Tenek Literacy

  • Location: Mexico
  • New Testament Completion Date: 2017

Descendants of the ancient Maya, the Tenek-speaking people live in 12 villages in Northern Mexico. These peasant farmers number about 174,000, and very few are literate. Predominantly Roman Catholic with 60% adherents, 20% of the population classify as Protestant, another 20% are independent, less than 1% of whom claim to be evangelical.

The deeply rooted influence of Roman Catholicism in Mexico has caused difficulties for missionary work among the tribal people. Consequently, fewer than 10 evangelical churches hold services for the Tenek language group. Raised in a Tenek village, Fernando Angeles providentially stumbled across a Spanish Bible after learning Spanish in school. When he read about God's love and forgiveness, he believed in Christ's gift of salvation and began to share the truth with his people, but the Tenek had no Bible in their mother tongue. As he began teaching and preaching from the Spanish Bible and translating into Tenek, Fernando realized that "he was doing the same thing that the Catholic priests were doing." The Tenek desperately needed God’s Word in their language to read and understand for themselves.

BI adopted the Tenek New Testament translation project for the San Luis Potosi Huastec dialect in June 2006. Fernando and Christy Angeles acquired linguistic training under BI, and soon the Angeles accepted their initial assignment—to translate the Gospel of Mark. With much help from BI senior consultant Ross Hodsdon and his wife, Fernando managed to complete this book in one year.

In 2008, the president of Mexico required that Indian languages "normalize" their alphabet and vocabulary. Because Fernando and Christy had become acquainted with two Tenek linguists, Nefi and Clemy, through their translation work, the government invited the Angeles to participate in normalization. By 2013, the Tenek people received their authorized alphabet and grammar, which proved to be valuable tools in translating the Tenek New Testament, as the translation team subsequently published trial editions of Mark, James, and John.

Fernando and Christy traveled to the Hodsdons' translation workshops in the US from 2008 until New Testament completion in 2017. God graciously provided for these twice-a-year plane trips, Skype workshops, the final read-through in the BI office in Grand Rapids, and the cost of printing these precious New Testaments and trial editions. As he continued to conduct translation workshops around the globe, Ross Hodsdon learned that cancer was overtaking him. He did not live to see his special Tenek translation goal completed; but following his death in August 2017, his wife and other BI consultants continued to work on the project.

Over 500 people attended the dedication celebration of the Tenek New Testament on December 15, 2017, where everyone in the town square heard the gospel clearly presented in English, Spanish, and Tenek. After the preaching and testimonies ended, one elderly man confessed to Christy Angeles, "I couldn’t understand a word of the Spanish, but I could understand every word of the Tenek, and I have faith."

Our Tenek translator's life story has been written up in a book targeted to middle schoolers - You can click here to go to the Amazon page.
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