In 1971, an Anglican minister from the UK planted a seed in the heart of a student in Uganda that grew into the dream of translating God's Word into his own language. When Anthony Foster was teaching at a secondary school he asked a student, called Sam, if he would like to translate the Scriptures for the Gwere people. Sam, then just 17, had no idea what translation entailed, but he said yes. That seed grew into a dream that has survived closed doors, imprisonment, death, war, and tyranny. It is a dream that has not yet become a reality, but is very much alive.
A Translator Transformed
Sam first tackled the Gospel of Mark and then The Way of Salvation, a small booklet published by Scripture Gift Mission (SGM). He soon realised that the message he was translating had the power to save him and at once he placed his trust in Jesus and was 'born again'. God translated Sam through his Word before Sam finished translating it! So he realised even more clearly how important it was to translate the Scriptures so that other Gwere people could have the same experience.
Amin's Reign of Terror
When Idi Amin became President in 1971, he released hundreds of prisoners, including Dan. Shortly afterwards, Sam and Dan struck up a friendship based on their common goal of translating the Scriptures. In 1972, however, President Amin's reign of terror began and soon expatriate Christians had to leave, including Anthony Foster. The two translators were unable to keep in touch with him for fear of being labelled 'Imperialist Collaborators'. So they approached SGM in London directly, but were informed that SGM could no longer afford to publish in foreign languages. Another dead end.
After completing their draft of Mark's Gospel the translators took it to Uganda Bible Society, only to learn that they had just decided only to publish translations by their own staff. Yet another dead end. Someone suggested they contact United Bible Societies in Nairobi, Kenya. So in 1983 Sam took their draft translation to Nairobi but was refused a meeting because they only deal with organisations, not individuals without credentials. This dead end was a great discouragement to both of them, but they refused to give up.
Next Sam translated The Heart of Man, an allegory of life before and after believing in Jesus, which was printed in Kampala in 1990. This small victory kept Sam's dream alive.
An Open Door
Then a friend told him about an organisation that was interested in translation in minority languages—Wycliffe Bible Translators. The dream was becoming brighter! This led to the opportunity to help with a survey of six language communities, including the Bagwere, which confirmed that the Bagwere people definitely need their own translation.
Then Sam attended a training course and was so encouraged that he started visiting church leaders in Kampala to convince them that Uganda needed its own Bible translation organisation. While many warmed to the idea, there were no tangible results. And to make matters worse, with his new understanding of Bible translation Sam reviewed his previous work and discovered it was unacceptable. It was far too literal to be understood. Once again Sam was at a dead end. As the years passed, Sam found himself in the same situation again and again—a dream with no prospect of becoming a reality.
Then in 1999 a Wycliffe family arrived to work with the Bagwere translators. Joy began filling Sam’s heart. In 2001, Sam began an MA course in Translation Studies at Nairobi Evangelical School of Theology (NEGST). After two gruelling years, he graduated— just after the Wycliffe family unexpectedly chose not to return to Uganda after their first furlough. Once again, the work rested on Sam's shoulders.
The Work Begins Again
Sam became the translation project leader and was joined by Richard N, who graduated from NEGST in 2004. The two of them, trained to carry out high quality Bible translation, began translating fulltime in January 2005.
that there will be no more dead ends
that God will provide the resources
that at last Sam's dream will become a reality-Bagwere people coming to know God through his word in the language that speaks to their hearts
Doug W - Adapted from Wycliffe UK's Words For Life Magazine 2004 Issue 3