Archive for the ‘Belfast’ Category

GBS training week 2014 team photo

GBS training week 2014 team photo


Having retired as a full member in assignment with Wycliffe Bible Translators UK and Ireland on 31 December 2016, today I have officially become a Wycliffe Bible Translators UK and Ireland local volunteer to work in the Guest Bible Scholars programme with linguist heroes Michael Jemphrey and Heather Saunders!

And some others in the photo above.

Watch this space……………..


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“Wycliffe Bible Translators are vital in supporting the life and witness of the worldwide church, so to this end I would like to encourage congregations to support them in any way they can,” said Dr. McNie in a news release from the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

On Monday morning 25 January 2016, the Presbyterian Moderator, Rt. Rev. Dr. Ian McNie, joined us in the Belfast office of Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland. Ian met five of the staff over tea and scones, then spent most of his time in conversation with the Church Engagement Team – see below.

John Hamilton, Ricky Ferguson, Marlene Ferguson and Rev Dr Ian McNie

In a wide ranging conversation, we presented the biblical basis for Bible translation: debated current Scripture access statistics; discussed how together we might address the issue of Bible poverty in today’s world; and answered Ian’s perceptive questions.

As of October 1st 2015, estimates suggest between 165 and 180 million people speaking up to 1,800 languages are understood to ‘likely need Bible translation to begin’

For example from his knowledge of East Africa, he was interested to know whether the Turkana people from the north of Kenya yet have Scripture in their heart language. Having consulted The Ethnologue, we were able to assure him that the Turkana New Testament was completed and published in 1986.

We were also pleased to show him photographs of 22 Presbyterians supported by their home congregations throughout Ireland. They are working in 10 countries in Africa, Asia and Europe engaged in a wide range of Bible translation, linguistics, literacy, Scripture engagement, IT and administrative roles.

As he left us for other engagements, Ian received an invitation to First Steps on Saturday 6 February 2016 at Ballyhenry Presbyterian Church. I wonder if his schedule will allow a brief drop-in..?

Below is the full text of the PCI news release on 28 January 2016

The Presbyterian Moderator, Rt. Rev. Dr. Ian McNie, visited and encouraged those who work in the Belfast branch of Wycliffe Bible Translators UK and Ireland earlier this week.

Wycliffe Bible Translators believe that the Bible is the best way for people to discover and understand who God is. Their vision is that by working with churches, organizations and individuals from across the world, all people will be able to access the Word of God in their own language.

Located in east Belfast, the Moderator had the opportunity to talk with those involved in Bible translation locally. He heard about their work and meeting the staff and volunteers, discovered first hand what it means to translate God’s word into another language.

“I discovered that around 180 million people, speaking at least 1,800 languages, need a Bible in the language they understand best. Without this incredible work taking place those people will never be able to read the story of God’s love for themselves.

“Wycliffe Bible Translators are vital in supporting the life and witness of the worldwide church, so to this end I would like to encourage congregations to support them in any way they can,” said Dr. McNie.

Along with other agencies involved in Bible distribution and Christian broadcasting, Wycliffe Bible Translators play a crucial role in supporting the life and witness of the worldwide church. Of the 6,887 languages in the world today, only 554 have a complete Bible.

As a result, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) has identified Wycliffe Bible Translators as a Specialist Service Agency. This special relationship with PCI recognises the fact that the valuable service Wycliffe is doing is something that no one church or denomination can easily do.

John Hamilton, of Wycliffe Bible Translators in Belfast said, “We had an enjoyable and encouraging time with the Moderator. He already knew a lot about Bible translation, but also confessed that the visit had widened his perspective.

“We told him how much Wycliffe values the partnership with PCI and that together we can work to alleviate the Bible poverty that still exists in the world. Our staff would be delighted to visit congregations to tell them more about Wycliffe’s work and to encourage them in their global mission.”

To find out more about the work of Wycliffe Bible Translators visit their website (www.wycliffe.org.uk/) or contact the Belfast office at 028 9073 5854

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So why does Wycliffe Bible Translators hold a worldwide Day of Prayer on 11 November every year? Why do offices and projects suspend their work to pray?

Well, first of all, prayer is and should be part of our work every working day. In the Belfast office, usually fuelled by a cup of coffee and perhaps a Seasons Restaurant scone, we pray every morning at 11am for our Irish colleagues  around the world.

Secondly on 11 November, we remember answered prayer way back in the beginnings of what developed into what Wycliffe has become today.

On November 11, 1933, Wycliffe founders, Cameron Townsend and L.L. Legters, crossed the border from the U.S. into Mexico because God answered prayer. It was a major step forward for Bible translation and also the beginning of what eventually became Wycliffe, now more than 100 Wycliffe Global Alliance organization.       Source Wycliffe Global Alliance

However, for various logistical reasons, Wycliffe UK & Ireland held our annual prayer event on 12 November this year and in Belfast we began by declaring together:


We were a smallish group which included Belfast office staff, a couple of translation consultants (there would have been more but there were working in Zambia and Mali), four Guest Bible Scholars, a Presbyterian minister from the church of two of our members,  our Irish Personnel Coordinator and one year old Emily Ferguson who participated enthusiastically.


We watched videos, we prayed, we shared ideas and experiences, we prayed several times more, we had coffee and scones – we identified with colleagues worldwide involved in helping individuals and language groups encounter God’s word and applying it in a wide variety of ways including writing Scripture songs, HIV-Aids education, multi-lingual education, trauma counselling and much more.

Here are some more images from yesterday including the last one which would have been an excellent way to end except that I forgot about it 😦




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Wycliffe:Live is an October fixture in N. Ireland. It’s when the Wycliffe family of members and supporters – and people exploring what we are about – get together to share what God is doing through Bible translation and literacy and lots of other things around the world.

This year we decided to have a dinner – and so we needed a menu!

WycLive Dinner menu

Apparently we eat starters as a taster, as a light dish to get our stomachs ready for the main event. But that’s more of a habit than an essential. In Bible translation it’s crucial! Without language survey, linguistic analysis and phonetics expertise to create an alphabet, we’re stuck.

Jennifer “Niffer” Love provided our starter on Wednesday evening 7 October at The Mount in Belfast and talked about her pre-translation work with a language group in Nigeria.


So with stomachs prepared, the food menu took over…

MainThe main course was a video It Starts in the Strangest Place which lists the various impacts of mother tongue Scripture on communities – take a look and see how many impacts you can spot!

Time for desserts. Don’t you love to have a choice of desserts? Like starters, some people may think that desserts are optional. For me a dessert is a no brainer – and in our Wycliffe:Live Dinner menu, it is essential. Desserts are the crucial support roles without which Bible translation just doesn’t happen: teaching, IT, finance, administration and many more.

On the night, Sharon told us about her two year stint working in finance and project management in Côte d’Ivoire while Elaine talked about teaching with the Institute for Development of Languages and Translation in Nairobi last summer – 30 students, 11 teachers, 14 nationalities, 32 mother tongues, 1 God and Father of all. Sounds like a starter for Revelation 7 verse 9…

“a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb

No meal is complete without a takeaway. Cue James Poole, Executive Director of Wycliffe Bible Translators UK and Ireland. James told us that he had the best job in the world! He also said that the best thing in the world is being part of a local church – and local churches need God’s Word in their heart languages. And so, as members of local churches, we were challenged to be local churches providing the Bible for local churches everywhere. Some takeaway…

IMG_1910 crop

I’ve written a few other blogs about Wycliffe:Live – for example in 2011 it was Going Backstage: behind the scenes in Bible translation. You can read about it here, here and here. And here’s the poster from back then…

WycliffeLive 2011

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BBC one week Sep15 Kairos flyerI have now been a facilitator (a politically correct term for teacher) on four Kairos World Mission courses and every time I come away with the same phrase ringing through my mind – Blessed to be a blessing!

It starts in Genesis and reverberates throughout the Bible all the way to Revelation.

‘I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing…
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.’   Genesis 12:2-3

‘After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.’   Revelation 7:9

As you can see from the image above, we have recently finished a preterm Kairos for students at Belfast Bible College. Personally I felt blessed, not just by re-visiting the mind-blowing Biblical overview of mission, but also by the super bunch of 22 students with whom we worked for five intensive days.

Here are some images from the week…

M&Ms inspired interest for Kairos Ch3

Day 4 started with prayer for Buddhists in cambodia

Day 4 started with prayer for Buddhists in Cambodia

Worshipping the everlasting God on Day 5

Worshipping the everlasting God on Day 5

On the last day, students were invited to reflect on the week with the options of writing a letter to God or making a drawing. My group shared moving and encouraging extracts from their letters while Amy produced this impressive sketch.

God's heart for the nations

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Psalm 51v10

Amy’s message was that she was handing her heart over to God as a symbol of her desire to serve in his mission to his world. As I look at the drawing, I am forcefully reminded of God’s heart for the nations of the world that he created. Perhaps other people will identify their own layers of meaning as they apply the image to themselves. My thanks to Amy for allowing me to share this.

Finally here is the photo of my group (and me) with their Kairos certificates. Thank you to all of you. You’ll probably never know how much you encouraged me throughout the week. God bless you.

My Growth Team

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Kenny Woodrow, myself and the Moderator Michael Barry with Bill Bailie behind the camera


On Tuesday morning 9 September 2014, the current Presbyterian Moderator Michael Barry visited the Belfast office of Wycliffe Bible Translators UK and Ireland. As one of the SSA partners of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, we like to invite Moderators along to get a fresh insight into what goes on in Bible translation and to meet and chat to some of our local staff.

Whatever we were talking about, Kenny and Michael look quite happy; I’m obviously chewing something nasty…

It was good to help Michael get a better understanding of what Wycliffe Bible Translators is all about – and we certainly discussed how to develop the SSA partnership. A visual presentation gave lots of opportunity for questions and discussion and the Moderator quizzed us on how Bible translation was done and the statistics of which languages have and don’t have availability to the Scriptures in their heart languages.

One of the issues raised was that of Bible poverty. While PCI as a church gives generously to relief and development projects – as we should – we wondered how much the denomination as a whole is aware of the need to resource the alleviation of Bible poverty though the complementary work of Wycliffe Bible Translators, the Bible Societies north and south in Ireland, FEBA Radio and SAT7 television.

We also talked about the possibility of Michael visiting a Bible translation project during his Moderatorial visit to Kenya this autumn – another wee task to get sorted out soon. The possible language project is Samburu which would be reasonably accessible when the Moderator’s party visits Stephen and Angelina Cowan in Tuum.

Some Samburu people in traditional dress

Some Samburu people in traditional dress

During the visit Dr Barry met several Wycliffe people:

  • Kenny Woodrow is assigned to a communications role with Uganda Tanzania branch but working remotely from a desk in the Beersbridge Road office.
  • Bill Bailie, one of our invaluable volunteers, was present along with Alistair Bill, vice chair of our Wycliffe N. Ireland Council.

As always with these visits, it re-emphasised the idea that mission is all about partnership and we pray that God will bless our partnership with the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and with the other SSAs – and that these partnerships will be mutually beneficial.

This is the first of the three significant events in September that I referred to at the end of a previous blog here.

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Moderator Rob Craig welcomed by Wycliffe UK's NI Coordinator John Young

Moderator Rob Craig welcomed by Wycliffe UK’s NI Coordinator John Young

Last Monday morning 13 January 2014, the Presbyterian Moderator Rob Craig visited the Belfast office of Wycliffe Bible Translators UK and Ireland. As one of the SSA partners of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, we like to invite current Moderators along to get a fresh insight into what goes on in Bible translation and to meet and chat to our local staff.

Celebration of Global Mission official team photograph

Celebration of Global Mission official team photograph


Back in October 2013, I had shared the platform with Rob at the Board of Mission Overseas Celebration of Global Mission in Cookstown so he had heard something of our work recently.



Rob’s previous overseas mission experience with OM in India and his recent Moderatorial trip to Ruanda fed into our conversations about the role of Bible translation in God’s mission to his world.

A visual presentation gave lots of opportunity for questions and discussion and the Moderator quizzed us on how Bible translation was done and the statistics of which languages have and don’t have availability to the Scriptures in their heart languages.

Rob was very honest when he talked about the range of visits that he has experienced in his Moderatorial year. Each organisation, each cause that he hears about, becomes the thing that is important… until the next one. We got a renewed appreciation of how many requests parish ministers receive from a wide range of mission and other organisations and how no one church can respond to them all.

For our part we were able to say that the ability to access and understand God’s Word in the heart language is foundational to evangelism, discipleship and church planting in every culture.

Talking with colleagues this morning, the idea we’re taking away is that mission is all about partnership and we pray that God will bless our partnership with the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and with the other SSAs – and that these partnerships will be mutually beneficial. We look forward to continuing our friendship with Rob when he returns to Kilfennan in due course.

Rob Craig with some of the Wycliffe team in Belfast

Rob Craig with some of the Wycliffe team in Belfast

Along with office staff – clockwise from left: Lynda, Bill, John, Rob, John and Marlene – Rob met Clare Orr from Newtownbreda Pres (front left) who leaves shortly for a literacy assignment in Senegal. He also heard about Lydia Hunter from Trinity Pres Bangor leaving very soon for a linguistics assignment in the Philippines and Stuart Campbell from Saintfield Road Pres currently on his GAP year in Cameroon helping in the IT department.

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After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem              Matthew 2:1

We all know that the Magi, the Wise Men, the kings (?) bringing gifts of gold , frankincense and myrrh to Mary and Joseph’s baby boy… came from the East. But mistakes can be made.

Historically one of the most dubious was the Wicked Bible… also known as The Adultery Bible!

wicked bible

This is a reprint of the King James Bible published in 1631 by royal printers Robert Barker and Martin Lucas. Rather unfortunately one of the typesetters left out a little three letter word. King Charles I and the Archbishop of Canterbury were not well pleased. They ordered all the copies to be burnt and Robert Barker and Martin Lucas were perhaps fortunate to escape with the loss of their printers’ licence and a heavy fine!

It can happen so easily… and so in one draft translation of Matthew ch1 in more recent times… the wise men were coming from the west.

We really want the Bible to be translated accurately, clearly and naturally. And so it’s good to pick up these human or typographic errors as early as possible in the translation process. It was Brian, a Volunteer Bible Scholar from Belfast, poring over the text looking for such more obvious errors, who was able to set the geography right both for the Magi and for the translation team.

I learnt all this when I attended a Volunteer Bible Scholar workshop last Saturday in Belfast.


Michael Jemphrey, workshop leader, multi-tasking just before we started

The workshop was attended by by two existing Volunteer Bible Scholars and eight others there to find out if they could also help out. Michael was assisted by Philip and Heather Saunders.

Here’s how Michael, who previously worked on the Supyire New Testament in Mali, explains the whole concept of Volunteer Bible Scholars…

Before ploughing a new field the Supyire farmers in our village in Mali have to clear it of rocks and larger stones. It is a time consuming task but it makes the ploughing so much easier and effective. The work of a Volunteer Bible scholar is similar. Using the ease of global communication today, the volunteers clear the most obvious mistakes in a draft translation of the Scriptures before it comes before the eyes of a consultant. The consultants then can concentrate on the nuances of the translation and ensure that it is accurate for printing. Sometimes it’s an obvious typo; sometimes half a verse has been missed out. Like clearing out the stones, this is slow, methodical work and the harvest is still some way down the line. But it is an essential part of the teamwork providing the food of God’s word accurately translated for language communities hungry for it.

Here’s another way to look at why we are looking for suitable Volunteer Bible Scholars to help Wycliffe Bible Translators. In some parts of the world and particularly in Africa, lots of translated books of the Bible are waiting for a consultant to check the accuracy, clarity and naturalness of the text. Currently there is a shortage of consultants… creating a bit of a bottleneck in getting the work done.

Find out more about Wycliffe Bible Translators and Bible translation and how you might get involved.

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It’s been a while since I posted a blog, but I’ve had a mini sabbatical during May.

Here are some photos to remind me of the past month 🙂

With a friend, putting the Enough Food for Everyome banner on the church wall

With Robert, putting the Enough Food for Everyone IF banner on the church wall

St Anne's Cathedral Belfast one sunny day between the showers

St Anne’s Cathedral Belfast one sunny day between the showers

2 day retreat at the Mourne Quiet Garden

2 day retreat at the Mourne Quiet Garden

Spent most of a week here at Murlough House at a mission course

One for Ulster rugby fans: “Have you heard the news, Rory? You’re going to Australia!” SUFTUM!

Wee bit of work in the garden

Wee bit of work in the garden

Forth Railway Bridge near Edinburgh… visiting the family pre return to work

And here I am – back in the office and off to the PCI General Assembly in Derry tomorrow to promote Bible translation! You can catch up on PCI GA goings on with Alan in Belfast. Perhaps I’ll have something to report later this week.

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John’s last few months as N. Ireland Coordinator for Wycliffe UK have been rewarding and encouraging. He loves being able to enthuse people about how God uses many different gifts and abilities in bringing His Word to life in every language. Two events in February were very successful. Twenty people came to First Steps and two people at CheckITOut offered to use their IT skills from home for Bible Translation projects overseas.

NL April 2013
Recruitment has been another part of the coordinator role that gets John excited! Our latest N. Irish member, Lydia, was accepted in April – another reminder of the privilege of seeing God at work in individual lives. Ruth enjoyed interviewing two recent applicants and hopes to continue being involved in this way.

Many people have prayed faithfully for the N. Ireland Office and specifically for the staff needed there. It has been more than John could have hoped for to see the way the new team has taken shape. He has really enjoyed the relaxed way the handover has been managed, giving time for the “new John” to watch what goes on in the office before getting to grips with how he plans to lead it forward.

On Monday 8 April the big day happened quietly. John Young officially took over as N. Ireland Coordinator and his wife Jennifer became the Personnel Coordinator. Some changes have been made to the layout of the office so that a new look has accompanied the new team. John Hamilton is now delighted to find himself with a new desk, in a new room, with a new role in the new look team! Please feel free to drop in to see the changes and greet the team.

You may be wondering what John is actually going to do? Well the focus so far has been on “Old” John helping “Young” John to familiarise himself with all things Wycliffe in N Ireland. The plan is for John Hamilton to take a short break in May to allow John Young to go solo. Then they will sit down together to map out John’s new role. It would be great if you could pray for both Johns – Young as he takes charge and Hamilton as he fits into the new shape team. He is already enjoying the prospect of having more time to focus on doing fewer things and to having a boss in the office. Having reached the milestone of official retirement age, John also plans to reduce his time in the office to 3 days a week. He is glad this will allow him more time to support his mum and dad … and who knows what else he might find God leading him into? Any prayer and suggestions about this will be welcome!!

Ecclesiastes 3 has lots of “times” – “a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to be silent and a time to speak.” New times in the Belfast office might include these and more…

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