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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

Alf

… and we prick our ears in the expectation of a good story! Whether it’s a comedian’s one-liner, a juicy bit of gossip, a fairy tale, the wicked humour of Roald Dahl or one of Jesus’ New Testament parables – stories have a unique power.

My good friend Alfred Thompson recently published a good story about stories and in particular the power of stories. It was an article in the April edition of The Presbyterian Herald, the main magazine of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

Alf hooks us with his opening story…

A famous pianist was giving a concert. In the front row a six or seven-year-old boy was sitting with his parents. And he was bored. So at the interval when his parents were distracted, the boy climbed onto the stage, sat at the piano and started banging on the keys, which made a terrible noise. Everyone stopped talking and turned to look at him, but the boy didn’t notice as he was having a great time just banging away.

The pianist heard the noise and came out from the wings and walked over behind the boy. When the boy became aware of the pianist standing behind him he stopped his banging and froze. But instead of giving off, the pianist leant over the boy’s shoulder and whispered ‘keep playing, keep playing.’ The boy hesitated. So the pianist whispered again ‘keep playing.’

So the boy shrugged his shoulders and started having fun banging away again. But this time the pianist stretched his arms around the boy and began to play on the keys that were out of the boy’s reach. After a moment the audience began to hear what was happening… somehow the pianist was weaving a melody in and around the noise of the boy’s banging.

Alf tells us that he heard the story as a teenager, and comments…

… this story about the boy and the pianist has always stayed with me and it has helped me to “keep playing” and to keep believing that God is at work in my life, playing the keys that are out of my reach.

What a super image of the mystery that God wants us to be part of his mission to his world. The omnipotent God wants to use us, his flawed but redeemed creation, in his big story.

You can access Alf’s article and the rest of the April Herald here

I think I might come back to Alf’s article for further inspiration quite soon…

A few days ago, someone looked at a blog I posted just over four years ago. Since that one person hopefully found it interesting, I thought I would re-blog it.

Besides the comments that I made and the comments that I quoted are still both interesting and relevant – what do you think?

 

An old copy of the King James Bible, thought to be a rare original 1611 edition has been found in a village church in Wiltshire.

There are fewer than 200 original printings of the King James version known to exist. And it is believed that the rediscovered Bible is one of the few remaining editions printed in 1611.

As a former historian, this news appeals to me; original documents are the stuff of historical research, but the Bible has never been lost to us. The King James is just one of a long line of translations into English, all of which sought to make the Bible accessible to people in a way they could understand.

This year is of course the 400th anniversary of the first edition of the King James Version being printed in London. At that time, no one could have envisaged the impact that the translation would have: since then the King James Version has become the biggest selling book in the English language – apparently it has also been the most shop lifted book in history. It has shaped the English language and had a huge effect on the English speaking world. The King James Version has become a cultural icon.

But the Bible is far more than just a piece of literature, far more than a cultural icon – we believe it is the story of God’s involvement with the earth and its people from creation to the end of the world. Wycliffe Bible Translators wants to concentrate less on Bible historic and more on Biblefresh – whether that be people in the UK re-engaging with the Bible in ways that enables God to speak to them afresh or people in Burkina Faso and elsewhere receiving the Bible in their heart languages for the first time.

Geoff Procter is a member of the parochial church council where the rare original was found; I like his comment.

Mr Procter said the most important thing about the Bible was that it was meant to be a living working book for people to live by.

“Well I think what it’s going to do is enable us to talk about the Bible,” he said.

“Because in a secular world it’s seen as an important document it will actually bring the opportunities to us to go and discuss it in more detail.

“When we took it for evaluation to the curator of a Bible museum, one of the first things he said was whatever you do you must display this so that people can read the word.

“That stuck with me – you know the fact that it’s what it says rather than what it is.”

In a blog discussing reading the Bible together online in a variety of ways, Richard Littledale reminds us of the danger of God’s Word getting lost in the 2011 media plethora about the King James Bible…

Although people are talking at length about the linguistic heritage of the Bible in the English language, there is a danger that it becomes little more than a piece of heritage – like a stately home or a love letter preserved behind glass. We cannot afford to do this – which is why we must embrace these Twenty-First Century media to encourage a wholehearted debate about a book whose pages we regard as sacred.

This is the vision of Wycliffe Bible Translators – could you be a part of this?

By 2025, together with partners worldwide, we aim to see a Bible translation project begun in all the remaining languages that need one.

“If that is the word of God why don’t people want to share it with others?”

Oral Bible storying workshop in Liberia

Oral Bible storying workshop in Liberia

A report on a language project that Wycliffe Bible Translators is involved with in a central African country raised a number of interesting reactions.

Following some oral Bible storying in the region one woman said, ‘We are suffering because the first humans disobeyed God.’ She concluded that we must obey the word of God.

One father confessed, ‘I’ve never spoken to my children about the word of God.’

Another said, ‘I’ve never heard such a message anywhere!’

A religious leader said, ‘If that is the word of God why don’t people want to share it with others?’

Oral Bible storying is simply telling the stories of the Bible to others in a way they can understand and in their own language.

This weekend we celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus willingly went through this horrific yet ultimately glorious event so that people would get to know God.

If that is what Jesus did; if that is what the Bible tells us – are we sharing it with others everywhere?

 

Oku couple, NW Cameroon, reading their newly published New Testament

Oku couple, NW Cameroon, reading their newly published New Testament

Often when I speak in churches, I encourage people to listen to the familiar Easter story as if for the first time. There are three reasons why I think this is a good thing. First, as Christians it is good to re-visit the reality that is the basis of our faith. Secondly, others may come to faith. And thirdly, it helps people appreciate what it means to literally hear the story for the first time!

So when my friend, Marlene Ferguson, recently wrote an article for her Ballyhenry Presbyterian Church website, I asked her permission to re-blog on John 20:21.

A woman from Burkina Faso, baby tied to her back, clutching the New Testament which she had just received in her Bissa Lebir language

 

Imagine that this year you hear the Easter story and truly understand it for the first time…

Jesus willingly allowed men to kill him in an extremely brutal way.  Why? Because he loved us.  He did it because we deserve a brutal punishment for selfishly sinning against God, but He wanted to save us from such punishment.  He did it because no-one else could have stood in the gap like that for us.  He also knew that only He could conquer the power of death and when he rose from the dead, death was conquered – once for all.

Jesus’ death and resurrection was a ‘once for all’ event.  Once only did he die; once, through which all men might receive salvation. After he rose, he asked the apostles to make disciples of all nations. He still asks that of us. Indeed, it is prophesied in the book of Revelation that there will be people from every nation, tribe and language worshipping the Lord in Heaven.  That’s all nations, all tribes and all languages represented before the throne of God, adoring him with one unending song of worship.

Unfortunately, there is much confusion among people who still don’t have access to God’s Word in their language.  A pastor of an Asian language group without God’s Word once asked “Is the resurrection for white people only?”  Of course not! The resurrection is for all people.  Wycliffe Bible Translators are working to ensure that all language communities receive this message in a language that they can understand and Ballyhenry is playing its part to support this goal. Through God’s power at work in us, people from all language communities will have the opportunity to respond to Jesus’ invitation to worship the Lamb in eternity.

There are 2,195 Bible translation projects currently underway around the world and it is thought that 1,860 are still in need of work to begin in their language!  Wycliffe Bible Translators supports Bible translation in order that all people will be able to hear the Easter message of salvation in a language that they can understand.

I’d encourage you to check out a short video on YouTube by one of our partners, the Seed Company, entitled ‘The Gamo see Jesus’ to be refreshed by the reactions of a group of Gamo people of Ethiopia as they watch the Jesus film (based on Luke’s Gospel) dubbed in their language for the first time.

This Easter imagine that you are one of those people who will finally hear the Easter message and understand it for the first time.

Thank you, Marlene!

 

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