In the vast territory that stretches across Finland, Norway, and Sweden live the Saami—an indigenous people with their own culture, traditions, and languages. Jehovah’s Witnesses recently carried out two initiatives to share the Bible’s message with the Saami.
First, in the autumn of 2015, the Witnesses started to produce Bible literature and videos in the Saami language. * Second, during two special campaigns, in 2016 and 2017, Jehovah’s Witnesses traveled to Lapland—a remote region where herds of reindeer roam—to share the translated information with the Saami.
“Valuable work for the community”
During the special campaign in May 2017, more than 200 Witnesses in Finland, Norway, and Sweden volunteered to go to numerous small villages scattered across thousands of square kilometers in Lapland. Some Witnesses prepared by learning Saami phrases, which impressed the Saami people. “Locals welcomed our modest efforts to speak their language and sensed our genuine interest,” relates Denis, who volunteered in Karigasniemi.
Because they cherish nature and wildlife, the Saami especially appreciated the Bible’s promise about a paradise on earth. (Psalm 37:11) For example, when a Saami woman started to study the Bible using the brochure Good News From God! and learned what God will do for humankind, she wondered aloud why her minister had never told her about an earthly paradise.
Many expressed their gratitude for the Witnesses’ visits. A shopkeeper commended two Witnesses he had observed. He told them that they were doing an “important and valuable work for the community” and invited them to come to his store and take whatever food they needed. The shopkeeper then insisted on covering the cost.
During the campaign, the Saami viewed about 180 videos and accepted more than 500 publications. Often, they asked for every publication that was available in their language. In addition, 14 Saami began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“The work of professionals”
Several Saami who read the publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses appreciated the high quality of translation. “Your publications are translated incredibly well,” said Nilla Tapiola, a schoolteacher and a member of the Executive Board of the Saami Parliament. He explained that the publications “are easy to read and have good linguistic form.” A Saami man who lives at the northernmost point of Finland concluded: “They are clearly the work of professionals.”
In Karigasniemi, on the border between Finland and Norway, the Witnesses discussed with a Saami teacher the first lesson of the brochure Good News From God! Impressed by the quality of the translation, the teacher asked the Witnesses for permission to use the brochure at school to teach the Saami language.
Several videos and tracts as well as one brochure have been translated into Saami. The jw.org website has appeared in Saami since February 29, 2016. Each month, Saami speakers visit the website over 400 times and download about 350 digital, audio, and video files.
Both the Saami and those who volunteered to visit them feel enriched by the campaign. Locals could “see that the Bible benefits the Saami community in many practical ways,” observed Henrick and Hilja-Maria, who traveled to Utsjoki. Lauri and Inga, who were also in Utsjoki, added: “This campaign reminded us of God’s impartiality. We are happy to reflect his love toward the inhabitants of these remote places.”
^ par. 3 There are a number of Saami (also known as Sami) languages. “The largest language, North Sami,” notes the Encyclopædia Britannica, is “spoken by about two-thirds of all Sami.” Jehovah’s Witnesses translate their publications into North Saami. For simplicity, this article uses the word “Saami” to refer to the language spoken by the majority.