Category Archives: Africa

Burkina Faso: Puzzling Over the Meaning of the Word ‘ki’

by Paul Thiessen

BURKINA FASO–The Siamou language was not a written language when we started learning it 30 years ago. Along with the task of Bible translation came the job of linguistic analysis. We had to study the consonants and vowels in order to develop an alphabet.

The tone was even more complex. If the Siamou people were going to benefit from the written Word of God, they would have to learn to read their language. In order to read fluently, with good comprehension, the writing system would need to be well done.

We learned at first that there were three basic tone levels: high, mid and low. Then we noticed that there were also falling and rising tones. Eventually we discovered that there were two kinds of high tone, two kinds of falling tone, and three kinds of mid tone.

But there was one elusive word that kept slipping out of our grasp, in defiance, refusing to be caught. It was the word “ki.” This tricky little critter sometimes showed up as high tone, sometimes as mid tone, and other times as a falling tone. Not only that, sometimes it caused the tones that followed it to change.

The result was the beginning of a treasure hunt. I began wondering whether identifying the underlying tone of the word “ki” would help people to be able to read the Siamou language more fluently. I became convinced that it would.

We had already discovered that a falling tone word causes a following high tone to be lowered, but a high tone does not cause a following high tone to be lowered. For analysis purposes, we mark very high tone as a number one (1) and a lowered high tone as two (2). Sometimes “ki” causes a following high tone to fall from very high tone (1) to a high tone (2). Sometimes it doesn’t.

Solo and I were correcting our Luke translation, working at a distance using Skype. We were looking at Luke 13, reading the parable of the vineyard. In verse 8 the man, referring to the fig tree, says, “Sir, leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it.” The word for fertilizer, núkwá, has high tone on both syllables. In this verse, the word ki comes just before núkwá.

All three syllables are very high, so I marked those as 1-1-1. But when I asked Solo for the meaning of the sentence with the high tones of núkwá lowered to level 2, he said that would make it into an event that had already happened instead of a plan for the future. But our tone marking system doesn’t differentiate between those two meanings.

And so, tone analysis continues alongside Bible translation. Our goal is to help Siamou people to read the Word of God, to understand it and to listen to the Holy Spirit revealing the meaning of the text. Having a good orthography with the correct consonants, vowels, and accurate tone marks helps reading comprehension and helps people to hear what God is saying to them.

The treasure hunt continues.

Paul and Lois Thiessen (Blumenort) live within the village of Tin and serve in literacy and Bible translation.


Conflict affects all projects, but hope remains

by Gordon and Sharon Skopnik

SOUTH SUDAN–The overall situation in South Sudan has worsened through the years, with conflict heightening between the government and rebel groups over oil, resources, and power. This began in 2013 and then continued to escalate so that by 2016 there is war between tribes, leading to a failed state.

The conflict has also had a negative effect on the economy causing severe inflation. This has caused the South Sudanese people much difficulty in obtaining the necessary resources to meet basic needs. Food shortage has been an issue, in part due to the dry season (January to April), but also because of conflict.

When people are fleeing for their lives, they leave their crops behind unharvested. Militia attacks in Maridi, Mundri, and Yei have put a strain on the projects that Serving South Sudan has in those towns.

In Yei many children lost their academic materials through the attacks and have yet to return to school or even to their home villages. The economic and military instability has had a drastic effect on all of Serving South Sudan’s projects.

Miraculously, all of the projects continue to operate and all of the program and project leaders are surviving either locally or in refugee camps in neighbouring countries. As we have watched our friends, co-workers and ministry partners flee to safer havens, mostly refugee camps in Northern Uganda, God has been leading these dear saints to safety. Up to this point none have lost their lives, a miracle in a time of civil war and unrest.

So now they are in refugee camps—now what? A team working in a Northern Uganda Refugee Camps in December 2016 reported some good news is that one of the communities through church leadership resolved and buried their tribal, denominational, and political differences and agreed to leave as one people of South Sudan.

Through the ministry of an Avant Team, as an associate to the EMC, we were able to see 110 people of different tribes give over their lives to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

We know there are many who are praying for this country, and we continue to ask for prayer so that the prince of peace might rule. So is there a better future for the children of South Sudan? Yes!

You have an exciting opportunity to help through prayer and partnership—with the Prince of Peace—into these refugee camps scattered across east Africa. The nation’s leaders recognize that the future of the country lies in the character of its young people and in the hands of the church.

And that’s why we continue to educate people in church planting so that when these people go back to South Sudan, they go back with the Spirit of the Prince of Peace, promoting the spirit of peace and reconciliation, and bringing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to which ever tribe they come from. Together we will see God answer prayer.

Gordon and Sharon Skopnik (Wymark) serve in South Sudan with Avant.

Tamera Peters: Congo, Taking Those Hurdles Straight On

by Tamera Peters

CONGO—I have never liked hurdles.

In the eighth grade I used to run track. Once during a hurdle race I had a bad fall that tore up one side of my face and knocked out two of my front teeth. I still have some scars from it. Not a good memory!

A hurdle race is tricky to run. I watched a couple of races during the Olympics, and cringed every time someone jumped, hoping no one would fall. You either confidently jump over them, or you hesitate and most likely will trip and fall. I usually just rather avoid them.

Coming to Congo this time has felt like a hurdle run. Hurdles are pretty much a norm for Africa. Some of them these past days were very concrete, like having no electricity last night or Internet when I wanted to connect with my family. To take my African colleague’s wife to the hospital to get a malaria treatment, it meant driving down the streets of Kinshasa dodging potholes, broken down cars, and piles of trash on the road.

Other hurdles are more mental and emotional. Mine these days were finding out that two of my colleagues were refused entry into Congo, and that I am now here alone and responsible for doing the teacher training. My initial reaction was to call Phil, cry a little, and tell him I want to come home.

That is what I felt like doing! But a strange thing is happening tonight and I can only explain it as “Christ living in me.” All of a sudden I have peace. Yes, the one that “passes all understanding” that we read about in the Bible (Phil. 4:7).

I read dozens of emails, What’sApp and Facebook messages that came in from friends encouraging me and praying for me. Tonight I don’t feel alone.

So I’ve decided and I am going to take those hurdles straight on with confidence and courage because “He that is in me is greater than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

While sitting in the Addis Ababa airport on my way to Congo, I read these verses. They came just at the right time. Maybe some of you are running a kind of hurdle race right now. Go for it!

“The Lord you God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing (Zeph. 3:17).

I wrote this over a month ago (it’s now October). It was an incredible week of experiencing not only the Lord’s strength in my weakness, but him using exactly what I was afraid of for good.

Because of being alone I was able to spend intensive time training not only the teachers of the FATEB Kinshasa Academy, but also spend time with teachers from war torn Central Africa Republic. They too hope to start a school with the help of TeachBeyond.

Not being able to depend on my human resources made me dependent on the Lord’s guidance and leading to equip these teachers who will mostly work with traumatized children.

So yes, jumping hurdles is scary, often difficult, and I still wouldn’t choose to do it; but when you have the Lord with you, He equips us with “Wings like Eagles” and that makes hurdle jumping amazing!

Tamera and Phil Peters (Steinbach EMC) live in Germany and serve with Teach Beyond.

Microloans: beneficial to me and my family

By Fabe Traore

Burkina Faso—Souleymane Traore was in great difficulty. He had a wife and three daughters to support, but he was seriously ill, and he was living in the capital city of Ouagadougou, the most expensive place in Burkina Faso.

He decided to return to his home village, Samogohiri, where most of his larger family resides and where he thought his immediate family would be taken care of while he continued to fight his illness.  When they arrived, they joined the local Mennonite church.

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