Humbelina sat, puzzled, with a pile of pencils.
She had come to a village near her hometown in Peru to lead a “Women of the Bible” workshop — a study that focuses on the roles of 17 women in Scripture. About 100 Huallaga Quechua women had gathered to participate in the study, designed to teach comprehension and application in their own language.
But when Humbelina tried to pass out worksheets and pencils, the women didn’t seem interested. They took the worksheets, intending to take them home for their kids to play with. Not a single woman took a pencil.
Her heart sank. “How many of you know how to read and write?” she asked. Of the 100 women in attendance, six raised their hands.
“I realized in that moment we were in trouble,” Humbelina said. “‘We are on the cusp of receiving the entire Bible in our language, and this many people don’t know how to read?’ It was a burden on my heart.”
Humbelina returned to her community devastated. She and other women began praying, asking God what they could do about this great need for literacy. God answered Humbelina repeatedly, “You will be useful! I can use you.”
Humbelina never anticipated a life in ministry. When she was young her parents wanted nothing to do with the church. She went to school to learn to be a seamstress and planned to make a living using her sewing skills.
It wasn’t until she met her husband, a Quechua Bible translator, that she began to consider God’s mission in the world. Now God was promising to make her part of that mission.
With her new passion for literacy, Humbelina and her team created Huallaga Quechua primers for pre-literacy and basic literacy needs. Once participants complete both primers, their reading level is high enough to do the “Women of the Bible” study. The literacy team teaches students in classes, on the radio and through one-on-one lessons.
Humbelina remembers one student in particular, a woman named Leonarda. “She came to the training, but she always seemed very hard and cold,” Humbelina said. One day after the workshop, Humbelina saw Leonarda sitting and reading with some older friends.
When she saw Humbelina, she jumped up with joy on her face and introduced Humbelina to her friends as “the sister who taught me to read.”
“Our desire is to keep bringing the Word of God in the mother tongue so people can understand it,” she said. “When we share it with women, they don’t keep it to themselves. They share it with their children; they share it with other women. The Word of God in the mother tongue is what has an impact in people’s hearts, and it’s what changes people’s lives.”
Wycliffe Bible Translators is grateful for all who take part in supporting translation and Scripture-use projects like this one, including those who give through the Combined Federal Campaign.