Helping the Gospel grow in Madagascar

Helping the Gospel grow in Madagascar

Leoni Bouwer tells how MAF Flies Wycliffe Bible Translators from Mananara in the north of Madagascar to workshops in the capital Antananarivo several times a year.

Translation teams in Madagascar need to come together to discuss translations and receive feedback that will progress their work towards publication. They are currently working on the Gospel of Luke – it is early days for translation work in Madagascar and the Gospel is one of the first texts to be translated.

Already completed is a six-part series called the ‘Wonderful Plan of God’ which follows the so called ‘red thread’, God story of atoning sacrifice through Jesus, that runs throughout the Bible, from Genesis and the patriarchs, the kings of Israel, and the prophets to the time of Jesus (Luke), the first church (Acts) and themes from the New Testament letters to the end times recorded in Revelation.

Many tribes and tongues

‘The Mananara team has been one of the main beneficiaries of MAF flights,’ Leoni, who heads up Wycliffe’s translation work in Madagascar, explains. She currently coordinates the work for ten language projects running workshops to help them progress. ‘The road isn’t very good from their area to Tana and the team needs to come to workshops two or three times a year where they work through their drafts and make progress towards publishing the translation work’.

The Betsimisaraka around Mananara, the people who will benefit from the translation, are spread over a wide area, tracing the coastline from Sambava in the north to Foulepointe further south. They are one of 18 tribes in Madagascar, each having its own dialect. ‘They are a very strategic group among Malagasy people groups,’ and have ‘long been indicating a desire for written material in their mother tongue,’ Leoni explains.

Crystal clear

Translation is carried out by mother tongue translators because they already know the language and have first-hand experience of the culture and the challenges people face. Consultant specialists, like Joanne van der Vlist, are brought in to ensure the translation is clear and carries the meaning of the original text. Workshops and training help to make sure the translators have a good understanding of the main biblical concepts, like sin and salvation, in order that they can find the right words and expressions to translate them. A translation is often changed 20 or 30 times, going back and forth between native speakers and translation specialist until it is finished and ready for print.

‘Please transmit the heartfelt thanks of the Northern Betsimisaraka for the ministry of MAF in their lives.'

A labour of Love

The dedicated team of Mananara translators give their time for free. ‘The Betsimisaraka team from Mananara consists of five members: two teachers, one evangelist, one vanilla worker and a housewife,’ Leoni explains. ‘They represent five Christian denominations. They are all volunteers in this work, and spend a considerable amount of their time working on translations.

‘In October we had a very fruitful training workshop in Tana. Again you (MAF) transported this team. They came earlier to Tana to work with their consultant on checking translations and then continued on through the workshop where we discussed key terminology in the Bible and how those concepts often find expression in the traditional worldview and belief system of the people. It was also interesting to seek understanding of how traditional beliefs can be a hindrance to people coming to Christ.’

MAF impact

The same October flight that brought the team to the capital carried the wife and three-year-old daughter of one translators, to receive medical care in Tana. The three-year-old had a swelling on her stomach and ‘it would have been impossible for her to have received adequate treatment in Mananara’ Leoni explains.

‘Please transmit the heartfelt thanks of the Northern Betsimisaraka for the ministry of MAF in their lives. Across Madagascar as a whole we are still at the mustard seed stage in this Bible translation work,’ Leoni said gratefully. ‘But the momentum is picking up and we hope to celebrate in 2018 the publication of six new Gospels of Luke and three other Gospels in different languages as well as Wonderful Plan of God booklets in eight languages. Thank you for being there with us.’