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Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada • Summer 2011

English World Celebrates KJV

A Newfoundland couple sparks
a grassroots, Bible-based literacy Wycliffe Pioneer Killed
movement among Guatemala’s
Mam people. Literacy: The Door Opener
Summer 2011 • Volume 29 • Number 1
Word Alive, which takes its name from Hebrews 4:12a, is the official
publication of Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada. Its mission is to inform,
inspire and involve the Christian public as partners in the worldwide Bible
translation movement. Directing Our Feet
Editor: Dwayne Janke Dwayne Janke
Designer: Laird Salkeld
Senior Staff Writer: Doug Lockhart

Staff Writer: Janet Seever
his issue of Word Alive features the photography of
Staff Photographers: Alan Hood, Natasha Schmale
Natasha Schmale, our newest addition to the magazine
Word Alive is published four times annually by Wycliffe Bible Translators of
team. A photojournalism graduate of the Southern
Canada, 4316 10 St NE, Calgary, AB T2E 6K3. Copyright 2011 by Wycliffe
Bible Translators of Canada. Permission to reprint articles and other Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), Natasha worked part
magazine contents may be obtained by written request to the editor. A time for the Red Deer Advocate before volunteering with us in
donation of $12 annually is suggested to cover the cost of printing and the Wycliffe Canada communications department.
mailing the magazine. (Donate online or use the reply form in this issue.)
Printed in Canada by McCallum Printing Group, Edmonton.
After a life-changing photo shoot on a Wycliffe Discovery
work trip in South Asia (Word Alive, Spring 2010), God
Member: The Canadian Church Press, Evangelical Press Association.
prompted her to join Wycliffe.
For additional copies: media_resources@wycliffe.ca
“I saw not only the need for my photography skills, but I
To contact the editor: editor_wam@wycliffe.ca
realized the importance of God’s Word in people’s heart lan-
For address updates: circulation@wycliffe.ca
guage,” says Natasha. “What better area could I pour my skills
Note to readers: References to “SIL” are occasionally made in
into than to use them to get others interested, involved and
Word Alive. SIL is a key partner organization, dedicated to training, lan-
guage development and research, translation and literacy. excited about providing people with God’s Word?”
Natasha is currently finding financial and prayer partners
so she can serve with us full time. But, in the meantime, we
did ask her to take a trip this past fall with me to gather sto-
ries for Word Alive.
Unfortunately, a few weeks before our planned trip to South
Wycliffe Canada Vision Statement: A world where translated and Central America, I had back and sciatica trouble, and was
Scriptures lead to transformed lives among people of all languages.
sidelined. The trooper she is, Natasha
Translating Scripture, Transforming Lives agreed to proceed with part of the trip
Together with partners worldwide, we serve indigenous people through A change of plans (to Guatemala). I equipped her with
language-related ministries, especially Bible translation and literacy. Our
several pages of interview questions and
goal is to empower local communities to express God’s love in both Word
and deed—for personal, social and spiritual transformation. Wycliffe
can be unsettling, my digital recorder.
personnel currently serve globally in more than 1,500 language projects
for about 2.6 billion people. However, about 2,100 minority language
even for those of us So, while I was working half time,
taking physiotherapy and resting,
groups still wait for the power of God working through their own lan-
guages. Wycliffe invites you to participate in this effort through prayer,
who know the Lord. Natasha was acting as my voice in inter-
service and funding. views, in addition to taking photos. She
Canadian Head Office: 4316 10 St NE, Calgary, AB T2E 6K3. Phone: did a marvellous job, and as you can
(403) 250-5411 or toll free 1-800-463-1143, 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. see, God blessed her efforts in this magazine coverage.
mountain time. Fax: (403) 250-2623. Email: info@wycliffe.ca. French Our adjustment in staffing this trip reminded me again of
speakers: Call toll free 1-877-747-2622 or email francophone@wycliffe.ca.
the truth in Prov. 16:9: “We can make our plans, but the Lord
Cover: A Mam believer worships in a church service at Tuichilupe, a determines our steps” (NLT).
village in the northwestern highlands of Guatemala. The light of literacy
is being cast on the Mam people by LAMP, an organization initiated by
That same principle was evidenced in the lives of Wycliffe
Wycliffe’s Andy and Karen Vaters. Photo by Natasha Schmale Canada’s Andy and Karen Vaters, who are featured in this
issue. The Newfoundland couple didn’t go to Guatemala
to establish a literacy program among the Central Mam, a
Mayan people in the northern highlands. As you will read,
unforeseen circumstances led to a change in their plans.
Though it wasn’t at all easy for them, God is blessing the
Vaters’ flexibility in service to Him. Today, as a result, more

In Others’ Words than 900 Central Mam can read and write, and their New
Testament is coming alive to many as a result.
“Translation it is that openeth the A change of plans can be unsettling, even for those of us
window, to let in the light, that who know the Lord. I know it can be for me! But thank God
breaketh the shell, that we may we have the comforting knowledge that He still has an influ-
ence directing our feet—to fulfil His much better plans.
eat the kernel.”
—From the of translators of the King
James Bible (400 years old this year)
to readers (see article, pg. 4)

Articles by Dwayne Janke • Photographs by Natasha Schmale

6 LAMP Lighters
A Newfoundland couple makes a big shift to help spark a
grassroots, Bible-based literacy movement among
Guatemala’s Mam people.

20 Torch Bearer
A young Mam man leads the LAMP literacy program,
convinced of its crucial role in the lives of his people.

30 Light Sharer
Learning to read his mother tongue equips a Mam pastor to
share accurate truths from God’s Word—after initial rejection
by his own congregation.

2 Foreword Directing Our Feet
By Dwayne Janke

4 Watchword English-speaking World Celebrates KJV

34 Beyond Words Pop Religion

35 Last Word Literacy: The Door Opener
By Don Hekman

30 Word Alive • Summer 2011 • wycliffe.ca 3


English-speaking World Celebrates KJV Scripture Use

od’s Word brought
together 128 repre-

“T ake my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly
in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Since 1611,
English-speakers have been writing these words
Promoted sentatives from 59 different
at Brazil ethnicities at a Scripture use
forum in Brazil last September.
and more on their hearts, thanks to the translation Forum Along with other participants,
of the King James Version (KJV) Bible. nearly 100 national and expatriate missionaries
“The impact of the KJV on the English-speaking also attended the forum, which consisted of
world is enormous,” says Wycliffe Canada President workshops, presentations, evening services and
Don Hekman. “What strikes me most, as I peruse what morning devotions led by indigenous leaders.

Wycliffe UK
is written about the historic context and impact of the Sponsored by three partner organizations, the
KJV, is the parallel to what we see happening in the event’s focal point was the Scriptures and their
minority-language societies today. application in the participants’ lives. Students
“We pray for the same impact of Bible translations that at a nearby university attended an event called
are coming to remote villages, cities and societies today.” uniEVANGELICA at the same time as the forum.
In commemoration of the version’s 400th anniversary,
the King James Bible Trust has been established to
celebrate the KJV and its eternal impact on everyday
language, world literature and the hearts of millions.
T he Wycliffe Global Alliance
Korea’s Southpartner organization in
Korea has grown into the
Events will be taking place around the globe
throughout 2011. To join the celebrations, visit
GBT largest national Bible translation
<www.kingjamesbibletrust.org>. Special KJV Holds organization in Asia.
400th anniversary editions are available at First Global Bible Translators (GBT)
was formed in 1984, but already has
University of Toronto

<www.biblesociety.ca>. Place 193 personnel working around the

New Testament cover page in the 1611 King James Bible.
world. Another 23 staff are in training or on
short-term assignments. GBT’s personnel are
Wycliffe Russia and Finland Gaining Personnel serving in 44 current language projects.

A ll that stands between 11 young men and women and their membership in
Wycliffe Russia is various stages of the application process and, for some,
additional English lessons for training and placement purposes. Wycliffe staff is
Bible Lessons Elevate
jubilant to see so many from the next generation onboard with Bible translation. Children’s Understanding
Meanwhile in Finland, Wycliffe staff have set a goal for 2011 of seeing at least
10 new people follow God’s call into Bible translation or a related field of service. T hree years of developing children’s Bible study
lessons for the Paama and Southeast Ambrym
people of Vanuatu in their mother tongue is paying
off. Teachers, children and their parents are excited
about the growth they have seen since using the
“With the
Construction Begins for Ethiopian Training Centre Sunday school

A groundbreaking ceremony held in mid-October launched the construction

of SIL Ethiopia’s new training facility, due for completion in 2012.
The centre, which is the first property SIL Ethiopia has owned since its
program that
our children
are doing, they
inception in 1973, will house offices already know a
and guest accommodations. It will also lot more about
be home base for the Ethiopia compre- the Bible than most of their parents,” one father said.
hensive project. The project will soon Bible translation is gaining momentum in the
see SIL working alongside five partner South Pacific island, where work is still needed in 70
organizations to meet the needs of 30 languages. For example, training has begun to create
Africa a pool of fully trained Bible translation consultants
local language communities.
Eighty-five languages are spoken in Ethiopia from Vanuatu. These homegrown consultants will
Ethiopia. assist local translators by checking their work to
produce clear, natural and accurate translations.

4 Word Alive • Summer 2011 • wycliffe.ca

Wycliffe Pioneer Killed in Car Accident
T he international Wycliffe community is mourn-
ing the loss and celebrating the life of Dr. John
Bendor-Samuel, director-emeritus of Wycliffe U.K.,
and Brazil with wife Pam after they were some of
the first students to attend the SIL training school
in Britain.
who died from injuries sustained after a car accident He went on to serve as director there while also
on Jan. 6 near his home. pioneering Bible translation throughout West Africa,
Bendor-Samuel (left) not only helped establish a pursuit that has paved the way for SIL operations
Wycliffe Bible Translators in the U.K. alongside his to be successful in the area. He is survived by Pam,
brother David, but he also served overseas in Peru their five children and 15 grandchildren.

Solid Progress in Nigeria Translator Training Boosted in South Asia

K ey efforts over the past eight

years are moving Bible transla-
tion forward in Nigeria, one of the
F orty Christian educators from across India gathered at Serampore College, West Bengal, in
October 2010 to learn more about the Diploma in Bible Translation (Dip BT).
“I had only a vague idea about Bible translations,” said one attendee. “After this course I will
countries with the greatest need for appeal to students to join Dip BT and full time Bible translation ministry.”
mother tongue Scriptures. Increased awareness amongst the Christian community in India about the need for Bible
Language survey research among translation is a welcome thing, especially since South Asia has one of the greatest needs in the
the nation’s languages, to clarify Bible world for mother tongue Scriptures.
translation needs, is pushing forward
with more Nigerians being trained to
do this preliminary work.
Solomon Islands Agency Grows
Formal Bible translation train-
ing is now available in country for T he near-completion of a new training
facility and the distribution of Bughotu
New Testament recordings are indicators that
Nigerians eager to do the work.
Thirty-plus languages have begun the Solomon Islands Bible Translation and
to receive their first-ever Scriptures Literacy Partnership (SIBTLP) is growing.
through inter-agency partnership. Construction of the training centre and an
And church denominations in the adjacent dormitory will increase capacity for
country are being challenged to get future translation, literacy and Scripture use
increasingly involved. workshops.
More than 500 languages are The Bughotu New Testament recordings are
spoken in Nigeria. Bible translation part of a pilot project first started on Nov. 11,
has yet to start in about half of them. 2010, and will be distributed on Megavoice
units (like the one at right) to the approxi-
Alan Hood

mately 20 villages that speak Bughotu.

SIL Sponsors International Language Conference

Word Count
S IL International, Wycliffe’s key partner agency, was among nine organizations
that sponsored the International Conference on Language, Education, and the
Millennium Development Goals, in Bangkok, Thailand, this past November.
SIL representatives met with 400 others, including Abhisit
56% Overall adult literacy rate
in the world in 1950.
Vejjajiva, Prime Minister of Thailand, to discuss education and
development opportunities for minority language communities.
Abhisit expressed his appreciation to SIL for its support of
80% Adult literacy rate currently.

mother tongue-based multilingual education efforts.

“This project would not have been nearly as successful without
. . . the technical assistance from SIL International,” he said. “We firmly believe
31% Adult literacy rate among the
1.25 billion speakers of
lesser known languages.
that the inclusion of local languages in schools helps students improve their
academic performance and strengthen their aptitude in the Thai language, while
preserving the individual languages and cultures that make us unique.” Sources: UNESCO, SIL International

Word Alive • Summer 2011 • wycliffe.ca 5

A Newfoundland couple makes a big shift to help spark
a grassroots, Bible-based literacy movement among
Guatemala’s Mam people.
Stories By Dwayne Janke Photographs By Natasha Schmale

Andy and Karen Vaters worship during a visit to a Mam church in

Tuichilupe, a village in Guatemala’s northwestern highlands. While the
congregation’s pastor, who is not Mam, only uses Spanish in his sermons,
people are eager to sing in their heart language, as they do here. A surging
grassroots, Bible-based literacy movement is increasing use of the Central
Mam language in the spiritual lives of pastors and believers.
Maria Gabriel López, LAMP’s
secretary and accountant, leads
several students, at her church in
Tuizacaja, through the 10 vowel
sounds of Central Mam. Thirty-
six letters are needed in the
Mam alphabet to represent the
language’s sounds.

Napakur Elementary School, one

of four schools on Simberi Island
offering mother tongue education,
grew out of early literacy work done
by the Mandara translation team. By
the time they begin Grade 3, these
students will transition to learning
in English.

8 Word Alive • Summer 2011 • wycliffe.ca

ndy and Karen Vaters had a problem on their hands—a was not trained to do literacy. Before joining Wycliffe, Andy had
big, basic, bewildering kind of problem. been a transport safety supervisor in the Canadian military. Karen
In 1997, the Wycliffe Canada couple had uprooted had worked in vocational training, and later as a passenger service
from Newfoundland and travelled to the town of Comitancillo agent with Air Canada. Still, the Vaters had spent several years
(Ko mee ton CEE yo), in the northwestern highlands of learning Spanish and Mam, and getting to know the local culture.
Guatemala, Central America. They were invited there to help So, “we had a question for God,” says Karen. “‘If You brought us
with construction and start-up of a Bible institute that would down here and this institute is not going anywhere, why did You
teach pastors and church leaders among the 70,000-plus Central bring us? Should we just go home and forget these people?’
Mam [Mawm] people. “So right away, when our organization asked if we could try
Wycliffe colleague Wes Collins and a team of Mam translators literacy, we said, ‘Of course. We can’t abandon these people now.’ ”
had completed the Mam New Testament, and Wes was looking Adds Andy, “The only reason we’re here now is because there
to serve in linguistics elsewhere. It was naturally time to begin were no students for that course. If there had been students, we
equipping the Mam to use God’s Word in ministry, so he helped could have been out of here by the next year.”
recruit the Vaters to assist with the institute, in partnership with The Vaters were convinced that getting the Central Mam New
another mission organization. Testament read and used is key to building up local evangelical
After 12 years attending and serving in a Gander, Nfld., church churches, which often tend towards biblical shallowness, legalism
following their later-in-life conversions, the Vaters were restless. and division.
Seeking a way to do something even more spiritually meaning- With gifts in Bible study (Andy) and teaching (Karen), the Vaters
ful in the world, they came to Guatemala. They were excited and decided to become literacy and Scripture use facilitators. Oh, wow,
keen to spend a few years helping to establish training for the I could get into that, Karen remembers thinking at the time.
Mam so the Mayan group could effectively wield the life-chang-
ing, two-edged sword—Scriptures in their mother tongue. Disappointment & Revelation
But as construction of the Bible institute was drawing to a Equipped with the right skills through training at an SIL school,
successful close, a fundamental obstacle became disturbingly Andy and Karen returned to Guatemala and set up a conventional
evident: only a handful of Mam church leaders were able to read literacy program for the Mam. Among other things, they hired
or write well enough to attend the training. Mam people to run literacy classes.
“After Wes left, we worked on the [construction] completion But the effort never gained any real momentum. The Vaters
of the institute and continued to spread the word about the discovered that paying people to teach others to read attracted
training program, hoping to fill a classroom,” recalls Karen. “We only those who wanted to earn money; most of them didn’t have
managed to enrol [only] nine students.” a passion for the job. Of 450 students who registered for literacy
Naturally discouraged, the couple from “The Rock” could classes, the teachers managed to bring a disappointing 100 students
have hit rock bottom right then, but they didn’t. Instead, the no- through to the final exam. Says Andy: “And most of them were
nonsense Maritimers trusted God and asked, What now? young teens in school who probably knew how to read before they
took the course.”
Surging Light “We kind of ended up spending a whole year learning that this
More than 10 years later, the answer to that question—promote was not the way you can do literacy here—it’s not sustainable,” recalls
and teach literacy, and do it the way Jesus would—has blossomed Karen. “I said, ‘Should we go home? At our age, we don’t have time
into a surging grassroots, Bible-based movement among the to waste. We want results. We want people to learn God’s Word.’ ”
Mam. LAMP, a Mam organization the Vaters sparked, is teach- Then one morning, Karen walked into their office at the other
ing hundreds upon hundreds of adults to read and write. As it end of their patio, where Andy goes earlier each day to spend some
does so, LAMP is shedding new light on the New Testament, time with God in Bible study and prayer.
bringing Scriptures to life for people who didn’t know a, b and g “He looked up at me and said, ‘Karen, why don’t we do it just like
from q, l and z. Or, for that matter, any of the other 30 letters in Jesus did it? Jesus taught His disciples to teach others. Let’s not pay
the Mam alphabet. people. Let’s teach church leaders to read and write and to teach
The Vaters, who more recently are reducing their involvement others, and pray that God’s Spirit will give them a desire to do
in the program, are delighted with the advances of LAMP in the literacy as a ministry of their church.’ ”
past few years. This was a turning point in the literacy thrust among the Central
“I think it’s on a roll right now,” says Karen, whose slight Mam. The Vaters have further refined the strategy: recruit any keen
accent, like Andy’s, reveals Newfoundland roots. Mam person—rather than just church leaders—who wants to be
In the beginning, the Vaters had to decide whether to even trained to be a teacher.
take up the request by Wycliffe leaders in Central America to “And now, it’s exploded,” explains Karen, “because now, biblically,
tackle the low literacy rate among the Mam, estimated then to I think we have it right.”
be five per cent in Mam (and 15 per cent in Spanish). The couple

Word Alive • Summer 2011 • wycliffe.ca 9

“Our concept is Mam-run Entity
The literacy effort is powered by a Mam-run organization chris-
to get them to the tened Lámpara es A Mis pies tu Palabra (LAMP), or in English
“Thy word is a lamp to my feet” (from Ps. 119:105). The legal
point of actually Guatemalan entity was formed in 2004, in order to build sustain-
ability for the program and pass ownership to the local people.
LAMP’s program has grown into a four-phase, church-based
understanding discipleship program to meet the Scripture use needs in the
Mam churches. Three staff, led by a dedicated and godly
what they are dynamo named Byron Feliciano Témaj (see related story, pg.
20), promote and teach the 16-week, Bible-based program.
reading. If they First, LAMP staff engages in considerable promotion and inter-
action with churches in a particular area. Then a literacy centre
don’t understand, is set up in a church, school or another public site, to train the
Mam in literacy so they can then teach their own local people.
they won’t The literacy classes are highly interactive and the Bible con-
tent aims to get the Mam people thinking, not just regurgitating
continue to read.” information. Sessions are laced with fun activities, like word
puzzles and games. The hard-working Mam, most of whom are
subsistence farmers who grow corn and raise a little livestock,
appreciate that.
“We figured that these people have worked on their land all
their lives. Life has not been fun,” explains Karen. “So we have to
make our program fun so they will really want to be there.”

A Statistic Called Nicholas

Since March 2003, nearly 900 people have learned to read and
to write in Mam through LAMP’s program. On the upswing in
recent years, this number includes students, literacy ministry
leaders, pastors and Bible study participants.
While the Vaters are quick to share statistics about the LAMP
literacy effort, they are just as quick to deflect attention away

10 Word Alive • Summer 2011 • wycliffe.ca

(Left) Byron Feliciano Témaj, co- from numbers towards the real goal—transformed lives. Nicholás Augustín Coronado, a
ordinator of LAMP, and the Vaters “We don’t really care how many people we’re making literate,” 70-year-old church leader who
work together to solve a computer learned to read his Mam language
problem, as Byron works on an says Karen frankly. “We care more about how many people are just a few years ago, helps his wife
advanced literacy workbook for the studying the Word. We care more about how many people are Rosa with the Mam alphabet in
70,000-plus Central Mam. More than actually understanding the Scriptures.” their home’s outdoor kitchen in
900 people have learned to read Tuichilupe. Nicholás says reading
Adds Andy, “Our concept is to get them to the point of
and write in Mam through LAMP’s the New Testament renews his
program. actually understanding what they are reading. If they don’t mind, just as God admonishes.
understand, they won’t continue to desire to read.”
On that basis, you can’t get a better “statistic” than Nicholás
Augustín Coronado—he’s now literate, he’s actually studying and
understanding God’s Word in Mam and he’s growing spiritually.
Nicholás is also 70 years old—long past the age of 55-plus when,
say the Vaters, most literacy experts will tell you it’s too difficult
to learn to read.
In his adobe brick home in the village of Tuichilupe, Nicholás
explains that he learned how to read and write some Spanish
when he was in school as a youngster.
“We always spoke Mam in our house, but to read Mam, we
didn’t know how to do it,” Nicholás says through interpretation.
“We didn’t even know how to recognize the letters.”
Making a livelihood as a farmer and weaver, Nicholás thought
it impossible to learn to read his mother tongue when LAMP
staff first came to teach him and other classmates.
Word Alive • Summer 2011 • wycliffe.ca 11
“First, we learned the alphabet. There’s 36 letters in Mam. The what is being said.”
More On The Web: To see the difference
alphabet in Mam is different than the 28 in Spanish,” explains From reading Scriptures in
between John 3:16 in Mam versus Spanish,
Nicholás, his voice rising with excitement. “After four months, visit <www.wycliffe.ca/wordalive/mam>. Mam, Nicholás has made new
I still didn’t really know how to do it. Then all of a sudden . . . I discoveries, passing them down
could read it!” to his wife Rosa, who has started taking literacy classes.
“And there’s a lot of people now that . . . can read in Mam.” “. . . God has told us that we have to keep renewing our
minds. In order to renew our lives and change our lives, our
Empowerment and Renewal minds have to be renewed,” he says. “I didn’t know that before.
As a church leader, Nicholas’ desire to share God’s Word has Now I can read the Bible and renew my mind. By renewing my
been given a great boost from mother tongue literacy. mind, my life is going to be changed.”
“When I read it, I understand it. It’s clear,” emphasizes
Nicholás, who is proud to display his diplomas for finishing He Didn’t Understand
several levels of LAMP classes. “Now when I’m preaching from Nicholás then throws out a specific example of an insight he’s
the Bible in Mam, I teach what that Scripture verse means in gained since learning how to read Mam Scriptures. It illustrates
Mam to the people. why Bible translation and mother tongue literacy are so crucial
“It’s very important for the people,” he continues. “When a per- in helping people—church leaders and laymen—to understand
son preaches in Spanish, the people who understand are really even basic biblical concepts.
only the people who understood how to speak first in Spanish. “One of the things that really caught me was when I read,
But the people who don’t, they’re just sitting there, not knowing Jesus is the way, the truth and the life,” notes Nicholás. “Nobody
“I could see

a light go on

in his head.

God’s Word

is for them.”

(Below) The Vaters, along with LAMP staff and others, sing a Mam hymn as they
begin a weekly Bible study at the organization’s office in Comitancillo. Some
Mam must trek for two hours to get to the study, but it is worth it. Now able
to read and take study notes (above), these Christian leaders have discovered
that the unfolding of God’s Word gives life-changing understanding to the
“simple”—including the largely uneducated Mam people.
can come to God without Jesus.” “The Spanish
Reading the Mam translation clearly showed Nicholás that
Jesus is the road to God, something that just didn’t make sense
to him in Spanish. “I didn’t understand that before. He’s the road
tried to destroy
to a life eternal.”
Walking that road during the sunset of his earthly life, their language
Nicholás is making every minute count to feed his hunger for
God’s truth. and to some
“God has given me this life and he’s given me my good health.
I have a purpose,” says the grandfather of “about 20.” degree, they
For Simple People? succeeded. They
Bible study is also an official part of the LAMP strategy. When a
church is involved in literacy classes, encouraged to send leaders didn’t destroy
to weekly gatherings held in the LAMP office in Comitancillo, a
town of 3,000. Some regulars among the nearly 20 at the study,
like Pastor José Alberto (see story, pg. 30) and his wife, walk for
their language,
two hours each way just to attend. (In fact, José was presented
with a study Bible this past year to mark five years of near per- but they pushed
fect attendance.)
It was during one of these studies—usually led by Andy when it into the
the Vaters are in Guatemala, between periods back home in
Newfoundland—that a key insight helped change the Mam view homes.”
towards their Scriptures.
“These people don’t look at the Bible as something that God
meant for them, because they see themselves as uneducated
people,’” says Karen.
At a Bible study several years ago, Misael Crisostomo, who
helped develop LAMP course materials initially, was asked to
read Psalm 119:130, in Spanish (the Old Testament is not yet
translated into Mam). The verse says that the unfolding of God’s
Word gives understanding to the simple.

Guatemala At a Glance U.S.A.

Name: Republic of Guatemala
Area: 109,000 sq. km (about the size of the island of Newfoundland);
a land of mountains, volcanoes and lakes, and a major exporter of
coffee and bananas
Location: Central America; Mexico’s southern neighbour
Population: Approx. 14 million
Capital: Guatemala City (metro area pop. 2.5 million)
People: Mestizo (mixed Amerindian-Spanish - in local Spanish called America
Ladino) and European 59.4%; K’iche 9.1%, Kaqchikel 8.4%, Mam
7.9%, Q’eqchi 6.3%, other Mayan 8.6%, indigenous non-Mayan 0.2%,
other 0.1% (2001 census)
Religion: Roman Catholic, Maya-Catholic (animistic), 24% Evangelical Belize
Official languages: Spanish; 25 Amerindian languages, principally Mexico
K’iche, Kaqchikel, Q’eqchi, and Mam
Scriptures produced for languages and dialects: 4 have Bibles, 27
have New Testaments, 12 have Scripture portions. Comitancillo Honduras

Literacy: 48%-55%; Indian 0%-25%, Mestizo 75%-85% Mam Guatemala

Region City
Sources: Operation World, 7th Edtion; World Factbook;
Wycliffe Global Alliance; U.S. Department of State website El Salvador
(Above) While English speakers can boast multi-storey libraries full
of literature in their language, Mam reading materials are limited to
just one small shelf. That collection, including the New Testament, is
gradually growing as LAMP encourages reading and writing among
the Mam in their heart language. Much of the Mam recorded history, (Below) Karen Vaters husks corn—used in making tortillas: a Mam
as well as any literature, was destroyed by the Spaniards centuries staple—with the father-in-law of Pastor José Alberto (see related
ago in their conquest of Guatemala. story, pg. 30). Over the years, the Vaters have developed many close
relationships while serving with those in and around Comitancillo,
the largest town situated among the Central Mam people.

Word Alive • Summer 2011 • wycliffe.ca 15

Their church’s pews transformed into desks for LAMP literacy classes, two
young Mam students work through workbooks in the village of Tuizacaja.
“The word used for ‘simple’ in his Spanish Bible is ‘sencillo’,
Classes were originally directed at adults. Now children often attend, rein- which is the word the Mam use in this culture to refer to them-
forcing Mam literacy taught in schools. Some youngsters also help older selves: simple people,” explains Karen. “They say, ‘Well, we can’t do
adults during LAMP classes. that—we’re just simple people.’ It really means ‘we’re uneducated.’
“When Misael read . . . ‘sensillo,’ ” recalls Karen, “I could see a
light go on in his head. God’s Word is for them!”
This is a revolutionary perspective for a timid people who had
been told ever since the Spanish invaded Guatemala in the early
1500s that their language and culture were inferior.
“The Spanish told them that their language was useless,” says
Andy. “The Spanish tried to destroy their language and to some
degree, they succeeded. They didn’t totally destroy their lan-
guage, but they pushed it into the homes.”
Fortunately, things have changed in recent decades. Young
Mam school children are now taught to read and write their

16 Word Alive • Summer 2011 • wycliffe.ca

“And whush,

everything was

at peace; the

oppression was

gone. It was

like there was

a battle and it

was won. God

won the battle.”

mother tongue. Even the Guatemalan version of Kentucky Fried knowledge of Spanish goes psssh,” says Andy, dropping his hand.
Chicken, Pollo Campero, in a nearby city, displays menus and “There’s lots and lots of women and children who don’t speak a
signs in Central Mam. single word of Spanish.”
“That’s the change in the country—from total rejection to Adds Karen: “Who goes out five-hours walk away and helps
total acceptance [of the indigenous languages],” says Andy. those people? LAMP does. And, of course when that happens,
they say, ‘Oh, my goodness,
Not a Word of Spanish More On The Web: Wycliffe Canada sponsors a somebody’s come to help
funding project for the LAMP activities. To give
But there’s still much more literacy work to do among this us. Nobody ever comes out
toward this project, visit < www.wycliffe.ca/
Central Mam population. These people are concentrated in an here!’ That’s another reason
donate>. Or use this magazine’s reply form. In
area with a 30-km radius around Comitancillo, which is located either case, specify “LAMP.” why LAMP is doing well.”
about 50 km (as the crow flies) from the Mexican border. As Some of that distance is
you radiate out from this main town into the mountainous being overcome thanks to the use of motorcycles by Byron and
backcountry, the need only increases for Mam literacy and others, and by radio broadcasts in Mam (see story, pg. 20).
Scriptures. The Vaters estimate that the literacy rate among the Mam
“Once you get a half-an-hour walk from Comitancillo, the could currently be near 20 per cent, but they think it is possible

Word Alive • Summer 2011 • wycliffe.ca 17

18 Word Alive • Summer 2011 • wycliffe.ca
to raise that level much, much higher—maybe even to 80 per
cent. To accomplish that, LAMP will need more funding, more
personnel and perhaps a small Jeep or two to help staff navigate
muddy roads during rainy periods.
“I guess that will come,” says Karen. “If it’s God’s will that we
grow, then that will come.”

Strange Wind
While Andy, 68, and Karen, 62, are eager to see things move ahead
quickly, they have also learned perseverance, for from the begin-
ning there have been significant struggles. Since the early days,
some Mam church leaders have opposed the literacy thrust of
LAMP, fearing it will undermine their authority. And the Vaters
tell tales of spiritual warfare, like an incident just before the New
Testament was dedicated in 1999. A small group of angry Mam
believers told the Vaters, and a Guatemalan missionary who was
going to teach at the Bible institute, that they should leave the area.
Fortunately, after being won over by several references to Scripture,
the crowd dispersed and everyone went peacefully outside.
Then a highly unusual whirlwind arose near the town’s central
square, and rolled down the street, moaning and rumbling some-
thing like disapproval at the meeting’s positive outcome. It finally
disappeared over the cemetery at the other end of town.
“And whush, everything was at peace; the oppression was gone,”
recalls Karen. “It was like there was a battle and it was won. God
won the battle.”
Obstacles and setbacks facing LAMP have prompted the Vaters
more than once to think of packing up and returning to Canada
permanently. Staff members have also been discouraged and some
even ridiculed. But for every setback there have been some break-
throughs too.
One church leader, Moses, who joined and then left LAMP’s
weekly Bible study when it challenged his legalistic beliefs a few
years ago, typifies an emerging new attitude.
This past fall, he had an entirely different tone in a public
affirmation of LAMP at literacy classes being held in his church.
“LAMP is the meat of the church,” he said.
Encouragement is growing as increasing numbers of Mam
Christians realize the spiritual importance of what LAMP is doing
for their people.
“Yes, it’s been difficult,” admits Karen, “but you know what?
Right now, good stuff ’s happening.
“The fruit comes in really trusting in the Lord . . . and saying,
‘Whether I live or die, He is the Lord.’ Where else is there to go?”

Andy and Karen walk the hilly streets

of Comitancillo, with the small town’s
multi-coloured graveyard stones
(see related photo, pg. 34) interrupt-
ing the view of green slopes on the
mountainous horizon. This scene is a
huge contrast from the Vaters’ home in
Newfoundland. It is here, however, that
they found challenge and fulfilment as
second-career servants of God, helping
to bring life-transforming literacy to
the Central Mam people.

Word Alive • Summer 2011 • wycliffe.ca 19

A young Mam man f Wycliffe’s Andy and Karen Vaters are
leads the LAMP the lighters of LAMP, sparking its literacy program among
Guatemala’s Mam people (see pg. 6), then Byron Feliciano Témaj
literacy program, can best be described as the organization’s torchbearer.
convinced of its The 25-year-old newlywed is co-ordinator of LAMP’s efforts
to bring literacy to as many of the 70,000-plus Central Mam as
crucial role in the possible. He is part of a three-person, full-time staff that tire-
lives of his people. lessly promotes and teaches classes that make the life-changing
Word of God come alive for the Mam.
“It’s important for my people to have it because that’s what
changed me,” says Byron through an interpreter. “In my experi-
ence, every day I read the Bible and every day I find something
new, something good.
“I want my people to enjoy what I enjoy.”
Enjoying a committed Christian life took a while for Byron.
He was born and raised in a Mayan family from the Mam
people group in Chicajalaj [Chee ka ha LA]. The village is a
small mountaintop community, about 25 minutes’ walk from
Comitancillo, the municipal centre.
“I’m from a Christian family, especially my mother. She lives
out her faith, and from the time I was a child, she took me to
church. I went to church for many years but I didn’t have a per-
sonal relationship with Christ.”
Byron walked to school and his farming father partially paid
for the education. After classes and during school vacation,
Byron did odd jobs like loading cargo on buses to earn the
Byron Feliciano Témaj, co-coordinator rest of the money he needed. He studied his way through high
of LAMP, enthusiastically goes over school and then college, with a desire to be a teacher.
consonant and vowel sounds of the
Central Mam language in a class of “When I graduated in 2004, my mother said it’s time for me to
level-one literacy. The dedicated and get baptized and that I needed to start having a relationship with
godly dynamo leads a staff of three, Christ,” says Byron. “Then I felt a real need to know God better.”
aiming to reach the mountainous Byron began looking for work but he placed a condition on
Mam people by teaching literacy and
training others to teach. God: if He didn’t give him work, then he couldn’t serve God.

Word Alive • Summer 2011 • wycliffe.ca 21

“He didn’t answer me,” laughs Byron, now as he looks back on
it. “So I had to change my condition. I told Him, I was simply
going to work for Him.”

Everything Changed
Byron got a volunteer position at a Christian radio station in
Comitancillo, called Estereo Vida (Life Stereo). A week later, he
took another job working for a teacher in a town three hours
away by bus, but that quickly became a problem.
“We had a conflict because I came into contact with a lot of
teachers who didn’t want anything to do with Christ. They want-
ed me to drink with them, but I knew I had to serve God.”
Byron left the teaching job and returned home, crying out
to the Lord for direction. A friend told him about the LAMP
office, with the Scripture verse Ps. 119:105 written on its gate. He
decided to make a cold call to ask about work.
“Fifteen days later, I arrived at the LAMP door,” says Byron,
his voice softening and lowering. “At that moment, everything
started to change.”
“I now know exactly that God was answering me.”
Both Byron and the Vaters looked with great pleasure at each
other on that day in 2005. They recognized that God was bring-
ing them together for the good of His work through LAMP. Byron sings a song from a Mam song book over Estereo Vida (Life Stereo),
a Christian radio station that he convinced to include Mam language
“When I arrived at LAMP I didn’t know Andy or Karen
programming. He uses his radio show to read the Scriptures in Mam, and
Vaters, but I knew at that moment that they were going to be sing worship songs. Many Mam-speaking listeners tune in, thrilled to be
somebody special in my life.” hearing something more meaningful to them than the usual Spanish.
Recalls Andy: “Byron was different—he was totally in love
with the Lord and it showed in his nature. We suspected from
the moment we met him that God had a special purpose for his
life and had brought him to our door.”
Initially, Byron didn’t fully grasp what LAMP and its work was
really all about. But as he worked, he absorbed its ethos.
“In this process, I found what LAMP really meant,” he says. “I
thought it was just about teaching. It was more than teaching. It
was bringing people to know the Word of God.”
Seeing the potential in Byron after about three months, the
Vaters asked him to go to Lima, Peru, to attend a linguistics
course for indigenous leaders at Ricardo Palma University.
Interestingly, Wes Collins, the Wycliffe member who had led
the Mam New Testament translation project between 1979 and
1999, was teaching at the course.
“It was difficult for me,” Byron recalls. “I had to leave my
community for the first time and that was painful. For three
months I suffered from the different climate and the lack of
tortillas. Several times I cried. I asked myself, I wonder why
God brought me here?”

Byron got his answer: the training he received for language work
and his spiritual growth while in Peru built up his faith and
skills to serve God back in LAMP. He remembers being touched
by one particular song in church. It referenced the prophet
Isaiah’s commissioning, when God asks who will go to His
people, to which Isaiah replies: Send me!
“That’s when I made a promise I was going to always work
for Him,” says Byron. “That is a promise that I’m never going
to go back on.” Byron’s mother serves him some corn tortillas. Byron, his wife and extended
family live together in the small town of Chicajalaj, a short distance across
22 Word Alive • Summer 2011 • wycliffe.ca the valley from the main city of Comitancillo.
Byron leans in to help LAMP students during a literacy class in Tuichilupe.
Besides teaching his Mayan people, the busy newlywed co-ordinates the
Mam literacy project, evaluates the results and develops classroom
materials—all with a giving heart.

“Although I’m a co-ordinator, I don’t think of

myself as chief. I want to serve.”
Word Alive • Summer 2011 • wycliffe.ca 23
What does that promise practically mean as Byron serves in
his role as head of LAMP?
“Mucho!,” he says, laughing. “I’m co-ordinating the project.
I’m evaluating the advances, the results. I’m developing materi-
als. I’m serving my co-workers. These are the basics. And I go
out to teach literacy.
And Byron does it all with a giving heart.
“Although I’m a co-ordinator, I don’t think of myself as chief,”
he says. “I want to serve. That’s what I do.”
In addition, Byron has continued working at the Estereo Vida
radio station. In fact, while working for the station, which had
Spanish-only broadcasting, he used his position to leverage his
people’s language. First, he read from the Mam New Testament.
Then he convinced station managers to include Mam language
programming on its schedule—first a half-hour once a week, then
one hour and now more than 2½ hours. The increase has been
driven by excited Mam speakers phoning the station, expressing
their pleasure at the broadcasts in a
More On The Web: To hear Byron language that speaks to their hearts.
and his LAMP Mam program, visit
“During the program, I read
<www.stereovidagt.com>. , at
Scripture, I read the Bible stories
9-10 a.m. CST Tuesdays. His station
program is at 7:30-10 p.m. CST that LAMP has written. We sing in
on Wednesdays. Mam. I have a big audience!”
His vision is for even more airtime
in Mam to scatter more of God’s seeds on the wind of radio, but
that means increased costs. “We need more money!” he says,
surprisingly in halting English.
Byron and his wife, Miriam, walk
along a steep path on their
way to a LAMP literacy class in Odd Teaching
the mountainous terrain of the Byron says LAMP literacy is crucial for the Mam people if they
Central Mam people. are to truly understand their Scriptures.
“For me it’s not a problem, because I knew how to read
Spanish. But we’re not Spanish speakers,” he says. “It’s very dif-
ficult to understand the Bible in Spanish. We’re talking about
people who’ve never even been to school. For them it’s even
more difficult. And because of that, we need LAMP.”
As Byron and the LAMP team travel the steep and windy
mountain roads and pathways by motorcycle and foot to promote
the literacy courses, they discover just how great that need is.
They have sat in Protestant church services, hardly able to Fortunately, Byron can also ride a
believe their ears at strange teaching coming from the mouths motorcycle to travel the steep and
of Mam pastors: Adam wanted a woman so he had to pray for windy roads to get at least partially
to some far-flung villages—isolated
one before God made Eve. The original pair sewed aprons of leaves
communities which often see little
to cover their nakedness, so if a Mam woman does not wear an outside help.
apron to church, she is not going to heaven. It is a sin to pray in a
place that has not been sanctified (i.e. outside of a church).
Byron recalls personally talking to one distressed mother, who
attended a church that taught there are 18 unforgivable sins,
including marriage. Being married, she felt she could never truly
be accepted in the church, unless she got “unmarried.” Asking
Byron why he seemed so free from the burden of judgment, he
happily shared the central truths of Gods’ Word in Mam.
(continued on pg. 28)

24 Word Alive • Summer 2011 • wycliffe.ca

Byron welcomes a LAMP student with the traditional greeting among Mam
people. They lightly touch the finger tips of their right hands and then
touch the same hand to their foreheads. It is customary for a person to
greet everyone this way when they walk into a room and when they leave.

“When I started reading the Bible, I started to change.

Reading the Bible changes people.”

Byron talks to individuals from

other villages following a LAMP
class. The 25-year-old LAMP coor-
dinator has a deep passion for
his people to discover the truths
in the life-changing Word of the
God, in their heart language.
(Above) A natural and trained
teacher, Byron leads a classroom of
students through a level-one work-
book produced by LAMP. (Right)
Byron and Melecio López, who
works at LAMP part time as teacher
and promoter, sound out the
Mam letters as they demonstrate
to the class how to work in pairs.
Hamming it up, Byron purposely
makes mistakes, which Melecio
corrects, to show the class that
they need to help each other.

26 Word Alive • Summer 2011 • wycliffe.ca

“In order to use the New Testament,
it’s important to offer literacy.”

Word Alive • Summer 2011 • wycliffe.ca 27

“One woman . . . said, ‘Six months ago,
I didn’t know what an a, an e an i or a j were,
and now I can read God’s Word in my language.’ ”

The Bible Changes People

Absorbing God’s Words in Mam is the solution to weak teaching was totally overwhelmed by the response to the literacy event.”
among the people. Byron was right.
“The vision of LAMP is that people’s hearts will be transformed,While leading the Mam New Testament translation project,
says Byron. “For example, I was a Christian but I wasn’t trans- Wes and his wife Nancy, a nurse, had their hands full learning
formed. When I started reading the Bible, I started to change.” the complex language (with its 36 letters, directional verbs and
“Reading the Bible changes people.” glottal stops). They also were busy meeting medical and com-
As a team of Mam translators now works on the Old Testament, munity development needs. Giving attention to literacy then was
Byron has been tempted to join the work, rather than limit him- also difficult because of a division over which of two alphabets
self to be the translation project’s director. But he believes God has
would be used in Mam literature, and other complicated rea-
directed him to focus on the LAMP literacy effort. sons. So Wes is delighted to see how far literacy has come.
“He put in my mind that it’s not worth it to translate the Old “It was altogether overwhelming to me,” he said after attend-
Testament, if the New Testament isn’t being used. In order to use
ing the graduation event for 50 new Mam readers, which was
the New Testament, it’s important to offer literacy.” broadcast by Estereo Vida. “One woman came forward and said,
The work is challenging and LAMP faces setbacks at times. ‘Six months ago, I didn’t know what an a, an e an i or a j were,
Still, Byron takes encouragement from seeing Mam reading in and now I can read God’s Word in my language.’ People were
church—“to me, that’s big.” beaming, reading and laughing. . . .
He is also energized when smiling Mam readers receive final “It was amazing.”
diplomas at yearly LAMP course graduation ceremonies, like a Byron remembers telling Wes a few years ago that he left the
special one in December 2009. Mam a deeply valuable foundation—the New Testament.
“I have a profound appreciation because the New Testament
Wept for Joy is left. But it was the Vaters who actually followed up. And with
Translator Wes Collins attended the ceremony, featuring reading the resources, LAMP now exists. If LAMP didn’t exist, then the
and writing contests, concerts and competitions, and Mam hymn New Testament would be ‘lost.’
and song singing, says Byron. “Wes gave a talk in Mam, but “Wes’ work was important,” concludes Byron. “But literacy is
before beginning, he broke down and wept for joy. I think Wes even more important.”

“If LAMP didn’t exist, then the

New Testament would be ‘lost.’ ”

28 Word Alive • Summer 2011 • wycliffe.ca

Byron leaves his adobe-brick home
to travel to another LAMP class
promoting literacy. He is convinced
that if Mam people weren’t taught
to read and write, their translated
New Testament would be “lost.”

Word Alive • Summer 2011 • wycliffe.ca 29

verwhelmed with emotion, José Alberto takes off his Reinstated to the Pulpit
hat and buries his face in it as he weeps. The chapeau But as LAMP’s literacy ministry opened up the Mam Scriptures
becomes a handkerchief, of sorts, to absorb his tears. to more of the people at large, José’s former congregation
José is recalling one of the darkest periods of his life—when realized their error.
it should have been one of the brightest—as a pastor among the “After three years, they came down to my house and they
Central Mam people of northwestern Guatemala. asked for forgiveness for having prohibited me from preaching.
It was a time when his little congregation in the village of They said, ‘We were wrong. You don’t preach like some other
Tuijala [Twee HA la] dismissed him as their pastor—for pastors, but you tell the truth.’ ”
preaching the truth. José was reinstated as pastor. Today, he ministers to about 70
In 2004, José learned how to read and write Mam through Mam in a house church that is part of the Central American
classes offered by LAMP, a Mam-run organization teaching Mission denomination. He is also a key literacy teacher for LAMP.
Bible-based literacy among the people (see story, pg. 6). Literacy “Before, my mind was closed and now my mind is opened,” he
equipped José to preach directly from the New Testament in his says of the change wrought by literacy. “Before, I tried to under-
people’s mother tongue, rather than prepare sermons from stand the Bible and bought Spanish Bibles so I could learn how
listening to audiotapes of the Scriptures in Spanish. to read the Bible, but I couldn’t do it. Then LAMP came and is
His wife Fabiana helps tell his story. teaching us how to read the Bible.”
“All I can say is before we knew how to read and write, we
often preached from the Bible according to our understanding
. . . . ,” she says. “Being able to read and write, we understand
that what we were sometimes preaching was not correct.
“For example, we’ve learned that . . . a person who deliberately
and routinely plans to sin is not a Christian and hasn’t changed,
although there are lots of times that we do things and then we
realize that it is wrong. God forgives that, when we repent.”
As José preached with clarity for the first time in Mam, his
flock felt overwhelmed by the new teaching and they got angry.
As a result, they expelled him.
“Many, many, many times we prayed in our home,” adds
Fabiana, speaking of those dark days. Her comment brings her
husband to tears.
When José collects himself, he picks up the story: “The group got
angry and kept me away from preaching for three years,” he says.

t Learning to read his mother tongue

equips a Mam pastor to share accurate
truths from God’s Word—after initial
Breaking down with his memories,
Pastor José Alberto uses his hat to
bury the tears. He is trying to tell
how his church expelled him when
he preached what he had learned
rejection by his own congregation. directly from the Mam Scriptures
that he could finally read for himself.

Word Alive • Summer 2011 • wycliffe.ca 31

José strolls down down the main road
Another benefit brought by LAMP, says José, is the weekly of his town, Tuijala. Restored by his
Bible study offered at the organization’s office in Comitancillo. church as pastor after people realized
To get there, he and his 48-year-old wife must walk several he was preaching truth, today he con-
fidently knows and freely shares the
hours, arriving at 8:30 a.m. and leaving at 12:30—or later. Mam New Testament teachings.
Sometimes, the studies continue unofficially as the Mam
attending keep asking questions until well into the afternoon.
In the early days of his attendance, José became so eager to
clear something up about Scripture, he walked to the Vaters’
house early in the morning on three different days—hiking
“We really want
nearly three hours there in the morning and nearly three hours
back to his village in the afternoon.
“We really want LAMP to continue because the Bible studies
LAMP to continue
are changing people,” says José. “Because now they can take their
Bibles to the study with them and understand what it says.” because the Bible
Opening Up a Road
The transformation he desires for other Mam is what keeps studies are
him teaching and promoting literacy. José knows what it has
done for him.
“For me this was a great change,” says the 57-year-old father changing people.”
of four, who has a small farm and some sheep. “It’s like opening
up a road for me. I continue to go down that same road and it

32 Word Alive • Summer 2011 • wycliffe.ca

José sings a song from a Mam worship
gets wider. I understand more and more. I read the Bible two book during a Bible study at the LAMP
hours every morning, and two hours in the afternoon and two office. For José, and his wife, Fabiana, the
hours at night.” Bible studies have been vital in helping him
work through and understand God’s Word,
“The result is that I’m at peace: I’m content,” José continues, available in his people’s heart language.
as his father-in-law fingers kernels from corn husks outside
their adobe brick home tucked into a hillside.
José says learning to read Mam has also improved his marriage.
“We’re much happier together as husband and wife,” he
says. “We’re learning together. I can take her to the Bible and
“In my life,
we can read it.”
In addition, literacy has also meant new opportunities for
José in his village. In 2005, his literacy training prepared him
for election as the “Auxiliary Mayor” of his village. These presti-
gious officials in each mountain community serve for one year, changed.”
donating their time to deliver mail, act as policemen in domestic
disputes, attend community meetings and bring concerns to the
mayor in Comitancillo.
“In my life, everything’s changed,” concludes José. “Nothing is
the same.
“I’m a totally different person now.”

Word Alive • Summer 2011 • wycliffe.ca 33

Beyond Words

Pop Religion

Natasha Schmale

Candles illuminate an aluminum can tucked inside an altar on a

gravestone in the cemetery at Comitancillo, Guatemala. The Mam
people (see stories in this issue), a predominately Catholic group,
celebrate the Day of the Dead on November 1. They attend to
the graves of their loved ones, bring flowers and even food. They
believe that the dead are participating in the festivities. Kites are
also flown high above the graveyard as a symbolic link between
the living and the dead, sometimes with messages to loved ones
attached to the tails.

34 Word Alive • Summer 2011 • wycliffe.ca

Last Word

Literacy: The Door Opener

By Don Hekman

or those of us for whom reading is as nat- section of clearly Christian work and broadly
ural as breathing, we can hardly imagine humanitarian work. Wycliffe stands for access to
what doors were opened to us in Grade 1, the Scriptures and access to education. Wycliffe
or earlier, when we learned to read. is engaged in the fight against biblical illiteracy,
 I’m thinking of the doors to literature, to against illiteracy at large, and against poverty.
how-to manuals, to self-expression, to formal People may learn to read because their deep-
education, to economic development, to partici- est desire is to read the Bible, but they don’t stop
pation in civic affairs . . . the list could go on and there. Learning to read the Bible opens the door
on. And it opens the door to what’s precious to to reading anything—their rental contract, a tax
all of you readers—to digesting and meditating form, the newspaper, the politician’s pamphlet,
on the very words from God in the Bible. a job application, a history of their nation, their
We can hardly imagine life without these
opportunities, but millions—no, billions—of
people live without them.
Studies show that one of the major motiva-
tions worldwide for adults to learn to read is for
religious purposes. For Christians this means
that what drives them most to move from illit-
eracy to literacy is the
desire to read the Bible.
Wycliffe is LAMP, which is featured
in this issue, was founded
engaged in the on that principle. And as
people learn to read the
fight against Bible, LAMP also opens
biblical illiteracy, the doors for all the oppor-
Dave Harder

tunities mentioned above.

against illiteracy If you knew Wycliffe
Canada’s Andy and Karen hero’s memoirs . . . the list is endless.
at large, and Vaters personally, you Through literacy, the door has been opened
against poverty. would know how passion- a crack. It can then be swung open wide, and
ate they are about the Mam formerly marginalized people can walk through
people in Guatemala and with pride into a better future.
about how the LAMP program equips the Mam Don Hekman is president of Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada.
for service in the church and in society at large
(see stories in this issue).
That’s also why I love the work of Wycliffe
Bible Translators. We actively serve at the inter-

Word Alive • Summer 2011 • wycliffe.ca 35

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