Website Hafare Arabolya Rendille story

Will you teach us about Jesus?

One hot afternoon in Korr, Rendille, I received a call from an unknown number but the voice was familiar. After the usual Rendille greetings, I noted that I was speaking with Hafare Arabolya to whom I had given the Rendille audio Bible and showed the Jesus film at his animal’s camp. On that particular day, he had called to appreciate the visit that I had paid to him and the gift of the Rendille audio Bible.

Not long after this call, I decided to visit him once again. When I got to his home, we sat down in the shade, together with his family members. He excitedly told me that they knew I told stories about Jesus.

“Will you teach us about Jesus?” they inquired in unison.

“We have heard some stories about Jesus on the radio,” they said, referring to the Rendille audio Bible I had a few weeks given to him. People in our village want to know more. We want more of these radios to teach us when you are not visiting with us, come to our home often and teach us about this wonderful person called Jesus.”

The interactions that I had with Hafare and his family raised more zeal in me to tell more of Jesus. It reminded me of the Gospel of Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come”.

The gospel of Jesus Christ must be preached to all so that Jesus can be worshiped in every language and in every nation. No single language can adequately express His worth; it will take people from every language on earth singing the name of Jesus before the choir of heaven can be complete.

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Where are we investing our energy in the ministry?

“It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation, Romans 15:20. When Paul says ‘where Christ has not been known,’ he means places where there is no worship of Christ at all.

Paul here indicates that he believed that God had given him the ministry of establishing strategic churches in virgin gospel territory. Paul must have felt ‘crowded’ by too many Christians around him. His purpose was, therefore ‘not to build on another’s foundations’ (see 2 Cor. 10:13–18). As he does in 1 Cor. 3:9b–15, Paul uses the metaphor of a building to describe the work of ministry.

To adopt Paul’s other metaphor from the same passage, he had been given the task of ‘planting’; others, like Apollos, were there to ‘water’ the fragile new growth (1 Cor. 3:5b–8). In John 10:16, Jesus says, ‘I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.’ Where are we investing our energy in the ministry? Communities who have never heard the gospel of Jesus for the first time are referred to as unreached people groups.

In Kenya, these communities are: located in remote areas characterized by the harsh climate and rough terrains; have unwritten languages; have low levels of literacy; have high poverty levels; have little or no Christian witness; have little or no church plants and lack of basic social amenities. These are the communities that the Bible Translation and Literacy (BTL) that we serve with seeking to reach, evangelize, and disciple using mother-tongue Bible.

It is my prayer that we should have compassion for ‘other sheep that are outside Christ‘s pen’. This week, as we pray, let us remember the communities in Kenya who have never heard of Jesus, and have no Scriptures written in the form and language that they can understand. Faith comes by hearing and hearing the word of God.”

By Elly Gudo, a Translation Consultant at BTL

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Tharaka Bible, Japhet Nthiga

I found a FRIEND in the Bible

At the mention of the Tharaka Bible, Japhet Nthiga’s face lights up. There is a special bond between him and a special FRIEND he has found in the Bible. Japhet is blind and the only way he can hear about the good news of Jesus Christ is listening to the Tharaka Audio Bible recorded from the New Testament, and when his daughter is reading it out for him.

In July 2019, a month later after the dedication of the Tharaka Bible, Japhet walked into the Tharaka Offices, 25 KM away from his home to get his Bible.

At the time, all the 3,000 printed Bibles had all been sold out; only four copies left in the office which Onesmus Kamwara, Tharaka Project Officer had secured for his family. “I did not even inform him that we had run out of the Bibles. I picked one of my copies and the audio Bible and packed them for him.” During a recent visit to his home, Japhet gladly shared how it has been since he received the Bible.

“I am privileged to have the Tharaka Bible. The Bible speaks to me. It is close to my heart, every time I am listening to it being read to me, or listening to the audio, I feel like I am in a conversation; I likened the conversation to that of a FRIEND.” To God be the glory!

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Bible Translation and Literacy (BTL) launched the Tharaka Bible for the Tharaka people

Tharaka Bible at One Year

The month of June 2020 marked exactly one year since Bible Translation and Literacy (BTL) launched the Tharaka Bible for the Tharaka people. Onesmus Kamwara, Tharaka Project Officer and Consultant in Training reflects over the past year:

“A lot has changed since the dedication of our Bible.

The Tharaka people now read a complete Bible, unlike before when we would have a number of Old Testament Versions and the Tharaka New Testament in our congregations. The Bible is also a great solace and mostly during this period of COVID-19 Pandemic, ‘reading the Tharaka Bible encourages me that God will protect me from all harm, Psalm 121:1-3.’

We thank God that the Bible came to us at such a time as this. There is an increased readership of God’s word among young people. Bible colleges have also adopted Kîîtharaka as a language to be taught in their institutions. With such progress for the Tharaka language, I see the continuity of the Tharaka Church, benefiting from informed teachers of God’s word through the language they understand best.” #TharakaBibleAtONE

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Mzee Mbaso Rowili writing a Taveta story during the Taveta Orthography Workshop

Developing a language

Why does a community need their writing system developed?

To help them develop literature in and for their language.The developed literature helps them write materials for their social, intellectual, spiritual and economic needs both for personal and community’s gains.

Can a non- speaker of the language develop a language for a community?

Yes. A linguist can do this with the help of a language assistant from the target community. The language assistant helps the linguist in collecting the required linguistics data from the native language. After the collection is completed, the linguist analyses the words to get the actual sounds. If the linguist is not from the community, he/she confirms the collected and analyzed data with the community members and writes down the findings into a basic phonology of the language. This is then presented in a simplified way to a gathering of a cross section of the language speakers in an orthography workshop. This persentation includes issues to do with the language sounds, dialects, the language’s relationship with the neighboring languages and the trade language among others. The agreement from this meeting forms the first stage of orthography development called tentative orthography. In this orthography workshop, the community with the help of a linguist decides how to represent the sounds of their language for their ownership. If the community members confirm that the collected data to be of their language, they are adopted. If they differ in some ways, the linguist and the linguist assistant goes back to the field to refine there data now with the input from the workshop. These are then shared for verification in subsequent meetings. The other two stages are; working and established orthographies. Working orthography is arrived at after a detailed study of the phonology, which includes morphophonemics, segmentation, consonant clusters, tone and stress. It tests the tentative orthography and the reactions of the stakeholders. Established Orthography involves writing a paper documenting the community’s acceptance of the orthography. At this point the orthography is considered “finished.”

What are some of challenges you face as you develop a language into a written form?

The challenges vary for communities. A challenge in community A may be a strength in community B. Sometime back while collecting words sounds for a bantu community, I realized that they had borrowed word sounds from their Cushitic neighbors. I brought up this issue while presenting my findings during their orthography workshop. This turned out to be a big issue, community members being adamant that the ‘borrowed’ sounds existed in their language. This took quite some of our time and days trying to amicably find solutions.

How do you test a written language in a community that has never seen their language written before?

We use the alphabet chart and written stories, which are developed during the orthography workshop. The testing does not end at the orthography workshops. Other materials developed beyond the workshop act as testing tools for the language, for instance Scripture portions.

The alphabet Chart in Pokomo language

What kind of responses do you get from communities when you present them their alphabet with their languages written for the first time?

My first interactions with most communities that I have worked with to develop their languages, are usually inquisitive of my capability to develop such difficult languages as theirs. This narrative changes as soon as I present word sounds during the Orthography workshop. It gets better as we work together in developing their alphabet charts. In the year 2015, while working with the Taveta community, a 90-year-old man wrote an article for their storybook collection using the alphabets we had developed. He could not imagine that his language could be in a written form; him being at the forefront.

What current projects are being worked on?

Sengwer and Kabarasi projects. The two communities are at the tentative stages of orthography development and their alphabet charts are presently being printed to be distributed to the community for testing.

Does development of a language come to end?

Yes and No. This is an on-going process and only comes to an end if the initial need for it has been met. As a linguist, I do further researches in order to write papers on the grammar of the language.

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I long to hold the Chidigo Bible

Translation of the Chidigo Bible has come a long way. Through tough battles, God has held the translation team together this far. 76-year- old Pastor Shedrack Mwalonya, Project Advisory committee member relates to the hurdles well.

Pastor Mwalonya has been involved in Chidigo translation since its inception in the year 1987. He has chaired most of the community reviews of the books of the Bible. His passion for this work has been evident; taking lead in using the Chidigo New Testament to preach to his congregation. His devotion to the project saw him call the Project Officer from time to time to inquire of the progress of the translation and the anticipated time the Bible would be ready for his community. At his age, he says that the greatest gift he can leave to his children is the Chidigo Bible.

He believes that the Word of God is the solution to some of the key challenges facing the Digo people, for instance, Witchcraft, unbelief, poverty among others. Praise God for the far that He has brought the Digo project and the community. May God grant Pastor Shedrack long life to see and hear God speak to him in his language. Praise God for his goodness and what He is about to do among the Digo people.

The Bible is currently being printed and soon it shall be launched and dedicated. Alikpwe Jesu! Psalms 107:9 Mana nkumuusira chiru hiye ariye na chiru (nkumuhenda ariye na chiru atosheke), na kumvunisa manono hiye ariye na ndzala.

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I Keep my Sermons Simple

By Justus Mugambi

Two and half years ago, I was riding my motorcycle going round the region of Chuka inviting Christians to attend the Dedication of the Gospel of Luke in Gichuka. When I arrived at Ikuu Market, I heard a voice of a Pentecostal preacher thundering in the air, through two large speakers. You could tell that was the energy of a new preacher in town due to his command in very well polished English. I immediately rode towards that direction. I found Pastor William Muchai of KAG Church, Ikuu holding the microphone in a Lunch-Hour Fellowship. Peeping through the only window of the rented shop space, I could only see three women in the meeting. He later attended the Dedication Ceremony, and we became close friends; he even joined our Oral Bible Stories (OBS) Ministry.

One day he visited us in the office and he shared his experience as an evangelist and Pastor. “I thought that it was very easy to plant a Church. But after one full year, I managed to get a handful converts.” He narrates to us, while seeping a cup of tea. He felt ashamed to mention the actual number of converts. But I kept on probing, “How many?” Then he whispered “Four.” He explained that every Sunday he would preach to his wife and their firstborn child, who was still a toddler, amidst many vacant plastic chairs. Despite the small number, he would still use his microphone and his large speakers, so that his voice could reach the entire Ikuu Market.

When people saw his persistence, they would go to his church just ‘to taste’ the Gospel. He kept wondering why many people attended the Church only once and never to be seen again. He could only blame the enemy and his demons. After attending the OBS Workshop, he was tasked by the trainers to use the OBS skills in his preaching.

He used the Gichuka Book of Luke in his sermon. After that sermon, several people who listened to his teachings came and told him, “Your sermon was very powerful. Keep using our language.” Some of them accepted Christ. He realized that the reason why people attended his service once, and they never returned was due to language barrier. He had thought that preaching in a foreign language was some ‘swag’ or sophistication. Ever since, he only uses his mother tongue, Gichuka, in his preaching. “I have learnt to keep my sermons simple,” Concluded the Pastor.

The Church has grown tremendously. The members of the Church even bought a piece of land and built their own Church building and relocated from the rented shop in Ikuu market. Every time I pass through their new Church early mornings, before 6.00 a.m, I see the lights on and the believers having their morning devotions. I always thank God for them.

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BTL Tharaka_Bible_Dedication_4

The Bible in Kiitharaka Language

The joy of receiving the Bible in Kiitharaka could not be hidden on the faces of the Tharaka people. The long wait of 30 years was finally over. They had been patient and weathered through orthography issues, harsh weather, limited access to holistic understanding of the scriptures but on 13th June 2019, nothing could keep them back.

Their Bible was finally being dedicated. Their hunger for deeper understanding could now be satisfied. Just as it were to the people in Jerusalem at Pentecost who heard Gods wonders in their languages, so it was to the Tharaka people, they could now read the great wonders of God in Kiitharaka. Reminiscing on the past, Hon. Susan, the MCA, pointed out that the Tharaka people have read other translations that seemed close to them but they could not read it fully. She noted “We could not read all the words because some were shameful to the Tharaka people.” “But,” she continued, “today we are grateful to God that we can read the Bible in our own language.”

BTL Tharaka_Bible_Dedication_5In words that affirmed her sentiments the Deputy President Hon. Dr William Ruto, who was the chief guest, reckoned that were it not for the scriptures that his father read, he could not have gone to school. “When a man reads Gods word in his mother tongue it touches his heart,” he added.


Climaxing the day was the dedication of the Tharaka Scriptures and the presentation of inaugural copies to some members of the community among them being the Governor, Senator, and key church leaders in the area. Both the leaders and the community at large were grateful to BTL and their partners for the resilience and commitment they had shown over the 30 years to see to it that the Tharaka people join the 10% of languages that have the Bible in their tongue globally. Furthermore, we are eternally grateful to God who has made all things possible at the right time. To Him be glory and honor.

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The Giryama Bible.

In Search Of A Giryama Bible

We were winding up Run For The Bibleless 2018 at Uhuru Gardens when I was referred to Agnes Furaha; she was at the Run to pick a copy of The Giryama Bible. “I am a Giryama and a business lady selling second hand clothes at the Gikomba market. My friend informed me that there were Giryama Bibles to be given out at Uhuru Gardens today. I woke up very early to pick my bales of clothes at the market so that I could get here in good time to pick the Giryama Bible. I have been searching for it but I have not succueeded in getting one and the only copy I had got lost.


My children attend a primary school here in Nairobi. I have in the past seen them with the sponsorship forms. I have always helped them raise the money because I see the word ‘Bibleless’ on the forms. I had never taken keen interest though my instinct would tell of a cause to win souls to Christ.”

Explaining to her what we are involved in as a Ministry, Furaha could not wait to purchase Run for the Bibleless t-shirts. “You have opened my eyes today. It is incredible how my community and I are beneficiaries of Bible Translation. From today, I am going to faithfully participate in future Run for the Bibleless events. I have a story to tell to others of the excellent work that BTL does for the small language groups in Kenya,” she concluded.

Within the few minutes I had interacted with Furaha, the stranger in search of the Giryama Bible was now a friend. Soon, God willing Furaha will be reading her copy of the complete Giryama Bible and ooh! whenever I need quality clothes, I give her a call. She will get me the best.

Caption:NCCK Deputy Secretary General, Rev. Dr. Nelson Makanda prays over the dummy of the soon to be completed Giryama Bible during the Run For The Bibleless 2018

by Daisy Kilel

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