How drought in East Africa impacts Bible translation

By July 19, 2023

East Africa (MNN) — What consumes the most time in your day? For people living in drought-stricken areas of East Africa, they have to spend several hours each day just hiking to get water. Hopefully, it’s clean.

East Africa is going on four decades of severe drought affecting 40 million people.

Wycliffe Associates works with communities in East Africa on Bible translation projects. But Bart Maley with Wycliffe Associates says the time people spend to get water makes it difficult to do anything else.

“Anyone can imagine that if you’re struggling with water and food for your basic needs, how are you going to accomplish any other tasks? So for our Bible translation teams, in particular, it’s hard to get a group of people and sit down together and use the tools and training to implement church-owned Bible translation and to work on that as a team together when all you’re doing is just taking care of your basic needs.”

(Photo courtesy of Wycliffe Associates)

Wycliffe Associates seeks to meet people’s deepest spiritual need with God’s Word, and often that comes alongside satisfying physical needs. Their community development program, managed by Maley, works with local community leaders in East Africa to determine how to fill the gap for food and water in drought.

Maley says, “Our program managers work with the community leaders to find, in most cases, drilling teams that would be willing to go into some of these remote areas. Then they also work closely hand-in-hand with the government to try to get some government interaction as well.

“Oftentimes, they’re kind of forgotten peoples in regards to their own governments even. But where we can, we’ll work with government officials, and we have actually contracted some government drilling teams to go into remote regions and drill water wells for these communities to provide for their basic needs.”

Once these communities have wells and clean drinking water, they can set up small-scale irrigation — or “drip irrigation” — to make sure every drop of water is used effectively to grow crops.

“We do also have an what we call our emergency 9-1-1 program,” says Maley. “We have provided food resources and other basic needs for people that are in starvation mode that have no other way to provide for themselves.”

(Photo courtesy of Wycliffe Associates)

The final piece to the puzzle is partnership with ministries and organizations to tackle the water crisis. Wycliffe Associates has linked arms with Echo Ministries based in Fort Meyers, Florida for creative agricultural solutions in East Africa.

For example, even when it does rain, the ground is so hard packed from decades of drought that “the water is just going to hit it and run,” Maley says.

This is where Echo Ministries comes in. They help communities in East Africa build dams. More specifically, Maley says, “To have it actually be a sand filled dam, that would catch the water much like a water aquifer under the ground. Then the sand would also inhibit the evaporation of water.”

It’s a multi-faceted issue requiring help from all angles. But Wycliffe Associates sees how providing rescue and aid while empowering communities in East Africa not only improves lives. It also opens Gospel doors.

Maley asks, “Pray for us for wisdom and insights in how to address these needs and how to connect with partner organizations that will help us. Pray for our own partnership and our own organization as we raise funds through our community development and emergency 911 program to help partner with these communities.”

Also, pray that people across East Africa will ultimately know the Living Water of Jesus Christ.

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Header photo courtesy of Mike Erskine/Unsplash.