Bonifacio Paulo once thought God had called him to become a priest–but a “chance” meeting led him to invest his life in Bible translation.
A native of Mozambique, Bonifacio spoke the Makhuwa language growing up. However, he read the Bible in Portuguese for many years before he finally picked up a Bible in his mother tongue.
After a family member encouraged him to study at a Catholic seminary, Bonifacio set his course to become a priest. But one Sunday afternoon, during his Grade 12 year at the seminary, he met a young man who asked him a simple, yet probing question: “Do you know Jesus?” This brief encounter made him question what he really believed and marked a turning point in his life.
When unexpected circumstances forced him to leave the seminary, Bonifacio enrolled in a Bible college in Mozambique. While studying there, he learned about the need for Bible translation in a course led by SIL (Wycliffe’s key partner organization) on the principles of Bible translation. As part of the course, students were asked to read the Bible in their mother tongue. Although a Makhuwa translation was available, it was not readily accessible. Instead, Bonifacio had been reading and studying the Bible in Portuguese, while also studying English, French, Latin and Greek.
As he started reading in Makhuwa, the words gripped his heart.
“It was as if I was reading the Bible for the first time,” he recalls. “Although I had understood the words intellectually before, it now made sense on an emotional level. It was no longer just text on paper, but the words spurred me on to take action,” explains Bonifacio.
He wondered that if he, as a well-educated man, did not truly understand the message of God’s Word, how much more would a less-educated person struggle to understand, and how much would they miss of what God wanted to say to them. This question sparked his interest in Bible translation and in 2007, he started working for SIL as an exegetical adviser. As he spent more time with Bible translation consultants to see what they do, he became convinced that God was leading him to become a translation consultant.
In October 2014, Bonifacio and his wife, Busie, joined Wycliffe South Africa. In 2016, he completed his training to become a translation consultant. He is currently part of Wycliffe’s translation services team, working on projects in Angola and Mozambique.
Although it seemed his path was clear, Bonifacio learned that God had a very specific plan for his life. He had to be prepared to change direction and to be uncomfortable at times, but he was ultimately led to where God intended him to be: making the Word of God accessible to people in their own language.