Millions in Tanzania Gain Access to Scripture in Heart Language

Some two million people in Tanzania have access for the first time to the story of Christ's birth in their heart language.

Wycliffe Bible Translators completed translations of the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke for nine language groups in the Mara region, located in northwest Tanzania.

"This is about transforming communities. My people will for the first time read God's word in their own language and I'm praying that their lives will be touched by the story of Christ's birth," Pastor Albinus Waynse, who is part of the Wycliffe team of 18 Tanzanians translating Scripture, told CBN News.

The translations, which were published this month, are part of Wycliffe's cluster initiatives in which linguists and national translators work together to translate Scripture into multiple languages at the same time.

English and Swahili are Tanzania's official languages but 124 other minority languages are spoken throughout the country.

There is no written tradition among the people living in the Mara region – the most densely populated area of Tanzania – where the nine languages they speak are similar. The Wycliffe team thus had to develop an alphabet before translating Scripture. New Testament translation began in 2008 with the book of Luke, after linguistic work was completed.

Rough draft translations were presented to local villages to test whether the work was readable and understandable, according to CBN. Wycliffe staff then checked the quality of the translation and for Scriptural accuracy and ensured that the translation was culturally acceptable.

More than 20 denominations united to support the work.

"The power of God's word has even brought together many leaders of local ministries, who have chosen to set aside doctrinal differences and focus on Scripture translation," said Bob Creson, president of Wycliffe Bible Translators USA, in a statement.

There are more than 6,900 language groups in the world today. Of these, more than 2,200 languages, with approximately 350 million speakers, do not have a Bible translation program begun, according to Wycliffe.

Wycliffe is pressing ahead with its Last Languages Campaign to provide literacy, life-saving health information, and the Bible to all the world's small language groups in need of language development by 2025. Over the next 16 years, Wycliffe looks to reach the remaining one-third of the world's language groups (some 200 million people).

The Mara region team hopes to complete translation of the New Testament within the next decade.