Warao Bible

  • Location: Venezuela
  • Bible Portions Completion Date: 2018

The Warao people number approximately 33,000. Only 20% of the Warao profess Christianity, and 1.44% of that group claim to be evangelical. The literacy rate among the Warao men is 60%, significantly higher than the 42% literacy rate among women. Recognized as a language by the Indigenous Languages Law of 2008, Warao boasts extensive documentation and university-level teaching.

In 1954, missionaries Henry and Anne Osborn began working with the Warao people, conducting language analysis for evangelism and Bible translation work. In 1960, they published a trial edition of Mark, after which the Warao began to believe and accept the gospel message, and then they published a trial edition of Acts in 1962. Throughout the New Testament translation process, as the Warao language helpers and Dr. Osborn continued to produce drafts of each New Testament book, the Warao believers mimeographed copies of the drafts and utilized them in evening classes and church services. Finally, they completed the Warao New Testament and printed 2,000 copies in 1974, seven years before the formation of Bibles International.

The Warao never lost their desire for the entire Bible, so they approached Bibles International for assistance, and BI adopted the project in 1988. With every copy of the previously translated New Testament distributed, the Warao believers also asked BI to print a New Testament revision, so BI agreed to meet this need. Not only had every copy of the original sold, but many copies were in pieces from constant use by the Warao believers. Estaban Morillo, one of the language helpers involved with the original translation, had filled several copybooks with notes and suggested revisions, however, BI did not hold the copyright to the 1974 translation. Subsequent negotiations enabled BI to revise the original New Testament and possess the copyright to their revision without the 1974 translation copyright. Following these negotiations, revision work finally proceeded officially in 2000.

Thanks to the prior work, revisions progressed quickly with BMM missionary Marilyn Pitzer and BI's Chief Language Consultant Dr. Osborn working alongside Warao language helpers on the project to complete and dedicate the New Testament revision in 2004. The dedication occurred on July 8, exactly 30 years after the dedication of the original New Testament translation in 1974. Over 225 people from at least eight communities and one neighboring state attended the 5-hour dedication service for the revised Warao New Testament. Additionally, Spanish-speaking churches sent a boatload of attendees that included groups from two neighboring states, and foreign Warao speakers represented two other missions at the ceremony.

Many difficulties facing the translation of the Old Testament led to the printing of a "short" Bible in 2018, which included 14 complete books and portions of Psalms, Isaiah, and Job. The troubles surrounding the project continued as the team prepared for the dedication service in February 2019. The location of the Bible shipment was unknown for several months during the short ocean voyage between Brazil and Venezuela. The shipment of 5,000 Bibles providentially reappeared in Caracas in time for the dedication service.

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