In July I traveled to Northern Botswana on behalf of The Seed Company to photograph the San people and document stories about Oral Bible Translation. The San people are a group that has been pushed out of many parts of Namibia and are struggling for identity. They are known for their unique click speaking language.
I googled “San People” right before I left for Botswana to learn about who I was going to meet there, because I honestly had never heard of the San, but I knew Botswana was known for its Okavango Delta, elephants, vast landscapes and safari. I arrived just as The Seed Company translation workshop was beginning in a small village on the border of Namibia. About 20-30 men and women gathered around in a circle and began reading Genesis together. They would read, talk about it together, listen to an audio recording of it, analyze it again, talk about it more and work hard at memorizing it. They were all so excited about the Bible stories they were learning.
It can sometimes take thirty years to translate the Bible into a written text in many places in the world. Oral Bible Translation makes a way for people to have the Scriptures now. I was blown away by how quickly everyone was able to memorize what they were hearing. Right now only a few books of the Bible have been translated into their local Khwedam language, and those are recorded to an audio device that many have and listen to daily. People like Mukoya John, who is blind, is able to hear the Word that way. The San love sitting in a circle around a campfire and sharing stories, so this method of Oral Bible Translation fits with their culture.
My new friend Eben, who is living and working among the San, shared about the art of oral storytelling. “If you really want to hear a story, you’re not going to say, ‘Oh, let’s go listen to a tape machine'” said Eben. “Instead, people say, ‘Please tell me that story,’ or ‘That reminds me of something else I heard.’ It communicates so much better if someone tells you a story in person.”
Oral Bible Translation is so important. God’s word is alive and begins to transform hearts and minds, sometimes with just one Scripture. I saw this with the San People. God is making a way for the San to learn about who He is and find their identity in Him.
What a gift it was to capture the lives of these new friends: Mukoya John, Matias, Julia, Keakantse, Anita, Anna, James and so many more! Hear from them in their own words how Scripture is transforming their lives!
“My heart is sore without a Khwe translation of the Bible.”
“My heart is earnestly looking for life from above. I want to give my whole life to God. I want nothing else but to know more about God in the Bible.” <– click to tweet
“I cannot read and write, but I hear the stories and put them in my heart.”
“If God can give me the power to learn the Bible, then I desire to learn. It is good to have the Bible in our own language – it is good to hear it clearly in our native language. <– click to tweet
The story recordings are so helpful, they are very much important. I help to prepare the corrections with the translations, so I listen to the recordings all of the time. The Bible translation should not stop, it needs to continue until we have a full Bible in Khwe.”
“I was just interested in the Bibles stories because it seems I have suffered in my life. I thought maybe if I joined the Bible study, then my life would get better. I always pray for God to help me because He is the Creator and the shepherd who looks after us. I had epilepsy and in 2010, had a seizure and was burned by a fire after falling in.”
“If I believe that He can help me, then I can be helped because He is a living God.” <– click to tweet
“All those things that happened in the Bible, when you read about them and what Jesus did, it makes you want to follow Jesus.”
“I want to know more about God’s word so that I can share information about God with those around me.” (Here Anita is sharing the story of Creation out of Genesis with her neighbors.)
“Now I have changed and I know God. He has shown me His way. Without knowing the Bible, I was in the wide road. I am now back to the narrow road which is bringing me to Him and showing me life.”
“I share the word of God in order for the community to change their beliefs. We believe in many things that are ungodly things, especially when sacrifices are done. I want these to completely change. God is the creator of the heavens and we should only worship Him.”
Sign up for a free copy of Co:MISSION!
The Seed Company just launched a new print periodical called Co:Mission and the first volume features the San people and my photography. You can subscribe for free (just go here) and get it in the mail. In the center of Co:Mission is this big pull-out poster of a little boy named China, one of my favorite photos from our trip.
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