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Ok, I’m being deliberately provocative in the title, but please read on.

“Dear Sir, I’d like to come and be a dentist for two weeks. I’ve been meeting once a month with a small group of others who also want to be short-term dentists. We have our t-shirts printed and we’re ready to come.

P.S. Can you drive us around, translate for us and help take cool photos for our Facebook pages?”

I’d like to be a fly on the wall when the dentist received that letter. We don’t have short-term social workers, or short-term bio-scientists. We don’t have short-term gastro-enterologists or short-term politicians. So why do we have short-term missionaries in ever-increasing numbers?

So writes Craig Greenfield at Relevant Magazine.

This appeared in the past few days (or perhaps it has re-appeared because I seem to remember reading it or something very similar before). It’s in your face; it’s radical; it’s though-provoking – or is it? Because Craig goes on to make several key statements which should not be unfamiliar with Christians who understand the Bible and what Jesus has called us to in the New Testament. Take a look at John 20:21  for example.

Let’s just agree right up front that there is no such thing as a part-time Christian. There is no such thing as a follower of Jesus who is not in full-time service to God. As followers of Jesus, we are all called to a vocation.

When we see that each of us has a unique and important vocation, we’ll develop a theology of work that works.

And later he suggests some re-defining or rather, re-naming of what have come to be known as short term mission trips. You can read his suggestions in the article.

When correctly framed, these trips can be important and even life-changing seasons of engagement with the poor.
At first reading I wondered why he emphasises “the poor”. Do all short term mission teams go to visit / help poor people? Short term mission in my experience can be life-changing in many ways, not least an awareness that so many people in the world don’t have the Bible in their heart language. But then I suppose that is a form of poverty too, isn’t it? Bible poverty!
So what do you think? Does short term mission need re-thinking in your church or in the mission organisation that you are involved with? I f so, let’s do it! So that we can obey Jesus better.
PS With reference to the dentist idea above… I tried Googling “short term dentist” and I found opportunities for dentistry overseas at GapMedics UK. So dentists, there’s an option.
Or dentists and anybody elsewhere, get in touch with Wycliffe Bible Translators about opportunities to explore the Bible poverty that I referred to above.

Monday 1 June 2015 was a significant day for Wycliffe Bible Translators in N. Ireland.

After almost 14 years in our office on Beersbridge Road, Belfast, we moved downtown. Well, a little bit closer to the centre of Belfast. We are in two adjoining rooms in The Mount Business and Conference Centre not too far from Belfast Central Station.

https://i1.wp.com/www.the-mount.co.uk/images/contact_mount.jpg

Our address is: The Mount Business Centre,  2 Woodstock Link, Belfast  BT6 8DD and our  phone number is 028 9073 5854.

Here is an extract from my latest newsletter…

NI Team
On the same day Ricky Ferguson started as Leader of the Church Engagement Team in N. Ireland. Ricky brings youth, enthusiasm and his passion for Bible translation. He also has the advantage of being married to Marlene!

Also on 1 June, Alfred Thompson started working with the Wycliffe UK Communications Team based with us in The Mount. Completing the NI team are Kenny Woodrow (Uganda / Tanzania Branch communications) and our invaluable long term volunteer Bill Bailie.

I really like working in this team. Not only is there coffee and yummy scones from Seasons Restaurant downstairs, but we have regular team meetings, daily prayer together and we get to bounce ideas and banter off each other.

What about me?
These changes mean I have fewer responsibilities and renewed enthusiasm as I work a three day week as part of Ricky’s team. I hope that I can help him in his new role. I continue to be involved with the Kairos World Mission Course at Belfast Bible College and to be our contact with the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. As a team, we want to build partnerships with all denominations and with new churches. We pray that God will call more people from Ireland to join Wycliffe.

A new office, new colleagues… all good stuff. But the task remains the same. As the front page of our Wycliffe UK website currently says…

Wycliffe Bible Translators believe that the Bible is the best way for people to come to know and understand who God is. Our vision is that by working with churches, organisations and individuals from around the world all people will have access to God’s word in a language that they truly understand.

Worldwide, 180 million people speaking 1,860 languages need Bible translation to begin, because they do not have access to the story of God’s love for his people – the story of the Bible – in the language that they understand the best. Of the 6,901 languages in the world today, only 531 have a complete Bible.

And there’s also a wee video from one of our partner organisations to watch…

Inspired? See where you might fit in? Contact us at our new office at The Mount to find out more.

No Ordinary Book revised 2015 edition

No Ordinary Book revised 2015 edition

The Book of Life

One day He will hold a book in His hands
And He alone is worthy
To open it up

For He died, and by His death
He bought back for God
People out of every tribe and group,
Language and nation.

One day all books will be opened
And all will be revealed.
The thoughts of all men’s hearts
Will be made known.

And one day He will take up a great book,
The Book of Life,
And He will read the names from it.

And we will weep with joy, for we will hear
The names of Kouya friends,
A great number, many we had not known.
Saved by grace.

Names which our tongues could once not master
The Master will read out perfectly,
For all tongues are known to Him.

And when He holds that book in His hands,
The need to translate will disappear,
No more need for Living by the Book.

For in that great day, when we meet Him in person,
Then shall we know
Even as also we are known.

          Philip Saunders   No Ordinary Book page 302

Bai Laurent holding the prinout of the Kouya New Testament at the final checking session

Bai Laurent holding the printout of the Kouya New Testament at the final checking session

Bible translation stories often include people dreaming of holding a book in their hands, just like Toualy Bai Laurent did for decades as he prayed that God would send someone to help translate the Bible into the Kouya language. You can read Bai Laurent’s story in No Ordinary Book.

In the poem above, Philip has layers of bookholding going on. Kouya people now hold and read the New Testament in their language. There are also hints that speakers of many other languages cannot yet do that, but they will. And then there is the Book of Life that God will one day hold and open – and read in every language.

In a recent blog, I announced the arrival of the new paperback version of the revised and updated edition of No Ordinary Book which is now available from Amazon and soon via Philip’s independent publishing platform website.

No Ordinary Book continues to bring memories for me: perhaps it will inspire some future blogs. But with this new edition becoming available, my prayer is that many new readers will be challenged to get involved in Bible translation. If that happens to you, here is a great place to start.

Again if you want to see a few of the many photos that I took at the dedication of the Kouya New Testament dedication in 2012, you can see them in my Facebook photo album

No Ordinary Book revised 2015 edition

No Ordinary Book revised 2015 edition

I think it was the first time I read a book about mission and felt like the missionary was a human being… and I liked that. Such a challenge and an eye-opener! I hope many young linguists read this book and get a taste for Bible translation.

Rachel Hanna (PhD student at Queen’s Universitty Belfast) quote on back cover of No Ordinary Book

In May 2013 I blogged Kouya Goes Kindle which flagged up that No Ordinary Book, revised and updated to include the 2012 New Testament dedication, had just become available on Kindle.

Last Friday, Philip gave me a personal copy of the new paperback version of the revised and updated edition which is now available from Amazon and soon via Philip’s independent publishing platform website.

Talking about the book with a colleague and flipping through some of the pages, took me back through over thrity years of friendship with Philip and Heather. I remembered times we have shared together in Côte d’Ivoire.

Although No Ordinary Book continues to bring memories for me, I want to endorse Rachel Hanna’s hope expressed above that many readers both young and older will be challenged to get involved in Bible translation. If that happens to you, here is a great place to start.

If you want to see a few of the many photos that I took at the dedication of the Kouya New Testament dedication in 2012, you can see them in my Facebook photo album

 

https://i1.wp.com/skinnierthanaverage.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/god-wants-you.jpeg

A few days ago, I read a blog written by colleague Eddie Arthur. Funnily enough, I learned since that I’ll be at a barbeque at his house tomorrow evening.

Eddie recently sat in on a discussion with representatives from three mission agencies in the UK. Three issues seemed to be key in terms of why recruitment is difficult.

Many churches no longer have world mission on their agenda. They are fed up of being badgered by multiple agencies all asking them to do something which is not a high priority.

For many churches in the UK, the word mission has changed its meaning and now means local action, not world-wide involvement.

Changes in the world; globalisation, post-colonialism and post-everythingelse-ism make the whole idea of long-term missionary work seen rather anachronistic.

As Eddie said: “This is how some mission reps see things – I wonder what church leaders would have said.”

Another Wycliffe UK colleague Phil Prior made this somewhat provocative comment on Facebook about Eddie’s blog:

So, in summary, the reason mission agencies are struggling to recruit is that local churches no longer care about world mission – I’m paraphrasing slightly provocatively in the hope of attracting some attention. Is this true? Do Christians not working for mission agencies agree? What about church leaders? Would love to see more thoughts on this.

As I head off this afternoon to join colleagues in the Wycliffe UK Church Engagement Team, I’m wondering what comments any of you, especially church leaders, who read this blog, might have to enlighten us.

Go on – provoke me!

 

app (noun) an application, a small specialized program downloaded onto mobile phones

Stephen Gilmore (ChristChurch Belfast) recently wrote this article for the May edition of Wycliffe News about  how his church is involved in an interesting volunteer project for Wycliffe Bible Translators – and how your church in N. Ireland can do the same!

“Mission projects involve either money, travelling overseas, or both!” But not this one! Being part of this project gives the opportunity to serve in overseas mission without even crossing your doorstep. The contribution is time, not money.

Jackie: I loved working on this project because I love the concept of folks in Mali hearing the Bible in their heart language and learning to read at the same time.

App reader

The simple concept is that an app is provided for a language group so that people can read and hear Scripture in their heart language. Smartphones are very quickly becoming the “must have” accessory in even the most remote parts of the world. So imagine being in the bush in West Africa with your new smart phone and discovering an app that speaks your language. And it just happens to be the Bible!
Before the app can be prepared, the Scripture needs to have been translated and a recording made. The most impressive feature of the app is that as each chapter is read the text is highlighted on the screen – as shown below. This is a tool for those with limited literacy.

Trish: I prayed as I did my work that people who I will never meet would be impacted by what they hear.

Our task was to provide the tagging that keeps the text and voice in synch. ChristChurch Belfast pulled together a team of around a dozen people to work on the project for the Minyanka language of SE Mali. After initial training, sets of 5 or 6 chapters were allocated to team members. We chose to start with the shorter epistles to give folk the satisfaction of completing a full book. Of course with any such project, a few found that the project wasn’t right for them, others completed their initial allocation whist others came back for more and more finding the process verging on the addictive.
phone picThere are 260 chapters in the New Testament each of which needs tagging. We found a learning curve of around 5 chapters before getting “up to speed,” after which an average chapter could be completed in 45 minutes. It took 4 months to completely tag the NT and as the first church to take on such a project we were able to report issues so that now the process should be much easier as the app builder has now been fully developed.

Joyce: When I saw the app working it was great to see how it will make God’s Word more accessible for people from Mali. It was a real blessing to be involved.

Anyone with a PC or Mac and basic computer skills should be able to participate. In the middle of the mundane but intense process of listening carefully to a foreign language – going back and checking to within a few milliseconds that each tag is in the right place – comes the thought that, in just a few months, someone in Mali will be impacted by listening to the Word of God in their heart language for the very first time.
There are 799 languages in the world ready to receive an App. There used to be 800! Could your church take on a project to reduce that to 798? Get in touch with us in the Belfast office at northernireland@wycliffe.org.uk

I have just written this article for the upcoming May edition of Wycliffe News, the prayer magazine featuring Wycliffe members from Ireland. One of our former members, Gareth Dalzell, worked with Sam Mubbala in Uganda.
Sam Mubbala, Gwere Bible translator

Sam Mubbala, Gwere Bible translator

Note: Gwere or Lugwere are names for the language spoken by the Bagwere people of Uganda

In March this year, the Gwere team joined three other Ugandan teams to remember and to celebrate what God had done for their projects over the years. It was a significant milestone after waiting so long to have God’s word in their heart languages.

Our story starts in 1971 when a missionary teacher at a secondary school in Uganda asked a student called Sam Mubbala if he would like to translate some Bible passages into the Gwere language. Sam, then just 17, had no idea what translation was all about, but said yes. That seed grew into a dream that has survived closed doors, frustrations, disappointments, war and tyranny.

As Sam began to translate the Gospel of Mark into his language, he realised that the message he was translating had the power to save him. God translated Sam through his Word before Sam finished translating it! He gradually came to understand how important it was to translate the Scriptures so that other Bagwere people could have the same experience.

Idi Amin became President in 1971 and his reign of terror meant expatriate Christians had to leave Uganda. Sam was isolated from outside help. He completed the draft of Mark’s Gospel but could find no one to publish it. Later Sam met an organisation interested in translation in minority languages – Wycliffe Bible Translators. Things were looking up! He was asked to help with a survey of six languages, including Gwere, which confirmed a definite translation need.

It was encouraging to learn more about the translation process but Sam soon realized that his draft translation of Mark was far too literal to be understood – another disappointment. Over the years, Sam came up against obstacle after obstacle – a dream with no prospect of becoming reality.
In 2001, Sam began an MA in Translation Studies at Nairobi Evangelical School of Theology (NEGST). After two tough years, he graduated, soon became the translation project leader and was joined by Richard Ngozi, another NEGST graduate in 2004. Together they started translating fulltime in January 2005.

In the 2004 edition of Wycliffe UK Words for Life magazine, readers responded to this prayer request:
Please pray that there will be no more dead ends and that at last Sam’s dream will become a reality – that Bagwere people would come to know God through his word in the language that speaks to their hearts.
Over the years those prayers have been answered.

Fast forward to the March 2015 celebration mentioned at the start: One speaker recalled God’s instructions in Joshua 4 to set up twelve memorial stones to remind them what God had done. These four Ugandan language teams decided to do something similar to commemorate the completion of the draft New Testament translations. As one translator from each language lifted up a memorial stone bearing the name of his language, the smiles on their faces reflected their joy of celebration, their sense of accomplishment, their anticipation of imminent publication.

The four language memorial stones

The four language memorial stones

Currently, the translators are going through a long process of detailed checks to ensure accuracy, consistency and naturalness in the language. Then they will work with a typesetter to prepare the text for publication.

Please pray for patience and stamina for Sam and the others, as well as God’s protection for them and their families during this important work. As we give thanks to God for enabling these people to receive God’s word in their language, please pray that God will prepare hearts to receive it and to be transformed.

Text adapted from Wycliffe UK Words for Life 2004 Issue 3 and TheTask.net November 2006 and March 2015

Read more at http://www.thetask.net/gwere/his-undying-dream and http://www.thetask.net/uganda/remember-and-celebrate

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