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Archive for the ‘Wycliffe Bible Translators’ 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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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

events-posters-a5-newtownabbey-fs

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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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On 3 February, I posted A fascinating work experience with Wycliffe a blog written by Jack Nicholson about his three days in the Belfast office.

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

It got 5 views that day – and then day by day – 4 views, 3 views, 5 views, 0 views, 0 views, 1 view, 0 views, 5 views – until on 12 February an amazing 22 views!

Why the resurgence? Probably because the Wycliffe Bible Translators UK Facebook page shared the post on 11 February.

Of course that doesn’t count the number of views on Facebook and Twitter…

It’s a funny old thing this blogging. And I don’t know why I’m bothering to blog these thoughts and numbers.

Perhaps I have too much time on my hands in retirement… but I should let Jack know how his story has gone.

If you have bothered to read this far, why not check out these links to other fascinating experiences with Wycliffe: First Steps and Two Week Stint

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GBS training week 2014 team photo

GBS training week 2014 team photo

#endbiblepoverty

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……………..

#endbiblepoverty

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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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Apparently someone has developed what3words, a global grid of 57 trillion 3mx3m squares each with a unique three word address that can be communicated quickly, easily and unambiguously.

It was hearing about what3words that inspired my Retirement Reflections in the recently published January edition of Wycliffe News

Jon, a former student at Vavoua International School (VIS) in Côte d’Ivoire, where Ruth and I taught for eight years, recently posted an interesting story on the VIS Facebook group. People living in rural villages in Côte d’Ivoire – and many other places around the world – don’t have addresses and postcodes like we do. So among other things, it’s hard for Amazon to deliver their Christmas presents.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-38262877

Click on photo to read BBC article about what3words

Apparently someone has developed what3words, a global grid of 57 trillion 3mx3m squares each with a unique three word address that can be communicated quickly, easily and unambiguously.

No, I don’t understand how it works, but it prompted me to reflect on how so many things have changed during our 28 years with Wycliffe.

Just before we went to Ivory Coast

Just before we went to Ivory Coast

Communication between VIS and home in the early 1990s depended on hand written airmail letters written on flimsy paper which might get a reply within three weeks. Telephone calls from the rented room in Vavoua town where one tried for up to an hour to get a line and all too often failed. Eventually we got a phone line at the school and a fax machine spewed out messages which promptly faded in the Ivorian sunshine if they weren’t instantly photocopied.

But what developments in technology we now enjoy: whether we work in a Wycliffe office in UK; or with a translation team overseas; or as translation consultants interacting remotely from home with teams overseas! Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Bible apps on smart phones the world over are familiar to most people. Bible translation specific software like Paratext has revolutionised life for translators and consultants.

An American colleague once commented that God invented computers for Bible translation, but he graciously lets the rest of the world use them.

So much change!

What never changes is our loving God who desires to reach every nation, tribe, people and language with the Good News of Jesus. What a privilege to have been a small cog within Wycliffe striving to make that a reality.

What never changes is that God still uses his people, blessed with the skills that he has given them, to bring his word to those still waiting to hear about the love of God in Christ.

His people? Friends and colleagues in the Belfast office; the wider team in Wycliffe UK and Ireland; and the even wider team that God has built within the Wycliffe Global Alliance. And since this is appearing in Wycliffe News – especially all those friends and colleagues in this magazine who have been an encouragement to us in our work and for whom we can all pray as they share their news, their joys and their challenges.

July 2016 North Berwick practising for retirement

As we retire, thank you everyone for your friendship past, present and future.

God bless, John and Ruth

PS By the way, Wycliffe’s what3words office address at The Mount is toward.image.enable and my home address is heavy.danger.plot – looking forward to hearing from you.

To receive Wycliffe News contact Ricky or Bill at northernireland@wycliffe.org.uk

To find out more about how Wycliffe is using technology to support Bible translation

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