A week or so ago, I was thinking that holding First Steps on the Saturday at the end of half term had been a daft idea! However promotion on social media went out there and, more significantly, prayer was answered: 14 people registered online and more turned up on the day. My pessimism was well and truly squashed.

And after all, it turned out that Saturday 21 February was International Mother Language Day!

Int Mother Lang day

In the end 15 participants arrived promptly at Windsor Baptist Church  to spend the day at First Steps exploring the impact of Bible translation in God’s mission… and for most, it was a chance to explore how they might become involved at home or overseas.


Stewart getting us started…

Having started by by praising God in the Logoti language of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), we explored Jesus’ compassion for people in Matthew 9, before Joanna, who had just spent three days on work experience with us, shared her (rather encouragingly positive!) impressions.

Great to have Marlene with us on a brief break from maternity leave

Great to have Marlene with us on a brief break from maternity leave

Up to lunchtime, we had sessions on dictionary making in DRC accompanied by the presenter’s baby girl crying for her mother’s attention; literacy in Côte d’Ivoire; translation, personnel member care, and communications in E Africa, plus a plug for Two Week Stint by a teacher who had been there last summer.

After lunch, we were off to a market with buyers and sellers who had very different cultural rules about buying and selling and general interaction with other people. Despite the chaos, the sellers made lucrative profits on their toilet rolls, oranges and second hand trainers!

Andrea delighted at completing a sale with Mandy

Andrea delighted at completing a sale with Mandy who dropped one of her cultural rules to look the camera in the eye

Who were they, these 15 people?

Two primary teachers, both with past short term mission experience overseas.

One minister invited along by his son who was exploring his options…

Four sixth formers, two of whom have been with us on work experience in the Belfast office.

Two students from Queen’s University Belfast.

A journalist, a law lecturer, a multi-media developer – and a couple of boyfriends brought along by their girl friends.

Not to mention Lindsay, the coordinator of MAP – Mission Agencies Partnership!

God brought them along. Jesus calls us to come with him in his mission to his world wherever we happen to be.

We’re now praying that God will continue to speak to each one; that they will be encouraged that they are where God wants them to be; or that God will prompt them to be where he wants them to be in the months and years ahead. Please pray with us for wisdom as we follow up and walk alongside them.

If this blog inspires you to explore other events and opportunities with Wycliffe and Bible translation go to or to your local Wycliffe website

“I had traveled a long distance to work with them, but could we possibly do any translation work in the midst of such trauma?”

Just over a month ago, I received a prayer letter from Randy Groff, a Wycliffe colleague from our time together in Côte d’Ivoire. Randy was elected branch director and asked me to be his associate director – from a distance. Randy was based in Abidjan while I was school principal 5-6 hours drive north-west at Vavoua International School. Thankfully by then we had a reliable phone connection at the school and on Thursday evenings we talked over whatever was on Randy’s mind that week.

Randy with one of the language teams that he works with in Nigeria

Randy with one of the language teams that he works with in Nigeria

Randy is now home based in the USA and travels to Africa as a translation consultant. It was from one of these trips to Nigeria that he wrote this inspiring story of dedication to the task in the midst of violence and trauma.

As heavy artillery shelling erupted, Ishaya scrambled into a ditch to hide from the flying bullets and rebel fighters making their way through his village. It was clear that it was no longer safe to return home for his laptop or other belongings, but he was thankful that he had gotten his family away just before the heavy fighting broke out. Only when the tank had passed did he dare stand up, turn around, and run into the bush for cover. For the next two days, he ran and walked through thick undergrowth, ripping his clothes, until he came to a town outside the rebel held area. There a kind stranger gave him money to buy some new clothes. Another stranger gave him enough money to take a bush taxi to the Bible translation center eight hours away.

When I met him several days later, he was in surprisingly good shape and spirits for having escaped with only the clothes he was wearing. The other two Margi translators had already been at the translation center when their home area was taken over by the rebels, and they had only the few belongings they had brought with them. Reports indicated that their houses had been ransacked, their crops lost, and their animals killed. They were now refugees.

I had traveled a long distance to work with them, but could we possibly do any translation work in the midst of such trauma? To my great surprise and admiration, all three translators wanted to continue with our plans to check their draft of Acts.

Translating passages of the suffering of the early church had special meaning to these men. They were especially touched by Acts 5:41, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”

These men and their families need our prayers as they try to rebuild their lives.

My thanks Randy Groff for permission to use this story from his prayer letter.


For years now, in fact since 1999 / 2000, I’ve been showing this image in churches, in youth groups, in day events like First Steps – in almost every situation where I have been talking about Wycliffe and Bible translation.

And every so often someone might ask:

How’s the progress with Vision 2025?

Or even as 2025 gets closer with each passing year:

Will Wycliffe’s job be done in 2025?

Now I have a pretty good answer thanks to our colleagues at Wycliffe USA blog.

If you’ve been following Wycliffe’s work for a while now, you’re probably familiar with our mission to see a Bible translation program in progress in every language still needing one by 2025. As that date rapidly approaches, some people have asked, “Once you reach that goal, will your work be done?” Definitely not!

You see, our ultimate goal is for everyone on earth to have access to God’s Word in the languages they understand best. That means we’ll have to finish every Bible translation we start. And even after every translation is complete, many will need to be revised. Because of the way languages change over time, Bible translation will continue to be a need until the day Christ returns!

So while starting a Bible translation for every language that needs one by 2025 is a critical goal, it’s definitely not the end goal.

Mind you, since Wycliffe Bible Translators is now working with so many partner organisations and churches around the world… perhaps, maybe, churches in every country may take on the task – and Wycliffe Bible Translators can take early retirement.

This post is inspired by part of the Wycliffe USA 101 series. Click here to read the previous post, or here to start at the beginning.

Just some piles of books on some shelves in an office. Not terribly attractive looking; no colourful or intriguing cover illustrations to entice the reader to open up these books.

Bibles and New Testaments in the Wycliffe office in Belfast

Bibles and New Testaments in the Wycliffe office in Belfast

But looking more closely, we see that they are Bibles and New Testaments… and if we can zoom in:

No Ordinary Books CROPThey are Bibles and New Testaments in a variety of different languages.

Last Tuesday I had coffee and cinnamon scones with David Bell, the rector of Ardtrea & Desertcreat at my favourite close to Belfast city centre cafe. Afterwards we moved two cardboard boxes full of these books from his car to mine. These Bibles and New Testaments were “coming home” to the office after spending Christmas as a Bible Tree at the Desertcreat Christmas Tree festival (which, by the way, raised a lot of local community interest and a tidy sum towards the new hall fund).

Desertcreat Parish Christmas tree festival 2014

Desertcreat Parish Christmas tree festival 2014

And here is the Wycliffe Bible tree, God’s Word in many languages in its rightful place on top of the pulpit!

Wycliffe Bible tree at Desertcreat Parish

Wycliffe Bible tree at Desertcreat Parish

Around the Bible Tree are red  labels with the name Jesus in many different languages – after all, it was his birth we were celebrating. The green labels have photographs of the two Wycliffe projects that Ardtrea and Desertcreat support – Oku (Cameroon) and Yaru (Indonesia).

Just some piles of books? Not at all. Bibles and New Testaments containing God’s Word in (mostly) minority languages of the world… some of them having become available only in the last few years.

Find out about the languages still without the Scriptures here.

And how you can get involved if you live in the UK and Ireland.


Our second work experience Sixth Former in two weeks was Emily and here are her thoughts on two days with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Belfast.

"Did it!"

“Did it!”

Arriving at Wycliffe Bible Translators on Monday 26th January 2015, I had no idea what to expect from doing my work experience there. I had first heard about Wycliffe when my school careers department suggested it to me, as Emma, a pupil from Coleraine High School, had gone last year. I consulted her about her 3 days there and she told me she had really enjoyed it and she definitely recommended it. As well as this, my French teacher, Miss Craig, was very keen on this work experience choice, as she had previously worked with Wycliffe for a while. After weeks of waiting, I finally got some work arranged for two days at the beginning of the work experience week; I was ready to face the challenge.

Analysing Rikbatsa, a language from Brazil

Analysing Rikbatsa, a language from Brazil

I arrived at the Wycliffe office in Belfast shortly after 9 on Monday morning and was greeted with big smiles and a welcoming handshake from John and Kenny, who work in the office. I immediately felt at home as they made me a cup of tea and chatted with me. We discussed plans for the day: I was going to see some presentations of the work of Wycliffe Bible Translators and learn more about the work in individual countries – and even attempt some translation. Little did I know that it wouldn’t be French or Spanish translation, but minority languages from the most minority places in the world!

One thing that struck me about Wycliffe Bible Translators was that translation is not all about sitting around, copying words from a page all day; what Wycliffe do is so much more. It’s incredible the amount of work that’s put into each part of the translation. I found out that in the process of translating the Bible into a minority language, you must interact with the people, learn about their culture and way of speech to fully understand their language in order to get an accurate translation. It’s extraordinary the amount of work involved, which made me realise that this kind of translation would be a fabulous job.

On my second day, I arranged to meet a couple who work for Wycliffe in Asia. I planned to meet them and hear about their experiences, their work and their lives committed to translating the Bible into a minority language. It was amazing to hear their point of view and what they have done in their lives, including living in a foreign country for many years, aiming to learn and understand the culture. I got the opportunity to learn about the process of translating; the sheer amount of checking that needs to be done on every verse! I helped to check a piece of the Bible that they were working on, which was interesting! This experience really helped me to open my mind to the extent that Christians dedicate their time and life to ensuring that even the most minor language in the world can have the opportunity to hear and read God’s Word.

On the whole, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Wycliffe Bible Translators. Not only was it a great place to be on work experience, it was great to understand the concept of Bible translation and helped me to make a decision about what I would like to pursue in life.

I would like to thank John and his team for accepting me into their job for two days, for fully devoting their time to my knowledge and understanding of Bible translation around the world, being so friendly and helpful, and also for a great experience I won’t forget. It’s truly great to know the significance of the work that goes on, not only in the small Belfast office, but throughout the world.

Matthew 28:19 – Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

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

There are still over 1,000 languages that don’t have a Bible.

Find out more about Bible translation and mission at one of our First Steps days around the UK

 On 19 January  2015, Wycliffe colleague Peter Brassington posted on his blog

This is Peter’s take on what I recently posted as Ncham Bible Dedication, Bassar, Togo

 Our son is looking forward to a couple of book launches. It’s apparently 163 days until the launch of “Shark Seas – The Falcon Chronicles 4″ by Steve Backshall and there is still no release date for the 12th “How to Train Your Dragon” book.

Imagine however that you’ve waited your entire life for the publication of the Bible in your own language…

I was looking around and asking a few people I know about Bibles and New Testaments being released early in 2015. On January 17th in Togo the Bassar Bible was officially dedicated.


I expect there will be a few more photos available online soon. Google hasn’t indexed them all yet but I found some on Twitter and discovered one of my friends was attending and tweeting photos. (thanks Tim)

One of our Wycliffe UK colleagues, Sheila Crunden first went to Togo in 1969 and was assigned to work with the Bassar. She and her co-worker worked with Bassar Christians to translate the New Testament into the Bassar language which was published in 1991.

Thirty years later another friend and colleague Tim went with a couple of youth teams from UK to help renovate the building used as the translation office as work continued on the Old Testament.Around the world lots of people have been joining with the Bassar people (also called Ntcham) waiting and praying for this day over many years.

If you’ve prayed for years or just heard about the Bassar join in celebrating and praying for the ongoing impact of the Bible in this and every other language.

Every week somewhere in the world a complete Bible, New Testament or smaller portions of scripture are being launched and celebrated for the first time. Wycliffe blogs and articles track many of them (click the links for Wycliffe blogs from UK, Canada, USA , find others via Wycliffe Global Alliance or search for the various Wycliffe Facebook and twitter feeds. You might also find a few by simply Googling “bible dedication” “new testament dedication


I found this image, but although it looks nice, I don’t think it helps…


Friend and Wycliffe colleague Sue Arthur just posted this fascinating piece on the hard bits in translating the Bible into minority languages…It is well worth reading the whole post, but here are a few samples…

At the moment I’m working my way through Mark’s gospel, looking for potential translation problems as I go. At first glance Mark looks like one of the easier gospels to translate and in some ways it is. For a start, it is short; only 16 chapters compared to Matthew’s 28! But Mark’s brevity can be one of the challenges in that he doesn’t go into lengthy explanations but is very succinct, telling the story he wants to tell and making every word count. So rather than being simple to translate, Mark can sometimes be quite tricky because of the background he assumes of his original readers, which tends not to be shared by the translators’ audience 21 centuries later

Mark 9:49 ‘Everyone will be salted with fire.’ (NIV)

First of all, it is the translator’s job to translate and not to interpret. Right? The problem with this oversimplification is that the two are so intertwined. Before you can translate something, you have to understand what it means. Understanding the meaning of a verse like this well enough to be able to re-express that meaning in another language will inevitably involve some level of interpretation, because there are always choices to be made.

So what is Mark saying here?

Read on and find out… and if this sort of wrestling with words and meanings turns you on and you live in the UK or Ireland – come and find our more at First Steps

Sue concludes with this…

There are generally no easy answers when it comes to translation, just hard work and lots of decisions… Yet often in the midst of the research, the brain storming, the testing and the checking, God uses the whole process of translation to speak through his word.


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