A woman leads a group of girls (as young as 10-years-old) out of their village in Malawi, in the middle of the night, down deserted dirt roads, to a collection of primitive huts. This is the broken reality many young girls of Malawi face. They will stay there for up to two weeks for something called “initiation”: a rite in which they are taught how to satisfy men in bed. Afterward, they are encouraged to have sex with any man as soon as possible.
It’s no surprise that in Malawi, one in four girls between the ages of 13 and 18 is pregnant.
Initiation and other barbaric practices continue today in this country because of a complex system of secrecy. But those aren’t the only issues facing the people.
Malawi is one of the most densely populated and least-developed nations in the world. It has a low life expectancy (barely over 50 years) and an alarmingly high infant mortality rate (almost 45 deaths per 1,000 live births). Nearly a million adults (more than 10% of the population) are living with HIV/AIDS – and approximately 250 more people are infected each day. Almost half of the people live below the poverty line.
The spiritual climate is equally challenging. Although the majority of Malawians are Christian, many of them also practice traditional, animistic religions. Polygamy is widespread, and healers and shamans are often consulted. Islam is also prevalent in the southern parts of the nation.
Yet God is at work in Malawi, breaking through the lies of false religions and rites to draw people into relationship with His Son. One of the principle ways He is doing this is through His Word.
That’s why it’s so exciting that a new Bible translation is about to be available – a translation that is accurate to the original Greek and Hebrew texts, yet contemporary enough to speak to young people.
Years in the making, the Chichewa Contemporary Bible involved a team of translators who persevered through less than ideal circumstances.
“Power outages and internet interruptions posed problems for us,” one of the team members notes. Towards the end, funding became a challenge.”
But according to those who have had the chance to read it, the effort was well worth it.
“Give me a box of those Bibles,” one woman said after seeing the text. “I have to distribute them to my people in the village! We are always giving our grandmother problems asking questions from the Old Bible because the translation is so hard to understand. I am able to read this version without trouble.”
A man with a sample edition noted, “I enjoy reading this translation and everywhere I go to preach I use this version because it is simple and clear. And I enjoy it when, at the end of the service, people ask, ‘What version were you reading from and where can we get it?’”
The problems facing the people of Malawi are large and complex. But God is bigger and wiser. And His Word has the power to break through every barrier to transform lives.