land is more fertile. Chadians have large families so there are many children. Though the people are very poor Anna took pains to let us know how resourceful they are as providers for their young. The life expectancy of Chadians is very low compared to the West, at around 50, and is largely due to the high mortality rate of mothers and young children. Sadly, the literacy rate in Chad is only 35%, being especially low in women, older people and villagers. Anna said this fact alone provides a significant challenge for ministry.
There are two official languages in Chad, French (spoken mostly by pagans and Christians) and Arabic (spoken mostly by Muslims). Yet most people use one of 129 native dialects as their day to day speech. Of these dialects, only 8 have been translated into the complete Bible. This means about 75% of Chadians are without a complete Bible translation, a shocking statistic.
As noted above, Anna Beth works as a translation consultant. She assists local churches to translate the Bible into their own languages, comparing texts back to the original Hebrew. After a draft is completed, a quality check is performed to ensure all is as it should be before printing. I was amazed to learn of the level of commitment and staying power Bible translators have to have. Anna told us it takes 5-10 years to translate the New Testament into one of Chad’s native dialects, and 10-15 years to translate the Old Testament. In short, Anna and her coworkers really need our prayers.
If you’d be so kind as to take on Anna Beth’s prayer requests, here are some areas to lift up to the Lord:
- Pray for the health of Chadian churches
- Pray for the spiritual growth of Chadian Christians, for them to have a true understanding of their need for a Saviour
- Pray for progress on the translation work
- Pray for God’s work to be done in the hearts of the readers
- Pray for the health of the translators and committee members
- Pray for Anna Beth, for her to have wisdom in day to day life
- Pray for more labourers for the harvest field
Anna Beth has a very interesting and uplifting blog. If you’d like to follow along with her journey in Chad, you can do so here:
Finally, a link to the very worthwhile organisation she is affiliated with, Bibles International:
It was a real blessing hearing Anna Beth speak today. I felt very encouraged to witness a person of integrity and faith walking so closely with the Lord.