It was the first meeting of its kind. Groundbreaking.
Seven nationally-led Bible translation and literacy organizations met this past week in Bamenda, Cameroon. All are Wycliffe Global Alliance partner organisations from the Global South*. The 21 key leaders represented Cameroon, Kenya, Burkina-Faso, Guinea-Bissau, India, Philippines, and Indonesia. Staff from OneBook Canada and Wycliffe Associates also attended.
Along with 15 staff from CABTAL (Cameroon Association for Bible Translation and Literacy), host for the event, they gathered at a Catholic retreat centre for eight days of sharing, learning, and planning.
Topics were varied and intriguing: assessing Bible translation impacts on communities; Scripture engagement and distribution; translation consultant development; community ownership and involvement; fundraising; how to grow from teaching literacy to multi-language education in a community; and doing Bible translation in communities with very few Christians. And it wasn’t only talk and discussion. Participants mingled with local communities, each one visiting two actual translation projects in Cameroon.
“Change will be radical and fast—with or without our participation,” observed a participant. “If we don’t change, we might just become irrelevant!”
Participants were amazed to discover that some of our Southern partners raise up to 60 per cent of their program funds within their own country (such as Kartidaya, Bible translation and literacy organization in Indonesia). A couple African Bible translation organisations raise 30 to 40 per cent of their own funds. What a challenge for the others!
“When I came I wondered if this would be just another conference,” said the director of BTL (Bible Translation and Literacy in Kenya). “We wanted to listen to God as to which direction the Bible translation movement should go. God has spoken. But it will need courageous direction and leadership. This wasn’t just another conference! I’m going home with some practical ideas about what I can do in my organisation, and also especially in impact assessment.”
Twenty-five years ago some Western partners were concerned that Southern partners might not achieve the same quality work as themselves in Bible translation. Today, however, it is these Southern partners who are leading the charge in best practices, achieving exemplary impacts through Bible translation, community mobilization, and literacy.
–Martin Engeler, OneBook program manager
* The “Global South” refers to the world’s countries with a Human Development Index (HDI) of less than .8, most of which are located in the Southern Hemisphere (as compared to the “Global North,” which refers to the 57 countries with an HDI above .8, with most located in the northern hemisphere).