As citizens of the Western World, we are used to have access to an abundance of literature for generations already. We can hardly imagine what it will mean if basic primary education is only available in a foreign language.
Looking back just a few centuries, during medieval times, education was restricted to church settings. It was mainly promoted by the monasteries, motivated by the wish to study and understand the Bible.
In cultures with just oral traditions, we observe a similar development. People with a strong desire to read the Bible in their mothertongue, are more motivated in the process of literacy, they prove to learn reading and writing faster than others without that motivation. People are touched by the stories that talk about justice and peace, reconciliation and truth. Their fears are removed, destructive practices (most of all genital mutilation in women) are recognized as humiliating, and revenge can be overcome.
The Bible is a most diverse collection of historic documents, poetry, prophecy and wisdom texts rooted in Jewish traditions, as well as documents about Jesus' life and reports on the first churches. The wish to have access to these is often presented to organisations like Wycliffe Ethiopia with great impatience. Naturally, alongside Bible translation, a program in literacy is mandatory. Organizing reading classes, and developing reading materials, is essential in enabling the community to become independent readers.
About 20 years ago, the good news of the bible was brought to the remote Tsaara people for the first time. When Wycliffe Ethiopia was founded in 2015, Tsaara was one of the first languages they worked on. Their church elders strongly desired to have the Bible translated into their mothertongue.
Four Tsaara men were chosen by the young churches to work on a rough translation from Amharic into Tsaara. Up to now, almost all books of the New Testament are drafted. The four gospels have been checked by theologian and linguistic consultants. In the end, we want to see a text that sounds natural and is culturally relevant to the community.
In October 2019, the gospel of John was published, and dedicated to the Tsaara community as the very first part of the Bible in their mothertongue; this event had been awaited for a long time, and was thus extensively celebrated. Here, Petros was reading from John chapter 4, the story of the Samaritan woman meeting with Jesus at a well, and Jesus offering "living water" to her. After the church meeting, an elderly Tsaara was interviewed. He had never heard this story before, but now, understanding it in the language of his heart, he was moved: "Finally, we as Tsaara people get access to this living water, too."
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