Transforming Words: Literacy Unlocks Scripture

I almost missed the older woman sitting at the back of the classroom, but then I recognized her as Kisak (KUH’-sock), the wife of one of the staff members. I was at Gandep, a pastor training school. Pioneer Bible Translators has been invited to teach the students there how to read and study Scripture in their mother tongues. Kisak was following along with the students as they read their vernacular Scriptures.

During a free moment in the day, I asked Kisak, who speaks the Kire (KEE’-ray) language, if she wanted to work on a task to help other Kire speakers. Her eyes immediately lit up. I gave her a paper we had developed for teaching the Kire alphabet. I asked her to add examples and correct any words that we had mistyped. Over the next day or so she worked diligently on this task. When she finished, I gave her another, more complicated one.

The Kire people have the New Testament in their language, but it is not yet widely read. To encourage people to dig into God’s Word in their own language, we have developed study guides. I gave Kisak the Kire study guide booklets for Mark and asked her to answer the questions as she had time, then give them back to me at some point in the future so that we could use them to create answer sheets.

Kisak disappeared. I assumed I had overwhelmed her with the task.

On the last day of the course she came back. She handed me all four study guide booklets for Mark—all filled out. With her husband’s permission she had spent three solid days reading Mark and answering all the questions. Her face glowed as she told me what she had been doing. Five years ago she tried to read the Kire New Testament and had dismissed it as too difficult because it was in another dialect. This time, she said it was easy and just glowed about what God had been saying to her through His Word. The glow in her face was a powerful testimony of the impact of God’s Word in her own language.

God’s Word in the Kire language is speaking to the hearts of one person at a time as they overcome the initial difficulties of reading a complex alphabet. Pray that more people can be filled with joy as God speaks to them in their own language.

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