Westmont Magazine The ABCs of Literacy
In Ghana, an African country that boasts 60 different languages, Marjorie Crouch ’61 has spent 42 years advancing literacy, creating written alphabets and translating the Bible as a member of Wycliffe Bible Translators.
In high school, she knew God was calling her to be a translator. She attended two Wycliffe training programs and gained a solid biblical foundation by studying at Westmont.
Born in Nigeria, she was pleased to be part of the first team that Wycliffe sent to Africa. When she arrived, Marj found a 90 percent illiteracy rate in her small village of mud huts. She realized the team would have to teach people to read or they would not benefit from having the Bible translated into their own language. The team began by training teachers, writing primers and coordinating literacy programs for two tribes, the Mos and the Vagalas, who did not have an alphabet or written language.
The tribes had no interest in learning to read, however, until Marj focused her efforts on the tribal patriarchs, who realized that literacy could preserve tribal secrets.
While helping to bridge the simple English that some learned in the government schools, Marj and her team began the tedious work of learning the sounds and characteristics of the tribes’ spoken language in order to create an alphabet and grammar.
“I have learned to appreciate God so much more through learning languages — the complexity and beauty of His people come through their languages,” Marj says.
The team has successfully translated the New Testament into the Mo and Vagala languages, and for the past 10 years Marj has run the translation department in the head office, concentrating on the Old Testament.
“I noticed from the beginning that these people lived their lives in fear and awe of their ancestors,” Marj recalls. “They believed in a God who lived far away, like the spirits of their ancestors. The fact that God is near is a big concept for them. Direct access to the Bible has helped change this perception. It is rewarding when you see people realize that Christ is not a foreign religion, but a personal God who is with you daily.”
In spite of many physical ailments Marj continues to practice what she teaches; daily dependence on a capable, multi-lingual God.