Together in translation

Imagine an island twice as big as the UK, where most of the population do not understand the language the Bible is written in.

That island is Madagascar – one of the world’s poorest countries – and it’s where SIM UK’s Debbie Simpson is working cross-culturally to help translate God’s Word for the Tsimihety people.

Debbie Simpson

“For us to see the message of the Lord spreading rapidly across Madagascar, it has to first be in a language that the people understand,” says Debbie, who is sent by Kells Presbyterian Church in Northern Ireland.

There are 18 people groups in Madagascar and more than 20 languages, but it only has the Bible in what’s known as Official Malagasy (or Merina Malagasy – Merina being the people group who live in and around the capital city Antananarivo). 

For the past four years, Debbie and her fellow non-Malagasy mission workers, have been part of a project called Together in Bible Translation (TiBT) – a grassroots initiative that helps local translators, who know their own language and culture, to translate clear and accurate translations of God’s Word. 

Debbie guides the translating group

“TiBT works with 12 of the minority languages, facilitating and guiding nine small groups across Madagascar as they translate the Word of God into their own respective languages,” she explains.

“The project is called ‘Together’ in Bible Translation because I and my fellow non-Malagasy translators work together with our Malagasy mother-tongue speakers.”

The local translators come from all walks of life – from teachers to pastors and from farmers to shopkeepers – working in small teams of four or five, to translate parts of the Bible into languages specific to their own cultures and communities.

The Tsimihety team and right, the translation workshop

This month, Debbie and the Tsimihety team joined a TiBT workshop to meet with a translation consultant, hoping to get their final draft of Luke’s Gospel approved for publication. 

“The Tsimihety team were questioned about word choices and phrase structures, as well as some background history of Herod and his sons, but praise the Lord, the new draft was approved!

“I’m so proud of each member of the team for their stickability and perseverance. I pray this would be a huge encouragement for them and that they would approach new drafts and more hard work with a renewed enthusiasm.”

The Tsimihety Gospel of Luke (Liuka) will be printed and available within the next couple of months, strengthening the faith of local churches leaders, who with a good, solid Bible understanding, will be equipped to share God’s message of salvation.

John’s joy at reading the gospel in his own language

“As the Tsimihety people read stories in their heart language for the first time, I pray many will come to a new understanding of the love of God and their need of salvation as a direct result of this Tsimihety Gospel of Luke,” says Debbie.

By Kerry Allan


  • Give thanks for the enthusiasm of the Malagasy translators.
  • Give thanks for all engaged with this ministry and pray for grace and understanding as their cultures interact. 
  • That the Lord will prepare the hearts and minds of the of the Malagasy people to receive his Word.

This was posted on 20 June 2023 in Bible access and Ministry stories and Translation.

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