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 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.

bassar_choir

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

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I blogged earlier today about stories: people praying; God answering; people coming to faith: God delighted; language groups receiving God’s Word in their heart languages; God’s church growing…

TchamNow this evening I spotted friend and Wycliffe colleague Tim Robinson’s blog about the recent dedication of the Ncham Bible in Togo.

In 1998 I took the plunge and went on my first short-term missions trip. It was a little unusual in the big realm of short term trips, as it was to a Bible translation project in Togo, West Africa, a Francophone country. I didn’t speak a whole lot of French and having grown up in Wycliffe, I was sure I already ‘got’ the need for Bible translation. However, all the circumstances and gifts to make it happen were clearly leading me to go on the trip.

On the 14th January 2015, 16.5 years later, I started my journey back to that very same village. Before you think ‘ooo dramatic’, I had been back already, leading multiple other short term teams to the same project. It had, however, been 4.5 years since I last visited.

There were at least two NI teenagers, and many others that I knew, who went on WYnet teams with Tim to Togo. These trips were influential in their lives. I hope they come across this and get to read Tim’s whole blog – you guys played your part along the way and now…

It was wonderful to see so many people desperate to get their hands on the Bible in their own language.

We attended church with Samuel the next morning and it was brilliant seeing so many people clutching their new Bibles.

 

 

Tim’s whole blog is worth a read 🙂

 

 

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I found this blog from 13 November 2010 the other day while browsing and nursing a cold. Of course a lot has changed for me and in the Wycliffe Bible Translators office in Belfast since then. I am no longer NI Coordinator (as described below) although I am currently Interim Team Leader for the Wycliffe team based at the office. I am working just three days per week and I seem to be speaking less in churches – but who knows what 2015 will bring.

Read on – a few more comments at the end…

I’m preaching ‘away’ this weekend (which makes it sound rather like I ought to be wearing a special coloured shirt) and this brings its own problems of preparation. As is often the case for a visiting preacher, I have been left to select my own subject for  the preaching. I cannot write it ‘for’ this group of people, because I do not know them. I cannot read it ‘for’ them either – as I am unaware of their particular needs and situations. What am I to do?

I read this on Richard Littledale’s excellent Preachers A-Z blog; you can read the whole thing here.

It prompted me to think about how I prepare to speak at church Sunday services and midweek meetings in my role as NI Coordinator for Wycliffe Bible Translators UK. Except on the occasions when I am asked to speak in my home church, I am always “preaching away from home”. I sometimes know the people because I’ve been there before but not always. Invariably I select my own subject and that’s the positive bit for me because I want to talk about the Bible and Bible translation and the work that we do in Wycliffe worldwide. I want to enthuse my hearers to think that the Bible is the Story that everybody needs. I want them to know and be challenged by the fact that around 350 million people speaking over 2,200 languages have no access to any part of the Bible in the language they understand best. I want their church to get involved!

So far so good!

But how do I select? God is doing so much through Bible translation. I could talk about the Sabaot pastor of upland Kenya who on receiving the New Testament in his language exclaimed, “Now God is walking with us on this mountain!” Or I could quote Ben Kwachi, the Archbishop of Jos in Nigeria, who once said, “Bible translation is evangelism.” Or I could explain the benefits in terms of education and health and community self-esteem that comes when people learn to read and write in their previously unwritten mother tongue. I could go on about the use of computers in Bible translation or the projects working on sign language translation for deaf communities or oral story telling for oral communities who will never learn to read or the use of Megavoice for listening groups to study the Bible not by reading but by hearing…

How do I decide what I want to speak about?

And then I can slip into the trap of using the same basic message each time I speak. And there’s nothing wrong with that; it’s fresh for each new church group that I visit. But will I become stale? I too need to go back to the Bible and be re-enthused as I study and apply this amazing book – the Story everybody needs.

I use Powerpoint a lot. I think that I use it well. Not everyone close to me necessarily agrees with me, but I think there is value in the spoken word being accompanied by an appropriate visual image and outline notes. But what about next Sunday when I will be speaking in a church where I will not have the option of using Powerpoint?

How do I speak about the Story that everybody needs? Well, I’m planning to tell stories. Isn’t that what Jesus did when he captivated and challenged and puzzled his hearers with parables? The preparation started this morning during a beautiful walk in nearby Belvoir Forest Park. It will continue to float around in my mind over the weekend. Then on Monday morning it needs to get on paper.

I am frequently encouraged as I preach away from home… as I commented on Richard’s blog.

I guess I am still amazed at how often someone introducing me says or quotes something so relevant to what I am about to say. Or the hymn chosen to sing just before I speak gives me a lead in. And then I think: well, I really shouldn’t be amazed, should I? I am about to speak about the Bible the Story everyone needs to hear and God’s desire that they should hear it in the language they understand best.

Hey! I’m looking forward to next Sunday morning… and I’ve been invited for lunch too!

Now over four years later, I still want to enthuse people about the need for Bible translation; about the benefits of literacy; about the impact of technology in bringing God’s Word to people without it. I could talk about literacy teams in Senegal helping to combat Ebola or about the Jesus Film on smart phones in rural West Africa or the development of smart phone apps which will promote Bible knowledge and mother tongue literacy at the same time.

I have a few meetings coming up but mostly I’m looking forward to following up recent contacts and talking to them about their role in God’s Mission.

Watch this space 🙂

 

 

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“Local churches need to be at the centre of supporting, encouraging and helping mission partners in the day-to-day life of living and ministering in another culture.”        Sphere magazine June 2014

Paul_the_Apostle022Paul barnabas splitOK, some things had changed. Antioch had originally sent out Barnabas and Saul. The first missionary journey had gone well and on return Paul and Barnabas had reported back (as “good” missionaries should).

However when Paul proposed a second trip to visit the new churches, he and Barnabas had a difference of opinion about taking John Mark along. So they split and Paul teamed up with Silas.

You wouldn’t think that would be a big deal for the Antioch church, would you?

 

The rest of this blog is taken from Bible and Mission. A few things to note before you read on:

  • The letter below is of course fictional – and it is quite long, but well worth reading all the way to the end
  • It is both very amusing and very sad
  • It contains more than a grain or two of truth about how too many churches treat their missionaries

We have stopped supporting your ministry!

1 December, AD 51

Dear Paul, Silas, and Timothy,

Greetings from Antioch.  We trust you are well and that your ministry in Corinth is also continuing well.  Our mission committee met last week to discuss your work, and we have decided to discontinue the annual support that we have been sending for your ministry.  You are probably wondering what led us to this decision, and so here are ten of our primary concerns.

paul-silas-stocks

First, of the three of you, only Paul was originally sent out from this church.  Silas is from Jerusalem, and Timothy is from Lystra.  Our policy is to support missionaries who come from Antioch.  Also, our policy is to support our missionaries at 5% of their total support needs, and we expect them to find the rest of their support from other churches.  We, however, will not support missionaries who do not come from our own church.

Second, our church likes to focus on certain countries.  We have a flag for every country where one of our missionaries has gone, and when they report back to us, we like to have them tell us about that country, share some recipes from that country, speak some of the language for us, and wear the traditional clothes from that country.  We chose to support you for ministry in Macedonia, and we were greatly impressed by your vision, Paul, to minister there.  However, word has reached us that you only spent a few weeks in Macedonia, starting churches in Philippi, Thessalonica, and Beroea.  Now, however, we hear that you have moved on to Corinth in Achaia.  Since we tie mission work to specific countries, we do not feel that we can continue to support you in your present work outside Macedonia.

Third, we had sent you out to do the work of church planting.  Our church has decided only to fund church planters in missionary work.  We appreciate that you also started a church in Corinth, but we understand that you are moving into ministry that involves theological education.  For our part, we want to see churches planted and are not financially behind educating pastors for those churches.

Fourth, you did not fill out your financial application form for our church on time last year.  We know that the Holy Spirit originally told us to send Paul and Barnabas out for the ministry that God had called them to do.  At first, that led us to the idea that we are to support missionaries themselves and not to support them based on the places they went or the projects that they have submitted.  However, and we are sure you will understand this, when missionaries are gone a long time, we begin to lose that personal connection that we once had with them.  Over time, it is far easier to treat them like projects and require them to fill out forms so that we can support the project of ministry that they are doing.  These project forms are very important to us.

Fifth, we have over the years taken on new projects for support that some of our newer members want to support—members who do not remember you or who never met you.  We now support a pregnancy support ministry here in Antioch, a feeding and clean water programme in the region of Tyre and Sidon, an elementary schools project in rural areas of Syria, and so forth.  We simply cannot support every worthy cause, and these are causes that our church members get enthused about.  Our congregation likes to support projects more than missionaries.  We also, as you will notice from these places of ministry, think that we should focus more on ministry closer to home than to the ends of the earth, as it were.  In addition, and to be perfectly honest, hearing that you are only involved in preaching the Gospel and teaching theology and not in some tangible ministry that makes a difference in people’s lives is a concern for us.  Ever since we combined benevolence funding along with our missionary support, we have been increasingly interested in funding those projects.

Sixth, we have also had word that you are working on the side by making tents in order to make ends meet.  We did not send you out so that you could spend your time working a job; we expected you to be involved in ministry full-time if we support you.  We know that working in the market-place is a good way to meet people and do relational evangelism, but it sounds to us as though you are getting two salaries.

Seventh, you have fallen behind on your monthly newsletters to us.  We expect to hear from you more regularly, and challenges in ministry are not excuses for failing to communicate with your financial supporters.  We want short letters with a story of interest that we can pin up on the back wall of the church next to the map of places where we have sent missionaries.  You not only do not write often enough, but when you write you send theological treatises that nobody wants to read.

Eighth, we understand that you are a little too open to work with some groups that are not very sound.  Some of those Corinthians have the wrong theology and are immoral.  Why would you ever engage in ministry to them?  Shouldn’t we minister to people who are theologically sound and morally upright?

Ninth, our budget for supporting mission work has shrunk in recent years.  We’ve moved from the cave where we used to meet to a nice new facility in the centre of Antioch near the Orontes River.  This has taken a lot of our funds that we once set aside for missions, and the upkeep of our new building is also going to keep us from supporting as many missionaries as we used to support.

polyp_cartoon_tourist_yuppie_hypocrite_gap_year_wealth_povertyTenth, our short-term mission programme has taken off wonderfully.  We send our youth on two week mission trips to build huts in Cappadocia, and they come back very excited.  Along with the new projects we support, this short-term mission work has eaten into funding for long-term missionaries such as yourselves.

So, for quite a number of reasons, we simply can no longer support your ministry.  We will continue to pray for your work and hope to hear from you from time to time, and we wish the Lord’s blessing on your ministry.  We are happy to have been able to send you some financial assistance over the past eight years, but we think that this has been long enough by now for you to stand on your own two feet—we are sure that you will agree that there has to be a limit to philanthropy.

Sincerely,

The Mission Committee of Antioch Church

Thank you for reading this far. How did you react to this long and detailed letter? Does it ring any bells?

I would love to hear your comments.

Note: my thanks to Eddie Arthur who flagged up the original blog recently.

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sphere-1406-cover“Local churches need to be at the centre of supporting, encouraging and helping mission partners in the day-to-day life of living and ministering in another culture.”        Sphere magazine June 2014

In my local church in Belfast, N. Ireland, a young man called John has recently been accepted as a long term missionary with OMF in Japan. He still has a year to go at Bible college and we have been supporting him in his studies. But we are facing a challenge. John will not be getting an OMF salary. John is the first member of our church to join a faith mission since the church sent my family with Wycliffe Bible Translators 25 years ago – and have faithfully supported us ever since.

How will our church cope? Will we pray regularly and faithfully? Will we give generously and sufficiently? I am trusting that God’s Holy Spirit will enable us to do that – and more.

Our Mission Coordination Group is writing a new set of mission policy guidelines to present to the eldership in the autumn. We are making reasonable progress. And the other day some help seems to have dropped right on to my desk in the shape of the latest edition of Sphere from Global Connections. Sphere is  a magazine designed to help churches and mission agencies  respond to some of the challenges facing us as a mission community today. And one of those problems seems to be that in many churches there is a lack of appetite for supporting people in mission assignments that involve the long haul – like Bible translation and like church planting in Japan.

It is always encouraging to look at how the early Christian church in Acts responded to the mission movement of the Holy Spirit. The church in Antioch is a tremendously encouraging model of a sending church with Barnabas and Paul.

But what if the leadership in Antioch, the mission committee there had reacted as too many churches in the western world are doing today?

What if the mission committee has sent Paul a letter with some very discouraging news..?

1 December, AD 51

Dear Paul, Silas, and Timothy,

Greetings from Antioch.  We trust you are well and that your ministry in Corinth is also continuing well.  Our mission committee met last week to discuss your work…

Look out for How [not] to be a mission committee 2 soon

 

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When I visited Ardtrea and Desertcreat Church of Ireland churches in March speaking on behalf of Wycliffe Bible Translators, I was transported back to the fifth century Ireland of St Patrick.

This past Sunday in Clogher and Glenhoy Presbyterian Churches I found strong encouragement for Bible translation dating from the mid 17th century.

The Westminster Assembly of Divines 1643-49

The Westminster Assembly of Divines 1643-49

In 1643, the English Parliament called upon “learned, godly and judicious Divines”, to meet at Westminster Abbey in order to provide advice on issues of worship, doctrine, government and discipline of the Church of England.

Title page of a 1647 printing of the Confession

Among other things, these eminent churchmen produced the Westminster Confession of Faith which ever since has been the classic statement of the Reformed church, including the Presbyterian Church in Ireland of which I am a member and an elder.

Roy, the minister in Clogher and Glenhoy uses extracts from the Westminister Confession of Faith in the Sunday services and on my visit he chose these two rolling sentences…

Chapter I
Of the Holy Scripture
VIII. The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which, at the time of the writing of it, was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and, by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as, in all controversies of religion, the Church is finally to appeal unto them. But, because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated in to the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that, the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship Him in an acceptable manner; and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.

It fitted so well as I encouraged the two congregations to do something about the 1,919 languages still awaiting a translation of the Word of God and went on to illustrate how today’s technology is enabling people around the world to have the Scriptures  – and the Jesus Film – on their smart phones.

Again I was reminded of how what I do today with the Wycliffe UK Church Engagement Team is a small but significant part of God’s mission throughout human history that everyone should hear the Good News of Jesus Christ in the language that they understand best – their vulgar language!

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In March it was Ardtrea and Desertcreat Church of Ireland churches.

Clogher and Glenhoy Presbyterian churches

Clogher and Glenhoy Presbyterian churches

This Sunday it’s Clogher and Glenhoy Presbyterian Churches. Looking forward to visiting some new PCI churches and sharing the passion of Wycliffe Bible Translators for the millions of people withoput access to God’s Word in the language they know best.

And I can’t help wondering what their history is…

 

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