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Finding work experience for a 16 year old language student seemed a big challenge at first – until my Granny mentioned Wycliffe Bible Translators. I knew that’s where I wanted to go. Having met Marlene Ferguson some years ago at Girl’s Brigade, I had a vague idea about the work of Wycliffe, but I knew my work experience was going to be insightful and inspiring…

This is how Rebekah from Carrickfergus started her guest blog about her three days with Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland in the Belfast office a few weeks ago. There is a regular stream of A level languages students looking for related work experience each year. Invariably they find out more than they expected…

Click to find out more

Click to find out more

Nevertheless on the first morning, I was nervous about meeting the staff for the first time. I had no need to worry as I was warmly welcomed from the moment I walked in. After a quick introduction to the office and an information pack, Ricky wasted no time presenting an overview of the work of Wycliffe and why Bible translation is extremely necessary in 2017 and the future. I had a go at some introductory translation exercises, learnt statistics about Bible translation and was shocked to hear that of the 7,000 languages in the world, only 636 have a full Bible.

Before break, I heard about Ricky’s recent trip to Zambia where he attended a translation workshop. It was very interesting to hear what happens at a translation workshop.

One thing that struck me was that at break time every day the staff take time out to pray for the Wycliffe members from Ireland. It reminded me that no matter what we are doing within our day, we should always take time out to thank God for what he has done and ask him to help us with whatever we are doing.

Words for Life - Wycliffe UK's magazine

Wycliffe UK’s magazine

Later I talked to Alf Thompson about Wycliffe’s regional magazine Words for Life. I learnt about the process of putting the magazine together and the importance of being in communication with the rest of the world. Alfred’s job also showed me that lots of different people with lots of different skills play a part in Wycliffe Bible Translators. [You can order Words for Life magazine here. Editor]

Day one introduced me to the process of how a Bible is translated and I learnt about the Jesus Film Project. I knew that Bible translation isn’t an easy task, but I was becoming more aware of all the elements that have to be in place before a translation project can begin.

Day two was research day  [the reader can do some too! Links below. Editor]

  • I completed a back translation of Matthew 20 v 1-16 from Ulster Scots to Modern English.
  • I learned about the Arop people of Papua New Guinea and how Wycliffe members John and Bonnie Nystrom faced challenges and tragedy alongside the Arop people to get to where they are now with the Bible translation project.
  • I learnt some idioms from different African languages and read an article that showed me that one small word can change many people’s lives. [Intrigued? Read about that one little word, in fact, the difference one little vowel made. Editor]
  • One of the biggest things that stood out for me that day is the huge need for sign language translations of the Bible.
  • I completed my research day by watching a video of the New Testament dedication in Kimyal, West Papua, which made me realise how much we can take the Bible for granted at times. [Click Kimyal to see the video for yourself. Editor]

On my final day, I met two Guest Bible Scholars who told me about the volunteer work that they do from home and how that helps projects overseas. It helped make sense of all I had been told previously as I saw things fitting into place. Finally I talked to Kenny about the work of the Uganda and Tanzania Branch and why projects are started in specific areas.

Paratext: screenshot of software used by Guest Bible Scholars volunteers

Paratext: screenshot of software used by Guest Bible Scholars volunteers

My time at Wycliffe was very informative and it has made me think about what I can do with languages in the future. I was challenged by the need to have the Bible in ALL languages and I will be telling people about the work of Wycliffe for many years to come.   Rebekah

A big thank you to Rebekah for writing her guest blog and allowing me to post it here.

If you are reading this and you live in Ireland, you can find out much more about Bible translation this coming Saturday 25 February at the Wycliffe First Steps event in Ballyhenry Presbyterian Church, Glengormley. Click on the link to register or phone Ricky on the Belfast office number 028 9073 5854

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George Cowan 1916 - 2017

George Cowan 1916 – 2017

I got news today that George Cowan died in the early hours of 11 February aged 101.

I never met George but have known him as one of the greats of Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Wycliffe Bible Translators USA published an article celebrating his 100th birthday last February. Here are some extracts…

In 1942, George moved to Mexico where he met and married his wife, Florence. During their time in Mexico, they studied the Mazatec language — one that can be spoken or whistled — and helped translate the New Testament, which was completed in 1961.

But perhaps one of George’s best-known contributions has been as a prayer warrior. His dedication and passion to pray for the Bibleless peoples of the world has been an inspiration to many people over the years.

George once said, “I’ve got more versions of the Bible than I know what to do with. But what about that poor guy out there in a Bibleless group? … He’s got nothing. What should I pray for him? … I can only ask that God give him the same as he’s given me.”

I know him best by the quotation above because many times when I have spoken about Wycliffe and Bible translation, I have shown a very short but very powerful video in which we hear George voicing those words – and with such passion – urging us to pray for the Bibleless peoples of the world..

Family members have suggested that on arrival with his Lord, his wife would had greeted him with the words “Well George, you finally got here!”

And so George Cowan is with the Lord in company with family members and colleagues who have gone before and with Mazatecos with whom he and his wife worked to translate the Mazatec New Testament.

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j-nicholsonWhen we got an e-mail from Jack Nicholson in 2016 asking to do work experience in the Belfast office of Wycliffe Bible Translators, we thought: “We can’t be that famous! Jack Nicholson?”

Turns out it wasn’t the star of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. It was the Jack Nicholson,  A level languages student from Kilkeel.

Like all our work experience students, Jack was invited to write a guest blog about his experiences over three days in January 2016.

Marlene Ferguson had been at a careers day in Jack’s school and he had also heard about Wycliffe at his church. So here goes…

As an avid language student, I was looking forward to see what happened in the Wycliffe office. In my naivety, Bible translation took place in the most distant, isolated ends of the earth. I have to say, I wasn’t disappointed!

It struck me how many languages exist in the world, over 800 in Papua New Guinea alone, and how many, at least 1.5 billion people, do not have a Bible in the language which they understand best and are therefore unable to grasp the complete image of God and his plan. These thoughts were reinforced when I considered the widespread availability and variety of God’s word in our own country.

Contrary to my belief, Wycliffe members do not simply throw a dart at a map and book the next available tickets to that country. Nor do they charge into a village or town and carry out their plans without involving the local people.

I discovered that the process to begin a new translation project is meticulous, with an emphasis on prayer and financial support. I also got a taste of the joyful celebrations when a New Testament or a Bible is completed and dedicated.

A celebration of DVD Scripture for sign languages in Ghana, Burundi, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria

A celebration of DVD Scripture for sign languages in Ghana, Burundi, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria

Jack talked to Kenny Woodrow about his work in Uganda – Tanzania and discovered that artistic and many other skills are used in the Bible translation process.

This illustration shows art being used to convey the message of God creating the sun, moon and stars in the Kwoma visual language.

On day 2, Jack was introduced to back translations, sign language translation, how technology is used in the Bible translation process – and language cluster groups when talking to Ricky Ferguson about his trip to the Mongu Cluster in Zambia.

Words for Life - Wycliffe UK's magazine

Words for Life – Wycliffe UK’s magazine

 

After lunch, I joined Alf Thompson who works in communications for Wycliffe UK and Ireland. I heard about his job editing the Words for Life magazine. It was fascinating – and again, it reminded me of the importance of a diversity of skills and roles in Christian mission – as well as treating me to a sneak peek of the next Words for Life magazine!

Friday, my last day… and along came Olive Craig – a Guest Bible Scholar volunteer with  Wycliffe.  Olive showed me the importance of clarity when translating God’s Word to different people groups and also the importance of context in translation. Then, after a few challenging translation enigmas and idioms, Olive led me through the diligent, step-by-step method of the translation of the Bible followed by Wycliffe. The true intensity of Bible translation dawned on me when Olive opened up Paratext – a computer software programme designed specifically for Bible translation. She showed me her part in the overall translation process and how translators aim for Biblical translation to be clear, accurate and natural. I particularly enjoyed Olive’s visit, as I witnessed the practical approach of translation and the skills of so many being used to bring God’s word to others.

Paratext screenshot

Paratext screenshot

I thank God for giving me the chance to witness first-hand Wycliffe’s work in fulfilling his purposes to translate and communicate his word, the Bible, to all the languages of the world.

I retired from Wycliffe at the end of December 2016. One part of my work which I really enjoyed was helping students have a worthwhile work experience with us. So, thanks to Jack and to Ricky for giving me the opportunity to edit Jack’s blog and post it here.

Find out more about Wycliffe and Bible translation at First Steps events around the UK and Ireland.

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It’s almost that time of year. Well, we’ll need to celebrate Christmas first of course, but many Christians, young and older, students or GAPpers, early retired or really retired… will soon be thinking about a short term mission trip.

(more…)

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In my article in the current Presbyterian Herald reflecting on my 28 years with Wycliffe Bible Translators, I wrote:

Wycliffe is working towards #endbiblepoverty – and I would love to see our Church embracing this as a core strategic aim as we strive to be people of global concern.

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Wycliffe Bible Translators values the partnership with the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI). Browsing the PCI website recently and via the Mission Partners page, I came upon this

Wycliffe Bible Translators believe that the Bible is the best way for people to come to know and understand who God is. Their vision is that by working with churches, organisations and individuals from around the world, all people will have access to God’s Word in a language that they truly understand.


Worldwide there are around 160 million people speaking up to 1,800 languages who do not have access to the story of God’s love for his people – the story of the Bible – in the language that they understand the best, their heart language.

Together with agencies involved in Bible distribution and in Christian broadcasting, agencies such as Wycliffe play a vital role in supporting the life and witness of the worldwide church.

PCI have identified Wycliffe Bible Translators as one of the Specialist Service Agencies that are doing what no one church or denomination can easily do. As such they are playing a vital role in the building of God’s Kingdom around the world.

To this end, PCI commends the work of Wycliffe and would encourage congregations to support them in any way they can.

And then the website page helps congregations by supplying our contact details.
Calling all PCI churches, please get in touch!

Contact Details:

Wycliffe Bible Translators
The Mount
2 Woodstock Link
Belfast BT6 8DD
N. Ireland

T: +44 (0)28 9073 5854W: www.wycliffe.org.uk

In the meantime, take a look at this video, use it in your church, pray for those with no Scripture in their heart languages – just click in the space below.

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Agane Jesus saed, “Peace be wi yis! Jist as tha Faither haes sent me, A’m sennin yous as weel.” John 20:21 in Ulster Scots

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Launch of the Four Gospels in Ulster Scots at Greyabbey Presbyterian Church 12 November 2016

In 2012 I attended the dedication of the Kouya New Testament in Côte d’Ivoire with my wife and two colleagues – and I was invited to be “official photographer”. Such was my success that when Tha Fower Gospels in Ulster Scots were being launched the other Saturday night, off I went once again with my camera.

It is good when Scripture is read: on that Saturday evening, many passages from the Gospels were read in Ulster Scots, the heart language of many people who live in the Ards Peninsula and the Glens of Antrim.

This post is simply a series of photographs that I took on the night.

Tha Fower Gospels set out for sale

Tha Fower Gospels set out for sale

This lady bought three copies

This lady bought three copies

Philip and Heather Saunders with Jim Shannon, the local MP and keen advocate for the Ulster Scots language

Philip and Heather Saunders with Jim Shannon, the local MP and keen advocate for the Ulster Scots language

The Ards translation team

Philip & Heather and Jim Shannon with the Ards translation team

A goodly crowd listening to Rev Neil Stewart, minister of Greyabbey Presbyterian Church

A goodly crowd listening to Rev Neil Stewart, minister of Greyabbey Presbyterian Church

The Low Country Boys who provided the music

The Low Country Boys who provided the music

The full team involved with Tha Fower Gospels translation project

The full team involved with the Tha Fower Gospels translation project

May Kirkpatrick and Elizabeth McLeister sign each other's copies

May Kirkpatrick and Elizabeth McLeister sign each other’s copies

Check out the Low Country Boys blog for a few more photos of the evening.

Finally you might like to take a look at the latest statistics on Bible translation worldwide on the Wycliffe Global Alliance website

Or get involved with Wycliffe UK & Ireland #endbiblepoverty

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harry-potterIn keeping with my post yesterday about significant steps in Bible translation, my friend and colleague Eddie Arthur had an article in Christian Today (23 November 2016) on the very same theme… which is not surprising since all of us in Wycliffe Bible Translators worldwide are excited by the new stats.

Eddie starts with Shakespeare, continues with Harry Potter, includes the UN Declaration of Human Rights in a sort of league table of many languages they have been published in and then comments…

However, Shakespeare and JK Rowling are miles behind the UN Declaration of Human Rights which is available in 370 different languages from Abkhaz to Zulu.

These are all worthy efforts, but the real champion of international availability is the Bible. This month, Wycliffe Bible Translators released the latest Scripture access statistics which tell a truly amazing story.

The bottom line figure is that there are passages of the Bible available in 3,223 different languages. This includes 636 languages which have a complete Bible and 1,442 more with a whole New Testament.

There’s also a video to look at but I prefer the photo… choose for yourself by reading the whole article

A young boy stands by a display featuring Bible stories translated into Chinese at the Xinhua bookstore in Beijing | Reuters

A young boy stands by a display featuring Bible stories translated into Chinese at the Xinhua bookstore in Beijing | Reuters

I like the concluding challenge that Eddie gives to English speaking Christians in his article…

In the English-speaking world, we have more different translations of the Bible than we know what to do with. You don’t have to look very far on the internet to find supporters of the various versions arguing the merits of their particular favourite. Meanwhile, around the world, translators are quietly translating the Scriptures into ever more languages. This is a truly international, cooperative venture that we should be proud of.

Today, Wycliffe, the various Bible Societies and local Christians around the globe are working to translate the Bible into more than 2,400 languages. Harry Potter and Shakespeare would be jealous, but this is a story that many Christians in the UK don’t even know about.

Find out more at www.wycliffe.org.uk and www.wycliffe.net/en/statistics

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