Last February, when we were in Guatemala, we lived with a pastor, Antonio Moxnay, and helped him and his family to do ministry at a church he had just planted the month before. Pastor Antonio’s ministry was unique in that though most churches in Guatemala will only teach in Spanish, he was intentional about teaching in the native language of the people in his village. Tzutujil is a Mayan dialect spoken by about 40,000 people living in the villages that dot the shores of beautiful Lake Atitlan.
Pastor Antonio shared with us that about thirty years ago, missionaries came to Atitlan to learn the language, translated the New Testament into Tzutujil, and distributed printed copies of the book. Since the project ended, however, the missionaries have gone home, and no new copies have been made available. Pastor Antonio is fortunate enough to own one of the rare copies, but sees the people around him desperately hunger for the word of God. He asked us to pray that God would provide new bibles for his people in their own language.
At the time, the world race kept us constantly moving and I didn’t have a chance to research the possibility of acquiring more Tzutujil New Testaments. Since returning home, however, I have remembered the need of the church and have begun to pursue a way to meet this need. Turns out, this is a more difficult quest than I would have imagined.
The organization that did the original translation, Wycliffe Canada, doesn’t provide the resources they have translated. The publisher, Hosanna Publishing House, does not have a web page, and the only phone number I could find was disconnected. Wycliffe Associates, American Bible Society, Hosanna-Faith by Hearing, Summer Institute of Linguistics: all were dead ends. I’m still hoping to hear back from USCWM as well as Multi-Language Media. Perhaps they will have a lead for me.
There is one resource that IS available: a verbal reading of the Tzutujil NT on audio-cassette. Of course, that probably means providing tape players and batteries, which would not be a cheap proposition. Another idea I’m working on is to bring a scanner to Atitlan and manually scan the pages of Pastor Antonio’s bible, then come back and have copies printed more cheaply in the U.S.
Please pray that God would open the doors to providing the Tzutujil people with scripture in their own language. The translation work has already been done! It just needs to get into their hands. If you have any leads, resources, or ideas, or would like to get involved in this project, please let me know.