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Archive for the ‘Bible poverty’ Category

… translating the Bible for the Sabaot people of Kenya No.1

Sabaot Bible dedication

Reading Peter Brassington’s blog on the subject of linguistic false friends has prompted me to blog. In the era of fake news and alternative truth (yes, Peter does mention Donald Trump in passing) it is crucial that everyone, from politicians and journalists and pundits to linguists involved in Bible translation, communicates the truth clearly.

Years ago I was part of a multi mission agency tour of N. Ireland university Christian Unions. Our theme for that year was Bible translation. The Sabaot project in Kenya was a very interesting one and inspired me to write a dialogue encapsulating the dangers of assuming that people understood what others thought they understood… if you see what I mean.

Read on..

To be performed by two readers…
ONE: Okay, so what the verse actually said was “Jesus ordered his disciples to enter the boat.”
TWO: … but on Mount Elgon in Kenya there are no boats.
ONE: And because of this…
TWO: (and other linguistic difficulties)
ONE: …most people thought it meant:
TWO: “Jesus Ordered His Teachers To Plant Milk”
ONE: …which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and probably didn’t encourage them to read the rest of the story.
TWO: That was one of the discoveries made in a survey to find out how well the Sabaot people of northern Kenya understood the Swahili New Testament.
ONE: “And we thought that our people knew Swahili well!”
TWO: said a local headmaster involved in the survey.
ONE: Testing a second passage,
TWO: the team realised that the people had no understanding at all of the Swahili words for biblical concepts such as mercy or grace.
ONE: They did know market Swahili,
TWO: but just because you know how to buy a goat using another language
ONE: doesn’t mean you understand sanctification or justification!
TWO: Until there was a written form of Sabaot,
ONE: God only seemed to speak in someone else’s language.
TWO: This made the meaning hard to understand and also raised uncomfortable questions for the Sabaots.
ONE: Was theirs not an important language?
TWO: It was neither a language of education nor of the church.
ONE: Were they an important people?
TWO: Could God understand them when they prayed in Sabaot?
ONE: Did God even listen?

But there’s a good outcome to this story…
Francis Kiboi says, “Before the Scriptures came to my people, Jesus seemed to be distant and foreign. But now that we have the Scriptures in the language, he is walking with us on this mountain. God is with us, and he is Sabaot!”

… and an even better one in a part 2 blog to come!

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when-a-foreigner-residesIn my previous post Praying for a generosity of spirit, I touched on current news themes about accepting or rejecting the stranger and the foreigner in our midst.

A week or so ago I received my friend Clare Orr’s prayer letter from Senegal where she works with SIL in literacy and numeracy development with a number of Senegalese languages.

Clare’s account of how she relates to local people is fascinating; but the ways in which the local people relate to her, a stranger and foreigner, are impressive and very challenging.

First Clare shared observations about the people she lives with…

I recently had a visitor stay with me for a week. Rebecca has been in Senegal since October, on a six-month placement with SIL, Wycliffe’s partner organisation here. The time I spent with her and the discussions we had made me reflect on my time here.

clares-zig-family

Setting off for church on Christmas Day

Home life
Rebecca’s time with my host family was her first experience of life in a Senegalese home. That household is something I continually give thanks for, and she joined me in singing their praises. The fact that my host mum, Tante Adèle, opens her house to whoever might turn up has become almost commonplace to me – and yet it is still something amazing. At the beginning of the school year, she got a phone call from someone in her late husband’s village. The next day, that woman’s 27-year-old son turned up on our doorstep. He moved in and started attending a school in Ziguinchor.

There are three other guys living here aged between 19 and 26, plus a 7-year-old, all connections from her late husband’s village, all in Ziguinchor for education. Plus me. And over Christmas three of her own children were back, one of them brought another friend, another girl from her husband’s village came for a week, and so on. And yet Tante never complains about having to look after so many people. And even though they – we – aren’t even all related by blood, we look out for one another. Homework time? Those further on in school help those in younger years. English homework gets brought to me, of course! Whenever my water filter is empty, I ask one of the guys to fetch me some water. Need something carried, an errand done, to borrow phone credit? Ask and someone will help out. Everyone has their turn at cooking, sweeping, dishwashing.

Even more impressive is how the local community relates to Clare…

Neighbourhood life
Then there are my neighbours. Women who have never left Senegal, women who have rarely encountered Westerners, women who speak little French. Yet they are always quick to greet me. They are happy to welcome me into their homes, to be patient with my Wolof as we sit and chat in a language that is neither my nor their first language, nor our second.

At Christmas, my host family cooked extra food and sent it to the homes of our neighbours who don’t celebrate Christmas – and our neighbours had done the same for us when they had a religious festival in September. These are women who have little in common with me, an outsider, but have chosen to accept me into their lives.

Every time I leave the house, whichever direction I go, someone calls out my Senegalese name, Soda. Sometimes just one person, sometimes three or four, sometimes a dozen. Occasionally, I know their name too. More often, I’ve forgotten it! With my host family, we joke that if someone is being given directions for our house, there’s no point in telling them to ask for anyone else – but if they ask anyone in the neighbourhood for Soda’s house, they’ll be shown to our front door.

When people who don’t know me see me, they shout out “toubab”, white person. I’d rather they didn’t shout toubab – so that’s why they all know me name. I tell them, no, please don’t call me toubab. My name is Soda (or aunty Soda to children).

Sometimes I find it annoying. Sometimes I feel like I’m being watched wherever I go. Sometimes I feel like I’d rather stay in rather than going out and having to talk to people I barely know – because if someone greets me by name, I can’t just ignore them. But more often, it’s reassuring. I feel safety in the fact that I’m known. These people may not know me well, but they know me to see, they know my name, and if I ever needed them, I know they’d come to my help. Also, even if I don’t recognise someone, I can tell whether or not they actually know me by whether or not they know my name.

Thank you to Clare for allowing me to re-blog this – and for the honesty in your writing. I think there is so much to teach those of us who live in less welcoming communities – whether our lack of welcome stems from culture, politics, suspicion, fear or just self-centred laziness.

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Jesus, Light of the World

Jesus, Light of the World

I have just sent this off to Prayerline, the weekly mission prayer news from the Presbyterian Church in Ireland‘s Council of Global Mission. Wycliffe gets an entry every four weeks and this year, I’m delighted that we have the Christmas slot for a week starting 21 December 2016.

Wycliffe’s December contribution for PCI Prayerline

More people than ever before know Jesus’ name in their language this Christmas because of Bible translation. Here is a small sample of the name of Jesus in 3,000 plus languages with some Scripture. Speakers of up to 1,800 languages are still waiting to have the name of Jesus translated for them. #endbiblepoverty

Jezusi (Albanian)

يسوع (Arabic)

Յիսուս (W Armenian)

Езус (Belorusian)

যীশু (Bengali)

耶穌 (Chinese)

Ιησούς (Greek)

Íosa (Irish)

イエス (Japanese)

Иса (Kazakh)

ഈശോ (Malayalam)

Isus (Romanian)

Иисус (Russian)

যীশু (Sylheti)

ܝܫܘܥ (Syriac)

இயேசு (Tamil)

เยซู (Thai)

Ісус (Ukrainian)

Giêsu (Vietnamese)

uJesu (Zulu)

This Christmas Day the Wycliffe UK & Ireland prayer guide asks us to:

  • Thank God for the birth of Jesus. Also thank God that many more people can read about the birth of Jesus through the translated New Testaments that have been launched during the past year.

As you read and hear the familiar Christmas accounts in the Bible this week, ask God how he might want you to be involved in helping the name of Jesus to be translated into new languages and be known by the speakers of those languages.

 

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Emily is our new volunteer in the Wycliffe UK & Ireland office in Belfast. Not only is she learning a lot but she has been a great asset to the team already – and she has written me a blog!

Scroll listing around 1,800 languages with no Scripture

Scroll listing around 1,800 languages with no Scripture

I have been volunteering with Wycliffe for the past few weeks doing general admin work, which has already proven to be varied and interesting. One of the highlights so far is a scroll I had to make of all the languages that the Bible needs to be translated into. It was an amazing visual, as the list went on and on. It’s a lovely atmosphere in the Belfast office as everyone is friendly and there’s always a bit of laughter. I was told that my desk is the best in the office as it has the best view…which is true. Right now I can see a beautiful rainbow stretching over the city of Belfast. In just the first two days of volunteering at Wycliffe I was made more aware of the depth of work that goes into translating the Bible; it’s not just a case of sitting down with the Hebrew and Greek scriptures and translating it into another language. For example, on my first day I met Kenny who told me that some languages are purely oral, so a writing system needs to be created from scratch, then the people need to be taught to read so that they will be able to read the Bible in their own language. At 11am everyone in the office stops for a time of prayer. It’s great to be able to bring the workers and projects to God and to share in their burdens and successes.

If you didn’t make it to the recent Wycliffe:Live in Belfast – and unfortunately very few did – you can read Emily’s report of an excellent evening focussing on how God impacts lives through His word.

wycliffe-live-16-a5poster2On Thursday, 13th October, I had the opportunity to attend Wycliffe:Live where I learned much more about the work that Wycliffe is involved in. We had been greeted at the door and handed a paper footprint and heart which were then used by Alistair and Marlene to share some statistics. Alistair revealed that 78% of the world’s population have the entire Bible in their own language. “Well, that’s pretty good, isn’t it,” Alistair asked. It sounds good; in fact, it’s a higher statistic than I thought it would be. But then Marlene revealed that if you look at it from a language point of view the statistics aren’t so positive. Only 8% of the world’s languages have the complete Bible. Marlene pointed out that it doesn’t matter whether the language is spoken by a large or small population, the amount of work to translate is still the same. As mentioned above, there is more work that goes into translation than you would realise!

Throughout the evening we heard about various projects throughout the world and how the Bible was changing people’s lives when they heard it in their mother tongue. Two images stood out for me: the first was of a group of Supyire people in Mali huddled together under a basic shelter to listen to their audio Bible. Their eagerness to hear the Word of God was evident. Another photo showed Mikatoso, a Zambian, reading the Book of Luke in his own language for the first time. As Ricky said, “His smile sums it all up.”

Alf told the story of Mpeere, who said she had become more patient since she started listening to Romans 12v20 on the audio Bible. She even reached out to a woman who didn’t like her and wasn’t well liked by others. In doing so, she changed a negative relationship into a positive one.

Mpeere’s Supyire Bible listening group, Mali

Marlene and John shared testimonies of Scripture impacting refugees. One testimony told of how the Book of Ruth brought comfort to women refugees because they could identify with losing husbands and sons. Refugees are even praying for those that are persecuting them.

It was interesting to hear John’s story of his 28½ years with Wycliffe and how, even though he and his wife Ruth didn’t feel called to be translators, they were challenged to use their skills as teachers to teach missionaries’ children at Vavoua International School in West Africa. This is something I have come to learn: many different skills are needed in Wycliffe; you don’t just have to be good with languages. There are many supporting roles that are required in order to help the translating process run smoothly. John is retiring in December and I wish him all the best for the future…whatever that may be!

Another thing that really stood out for me at the meeting was the emphasis on prayer. Everything, whether it was the work, the projects or the offering, was brought back to God. There was a real sense of the need for prayer and a reliance on God, that this is His work and we are His workers. Many prayers were offered up that night.

Finally, Strandtown Baptist Pastor, Lee Campbell closed the meeting with a message on the importance of continuing mission. Lee explained the word fellowship means “Coming together and working together for a common goal and purpose”. Therefore, we are partners with God as He does His work in this world.

There is so much more that I could write about but I will leave you with some of the challenges that I feel were raised at Wycliffe Live: Do we read the Bible with the same joy and eagerness as those receiving the Bible in their own language for the first time? Do we listen to God’s Word so that it changes our lives and attitudes as it did with Mpeere and the refugees? Are we using our skills in the way God wants, like John and Ruth? And what can we do to be involved as partners in God’s work?

A big thank you to Emily for this blog. There are lots of ways to volunteer with Wycliffe at home and overseas both short term and long term… take a look.

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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!

ravenhill

Ravenhill aka Kingspan Stadium: home of Ulster Rugby

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?

Michael, the consultant / scrum half in action with a translation team in Mali

Michael, the consultant / scrum half in action with a translation team in Mali

Paul Marshall Ulster scrum half

Paul Marshall, Ulster scrum half in action against Munster

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!

 

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mission-trip

I have a sort of love / hate relationship with short term mission trips.

Before we joined Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland in 1988, I had never been on a short term mission trip overseas. But should I count taking a school SU group away for the weekend or several years as a section leader of Newtownbreda CSSM or hosting a home Bible study group? Do they qualify as “short term mission”?

For a number of years I was responsible for summer mission teams for Wycliffe and I think we got it right in that these were definitely not mission tourism but experiencing and contributing to the long term task of ongoing Bible translation projects. An encouraging number of participants later joined Wycliffe long term.

I have blogged on this topic before, but what sparked this one was first my church mission coordination group discussing the possibilities for a group from my church to visit a couple that we support in Kenya and, in the future, another couple en route to Japan. And we’re thinking hard about how we do it. It will not be mission tourism!

And secondly there was Eddie Arthur’s recent blog which has the same title as this post. read on…

Yes, you read that title right. There is no such thing as short-term mission.

We could spend ages arguing about what exactly we mean by mission, but that’s not the point of this piece. Let’s simply look at the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20.

‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’

So mission is first and foremost to make disciples. It isn’t about making converts; getting people to raise their hands at the end of an emotional evangelistic talk. It’s about helping people to develop into maturing Christ followers who are living disciplined (the clue is in the word) lives. That is not a short term project, it can’t be done in just a few weeks or even a few months.

If this wasn’t enough, Jesus then tells us that we have to teach the new disciples everything he commanded us. That might take a little time, too.

So mission, by it’s nature, is a long term activity. There are no short cuts.

I particularly like this next paragraph.

However, just because mission itself is long term, this doesn’t mean that there is no place for short term mission workers. What it does mean is that short-term mission work must take place within a long-term framework. Short-term missionaries can bring valuable skills and manpower to bear at critical points in a long project. The key is designing short-term mission projects that support ongoing mission work.                  [Italics mine]

Eddie added a footnote. Well, he would; he works for Global Connections! But I thoroughly agree with his final sentence.

If you are interested in short-term mission, you should take a look at the Global Connections “Short-Term Mission; Code of Best Practice“. I would strongly discourage anyone from going on a short-term trip which does not adhere to these basic principles.

Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland is looking into new initiatives in this area but in the meantime see what might get you involved.

 

 

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On Sunday 28 August 2016 at 10.30 am, I had the privilege of speaking at Newtownbreda Presbyterian Church in Belfast as they sent Wycliffe UK member Clare Orr back to Senegal. Here is an edited version of what I said…

office-world-map-old

Back in the days when the Wycliffe office was on the Beersbridge Road, we had a world map on the wall. And on the map we had a piece of paper with some verses from Matthew chapter 9.

Clare’s Dad has already read Matthew 9: 35-38 for us. In NIV, it is entitled The Workers Are Few.

We had the last verse on the office map, the words Jesus spoke to his disciples: “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Just before this, Matthew tells us that Jesus had compassion on the crowds: “because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

In a way this passage sums up what we’re doing here this morning. You’re sending – or perhaps more accurately, re-sending – Newtownbreda’s worker Clare back to the harvest field where she has worked before – and where Jesus still has compassion on people who are harassed and helpless; people who need a shepherd; people who need to hear the good news of the gospel; people who need to find Jesus as their shepherd..

And by the way, there are people around us here at home, or maybe even sitting here in church this morning, who are harassed and helpless who need to find Jesus as their shepherd.

The verse on the world map was both an encouragement and a challenge to us working in the Wycliffe office.

  • We were so encouraged every time we produced Wycliffe News and read the updates from around 50 people from Ireland working around the world in Bible translation and literacy and many other roles
  • We were challenged by Jesus’ words because we knew that there were still many millions of people yet to hear the good news in their heart languages

It was such a joy when Clare walked into the office one morning back in late 2012… We thought she was there for a bit of a chat. But no, Clare came straight out and said, “I want to join Wycliffe. What do I have to do?” So we told her; she applied in early 2013 and was accepted in spring 2013; started training in August 2013; and in February 2014, she went to Senegal.

This morning, together, we are sending Clare back to Senegal…

Clare with an Ebola poster

Because what she is doing there is important!

Do you remember the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014? Do you remember the Ebola prevention posters that Clare and her Senegalese colleagues produced in – I can’t remember how many languages… Those posters – produced because Clare was there working in literacy development – helped to save lives by giving people information about how to avoid Ebola in a language they could understand.

There are lots of ways in which literacy helps people – and it is a very important part of what Wycliffe does. But our main aim is that people can have access to the Bible in the language of their hearts.

So why is literacy crucial?

There’s an old Wycliffe saying that Bible translation without literacy is like a tin of beans without a tin opener. If you can’t get the tin open, you can’t eat the beans.

Yesterday morning I searched the kitchen cupboards in vain to find a tin of beans. So I’ve had to make do with a tin of Cream of Tomato Soup with a hint of basil. You need a tin opener to get access to and enjoy the soup.

tin-of-soup

It’s a little parable… If the Bible is translated into your language, but you can’t read – how do you access and enjoy and be challenged by God’s word?

Actually with modern tins, you don’t actually need a tin opener. You have this little pull thingy. Perhaps you could say that the little pull thingy is literacy. Clare, and literacy specialists like her, provide little pull thingies 🙂 If only it were so simple…

Be assured that our prayers and best wishes go with you, Clare, in the weeks ahead.

Jesus still has compassion on those who do not know him. Jesus still says to his disciples, to us…

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

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