Mission Spotlight: Emese & Riaan Bible Translation in Africa

EmeseRiaanFerreira2Emese and Riaan receive support from The Crossing for their work in Bible translation in Africa.

I first met Emese when her room was next to mine on the campus of AIU just outside Nairobi, Kenya. I was exploring orphans’ health and education ministries. She was studying for her Masters of Arts in Biblical Translation (MABT.)

By the time I met her Emese had already lived and worked with ministry teams in difficult places for a number of years. Upon graduation, Wycliffe posted her to live and work with a translation team in Jos, Nigeria where violence, lack of infrastructure, and political turmoil were constant struggles.

A few years ago she married Riaan who was also no stranger to living and ministering in difficult parts of Africa. His skills are in Tech and Administration. He joined Wycliffe and worked with Emese and the translation team in Jos, Nigeria until their more recent move to South Africa where Wycliffe remains their main agency as they coordinate with translation teams in a multitude of locations. (Click here for an Mission Spotlight overview of Wycliffe from a few weeks ago.)

While Emese and Riaan are posted in South Africa with Wycliffe, they are seconded to other agencies for the sake of translation work and admin/tech support. They recently described their duties and work in this way:

We’ve remained members of Wycliffe Bible Translators (under Wycliffe Hungary—Emese is Hungarian, Riaan is South African.) Riaan was seconded to Global Recordings Network (GRN), and Emese to The Word for the World (TWFTW). Emese has not been able to start her work with TWFTW, partly for financial reasons, partly for logistical reasons. So GRN asked her to help with some needs they have.

Similar to Wycliffe, GRN’s goal is to provide the gospel to every tribe and tongue and nation. GRN aims to communicate the Good News of Jesus Christ through audio and audio-visual materials. They record Bible portions, and Bible messages in story form and also produce basic teaching materials. They also produce pictures to go with the recordings. And they manufacture and distribute hand/wind/solar powered players so people can listen to the audio soundtracks.

  • GRN focuses on people and communities that are non-readers (oral) and that don’t have the Scriptures in their language.
  • There are 2 billion people who cannot read at all.
  • There are a further 2 billion who cannot read well enough to understand the Scriptures.
  • People from oral societies prefer to listen and watch.
  • They communicate important information through drama, stories and songs.
  • Generations may live and die while Bible translation is being done.
  • Those people also need to have the opportunity to call on the Lord and be saved.


Emese’s Translation work with GRN:JosNigeriaTranslation
Emese was asked to help the Hlubi people check their translation of the Good News material. This is one of GRN’s books that has a story or paragraph from the Bible with a picture, that they use to record in local languages. It summarizes the gospel through stories from the Old and New Testament.

While Emese was working with this team she made several observations concerning the content of this material. So GRN South Africa asked her to revise the content of not just this book, but many others. Since these stories and paragraphs are not word-for-word Scripture and they are used for evangelistic and discipleship purposes, there is some room for interpretation. This can be tricky.

We don’t even realize how much we’ve read into Bible stories, mostly through our cultural lenses and the way it’s been taught us. Until we go back to the text itself and realize the Bible doesn’t actually say many of the things we have interpreted and accepted as true. For example, the Ten Commandments doesn’t say that “children must obey their parents.” It says “honour your father and mother…” Not just children! And honour doesn’t always mean “obey,” especially if you’re a grown up. Or nowhere does the Bible say that Cain killed Abel out of jealousy. We don’t know exactly what his motive was, we can only speculate. And if we focus on jealousy we miss some very important messages about God in that story. We only know about Noah that he was “a preacher of righteousness,” and only from 2 Peter 2:5. Nowhere in Genesis does it say that Noah warned the people about the flood but they refused to believe him, and they mocked him!

Riaan’s Admin and Tech work with GRN:

Mobile Preacher:
The Saber player is also sometimes referred to as a mobile preacher. This player is used all over the world and can be loaded with Bible messages for 1000’s of languages. It uses rechargeable batteries that can be charged by DC power, solar panel or a hand winder. It can be used for bigger groups as the speaker is quite powerful. wonderful evangelistic tool. Drawings that we do not have will be created.

The Art of Scanning:
I have become an expert “Scanning Engineer.” Some of the Bible story recordings are not on our records on the GRN international database. This has to be scanned onto digital form and then sent to our office in Australia. For those who thought scanning was an easy task (like me), I can assure you that this is a task that need accuracy, logistics, science, mathematics, design, etc., all thrown into one. I have scanned around 1000 pages to date and there is more to come.

This is the database program where all the information appear from all the recordings over the years. It is an extremely powerful program and very useful tool for research, reports, statistics, etc. I have been studying and doing some practical work on this database program.

Prayer Points on cell phone “app”:
GRID is also the program where I load our weekly prayer points. These prayer points can be viewed on an application that can be downloaded onto your cell phone called “Mission Prayers”.

Gospel in Every Language (5fish):
5Fish is a cell phone application that has +6000 languages with Bible stories with pictures. There are so many refugees in South Africa that can easily be reached with the gospel. [Others are using this app around the world.] I did some intensive research on this application to identify possible shortfalls on the app. We sent this report to our office in Australia. They will be adding a file format (3gp) that will use only 10% of the data of the usual mp3/4 file. This will be a lot more affordable to download on your phone. Once downloaded, you can share this app for free with bluetooth.
Prayer needs:

  • For wisdom in our work. We want to give God EmeseRiaanFerreiraour best.
  • For all the people in South Africa and Southern Africa who have not heard the Good News; that they would hear and respond; that God would use our materials and tools in reaching them.
  • For our financial situation, that God would provide as He has promised; that He would raise up more people to stand with us in this ministry as partners.


For further reading:
More information about how Bible translation work takes place.
More info about the importance of Bible translation as an act of social justice.

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