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With Lynda Farncombe, Mary Steele and Justin Frempong

I don’t intend to write all about that very special day at Buckingham Palace. Let the photos tell the story…

Before the ceremony in the Palace courtyard

And afterwards: spot the MBE medal

Mary Steele MBE

Lots of traditional dress on the day

Heading off to find some lunch…

… Mary turned down The Ritz for a humble Italian restaurant

It was a very special and memorable day which I feel very privileged to have shared with Mary.

My two recent posts here and here about Mary Steele MBE and Wycliffe Bible Translator, have taken me back to 10 May 2006 when I was one of Mary’s three guests at Buckingham Palace. The others were Lynda Farncombe (Mary’s niece, a Wycliffe UK member) and Justin Frempong (Director of the Ghana Institute of Linguistics, Literacy and Bible Translation GILLBT) Mary’s boss in Ghana.

That’s the photo story you have just been reading above…

Mary Steele died at the age of 89 having made an incredible contribution to Bible translation in the languages of Ghana over a period of 55 years.

 

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So said Mary Steele, Wycliffe Bible Translator, when interviewed on Ulster Television (UTV) some years ago.

My mind was very focussed on Mary and her long career with Wycliffe Bible Translators when I attended her funeral just before Christmas.

My mind went back to Mary’s interview with Paul Clarke which was shown on UTV twice in the same day. Did I have a copy of it? Where might I find it? It was a sheer accident that I found it on the new Wycliffe UK website – and I thought it deserved a plug.

The quotation below is  from When the Good News met the media which I blogged on 31 October 2010…

UTV Live news last night (Tuesday 10 June 2008) twice carried the story of Mary Steele MBE, 80 year old veteran Bible translator in Ghana. Mary is home near Ballymena in N. Ireland for a few months before returning to Ghana to complete the revision of the Konkomba Bible to be type-set in the autumn. She was very sensitively interviewed by Paul Clarke and Mary was her usual calm and clear speaking self. She talked about the growth of the Konkomba church since the sixties when she first went there and the amazing growth in literacy – hence the need for a new edition of the Konkomba Bible.
When asked why she does what she does, Mary replied, “I love the work, I love the people and I love the Lord!”

So I invite you to watch and enjoy Mary’s interview with Paul Clarke…

I have attended many funerals in my work with Wycliffe Bible Translators. I used to attend the funerals of parents of Wycliffe members. But more recently, it has been the funerals of colleagues. Perhaps the most poignant funeral was on 22 December 2017, the day after my 70th birthday.

Mary Steele died at the age of 89 having made an incredible contribution to Bible translation in the languages of Ghana over a period of 55 years.

On the day that we learned of her death, Wycliffe Personnel sent this tribute to all Wycliffe UK members:

Mary was one of the true “legends” of Wycliffe, widely loved and respected. She was born in 1928, trained as a nurse, worked in mission hospitals in southern Africa in the 1950s, joined Wycliffe in 1959 and later sailed for Ghana as one of the first Wycliffe members to go there. She worked extensively on the Konkomba and Bimoba translation projects in the north of the country, facing a variety of challenges, including health issues and serious inter-ethnic conflict. Both of these language groups now have completed Bibles, and have seen significant church growth. In addition, Mary was instrumental in a wide range of literacy, Scripture Engagement and Community Development activities, all of which were of significant benefit to these communities. Mary also served as a translation consultant to a number of other projects. She was a much-loved and highly valued member of the Ghana Institute of Linguistics, Literacy and Bible Translation.

In 2008 Mary was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for Services to Bible Translation, Literacy and Development. In 2015 she was appointed as a Member of the Order of the Volta by the President of Ghana. She retired (somewhat reluctantly!) in December 2014.

At the dedication of the Konkomba NT Mary was thanked and complimented by a Konkomba man: “She is deep and vast, and without her life for the Konkombas would be useless”.

Mary came from the Ballymena area of N. Ireland, sometimes referred to as the Ballymena Bible Belt. Mary’s achievements were often reported in the Ballymena Times newspaper by reporter Joe Boyd who now works for the online The Church Page. Joe asked me to contribute to his tribute to Mary.

‘When my wife Ruth and I joined Wycliffe Bible Translators in 1989, Mary Steele was already a legend for newbies like us. Later in my Wycliffe UK role, I met her many times and was always impressed by her commitment to helping Ghanaian colleagues translate the Bible into their languages; her devotion to God; and her humility. It was a surprise and a great privilege when Mary asked me to be one of her guests – along with her niece Linda Farncombe and Justin Frempong, director of the Ghanaian Institute of Linguistics, Literacy and Bible Translation (GILLBT) – when she went to Buckingham Palace to receive her MBE from Queen Elizabeth. It was a great day! I believe that protocol demands that one politely answers any questions the Queen might ask, but not initiate anything oneself. However Mary told us afterwards that having confirmed the Queen’s questions about her work in Ghana, she then made sure that the Queen knew how many people groups in the world were still waiting for Bible translation into their languages. I guess that summed up our “Queen Mary” and her passion for her work.’           [Joe Boyd’s full article can be read here.]

As a member of Killymurris Presbyterian Church, Mary was also very highly regarded in Irish Presbyterian circles.

The PCI website also published a tribute to Mary.

2018 International Year of WHAT???

Apparently, according to my learned friend, Peter, the United Nations has forgotten all about 2018…

The UN hasn’t actually declared 2018 as the year of anything.

Well, the world is full of sad stories and fake news and uninspiring political leaders – so perhaps everyone is running out of imaginative creative ideas…

2019 is looking promising though; Peter again…

2019 will be the International year of Indigenous Languages thanks to a UN resolution (and also the international year of moderation thanks to another one).

Promising… because both Peter and I are rather interested in the translation of the Bible into minority languages – in fact into every language that doesn’t have God’s Word.

More extracts from Peter’s blog…

I’m sure 2018 will continue to be a year of suffering, hardship, and persecution for many people, including Christians persecuted for their faith, but like every year it will also be a year of hope and a year of celebration!

Throughout 2018 and 2019 there will be a lot of people who will celebrate the publication of a Bible, New Testament, or portion of scripture in their language for the first time ever. Other will celebrate the launch of reprints, revisions or the launch of new scripture in a new format such as a video, audio recording or Bible app.

There will also be people who simply haven’t known or haven’t cared that the Bible is available in their language, or haven’t known how to access it.

But why not read the blog for yourself.

And maybe comment here on my blog – and on Peter’s – answering this question:

What do you hope to remember 2018 by?

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