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How valuable is your Bible in your language? More valuable than the latest iPhone? The latest living room wall sized TV? Your dream car? An exotic holiday?

What about a shiny new spoon? Or a new enamel plate?

Wycliffe Canada colleague Jack Popjes remembers a prayer meeting in a fairly remote part of Brazil many years ago…

I will never forget that girl’s prayer during night class!

We were in the last stages of the Canela translation program. Two dozen young Canela men and women surrounded me, sitting on logs, heads bowed in prayer. We had sung hymns set to Canela indigenous music patterns, and in a few minutes would read and talk about a new draft of the translated Scriptures.

Now, it was time to pray. I heard prayers asking God to heal sick children, for a good crop, and for help to find a lost bush knife.

Then a young mother prayed:

“Great Father in the Sky,” she began. “I want to thank You for sending our brother Prejaka, and our sister Tehtikwyj, to us so long ago when I was just a little girl. They taught us to read our own language. Then they worked with us to translate Your Words into it. Now we can read Your Letter to us. Now we are discovering that You love us very much. Now we can learn how we can live to please you. Please help them to finish the Book soon.”

Canela village where the Popjes worked

Canela village where the Popjes worked

Then came the part that brought tears to my eyes and engraved itself into my memory.

“I also want to thank You for all Prejaka and Tehti’s friends in Canada. Every month their friends send money to them. They know that our brother and sister don’t have a food garden here like we do. They need money to buy food, and their friends in Canada send it to them.

“They don’t send it just because they are their friends. They send it because they are our brothers and sisters. Just as You are our Great Father, You are their Great Father too.

“They could keep the money, and buy nice things for themselves. Maybe they see a new enamel plate, or a shiny spoon, and ask themselves, ’Should I buy this for my family?’ But then, they decide not to buy anything, but to send the money to our brother and sister so they can stay here and help us have Your Word.

“And they sure chose right, because Your Word is so much more valuable than a new spoon, and better than an enamel plate. As a reward, give these friends, our brothers and sisters, lots of healthy children; make their gardens grow well, and keep them from getting sick. Amen.”

Bible translation is going on in 2,267 languages in more than 230 countries as you are reading this:

  • Somewhere, people are reading or hearing the Word of God in their own language for the first time.
  • Somewhere, the Holy Spirit is revealing the Father to someone who has only recently heard about Him.
  • Somewhere, the Holy Spirit is inspiring new believers not just to thank God for His Word, and for those who bring it, but also to ask Him to bless those who send the money which makes it all possible.
  • Somewhere, God is blessing donors to Bible translation and cross-cultural missions who are responding to prayers by new believers such as that young Canela mother.

This story is an encouragement to support Bible translation: if you do, keep doing it. Somewhere, someone may be thanking God for you.

Someone who you will not meet until eternity may be praying God’s blessing on you because, as that young Canela mother said,

“You sure chose right.”

PCI logo

Once every four weeks, Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland has the opportunity to submit prayer items for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland weekly Prayerline.

In Prayerline, published today and covering the next 7 days, Wycliffe focussed on some current events in N. Ireland…

On Sunday past our Wycliffe NI Church Engagement team leader Ricky Ferguson was back in his old stomping ground speaking at Fahan Presbyterian Church in Donegal. His topic was “Bible Translation: what’s it all about?” We give thanks for how Ricky was taught and mentored in Fahan as he grew up and for the work he is now doing sharing his passion for Bible translation worldwide.

Fahan

Fahan Presbyterian with Ricky & Marlene Ferguson middle front

This coming Saturday, Ricky’s wife Marlene is taking a team of five to Union Road Presbyterian Church, Magherafelt who have invited us to put on a primary children’s missionary adventure day. They are expecting at least 100 children from the area to explore the theme “Let Your Light Shine!”  Pray for Marlene, her team, the children and all the local helpers involved.

We are excited in the Belfast office that by the time you are reading this, two new applicants will have been interviewed.  Pray that all will go well and that we will be able to share good news in our next contribution to Prayerline.

Please pray with us and our Presbyterian partners…

To view the whole Prayerline published Wednesday 13 April 2016 with the Wycliffe item at the end Click here to download Word file

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Mark’s Gospel ends on a puzzling note.

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

They needn’t have worried because when they got there, the stone was rolled away and instead of finding Jesus’ body they were greeted by, and rather frightened by, a young man dressed in a white robe – presumably an angel – who said:

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ “

And did they go off rejoicing to tell the “disciples and Peter” as the young man had instructed them?

No!

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

It’s an unexpected ending, abrupt and incomplete. But our Bibles tell us that that is where the earliest and most reliable manuscripts end. Verses 9-20 are included invariably with the comment that they are from later manuscripts. What is going on here? Many Christians, scholars and non-scholars, have puzzled over Mark’s abrupt end. I’m not going to discuss the theologians.

Instead I want to recommend a book written by Cedric Longville, a Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland colleague and former Legal Adviser to the Secretary of State of Wales.

Cedric had pondered this puzzle for a long time – and researched it. Mark’s Gospel was (obviously) written by Mark and probably dictated by Peter. It was Peter’s story. Why did Peter stop at verse 8? Was it something to do with his denial of Jesus? Why did Peter not tell how he was re-instated and commissioned by Jesus to lead the early Christian church? Why was that left to John?

Cedric decided to write a Bible mystery story and since Peter is central to the mystery, he called it The Sea Walker.

You can download The Sea Walker from Kindle. I hope you enjoy it; I did.

Some Kindle reviews:

An enjoyable journey through second century Roman Empire times to propose a reason for the abrupt ending to Mark’s Gospel.

A thoroughly enjoyable read! Murder, mystery, suspense – it’s all there. And some excellent devotional Bible teaching along the way

What do you think…

 

Our final work experience student of the year has spent three days in the Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland Belfast office learning a thing or two about what we do. Judith attends a school in Belfast where she studies languages – and here are her reactions…

What really surprised me during my time at the Wycliffe office in Belfast was that every skill can be used in helping to convey God’s word to people in their own language.

When I heard “Bible translators”, I automatically assumed that everyone working for Wycliffe had linguistic skills. However, that’s not the case. There are artists, teachers, lawyers and musicians; each person has a specific way of aiding this work. Before my work experience, I was completely ignorant of the fact that pictures need to be translated in order for them to be relevant to the particular people group. For example, a picture of a mansion isn’t going to have much bearing to someone living in a hut.

Paratext Bamunka Acts 2

Paratext: Acts 24 in the Bamunka language of NW Cameroon: this is the software that Judith writes about below

On my second day, I visited Michael and Miranda Jemphrey. I was so humbled by their willingness to have me in their home. Michael showed me the software that he uses as a translation consultant and explained the various things shown on the screen: an English translation, a French translation, a Greek translation and the translation that they are currently working on. They gave me such a better insight as to how people at home can aid the translators that are all over the world.

Through my three days at Wycliffe, I began to understand how truly blessed I am. Having the Bible in my heart language, and in various translations for me to choose from, is such a great privilege.

Kouya New Testament dedication T shirt (Côte d’Ivoire)

Kouya New Testament dedication tee shirt (Côte d’Ivoire) – the verse in Kouya is Hebrews 4:12

Hebrews 4:12, “For the Word of God is alive and active”. God is active and so is His Word! Every person deserves the Bible in their own language. Why? Because God is the ultimate-linguist: He speaks every language and cares for every speaker of each language. No language is better than another. When the Bible is in a person’s heart language, they become more receptive; God is no longer such a remote, impersonal God. He is present and personal to the individual

My thanks to Judith for this guest blog about her work experience with us.

Judith also attended our First Steps day event on 6 February 2016 at Ballyhenry Presbyterian Church Newtownabbey. To find out about more First Steps events and to register go to

There are still at least 1,800 languages that don’t have a Bible.

Find out more about Bible translation and mission and the ways that you could become involved on our website.

It must have been in the early 1990s, in my first year or so teaching at Vavoua International School in Côte d’Ivoire. I had taught History for years in a Belfast school, but at VIS I taught more English in the early years. There was a book of short stories – and one of the short stories was called Let’s go to Golgotha by Gary Kilworth… not that I remembered either the title or the author when the Easter account in Mark’s Gospel earlier this week sparked the memory.

So I went online and found the title and author, but not a way to see the text of the story. Solution – Facebook message some of my VIS English students from around that time and off went the following query to Michelle, Kristin and Anna in Australia and New Zealand.

Hi Guys! Do any of you remember reading a science fiction story in a book of short stories published (I think) in Australia. It was about time travel tourists at Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion.The punchline was that the crowds shouting for the release of Barabbas and Jesus’ crucifixion were…
But let’s not spoil the story!
Within an hour or so, I got a message back from Michelle:
Stuart Townend and Keith Getty’s hymn How Deep the Father’s Love For Us has these lines:
Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers
It was my sin that held Him there
until it was accomplished;
His dying breath has brought me life.
I know that it is finished.
And this is what Kilworth’s science fiction story Let’s go to Golgotha is all about. Jesus’ once for all sacrifice on the Cross dealt with the sin of every human being that had lived, was living or was to live. It includes every one of us.
Gary Kilworth creates a society in which people can not only go on a package holiday to exotic places worldwide; they can book with their Time Travel Agency and choose a trip to any time or place in history. The people in the story chose Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion of Christ.
Pilate presents Jesus to thew crowd

Pilate presents Jesus to the crowd

Time Travel Agency employed a clergyman to brief the tourists on the Crucifixion Tour…

We will arrive on the day that Pilate asks the inhabitants of Jerusalem whom he should set free, as the citizens are permitted to grant amnesty to one prisoner over the Feast of the Passover.  When the crowd begins to shout “Barabbas”, as we know it must, then you must shout it too. You must not appear to be different in any way from the rest of the citizens. This is vitally important. You have to appear to be in agreement with the rest of the crowd.
And on the trip, that’s more or less what happened – except that the tourists discovered something that neither they (nor presumably their clergyman briefer) expected.
All the inhabitants are in their houses, praying.
And then it dawned on them, the horror of what they had done.
Look at the crowd! Look around you! There are no Jews here. No natives. The only ones here are us. The holiday-makers. Do you realize the enormity of what we’ve done? The whole guilt of mankind rests on our shoulders.

We’re now halfway through and it’s Easter.

Along with many other people here in Ireland, I’ve been taking part in…

100 days of prayer for 100 years of history – a movement of prophetic prayer for healing of the past, honour in the present and hope for the future.

2016 is a year of centenaries – the Battle of the Somme and the Easter Rising. In this moment, we are inviting Christians to unite and prayerfully engage in our nation’s story – to grasp this unique pastoral and prophetic opportunity.

Read more about 100 Days for 100 years here

The Easter weekend readings adapt the Bible to our local context and turn our thoughts to prayer!

Day 49 Good Friday? Mark 15

And Friday is good. Jesus died that we might live. He was made sin for us. Satan was defeated. Death was beaten. Mercy and truth met together. Righteousness and peace kissed. On that Friday, the curtain in the temple was torn in two. On that Friday, tombs were opened and bodies raised. On the cross that Friday, He declared – “It is finished.”

We have our own reason to call this Friday ‘good’. The Belfast Agreement is often known as the Good Friday Agreement. It proved to be a significant stepping stone to peace. It wasn’t perfect, and those on both sides of the conflict have had to accept developments that they had previously declared to be unacceptable. Political tensions and ambiguities have continued to the present day, yet almost everybody agrees that it has changed Northern Ireland for the better.

Forgiveness and reconciliation are possible because of what happened that first Good Friday. And so we pause, we reflect, and we wait in the darkness.

Prayer

They looked upon the One they had pierced and thought that they had won
The Word of God was silenced
The Light of the World was extinguished
The Way was blocked
The Truth questioned
The Life was dead
So great a love
So great a sacrifice
Amen                                                                           Peter Lynas

Day 50 Waiting for Resurrection Isaiah 61

I can’t help but feel we are still living in Easter Saturday here; we know something significant has happened with the transition to politics instead of terror, but we haven’t yet experienced resurrection to something new. We’re still fighting, albeit it is usually now just with words.

The prophet Isaiah, among his various messages, brought one of comfort, including this: ‘They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.’ Every time I drive down Oxford Street, I’m reminded of how this is true for Belfast. As I child, I remember being quickly herded into the bus station and minutes later a bomb destroying buildings around. Today, I see the Waterfront and new modern buildings, a testament to how far we have come.

But Isaiah also talked of deeper issues; broken hearts healed, prisoners freed, comfort for the mourning, justice marking society, joy instead of despair. In that sense, we’re still in between what has happened and what we still long for – it’s still Easter Saturday to an extent and we’re waiting for resurrection.

Prayer

Father, thank You for the hope that Easter brings, for the reminder and promise of resurrection. In this time of waiting, we’re grateful that things are better than they used to be! But we’re not satisfied, and we bring our discontent to You; we long for healing, for comfort, for justice, for real peace that will permeate our country and our relationships.
As we wait, help us to hold fast to the hope for better, not merely to settle for what we have now. Help us to be agents of the resurrection life and hope that we long to see in our day.
Stephen Cave

Day 51 He is risen! John 20

Picture the scene. Jesus’ disciples are in a room three days after His death. The doors are locked and they are riddled with fear.  Imagine their emotions as they contemplate their uncertain futures. After ‘selling out’ to follow the Rabbi Jesus, they believe His dead body now lies limp and lifeless in a tomb.  They are flooded by doubt, consumed by disappointment and apparent failure, which is all compounded by the immediate fear for their lives from the Jewish leaders.

Then like a scene from a sci-fi movie, Jesus shows up! He is right there in the room with them. But how? The doors are locked! Scholars disagree as to whether Jesus actually walked through the walls or not but one thing we can definitely surmise is that walls can’t keep Jesus out.  I wonder if in this act, Jesus was telling us something about what the resurrection would mean for us, for all of creation. Still carrying the scars of the cross, Jesus in His physical post-resurrection body steps through the walls to show us that it truly is finished – everything, absolutely everything the curse of sin sought to destroy of God’s good creation has been dealt with in Christ’s own body and even death, the final enemy, has been conquered! As Paul a few decades later would declare, ‘Nothing can separate us from the love of God.’  Every wall closing in around us can be smashed by the wrecking ball of the love of God. A love so strong that is raises the dead.

The walls that have separated us from one another can also come crashing down.  Jesus’ all-conquering love carries the power to destroy our divisions and pride, making us one.  As He declared to those startled disciples, having appeared in the Upper Room, who He came and stood beside on resurrection Sunday ‘Peace be with you.’

Prayer

Father, thank You that walls can’t keep Jesus out, yet we recognise that we can keep them up.
Help us to follow Jesus’ example of self-sacrificial love, to deny ourselves, say YES to Your ways and allow Your love to flood our hearts.
May that love overflow to our neighbours, even our enemies.                 Alain Emerson
Good Friday has passed; we have waited through Saturday; we rejoice today that Christ is risen!
Hallelujah!
Peace be with you.

Life can become overwhelming at times. Database frustrations at work. Car needing fixed unexpectedly. A dodgy washer in an overflow pipe. Family illnesses and daily hospital visits. Worries and concerns about children and grand children. Losing something that seems important but probably isn’t.
All too easily we allow life to get way out of proportion.

Judas betrays Jesus

Judas betrays Jesus

Are you reading the Gospel accounts as Easter approaches? I’ve been reading Mark’s account along with many other people following SU WordLive; last Friday it was Jesus’ betrayal and arrest in Mark 14:43-52.

This is not what the disciples were expecting. This is not what contemporary understandings of the Messiah expected. But Jesus, throughout all he was and was still to suffer, knew that events were going exactly as God intended.

 “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled. Then everyone deserted him and fled. ” Mark 14:48-50

So the disciples fled. Soon Peter would deny Jesus. In the SU WordLive commentary, Graham Cray writes some encouraging words in the Deeper Bible study section:

They were not a hopeless crowd. Jesus chose them, as he has chosen us. Judas’ duplicity and the arrest at night ‘with swords and clubs’ (v 43) was far more cowardly. Despite their promises and the brief flash of a sword, there was little the disciples could have done. They could not change the physical circumstances, while spiritually the work of the cross was something Jesus must achieve alone. God’s purpose prefigured in Scripture was being fulfilled. God’s plan is not dependent on our successes.

The New Testament is clear that it was their encounter with the risen Jesus and empowerment by the Holy Spirit which later made these disciples such effective witnesses. Fruitful and faithful discipleship is not a matter of inherent strength of character but of dependence on God and encounter with the Holy Spirit. Jesus can turn cowards into martyrs, but more often he takes ordinary, reasonably competent human beings and teaches them that to be of service they need to trust his power, not their competence.

This ordinary, somewhat competent, human being takes comfort from Graham Cray’s words, but much more from the fact that everything was not going wrong – Jesus was fulfilling his Father’s plan of salvation.

I’m looking forward to Easter weekend and to going on the Passion Walk in Belfast on Good Friday morning.

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