As I write this, Ulster Rugby are sitting at the top of the Pro 12 League table with four wins from four – and I’m looking forward to Saturday’s home game at Ravenhill along with the usual suspects.
So it was interesting to receive a prayer letter from friends and Wycliffe colleagues Michael and Miranda Jemphrey last week in which they compare a rugby squad to a Bible translation team!
Here are some extracts from that prayer letter…
The new rugby season is up and running, with Ulster winning their first three matches. As a rugby club requires all shapes and sizes of players, Bible translation, too, requires people with a vast range of abilities. I like to think of the translators as the forwards struggling constantly with ideas and words to get a translation into their language; the scrum-half position is the consultant who checks the translation to ensure there are no ideas missing (Michael’s role) before he moves the translation along the line of backs. It passes through various hands: the illustrators, the revisers, the typesetters, and finally out to the wing to the publishers who cross the line and produce the final printed gospel, New Testament or Bible. As 5 points are scored for a try there is great rejoicing among the players and on the terraces. The publication of a first gospel in a language or the New Testament or the complete Bible is the occasion for a grand celebration. But 5 is not the perfect number: the try needs to be converted to become the perfect 7; and the Scriptures need to be read, broadcast, proclaimed, taught, discussed, memorized, sung and obeyed to convert lives and communities.
Brilliant, isn’t it?
Meanwhile a lot goes on behind the scenes in preparation for a match. The players come to Ulster from different countries, cultures and languages and need to learn how to understand each other to play as a team rather than as a group of individuals thrown together — and translation teams are no less diverse. This is where Miranda comes in: one of the roles she enjoys is helping run workshops called Sharpening Your Interpersonal Skills. Listening carefully is particularly important as Wycliffe colleagues are drawn from hundreds of churches and cultures across the globe.
And the next bit is about me and my Ulster Rugby supporting mates – Philip, Derek, Norman – standing on the East Terrace singing “Stand Up for the Ulstermen” at the tops of our voices…
A rugby club is nothing without its supporters: Ulster fans come out in their thousands and are known as the 16th man as they roar on their team. Wycliffe’s translation work would go nowhere without you, who read these letters, pray for us, encourage and support us year after year.
…which is why members of Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland send out prayer letters to their supporters – and why we all appreciate so much our 16th men and women!