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“Selfish, unscrupulous and on the run from his brother whom he’d twice robbed, Jacob was not an ideal candidate for a special visitation from God and his heavenly companions – and yet that’s what happened!”  Fran Beckett SU WordLive 18 July 2016

As I read the passage from Genesis 28, I was struck by Jacob’s words when he awoke from his stairway to heaven dream encounter with God: “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” I even added the words to my phone calendar for the next week. Too often I live my life and do my work with inadequate awareness that wherever I am and whatever I’m doing – God is in this place and in this situation. God has been encouraging me in spite of all my inadequacies.

First Steps
First Steps with Wycliffe
I get a buzz seeing people excited about bringing God’s word to others, how God leads them step by step. From January to July this year, we had five brilliant sixth formers from Coleraine, Ballymena, Limavady, Belfast and Newtownards on work experience with us.Three of them came to our First Steps day in February joining others exploring possibilities with Wycliffe. You can read about their reactions by going to www.nornirn.wordpress.com and search for “work experience”
Silhouettes with 2
As I write, Two Week Stint is happening in the South of France with four university students from N. Ireland attending. Three of them have been to First Steps and two did work experience some years ago. One of them, Caitlin, recently sent me this message:“It’s great. We just had 3 days of linguistics, which was fascinating, and now we’ve started on literacy. And it’s so pretty around here! So I’m having a great time.”

For all these whether still at school or at university or in work, we pray that God will guide them step by step in their walk with him.

Taking a Bigger Step
Our November newsletter had a picture of five silhouettes on a map in the office which reminded us to pray daily for new recruits. Two of those silhouettes now have faces as Rachel and Elaine were accepted as members in training with Wycliffe Bible Translators for overseas assignments in linguistics and Scripture use. Please continue to pray for the remaining three silhouettes to become faces.

Family Steps
On 28 February, my mother was admitted to hospital. She was quite ill for a time and is now in a nursing home needing full time care. My father has moderate dementia and has been in a residential home since late June. It has been a tough time for us and for my younger brother Alan. As I look back, I can say with Jacob, surely God has been in all these situations: in hospitals and care homes; with doctors, nurses, social workers and care workers; and some very civil civil servants.
Meanwhile Cathy and Doug have sold a flat in Aberdeen and are looking forward to moving into the first house of their own in September, while Stephen, Rachel and Ellie are expecting the patter of tiny steps, also in September.

Serious Step for John and Ruth
We plan to retire from Wycliffe Bible Translators at the end of 2016. We were accepted as members in July 1988, taught at Vavoua International School in Cöte d’Ivoire from 1989-1997 and have been in various roles with Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland ever since. I am delighted to have worked with a great team in The Mount since June 2015 and look forward to hearing how God will use Ricky and Marlene Ferguson in leading a new team and building new relationships with individuals and churches.
We will be in touch again before the end of the year. As always we give thanks to God for all of you reading this – for your interest, generous support and prayers.

Next Steps in 2017..?
Who knows – surely the Lord will be in that place too!

Coming up soon…

Big events this summer
Look out for Wycliffe at New Horizon Coleraine 6-12 Aug 2016 and Bangor Worldwide 19-27 Aug 2016

Guest Bible Scholar training
Belfast 22-26 Aug 2016
Love the Bible? Think everyone should have it in their own language? You could help from home – contact Nev at nmccormack@wycliffe.org.uk

Kairos @ Belfast Bible College
Course in World Mission 12-16 Sep 2016 John is one of the teaching team
See Belfast Bible College website

Wycliffe:Live 2016

Wycliffe Live 16 a5poster#2


7,097, actually… given the latest statistics!

And how many of them have a Bible or a New Testament or some portions of scripture – or nothing!?

The visual below is on the Ethnologue website which is a great source of information for world languages.  They have created a brilliant interactive map where you can see exactly where each language is and you can zoom in by clicking on the map.

Living languages of the world

Living languages of the world

Zoom in to see just how many pins are packed onto each region. Myriad factors – terrain, cultural history, the spread of ancient civilizations – play into how many languages exist in a certain area. As shown in the pie chart, the majority of languages are concentrated in Africa and Asia, with the fewest belonging to Europe.

And what about which ones have the Bible – or not?

Bible translation statistics Oct 2015

Bible translation statistics Oct 2015

For more information about current translation statistics, go to

If you would like to learn more, contact me – or go to our Wycliffe UK & Ireland website

In July, our fifth A level language student of 2016 enjoyed work experience with Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland. Tarah, from Newtownards, spent a day in the Belfast office and two days with Marlene Ferguson at Summer Madness. Here are some of her reflections…

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived at the Wycliffe office for work experience. I had heard about the Bible translation work they do and, as I love languages, I found it fascinating. When I got there, I enjoyed learning about the process of Bible translation from locating the need for translation right up to actually producing a New Testament or Bible in a previously unwritten language.

Initially I wondered and was quite troubled by how Wycliffe choose which community they help with Bible translation as there are so many without it. I learnt that firstly God is in control. This seems obvious but when you are caught up in the whole experience it is easy to forget. Secondly, I learnt that usually someone in the community asks for a Bible and this is how Wycliffe gets involved.

Translation puzzle

Translation puzzle

Another thing I learnt from my day in the office was that Bible translation is not just about translating word for word, but about understanding the culture of the community. Translation has to be accurate, natural and relate to the culture.

Something that struck me about my experience in the office was that when working there all your colleagues are Christian. I found this interesting as this could only really happen within a missionary organisation and I imagine it has its benefits and problems.

As well as visiting the office I got the opportunity to help out at Summer Madness for two days! I was in the Pamper Zone where I painted a lot of nails and braided a lot of hair! While I was doing this I had the chance to chat to the girls who came in and find out a little about their background.

SM Pamper

The Pamper Zone at Summer Madness

Wycliffe shared this tent with other missionary organisations within MAP like Mission Africa and WEC. This allowed me to see another side to Wycliffe – promoting the mission work around Northern Ireland to let people know what the organisation does and how to get involved, as the missionaries need prayer and support from home. Summer Madness caters for roughly ages 12-18 and around this age they may be starting to think about mission opportunities after school, myself included! In the tent there was lots of information on the organisations and what they offered both short and long term. It was about planting a seed in their minds and letting them know about the opportunities out there.

This experience also helped me as I have been thinking about mission in the future and it has made me surer that it is something I want to do as I can see through Wycliffe that it does affect lives for the better and being able to understand the truths of the Bible is life changing. We have all been called to be missionaries wherever we are “go and make disciples of all nations” Matthew 28:19.

I’d like to thank Wycliffe for giving me the opportunity to have work experience with them; I enjoyed it and learnt lots!

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

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.

Are you up for a prayer challenge?

Bible translation takes a long time.

Prayer Goody Bags

From the beginnings of a writing system to the final checks of texts for naturalness, clarity and accuracy there are many steps involving many different people. It’s normal for a New Testament that doesn’t run into any major roadblocks to take 10 to 12 years from start to finish. Sometimes however, a project seems to be especially beset with problems.

This prayer goody bag is full of stories of projects that have faced unprecedented challenges: projects from many countries around the world; some have not been going very long, others are nearing the finish line but face enormous opposition.

Bible translation builds God’s kingdom. It gives the gospel, the word of God, to people who have never heard. It equips individuals and churches to grow. These things bring transformation to individuals and communities.

But this means that Bible translation encroaches on the territory of Satan – and it is inevitable that he will put up a fight. So it is vitally important that we pray for Bible translation projects that are encountering difficulties and challenges.

One such story is from the Mangbetu project:

Set deep in the rainforest of the Democratic Republic of Congo is the village of Egbita. This is where the Mangbetu Bible translation and literacy project is found. Around 620,000 people speak Mangbetu as their mother tongue, but despite a Bible translation project starting there in 1981, the Mangbetu people are still waiting for the New Testament in their language. The only Scripture currently available in the Mangbetu language is the Gospel of Luke and the JESUS Film.

Mangbetu translation team

The Mangbetu project has been subject to many attacks and roadblocks over the past 35 years, stalling the project time and again.

A total of 5 different expatriate families were assigned to work with the Mangbetu project over those years and they all left for different health, family, and safety reasons. National translators did what they could to continue the translation work. The Mangbetu team took part in a workshop series in the early 2000s and the end result was that the Gospel of Luke was published and the JESUS Film dubbed in Mangbetu.

Two Mangbetu men were able to attend and graduate from the translation degree programme of Shalom University in Bunia, northeastern DRC and they are now ready to relaunch the Mangbetu project! (See picture of the team in 2016 above).

One of the ways that Satan attacks is by isolating us from the love and support of other Christians. Your prayers can help reconnect the Mangbetu translators to the support of the wider family of Christ. Will you rebuild bridges for the Mangbetu and ensure that they soon have the word of God in the language that speaks to their hearts?

This video gives a visual perspective on the Mangbetu story:

Find out more about how you can pray for the Mangbetu project and many other projects

You can find the Prayer Goody Bags at https://www.wycliffe.org.uk/goodybags

Here is the prayer menu of more Goody Bags to explore and lead you individually or as a group to pray:

A few days ago, I heard from a Bible translator friend recently returned to a language group in West Africa after two years working remotely with the local translation team via the internet. They are checking portions of Acts, Ruth and Genesis in two related languages with a consultant.

To illustrate the importance of getting the translation accurate, clear and natural, he shared a story blogged by another Wycliffe colleague where the translation was anything but accurate, clear and natural.


God is my goat hunter,
I don’t want him!
For He flings me down on the mountainside,
and drags me down to the sea.

Long ago an explorer traveled to the icy shores of the Canadian north. He may have been a Christian because he left behind a translation of the Shepherd’s Psalm (23) in the local indigenous language. The indigenous people memorized the lines and passed them on to their children. Unfortunately, he had depended on an interpreter to translate for him.

A generation or two later a missionary linguist/translator arrived, settled among these people, and learned the language. When, after some years, he began to translate the Bible his indigenous language helper told him, “We already have some of God’s Book”, and to prove it recited some verses of the well known and much loved Psalm 23.

The missionary was aghast. Obviously the interpreter had tried to use some cultural equivalents but with disastrous results. Here are the first two verses, with some explanations: 

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want

The interpreter substituted “sheep” with “wild mountain goats”. The closest translation for “herding” was “doing something with animals” which in the case of wild goats was to hunt them. The word “my” carried the meaning “one who works for me.”


He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters.

The part “he makes me” was interpreted as, “he forces me to do something against my will”. The only green grass is found on the sun-facing-sides of mountains. “To lead” is to pull an animal along by a rope around the neck. The only “still water” is the sea.

The first two verses, therefore, went:

God is my goat hunter,
I don’t want him!
For He flings me down on the mountainside,
and drags me down to the sea.

How do translators avoid this kind of disaster?

Obviously, they need to understand the meaning of the passage. They also need to know the language and culture. But beyond those two basics, translators need to know the translation principles to obey and the techniques to use. This requires intensive training and continuing study.

Without this training the translator risks turning God, our loving Shepherd, into an abusive goat hunter.

Today a wealth of how-to-translate-the-Bible material is available online and hundreds of Christian men and women are being trained to translate God’s Word into their own languages, using proven techniques and principles of Bible translation.

Please pray for my friend and his translation teams in West Africa working face to face with the consultant.

Pray that they will end up with portions of Acts, Ruth and Genesis translated accurately, clearly and naturally in these West African languages.

Pray that God will speak to people through the languages of their hearts.

Do you think you could be involved in this kind of work or related tasked? Check out the possibilities at wycliffe.org.uk/missionmatters

Every fourth week, I write a 200 word prayer post for Prayerline which is published weekly by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland‘s Council for Global Mission: this is what I sent this week.

On Sunday afternoon we had a picnic beside Strangford Lough. On Monday morning as I write this, summer rain beats steadily on the Wycliffe office roof. This week we want to offer you a Wycliffe Prayer Goody Bag which you can use this summer – rain, hail or heatwave!

Prayer Goody Bags

Prayer Goody Bags

Prayer Goody Bags provide video, audio and written resources to inform, enthuse and give plenty of inspiration for prayer. One of the prayer themes is Encountering God’s word.

“It’s not enough to translate the Bible. It’s not enough to distribute the Bible. Our desire is to see real Scripture engagement: people encountering God’s word in life changing ways”

This Prayer Goody Bag will enable you to pray for Scripture song writing workshops, AIDS education literature, trauma healing workshops, Jesus Film production, and multi-lingual education initiatives.

As we pray that language groups around the world will encounter God through his word for perhaps the first time, let’s also pray for PCI congregations around Ireland – that engaging with God’s word will inspire every one of us to be a community of global concern from our doorsteps to the ends of the earth.

You can find the Prayer Goody Bags at https://www.wycliffe.org.uk/goodybags

Here is the prayer menu of more Goody Bags to explore and lead you individually or as a group to pray:

Recently I was thinking about how I should react to people with whom I’m not getting on too well… This story from a primarily oral culture in Mali was a challenge and an encouragement, not to mention the reminder that God speaks to people through his word in their heart languages!

Jesus lived in a primarily oral culture. People gathered to hear him teach and tell stories – and what they heard transformed their lives.

Today many of the places where Wycliffe works remain primarily oral cultures – and that means that Bible translation can be as much about producing recordings of the Bible that people can listen to, as it is about printing copies of the Bible that people can read.

In many of these cultures, like the Supyire in Mali, Bible listening groups gather people together to listen to passages from the Bible – as in the picture below of people listening to the audio Bible sitting on the yellow can.

Supyire listening group

Supyire listening group

After listening to the passage they discuss how to apply it to their lives. And, as this story of one Supyire women called Ndeere shows, hearing the teaching of Jesus and the Bible continues to transform lives:

‘The word of God in Romans 12:20 says if you do good to your enemy it is as though you are placing burning coals on their head. I thought hard about this passage and then I applied it to the case of a woman who lives in the same courtyard as me who doesn’t like me at all. She used to say to her friends that she didn’t even want to see me.

It is our custom that if women are heading out to work in the fields, the younger women carry the baskets of the older ones. But this woman, such a nasty person as she is, nobody would carry her basket for her.

When I heard the part in Romans on the audio player I started to carry her basket each time we went to the fields and we came back from the fields. Some of my friends told me not to do that, because she doesn’t like me. But still I carried on. At last the nasty lady said to me she was afraid of me because I respect her so much. And in the end she stopped hating me.

What is more, I have to say that listening to the audio Bible player has made me more patient. There was a time when if someone would criticise me I wouldn’t feel at ease unless I attacked them back. Now everyone is surprised at the change in my behaviour.’

This story was sent to Wycliffe supporters who receive our bi-monthly e-newsletter, thanking them for their continuing support and prayers for the work of Wycliffe. If you wish to support and pray for  people like Ndeere to hear and be transformed by the Bible, you can sign up here.

And I’m learning to carry my enemies’ baskets… I hope.


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