Kasem Proverbs

I’m now going through Kasem language notes made long ago on 3×5 index slips. These are providing words and expressions to add to the Kasem dictionary. Here are some proverbs I don’t remember seeing before and an explanation of their meaning. Do we have equivalent proverbs in English?

Ba ba kwei nabeinnu ba ma dole naao.

They don’t throw cow-dung at a cow.

The point of this is that it is not acceptable to make a gift to someone of something they already have in abundance. Taking coals to Newcastle?

Nɔɔno bá wane o faŋe o gaale o tete lunluŋu.

No-one can jump further than their own shadow.

There are limits to human endeavour. This is something like: You can’t pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.

Nɔɔno ba zwɛ kandwa o ke o men-dona wone.

No-one takes a handful of stones and puts them in his millet snack.

You don’t deliberately do something which will harm your own interests. It takes a lot of patient work to remove stones from rice, for example, so you wouldn’t knowingly reverse the process. Any English equivalent?

Bibles arrive in Kasena-land

I recently had an excited call from Rev. Jonah Kwotua, one of the Kasem translators, to say that he and Rev. Abraham Ayiakwo (another translator) were watching the Kasem Bibles being unloaded off a truck near Abraham’s home on the edge of Navrongo. This was the first they had seen of the printed Bibles so it was a big day for them, having worked on the Old Testament translation for 15 years.

8,000 Bibles were printed in South Korea and shipped to Tema, the port near Accra. Unfortunately 180 of the Bibles had suffered water damage en route, but 466 boxes containing 16 Bibles each were loaded on to a truck in Accra and safely made the 2-day road trip up to Navrongo.

Abraham quoted the following verse from the Bible (Proverbs 25:25):

Kwor-ywoŋa ná nwoŋi yiga yiga ka ba,
ka pae bochara tigi mo,
ne na-zura na zuri bochare tei to.

When a sweet message arrives from far far away, it causes chests (“hearts”) to be at ease, like how cold water cools the chest.

Here are some pictures:

Boxes of Bibles ready to leave Accra
Boxes of Bibles stored in Accra
Ready to leave Accra, if God wills!
Ready to leave Accra, if God wills!












Undamaged Bibles
Undamaged Bibles
Boxes damaged by water
Boxes damaged by water









Bibles unloaded in Navrongo
Bibles unloaded in Navrongo

The Kasem Bible has been printed!

When we first settled in Paga on the northern border of Ghana in 1972 we had no inkling of the long journey we were then embarking upon. We started to learn the Kasem language and to observe and absorb local cultural patterns. We made plenty of mistakes, both in speaking the language (getting the tones right was a special challenge) and also in meeting expectations of polite behaviour, such as keeping the left hand firmly out of use for public interaction. We persevered through ups and downs with God’s help and in 1988 the New Testament in Kasem was published. By this time there was a growing number of readers as a result of Judy’s work on preparing reading primers and in training volunteer teachers for adult literacy classes. These classes were geared towards those who had not been able to attend school and eventually helped several thousand people to become functionally literate.

When work on the New Testament was completed and the literacy work was established under local leadership we settled in Tamale, which was 120 miles south of the Kasena homeland.  Most of our focus was on helping translation programmes being conducted in other Ghanaian languages, but because there was interest from the Kasena churches in having the Old Testament as well as the New, we ran a week’s training in translation principles for 15 or so potential translators before we left Ghana to settle back in the UK in 1990. We didn’t know if we would be going back to Ghana after our two children completed secondary school, but as it turned out …

We returned to Ghana in 2000 and discovered that Rev. Jonah Kwotua, one of those who had attended the translation training in 1990, had made a serious start on the Kasem Old Testament translation. In time he was joined by Rev. Abraham Ayiakwo and later by Rev. James Wechu. However, I had little time to help them other than an occasional one-day 250 mile round trip from Tamale to encourage and guide them. Progress in the translation was steady but not spectacular! In 2006 we returned to the UK to take care of Judy’s mum and this turned out to provide a new impetus for the translation as I could now give 4 days a week to checking over the work of the translators using software that kept each of us up to date with one another’s work. Twice a year I made a four-week visit to Ghana to work with the translators face-to-face.

And so, by God’s grace, we saw the final steps on translation of the Old Testament and revision of the New Testament completed by the close of 2013. After a year of preparation of the print-ready copy, the Bible was sent to the printers in South Korea in December 2014 and production of 8,000 Bibles was finished in March 2015. We have now received two copies by Airmail, while 8,000 copies should be arriving at the port of Tema, near Ghana’s capital city, Accra. We are pleased to see the Kasem Bible finally in print. If it is exciting for us to hold a copy in our hands, how much more will it be for the Kasena people to read God’s Word in their heart language.

Now we wait to hear from the church leaders in Kasena-land to find out when the launch and dedication events will be held. We expect this to be held off until November when the rainy season is over and people are free to celebrate. We hope to be there!

Working on final review of the Kasem Bible, May 2013
Working on final review of the Kasem Bible, May 2013
Kasem Bible 2w
Reading the Psalms in Kasem

Praying with Paul

I was leading the morning worship service at our church last Sunday week. In preparation for the service I read through Paul’s prayer for the Ephesian church  and thought it would be a good basis for public prayer. So, making very few modifications apart from changing the pronouns, here is Paul’s prayer for the church in Long Crendon, Buckinghamshire, UK. 

We praise you God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. You have blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms through our relationship with Jesus.
We praise you for the glorious grace you have poured out on us who belong to your beloved Son, Jesus. You are so rich in kindness and grace that you purchased our freedom with his blood and have forgiven our sins. You have showered your kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.
You have given us your Holy Spirit, whom you promised long ago. He is your guarantee that you will give us the inheritance you promised, and that we are your own people because you have redeemed us. Through that Holy Spirit we want to praise and glorify you.
We thank you God for one another, and we pray for one another, asking you, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give each of us spiritual wisdom and insight so that we might grow in our knowledge of God. We pray that our hearts may be flooded with light so that we can understand the confident hope you have given to us whom you have called, the hope of a rich and glorious inheritance.
We also pray that we will understand better the incredible greatness of your power at work for us who follow you. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honour at your right hand in the heavenly realms. Now Jesus is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. You have put all things under the authority of Christ and you have made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. And we, the church, are Christ’s body, made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.
We acknowledge that it is by grace we have been saved, through faith–and this is not from ourselves, it is your  gift to us–not achieved by what we have done, so that none of us can boast. For we are your workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which you have prepared for us to do.

So Father help us to know you better, to love you better
and to serve you better,
For the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Even the butterfly

Since moving back into the refurbished building at Long Crendon Baptist Church (LCBC) we have had six or more Tortoiseshell butterflies fluttering around during the services. While potentially something of a distraction during the sermon (how could that be?), I like to see them as an indication of God’s blessing on the place of worship. No mention of butterflies, but Psalm 84 says:

How lovely is your dwelling place,
Lord Almighty!
Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
Lord Almighty, my King and my God.
                                               Psalm 84:1,3 NIV

Visitor to LCBC opening service
Visitor to LCBC services

The presence of the butterflies does raise some questions, though. What did the caterpillars live on during the nine months that the church was empty apart from the builders? How have the butterflies managed to survive for several weeks? A quick binge on the church flowers once a week?

Back home at LCBC

After 9 months meeting in a local school on Sundays while our church building was being largely remodelled, we are now back home again–and it’s really great! Long Crendon Baptist Church (LCBC) is a Victorian chapel, now brought into the 21st century. We had our official opening and thanksgiving service on the weekend of 1st-2nd February, when Andy Paterson of FIEC was the speaker. Now the challenge is to be open to God to do things differently and not drop back into the safe and familiar routines. The new building is light and open, not cut off from the world around. May that be reflected in our own hearts and lives as we seek to draw people to the Cross of Christ. Here are some perspectives.

Sunday arrivals welcomed
Sunday arrivals welcomed
The new entrance is at the side.
The new entrance is at the side.
Getting settled
Getting settled


Praising God for his goodness
Praising God for his goodness
Nobody wants to leave
Nobody wants to leave


Room to move in the foyer
Room to move in the foyer



Rev Abraham Ayiakwo, Judy & Philip Hewer and Rev Jonah Kwotua celebrate completion of work on the Kasem Bible, after working for three weeks with the GILLBT typesetter, John Sidsaya. The text of the Bible was “signed off” at 11 am on Friday 22nd November 2013, to say that no more changes would be made, and giving the go-ahead for final formatting prior to sending to the printers in South Korea. The Kasem New Testament was published in 1988 and work started on the translation of the Old Testament 10 years later.

See more news here.