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Today is Pentecost Sunday… read all about it in Acts chapter 2

A few days ago Wycliffe Canada colleague Jack Popjes posted The story of Pentecost in Two Contrasting Versions. I’m pretty sure he won’t mind me re-posting on Pentecost Sunday…

Why Stories from Different Cultures Are So Similar
I grew up listening to Dutch folktales, read voraciously in English during my early years in Canada, enjoyed Brazilian stories in Portuguese, studied Canela legends, and know all the Middle Eastern Bible stories by heart. I wondered why stories from these five different cultures seem to have similar plots and structure.

An anthropologist, Levi-Strauss, taught me that these timeless stories hang together because they all follow certain rules. Elements in each major tale relate to each other, both in the way they are similar and in the way they contrast. What’s more, one element in each pair is often positive, while the other may be negative, just as health contrasts with disease, and clean contrasts with dirty.

The Moses and Joshua Example
Here, for instance are how the stories of Moses and Joshua are similar: Both were chosen by God. Both led Israel. Both performed miracles. Both accomplished their tasks.

Here are the contrasts: One was old: one was young. One was a shepherd: the other a trained warrior. One led them out of bondage: the other led them into freedom. One was highly educated in Egypt’s royal court: the other was an ignorant slave.

Around the world, all enduring stories are structured similarly because they all reflect the greatest story of them all; the timeless tale of God, His creation, human sin and God’s redemption.

Now The Two Stories of Pentecost
Pentecost, also called the Feast of Weeks, in Old Testament times was simply a harvest festival. Eventually, this turned into more of a remembrance of the time Moses received the Law on Mt. Sinai. And of course, for the Christian Church, we remember that it was on the first Pentecost after Christ rose from the dead, that God sent the Holy Spirit to the Church.

So, doing a quick study of these two major stories, here, in list form, are some similarities and contrasts:
Jewish Observance of Pentecost: Receiving of the Law.

  1. God’s servant Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the Law
  2. This happened 50 days after their escape from Egypt (10 days of travel plus 40 days on Mount Sinai)
  3. Moses found the people feasting and playing before the golden calf
  4. Moses ordered the Levites to draw their swords and execute the idolaters
  5. As a result, 3,000 people lost their lives

Christian Observance of Pentecost: Receiving of the Holy Spirit

  1. God’s Holy Spirit came down from heaven with Power.
  2. This happened 50 days after Jesus rose from the dead (40 days of seeing Jesus alive plus 10 days of waiting in Jerusalem)
  3. The Holy Spirit found the disciples fasting and praying before God
  4. God ordered Peter to use the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and preach to the crowds
  5. As a result, 3,000 people received eternal life.

The apostle Paul may well have had this contrast in mind when he wrote to the Corinthian church, “The letter of the Law kills, but the Spirit gives life” 2 Corinthians 3:6.

Try This Yourself
Pick a pair of characters like king Saul and king David. Or the prophet Jonah and the apostle Paul. Check out the amazing similarities and contrasts in their stories.

Wycliffe Canada colleague Jack Popjes is a prolific story teller. One of his stories inspired me to research which resulted The Irishman’s Prayer and The Irishman Who Prayed

Keep writing the stories, Jack!

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messy-ch-pentecost

No, this is not another blog about another way of “doing church”!

It is inspired by the fact that I really enjoyed Eddie Arthur’s Pentecost post this morning!

Pentecost: Miracles Don’t happen

OK; miracles do happen – but stick with me on this one.

Sometimes the events of the day of Pentecost are presented something like this; the Spirit descended on the disciples, they reached out and preached in the streets in all sorts of languages, 3,000 people became Christians and the church was now a glorious multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-lingual group.

That’s a great story; but unfortunately, the New Testament picture is somewhat different in a few crucial respects. Yes, the disciples rushed out and preached in all sorts of languages (or were understood in different languages) and many people became believers (the term Christian is not appropriate at this point in the story). However, as we saw yesterday, the people who joined the disciples were all Jewish, this was not really a multi-ethnic group.

Eddie goes on to emphasise the point that, as we read further in the New Testament, we see that the early church was just like all our churches – brilliant yet flawed.

Eddie concludes with the words below, but do take a look at the rest of his blog – more good bits in between.

Sadly, there are no miracles which will make the church more diverse; only the gritty work of sharing, learning, making mistakes and forgiving one another. It isn’t glamorous, but it is the way forward for the church in our increasingly diverse world…

Just one final thought; part of the problem of integrating people into the early Church lay in the fact that the Jewish people saw themselves as being better than others; a privileged race. We wouldn’t be guilty of that would we?

Wouldn’t it be great if Bible translators , in fact all sorts of cross cultural missionaries, could have their own mini Pentecost and not have to struggle to learn minority languages? But God doesn’t seem to work that way…

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PCI logo

Once every four weeks, Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland has the opportunity to submit prayer items for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland weekly Prayerline.

In Prayerline, published today and covering the next 7 days, Wycliffe focussed on some current events in N. Ireland…

On Sunday past our Wycliffe NI Church Engagement team leader Ricky Ferguson was back in his old stomping ground speaking at Fahan Presbyterian Church in Donegal. His topic was “Bible Translation: what’s it all about?” We give thanks for how Ricky was taught and mentored in Fahan as he grew up and for the work he is now doing sharing his passion for Bible translation worldwide.

Fahan

Fahan Presbyterian with Ricky & Marlene Ferguson middle front

This coming Saturday, Ricky’s wife Marlene is taking a team of five to Union Road Presbyterian Church, Magherafelt who have invited us to put on a primary children’s missionary adventure day. They are expecting at least 100 children from the area to explore the theme “Let Your Light Shine!”  Pray for Marlene, her team, the children and all the local helpers involved.

We are excited in the Belfast office that by the time you are reading this, two new applicants will have been interviewed.  Pray that all will go well and that we will be able to share good news in our next contribution to Prayerline.

Please pray with us and our Presbyterian partners…

To view the whole Prayerline published Wednesday 13 April 2016 with the Wycliffe item at the end Click here to download Word file

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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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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.

Niffer

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…

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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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No Ordinary Book revised 2015 edition

No Ordinary Book revised 2015 edition

The Book of Life

One day He will hold a book in His hands
And He alone is worthy
To open it up

For He died, and by His death
He bought back for God
People out of every tribe and group,
Language and nation.

One day all books will be opened
And all will be revealed.
The thoughts of all men’s hearts
Will be made known.

And one day He will take up a great book,
The Book of Life,
And He will read the names from it.

And we will weep with joy, for we will hear
The names of Kouya friends,
A great number, many we had not known.
Saved by grace.

Names which our tongues could once not master
The Master will read out perfectly,
For all tongues are known to Him.

And when He holds that book in His hands,
The need to translate will disappear,
No more need for Living by the Book.

For in that great day, when we meet Him in person,
Then shall we know
Even as also we are known.

          Philip Saunders   No Ordinary Book page 302

Bai Laurent holding the prinout of the Kouya New Testament at the final checking session

Bai Laurent holding the printout of the Kouya New Testament at the final checking session

Bible translation stories often include people dreaming of holding a book in their hands, just like Toualy Bai Laurent did for decades as he prayed that God would send someone to help translate the Bible into the Kouya language. You can read Bai Laurent’s story in No Ordinary Book.

In the poem above, Philip has layers of bookholding going on. Kouya people now hold and read the New Testament in their language. There are also hints that speakers of many other languages cannot yet do that, but they will. And then there is the Book of Life that God will one day hold and open – and read in every language.

In a recent blog, I announced the arrival of the new paperback version of the revised and updated edition of No Ordinary Book which is now available from Amazon and soon via Philip’s independent publishing platform website.

No Ordinary Book continues to bring memories for me: perhaps it will inspire some future blogs. But with this new edition becoming available, my prayer is that many new readers will be challenged to get involved in Bible translation. If that happens to you, here is a great place to start.

Again if you want to see a few of the many photos that I took at the dedication of the Kouya New Testament dedication in 2012, you can see them in my Facebook photo album

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No Ordinary Book revised 2015 edition

No Ordinary Book revised 2015 edition

I think it was the first time I read a book about mission and felt like the missionary was a human being… and I liked that. Such a challenge and an eye-opener! I hope many young linguists read this book and get a taste for Bible translation.

Rachel Hanna (PhD student at Queen’s Universitty Belfast) quote on back cover of No Ordinary Book

In May 2013 I blogged Kouya Goes Kindle which flagged up that No Ordinary Book, revised and updated to include the 2012 New Testament dedication, had just become available on Kindle.

Last Friday, Philip gave me a personal copy of the new paperback version of the revised and updated edition which is now available from Amazon and soon via Philip’s independent publishing platform website.

Talking about the book with a colleague and flipping through some of the pages, took me back through over thrity years of friendship with Philip and Heather. I remembered times we have shared together in Côte d’Ivoire.

Although No Ordinary Book continues to bring memories for me, I want to endorse Rachel Hanna’s hope expressed above that many readers both young and older will be challenged to get involved in Bible translation. If that happens to you, here is a great place to start.

If you want to see a few of the many photos that I took at the dedication of the Kouya New Testament dedication in 2012, you can see them in my Facebook photo album

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