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Translation Matters | Wars and Rumours of War | February - March 2024


According to the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Conflict Tracker, 32 ongoing conflicts are happening worldwide. Every news outlet shares graphic coverage of these conflicts until it numbs our senses, or we prefer to block it out. But the 114 million displaced people, including many women and children who end up in human trafficking, can’t escape their reality.

When I was new at Wycliffe, I attended a conference of leaders of African Bible translation agencies in Ethiopia. The focus was on the effect of Covid-19 on the work of Bible translation. Despite the obvious issues, it was inspiring to hear the way people responded in faith and humility to continue undeterred. Driven by the thought that unreached and unsaved people need the Good News, the work continued and, in many cases, even increased.

When the war in Ukraine broke out, the challenge for Bible translation agencies in the countries nearby was how to get involved. Ruben Dubei, Europe Area Director of the Wycliffe Global Alliance said about displaced Ukrainians, “I believe one of the reasons God brought them here [Romania] is...first to help them materially and physically with all they need, but to also serve them spiritually.” Read how Wycliffe agencies responded.

The latest major challenge is the war in Gaza. This has seemed to galvanise the Palestinian cause worldwide and South Africa has led the way by taking Israel to the International Court of Justice on charges of “genocidal acts”. Recently I was on a train from Birmingham to Oxford and sat across from a young Muslim girl who read intently a book on the history of war in Gaza. I was reading a book called “God’s Needle” about a WEC missionary, Lily Gaynor, who served in Guinea-Bissau. Besides her medical work, she joined the Wycliffe translators to produce a Bible in the Papel language.

Amid conflict and war, the work of Bible translation continues. We are not called to take sides, except, like Joshua, to be on the Lord’s side. We are, like the prophets, called to speak truth to power and to pray for governments, especially when they over-step their God-given authority. I am deeply concerned about the government of South Africa’s standpoints and political affiliations, which is why Isaiah 62:1 seems such an apt verse:

“For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem's sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.”

In these days, it is imperative that we pray – pray for the Prince of Peace to be revealed to Israelis and Palestinians; pray that in this time of war, it will also be the day of salvation.

Read further the stories of courage under fire. As we pray for God’s kingdom to come to our war-torn world, may we keep on doing the work of translating the Bible for all nations.

Alan Webster

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Bible translation work nearly came to a halt in some parts of Cameroon, owing to a socio-political crisis that has killed about 6,000 people since 2017. But, even while fleeing for their lives, translators continued to draft Scriptures in their languages.

One of the projects that came face-to-face with the crisis was Ngwo, a language spoken in northwest Cameroon.

Siphra Nde

“Because we didn’t finish our task one day in 2017, we decided to take our computers home,” remembers Siphra Nde. That turned out to be the reason their computers were spared. “As we left, the whole market square, including the project office, was put on fire.” 

“That was the last day we used the office,” she says. 

While others fled into the wild for safety, it was even harder for 54-year-old Nde who lived with children and her ageing parents.  

The next day, they trekked through the bush to a location close to the regional capital, Bamenda. “We cried out to CABTAL and they sent a car that transported us to safety in Bamenda,” Nde says. 

“We trekked for over 10 hours. We arrived in Bamenda with all the shock to face yet another challenge – no place to sleep.” 

Her cousin hosted her for two weeks before she eventually rented a small room where she, the kids and her aging parents lived for several years.  

Work Amid Gunfire

Protus Effange

At gunpoint, others like Protus Effange had to prove that they were only Bible translators and not spies. “Are you sure that you are doing God’s work?” the gunmen asked the Bakwere translator.

“Our office neighbourhood around Muea became a battlefield for separatists and soldiers,” Effange says. Literacy and Scripture engagement activities came to a near end. 

“I can remember a time we had a certain workshop,” Effange says. “We had gathered and prayed and we were about to start and we heard thunderous gunshots that dispersed us.” 

Fruits that Bring Hope

Like the Ngwo and Bakwere teams, the Mankon, Ngie, Moghamo, Essimbi, Mmen, Esu and Weh languages had their own unique experiences. But their great hope is in the recently completed New Testament in these languages, which has been typeset and sent for printing. The communities are now raising funds and mobilising for dedication. 

The Bakwere team looks forward to great impact. One of the translators remembers how they visited an elderly custodian of their language.

“He was also sick but we wanted him to listen and confirm the naturalness of a portion of Scripture we had translated,” Protus Effange says. The custodian invited all of his children and grandchildren to the session. 

Story and photos by Isaac Genna Forchie, CABTAL

Read the full article on the Wycliffe Global Alliance website here. Abridged version shared with permission.

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Salvation, a price worth pursuing.

“Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; ‘for YAH, the Lord is my strength and my song, And He has become my salvation.’” Isaiah 12:2 NKJV

יְשׁוּעָתִי אֶבְטַח, וְלֹא אֶפְחָד:  כִּי-עָזִּי וְזִמְרָת יָהּ יְהוָה, וַיְהִי-לִי לִישׁוּעָה.
יְשַׁעְיָהוּ 12 ב


Life in Jerusalem is never without challenges. When the pandemic circled the globe, Whole Word Institute continued online with both synchronous and asynchronous training. The academic year, which started in September 2023, expanded in both staff and students’ numbers in the certificate and Master programs to meet the need for full Bible translations. Not long after the start, war broke out and the students and staff had to be moved to Sounion, Greece. There they could continue studying to translate into languages that never had the whole Word, either written, spoken, or signed. As things calmed down, they moved back to Jerusalem.

These students remind us of the following Scripture, as they focus on their calling, studying biblical Hebrew and Bible translation with a song in their hearts:

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who publishes peace,
Who brings good news of happiness,
Who publishes salvation…
…Together they sing for joy…”

Isaiah 52:7-8

They are committed to seeing God’s whole Word made accessible to their own people.

The lyric of the composed song, based on Psalm 3, clearly sounds amidst the sirens of war, that salvation is found in no one else, but the Lord God:

“My glory and the lifter of my head,
For You, O Lord, are a shield for me…
So, when ten thousand fight me,
I need not fear nor flee…
For salvation comes from You alone
Your blessing is upon Your people forever.”

Many of them, once they finish their studies, will return to locations with a variety of challenges, including war.

These current challenges presented the opportunity to expand training programs into various regions of the world. Currently, six regions are planned with various Bible translation partners, especially church-based partners.

No one can predict the outcome, nor what the future holds. King David left us with this beautiful Psalm 3, to remind us of where our allegiance should be, trusting Him for new opportunities to continue the work of Bible translation.

Amidst the current darkness, His Salvation shines through!

Gerhard Marx 

Gerhard Marx is the Director for Oral Scriptures of the Whole Word Institute and a member of the Wycliffe South Africa Board of Directors.

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“Yes, you yourselves planned evil against me.
God planned it for good, in order to bring about what it is this day
—to preserve the lives of many people.”
(Genesis 50:20)

Pastor Noor* was born in Egypt into a nominal Coptic Christian family. His father fought in the war with Israel in 1967-1973 and he grew up hating Israel. Most people he knew, whether Muslim or Christian, thought the same. When he accepted Jesus as Saviour and Lord, he found that God did a work in his heart to remove that hatred.

Today Pastor Noor runs a ministry that provides discipleship and teaching to the underground Church of Muslim Background Believers or MBBs. When the invasion happened on 7 October 2023, generally Egyptians were happy. Even though Egypt is against Hamas, when it comes to Israel, they would rather support a “cousin” against a common adversary.

What has been happening since has got the Church talking. The responses from leaders of the Egyptian Church have expressed views across the spectrum. Many of the underground churches asked Pastor Noor to help them in their confusion, so he has been teaching on biblical eschatology, the history of land in the Bible, as well as Israel in the end times. This war has caused a rising interest in finding out the truth contained in the Bible.

The focus for Pastor Noor is to identify the real enemy. It is not the other person or nation because “our fight is not against flesh and blood” (Ephesians 6:12), but rather the one whom Jesus calls “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). He encourages people to be against murder and evil wherever it occurs and for believers to pray that all people will find peace in the Prince of Peace.

It is hard to undo ideas about others when someone has been indoctrinated from childhood. Paul encourages us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Only by studying the Word and prayer can these deeply rooted sentiments be changed. When you have been raised that to love your God means you have to hate people of a different belief, only the transforming power of the Holy Spirit can cause someone to love their enemies and pray for their persecutors!

Despite the pressure of ministry, Pastor Noor is kept busy as the harvest of Muslims coming to faith in Jesus is increasing. He needs our prayers. Pray that he would be removed from being blacklisted and pray for financial resources to support his ministry amongst the MBBs. Pray that what was intended for evil and death will result in preserving the lives of many people for eternity.

*Name changed as he has been blacklisted and not allowed to leave the country.



When Covid-19 lockdowns were called, the whole world went into crisis mode. Measures were put in place for personal, household and city health and safety. Everyone knew about mask mandates and social distancing, and were sure to comply with the standards and protocols of behaviour when out in public. 

Missionaries and Bible translators are sometimes called to live and/or work in areas of risk. There are certain conditions where people must evacuate a country, such as in a military coup. It is important to be aware of the correct procedures to follow in cases where people are under threat.

Workers who serve in WEC (Worldwide Evangelization for Christ) adhere to the principles laid out in the “Core of WEC” document. All WEC personnel sign the following Risk and Security Declaration:

  1. I fully recognise that the nature and location of my work may result in abduction, unlawful arrest, accusation, imprisonment, personal injury or death. 
  2. I voluntarily choose to accept the risks involved in my work and hereby release any and all associated with me in my work from any and all legal or insurance claims which I or anyone of my family or friends could make in connection with such events. 
  3. If abducted or imprisoned, I understand that any and all associated with me will do all in their power both directly and indirectly through my government or other channels to obtain my release, but that they will not agree to ransom demands or engage in political bargaining.  

Bible translation agencies belonging to the Wycliffe Global Alliance have a designated person listed on the Organizational Crisis Management Contact List to contact in times of crisis. Countries assess the levels of risk and set guidelines for what to do when an incident occurs.

For example, In the SIL Contingency Plans for workers in Central African Republic, the following are some actions suggested in the case of kidnapping: 

  • Stay calm and quiet unless you can reasonably expect immediate help as a result of shouting
  • Do not try to escape – unless you are certain you are going to be killed 
  • Be careful about eye contact especially during tense moments: eyes can show fear, anger or contempt which can trigger violence. 
  • If you are in a group, try not to be separated from the group
  • If there is a rescue attempt by force, drop to the floor, seek cover and keep your hands over your head
  • Try to gain the kidnappers’ respect and build rapport with them
  • Avoid talking about controversial topics; an excellent topic is family and children

Closer to home, translators involved in the CD Cluster of languages in northern Mozambique travel away from their homes to gather for Bible translation. It is too risky to do this where ISIS is operating. Most of the team are Muslims who risk their safety in order to make the Word of God available in their heart languages.

At the end of 2023, a friend of Wycliffe South Africa, Gerhard Cloete, was kidnapped at his home and held captive for 24 hours while the criminals obtained his banking details. His accounts were emptied, and his vehicle stolen before they eventually released him. At times beaten for information, and at times threatened with death, he could literally sense the effectiveness of people praying for his safety.

No believer is immune from trouble. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) The best we can do is pray. Let us pray for those who face threats and persecution as a norm in their lives. In case of emergency, let us pray.

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Run for the Bibleless 2024 - Be Part of the Movement!

R4TBThe day of our annual Run for the Bibleless is getting closer, and we would love for you to be part of it! You can register to run and find out more at You can also volunteer on the day, sponsor a runner, or make a donation via the links on this webpage. If you would like to run but aren’t nearby you can register to run from wherever you are and receive a branded t-shirt.


Executive Director in England…

Director in England

Who has an ice bath in the middle of Winter? Our Executive Director, Alan Webster, spent two weeks in the UK visiting his sister near Cambridge, Nick & Lynne Swanepoel in Birmingham, SA friends in Oxford, Jo & Paul Murrell from Wycliffe UK&I, also in Oxford, before heading to Southampton for some planning meetings.

The main reason was to join the organising team of the Wycliffe Global Alliance for four days of planning for the Global Gathering that will be held in South Africa from 31 October – 4 November 2024.

Three hundred and fifty delegates from all over the world will gather together in Boksburg for the first time in eight years to celebrate the work of God in and through the various member Organisations.

Alan ran two parkruns in near-freezing temperatures and after the run at the Oxford University Parks, had a three-minute ice bath in 5°C water. It was exhilarating.

He also arranged to spend an evening with Nick and Lynne Swanepoel who retired in May 2023 from their work amongst the Rendile in Kenya. What a joy to meet and get to know this beautiful couple who are steadfast and sure in their faith in Jesus.

Southampton was the coldest place he visited and there was even a little snow, just to make it special. We are excited about the prospects of so many people coming to our country at the end of the year. We are also grateful for building and strengthening relationships in the UK.

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