Zambia translation workshop in photos

April 2, 2011 in Wycliffe, Africa, Bible translation, Language

It has been exciting for me to follow from a distance the progress of the small group of Zambians and South Africans that I spent two weeks with last May. They have a vision to start translating the Bible with various language communities in western Zambia, and after six months putting into practice the language survey principles I gave them training in, they have now held the first workshop with translators from five language groups.

Here are some photos from the recent workshop…

Translators working

Working together

Women sitting outside

Man with glasses

Pen writing

Workshop participants


James and Jess, who are coordinating the project

James and Jess, who are coordinating the project

Workshop participants

Man reading book under tree


Thanks to Marinette for the beautiful photos.

“A Dream Come True” as Zambian Translators are Chosen

February 16, 2011 in Wycliffe, Africa, Bible translation, Language, Mission

In mid-2010 I had the privilege of working alongside a group of Zambians and South Africans in Zambia’s Western Province, giving them guidance in how to survey language communities in preparation for a potential Bible translation project. Since I was there the team have been busy putting what they learnt into practice surveying various language communities in the vast region, and it’s exciting to see how things are progressing!

James and Jess write:

After a survey lasting 6 months, we have chosen the ‘5 Big’ tribes who do not have God’s Word in their language. January has been ‘CRUNCH TIME’ to get the best 6 translators per tribe before 7 international trainers join us in March to develop alphabets for each language.

Our chase started 11 hours drive from Mongu with the ‘Fwe tribe’, 12-14000 people living in a game park (in the corners of 3 countries: Zambia, Namibia and Angola). We arrived to find that the people had been waiting for our visit for months. Meetings over 3 days were attended by more than 70 Fwe elders (Bible readers; Beer drinkers etc). We knew they valued this work but were BLOWN AWAY at their passion levels as they contemplated receiving God’s Word in their first language. James and Clifford (a Zambian colleague) led the elders through a process of selecting 6 translators (not an easy task!). One newly appointed translator remarked, “This is a dream come true”.

James with chiefs and translator

James with the headmaster, clinic officer, Fwe chiefs and a newly appointed translator

We got stuck in a field while trying to dodge some flood water and so the Fwe tribe’s contribution started early. It took them 8 hours to help us get the car to solid ground.

Stuck in the mud

Stuck in the mud

At time of writing, James is with the Kwamashi and Akakwandu tribes in Shangombo (16 hrs from Mongu). Thereafter he visits the Kwangwa tribe in Mongu and Kaoma and then goes by boat to see the Kwamakoma tribe in Kalabo – ‘THE BIG 5’.

Please continue to pray for these five groups, for the translators who are currently being chosen, for people like James and Jess and others who are coordinating the translation work, and that the people of Zambia’s Western Province would hear God speaking their language very soon.

You can find out more about the two weeks I spent with the team back in May and June 2010 here:

Zambia Luke Partnership Report

July 20, 2010 in Wycliffe

The following is a report from James and Jess Lucas in Mongu, Zambia, about the start of the Luke Partnership in Western Province that I had the privilege of visiting last month. The partnership of various churches has the desire to start Bible translation projects amongst the various language groups of the vast province.

Kwangwa speakers during an interview at Katoya

Kwamashi speaking children in church building (Fuo, Shangombo)

Dear Friends,

I once heard a touching and true story about a young man living in Mongu. When he was just a child, the Jesus Film (Silozi version) was shown in his village. He grew up amazed and proud that Jesus was from his tribe and spoke his language. (He discovered only later that Jesus spoke many languages.) Today, he is an accomplished leader.

The common factor in the pictures above is that they are all young people from two of Western Zambia’s several tribes, the Kwangwas and Kwamashis. Sadly, in contrast to the story above, neither of these two tribes have any access to the life-changing hope and power of God’s Word, the Bible in their language. According to a 2004 survey, there are several language groups in the Western Province of Zambia (representing tens or even hundreds of thousands of people) which may still need a Bible Translation. In response to this problem, we have begun an initiative, called “Luke Partnership, Western Zambia”.

Objectives and Aims:

1. To identify languages (among all tribes) needing translation assistance through survey and research

2. Linking tribes, local churches and organizations to work together in local Bible translation projects.

3. To transform lives in Western Province of Zambia in each language and in each generation through God’s Word.

What Progress have we Made?

Survey Workshop Attendees in class. (Back left: Donald Mulimba, Project Coordinator)

Mark Woodward, Survey Trainer (Wycliffe UK) in Mongu

1. A Project Coordinator began (April)  We feel privileged to be joined in this work by such quality people like Donald Mulimba. Donald is an elder at Word Alive Worship Centre in Mongu. He has also worked with the Police as a detective for many years. His investigative skills will certainly help him in his work of researching tribes! His years of experience (professional, ministerial and educational) will also help him to be a great project coordinator.

2. Survey Training Workshop and Outreach in Villages (May)  Another highlight was having Mark Woodward (working with Wycliffe Bible Translators) visit us for 2 weeks all the way from England in the UK. Having worked in Tanzania for 3 years, Mark is experienced in surveying rural tribes and their various Languages.  Workshop attendees came from different churches and denominations in Mongu. We had such fun learning all the how to’s and applying them among the Kwangwa tribe from Lyomboko, Nalikwanda to Kabilimukanwa, Lui. There are still many months ahead of surveying several tribes in Western Province (and getting stuck in the sand!)

3. Permission from the Barotse Royal Establishment, Limilunga (June) Members of the Kwangwa tribe advised us to consult at the palace (especially since Kwangwa is considered a royal language). On June 4th Donald and James (missionary) visited the Ngambela (Prime Minister of Barotseland) and Kuta. They were pleased to give their blessing and permission to this project to survey and assist languages groups in Western Province. They have requested regular updates on the work.

Our Rough Plan:

1. Extensive research will be carried out among several tribes to discover

a) if a translation is really needed or is the Lozi translation adequate?

b) Will this language die or reduce in the next 10 years or is this language growing?

2. Members of various churches in the language area, select members to represent them on a planning committee. This committee doesn’t actually do the translation. They oversee the organization and select translators on behalf of their tribe.

3. These translators travel from their tribes and attend training in Mongu 3 times per year over 3-4 years. (We are grateful to the owners at Mutoya Campsite who have donated use of their campsite, classroom and kitchen facilities for these workshops)

4. At the end of these workshops, we aim to complete:

a) a Bible story series with Scripture portions

b) the GOSPEL OF LUKE (this is where we get the name ‘Luke Partnership’, the name of the project),

c) a JESUS FILM script and

d) a dubbed recording of the Jesus Film in their language

5. If this produces fruit in communities, the committee can choose to start a full scale New Testament project.

Partners in the work – We need you!

The task of completing a translation of the Bible into any language is something that no person can do alone! It is a task that belongs to the whole church in the language area and there must be a team of people sharing in the work. The work is therefore interdenominational.

Please join us! We invite you and your church …  … to formally become partners with us in this work… to visit us or request a visit where we can tell you more. (We are currently on the waiting list for office space at the NPF buildings)…. to select one or more of your members to represent your church on our organizing committee.

We look forward to hearing from you!

James Lucas. (+260) 979 496 059, Missionary, “Luke Partnership, Western Zambia”

Zambia: Language Survey Workshop

June 2, 2010 in Prayer, Wycliffe


Arrived in Livingstone, Zambia, via Frankfurt and Johannesburg, after running around Johannesburg airport for a while trying to find my bag and then finding that it was already on the plane. Met James and Jess who I’ll be staying with are who are coordinating the start of a translation project for some of the language groups in Western Province. They took me to visit Victoria Falls which was incredible, although it was pretty hard to see very much because of all the spray. Got very wet, but managed to get a few photos. I think I saw more water in 20 minutes than I’d seen in 3 years in Tanzania…

Victoria Falls

The incredible Victoria Falls

Me at Victoria Falls

Me with the falls somewhere behind the mist…

Looking downstream – the bridge from Zambia to Zimbabwe

After a bite to eat we set off on the 14-hour dirt-road trip, eventually arriving at 5am after finally reaching the end of the never-ending road.


Slept in until 11:30am, and then felt very lazy as everyone else was already half-way through their day. In the afternoon I was able to meet the workshop participants – 5 Zambian guys in addition to James and Jess – and do an introductory session about why it’s important to survey language communities before you start any Bible translation project, and what can go wrong if you don’t! They seem like a great group of people, and I’m really looking forward to spending the next two weeks working with them.

Chinga, Clifford and James deep in thought


A full day of thinking through how we should approach any language research. By the end of the day we had discussed some of the potential issues that we should research, and come up with some questions on which to focus the research that we’ll be doing next week amongst the Kwangwa people. In the evening James and I went to the funeral of a nearby community leader who had passed away, to share in the grief of his elderly widow and the rest of the community.


Today we focused mainly on dialect issues – how do we know if people speaking two dialects can use the same Bible translation? And which dialect should materials be produced in so that as wide an audience as possible can understand and accept them? Then in the afternoon we looked at the issue of language vitality – whether a language will continue to be spoken, before thinking through some cultural and practical things for our trip to the Kwangwa next week.

I keep waking up every morning and thinking “what a beautiful day!”, and then remembering that that’s just what happens in dry season in Africa! I also keep remarking what a beautiful sunset it is every evening – probably because in England it’s such a rare occurrence if the sun ever happens to be shining as it sets.

James and Jess thinking through some of the issues


We met together for final preparations for the trip to the Kwangwa people next week, deciding on exactly what questions we’ll ask people and other methods we’ll use to investigate how they would best engage with the Scriptures in their own language. I’m looking forward to the trip – despite the fact that we’ve only had 3 and a half days together discussing the principles of language research, I think the guys have a good grasp on things. Hopefully they’ll really be able to see things coming together as they put the theory into practice next week.

Clifford and Progress designing village interview schedules


A restful day, doing not too much and answering a few emails. Feels like quite a few weeks since I’ve had a proper rest day that hasn’t involved visa applications or other things!

The beautiful view over the Zambezi flood plain


Went to the English-speaking church in town, which was different to any other church I’ve been to in Africa! The church is trying to reach out to the more educated members of the community, in the hope that they will become leaders in the church and have a vision to reach out to others in Western Province. In the afternoon we finish preparing for the village trip tomorrow, printing out interview schedules and blank word-lists ready for the 7am departure…!

Language Assessment in Zambia

May 20, 2010 in Prayer, Wycliffe

On Sunday 23rd May I’ll be heading to Zambia for a couple of weeks, to work alongside an organisation called Worldwide Mission, as they seek to reach out to communities in Western Zambia that don’t yet have access to the Bible in their languages.

As ever, the first stage in any translation project is for the various partners to assess in what language and form communities are most likely to engage with the Bible, and to think through how and where projects should be started. I’ll be spending a week with the team of Zambian and South African missionaries in the town of Mongu, helping them to think through how to help the communities decide on the best way forward for any language project.

We’ll be discussing things like:

  • Planning the research trip, to make sure that we’re asking the right questions
  • What languages people use in their daily lives, and which of these they would be most likely to engage with Scripture in
  • Which communities would benefit from Bible translation projects into their previously unwritten languages
  • Which communities could use the same written materials, and which require separate translations
  • Within a language area, which dialect is best to use for the Bible and other materials
  • Who potential partners are in a language project
  • What the language situation is likely to be like in the coming generations

During the second week I’ll be accompanying the team on a trip to some of these communities as we begin to research some of these questions. The aim is that by the end of the time they will feel confident to continue the research in the rest of western Zambia – a large area about the size of England – working alongside many ethnic groups.

Please pray for the time – that it would be profitable for all involved. I haven’t had much time to prepare the workshop as I’m still working in recruitment for Wycliffe UK at the moment, but my hope is that together we can work through the basic principles of the research and that the team will understand the situation sufficiently to be able to continue on their own over the next few months.

I’d appreciate prayer for safe travel too – both internationally and within Zambia – and for safe non-volcano-interrupted flights each way! Laura will be on here own at home for the first time while I’m away, but has several friends around to make sure she survives!

If you’d like to follow my trip, I’m hoping to be able to continue sending updates on twitter whilst in Zambia, which you can find here.

An estimate of the languages spoken in Zambia from