New Sunday school program translation brings light to Ethiopian children
The global teaching of Raili Väisänen and Mirjami Ylenius-Kuosmanen began many decades ago in Kenya, and after many stages has now proceeded to neighboring Ethiopia. New language versions of the Sunday School textbooks written by child ministry pioneers are now being completed for use by Pentecostal Churches in Ethiopia.
When Mirjami Ylenius-Kuosmanen and Raili Väisänen were in Kenya in the 1980s to train Sunday School teachers, they found that local teachers had only three Bible stories at their disposal: the creation story, the miniature gospel, and the prodigal son parable. Due to the inadequacy of the teaching material, they decided to write one themselves. This gave rise to a teaching package of six books and 144 lessons for Sunday School teachers. In addition, they worked on two guides for the training of Sunday School teachers. The teaching material has now been translated into 30 languages in Africa, Asia, and Europe. In Finnish, the teaching material is entitled: Treasures of the Bible.
The feelings of insecurity I experienced as a child later opened up my understanding of the world of children: for many, fear is a constant companion. Because of my experience, I was able to identify with children’s anxiety, and children and adults living in difficult situations were able to identify with my story.
Raili Väisänen’s love of Sunday school work has grown from her own difficult childhood years.
– The feelings of insecurity I experienced as a child later opened up my understanding to the world of children: for many, fear is a constant companion. Because of my experience, I was able to identify with children’s anxiety, and children and adults living in difficult situations were able to identify with my story. says Väisänen.
These long-term Finnish missionaries from Kenya made annual training trips to Ethiopia in 1983–1996 and even after 2000, most recently in 2006. But the training materials were not yet available in Ethiopia’s official languages, except Amharic. In the 1990s, when the Amharic translation was made, it was the only official language in Ethiopia.
From an appreciation visit to a translation project
Translation work in Ethiopia is progressing slowly but surely. Schedules have also been affected by the Corona pandemic in Ethiopia. Of the six Sunday School textbooks in the teaching material, five Oromo books have been translated. Likewise, the teacher handbooks are ready to be printed. Two of the six textbooks and the first of the handbooks for the training of Sunday school teachers have been translated into Sidamo. The new language versions will first be printed for use by Fida’s partner, Guennet church. To ensure the quality of the Sunday school work, a coordinator will also be hired for the project to guide and mentor local churches. The next step is to introduce the books in Sunday schools and give Sunday school teacher’s training to other Ethiopian denominations. There is a long tradition of cooperation across church boundaries. The Sunday School book authors still have a clear vision that has motivated them since the 80’s in Kenya.
– I want in Sunday school children to get proper Bible teaching. The teaching material is designed so that children get to know the most important Bible stories and Bible characters, so they have a foundation for their faith. I hope that through this teaching a lot of children will also come to faith, concludes Mirjami Ylenius-Kuosmanen.
Fida has done mission work in Ethiopia since 1951. From the beginning, social work has gone hand in hand with evangelism. In 2020, five Fida missionaries were working in the country.