The Riza (a pseudonym) number approximately 450,000 and predominantly practice animism. Although early 18th-century European missionaries planted Presbyterian churches in the region, many past attempts to evangelize the Riza people met with significant persecution because foreigners presented the gospel without cultural sensitivity. Despite these challenges, the Riza believers number an estimated 1,000, with 24 churches and 16 pastors/evangelists of varying denominations.
The Riza people can only read the four Gospels translated into Riza by the Roman Catholic Church, as no other passages of the Bible exist in their language. The lack of translated Scriptures and Bible resources such as recordings, radio programs, and literature limits not only Riza believers in their walk with God but also the unreached who have never heard the good news of salvation. Undoubtedly, God’s Word in the Riza language will significantly impact the community. Most churches conduct their services in another language, but both children and adults within the villages speak Riza, so being able to preach, teach, and read from their heart language will strengthen the Riza churches immensely.
A national church planter who works among the Riza people has obtained an extensive list of linguistic degrees up to the doctorate level, and his wife has also earned multiple degrees, including education qualifications. Along with their language learning, they have laid an excellent foundation for the translation process. In addition to creating literacy materials, they have composed songs and translated Bible verses in Riza and conducted Scripture memorization programs among the people. These strategies generated excitement and raised awareness of the need for Scripture in their mother tongue, so they approached Bibles International for help in translating the New Testament into the Riza language. BI adopted the Riza New Testament project in April 2014.
The Riza currently utilize BI's trial edition of the Gospel of Mark in their teaching and preaching, while some pastors attend additional training to familiarize themselves and their congregations with Old Testament names and stories mentioned in the New Testament.
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