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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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Celebrating the arrival of the Oku New Testament

Celebrating the arrival of the Oku New Testament

On 12 October 2013, many years of work on the Oku New Testament came to fruition when around 2000 people celebrated the dedication of God’s Word in the Oku language of NW Cameroon.

The Oku people who live in more than thirty villages are mainly subsistence farmers. Churches (Presbyterian, Baptist and Roman Catholic) have existed alongside traditional religion for many years – without God’s Word in their heart language. But as the opening words from the celebratory poem below declare: “The story of Oku has changed!”

The New Testament in Our Mother Tongue
Poem written for the Oku  Dedication by Peter Ngum, Oku Project Team Leader

Aba! The story of Oku has changed!
That time of darkness and ignorance is passing away
Because a great light now lights the way
And the people’s hearts once darkened, now are brightened.

For the Jesus who was called a white man
Now speaks like an Oku man.
The God of heaven and earth has done it again
Our attitude to Scriptures was disdain
But now Scripture is gain.

No longer shall it be said of us,
“Their heroes are only witches and witch doctors;
Nothing good can come from their sectors”,
But Jesus would be our true doctor.

Now we rejoice with joy unspeakable
For God has multiplied our joy;
Again we rejoice with joy unspeakable;
As though we have caught a tiger with our hands.
Yes, we rejoice with joy unspeakable
With radiance of smiles as of the bright gentle waves of Lake Oku.

For to us, the New Testament has been delivered,
To us, a permanent document has been given;
It shall be called the preserve of language;
The reservoir of truth
A compendium of the verdict that sets all men free
The pointer of wrong in our lives; and
The source of everything that is right.

And concerning the use of this book there shall be no end;
For it shall be used from generation to generation,
And God shall use it to bring people to his kingdom
Through its powerful message of the kingdom
And people from Oku shall enter the kingdom
Through Jesus Christ our saviour and King.  Amen.

Bob Duff, retired Wycliffe member, once coordinated support from N. Irish churches for the Oku project and others. His church, Greenwell Street Presbyterian Newtownards, was one of those churches. Bob and fellow elder Alan McCormick represented Wycliffe UK at the dedication ceremony.

“The Oku people had waited for this moment for over twenty years and many had paid in advance for their copy of the New Testament so eager were they to read ‘God’s Talk’ for themselves.  The experience of being present at this event prompted one to ponder at the value placed on God’s Word by people In Cameroon compared with the sometimes casual attitude we regard those same scriptures in Northern Ireland.
“Heavy rain fell during the final stages of the event and it is our earnest prayer that this deluge might symbolise the showers of blessing from God on the faithful use and understanding of the scriptures by the Oku people.” Bob Duff

Peter Ngum receives his Certificate of Appreciation for his work and leadership in the Oku Bible translation Project

Peter Ngum receives his Certificate of Appreciation for his work and leadership in the Oku Bible translation Project

Oku people receiving their New Testaments

Oku people receiving their New Testaments

Receiving and studying Oku New Testament

Receiving and studying Oku New Testament

Oku Bob 2If your church would like to hear more about the Oku story or how you might support another Wycliffe Bible Translators UK InFocus project like Oku, please check out InFocus

[Thanks to Bob and Alan for account and photos of the event]

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WFL infographic - uk edit

A few days ago – or more accurately – a few nights ago, a minister friend announced on social media:

Looks like another long night, just can’t settle. Maybe an all-night prayer session needed! Anyone need prayer?

He couldn’t sleep. Friends responded, praying for him. He offered to make the most of his wakefulness by inviting prayer requests – and fellow insomniacs obliged.

I wasn’t actually awake at the time so I didn’t read all about it until the next day, but had I been, I could have sent him some statistics to pray through.

  • There are nearly 7,000 languages in use around the world
  • 6 billion people speak languages where there is some of the Bible translated or the preliminary work for translation has begun
  • 180 million people, speaking 1,919 languages, don’t have access to God’s word in the language they understand best

Then I could have got him thinking…

What do 180 million people look like?

If you wanted to count to 180 million (and remember, some of those numbers take a lot of saying out loud, like 154,763,972), it would take you just short of a decade. It’s around the population of Pakistan, or three times the population of the UK.

And if he had still been awake, I would have asked him…

How many is 1,919 languages?

Instead of counting all the people, say you wanted to learn to speak their languages. Not fluently of course (you don’t have that much time!), but enough to be able to have some conversation with the speakers. If it takes you a year and a half to learn a language (remember, most of these languages don’t have lesson plans or even a dictionary), you’d learn your last language after 2,878 years. Time to get studying?

And I would have sent him the infographic above for some light relief.

If I’d done all this, he might have fallen asleep quite quickly. And if not and he had prayed through all that… well, prayer for those who don’t have the Bible in their languages has to be better than counting sheep!

Read more about the up to date statistics of Bible translation at The Bible World in Numbers.

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My wife used to strongly advise me to tell stories rather than quote statistics when speaking about the work of Wycliffe Bible Translators. She was and is basically right – and I do love to tell stories. But sometimes there are people who need to hear the stats and there are other people who just love stats.

So I was delighted to recently receive this infographic which successfully (if not very colourfully) combines stats with stories – and gives us the latest Bible translation statistics.

WFL infographic - uk edit

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I’m always being asked questions about Wycliffe Bible Translators. It’s great: it’s my job. Sensible questions. Stupid questions. Thoughtful questions. Totally insensitive questions. But at least people are asking me questions and not ignoring me altogether.

One reasonable question is, that in the light of the wonderful Google Translate, why can’t Wycliffe just use that and get the job done quickly?

Well, there are some problems…

Aliens fail to get their friendly greetings across

Aliens fail to get their friendly greetings across

Recently however the Wycliffe UK Blog dealt with this question in a more serious way.

The first problem is that Google Translate supports just over 70 languages – but there are around 100 times that many languages spoken in the world! So it’s fantastic if you want to translate from English to French or from German to Icelandic, but not very good if you want to translate into Cemuhî, a New Caledonian language with around 2,600 speakers, or Yetfa, an Indonesian language with 1,000 speakers.

Second, the way it works is by searching for patterns of words in documents. But if no documents have ever been written in a language – as is true in many languages Wycliffe workers are involved with – it doesn’t have anything to search.

Wycliffe colleague Jutta pointed out the shortcomings of the quality of Google Translate in a comment on the Blog:

Another important aspect is the poor quality of Google Translate, even in well known languages. Unfortunately, many use it for official products not even realizing that the end result makes very little sense, because they don’t know both languages enough to notice the problems.

The Blog concludes with the realities of the Bible Translation task still challenging us:

There are still millions of people speaking languages Google Translate has never heard of, and they don’t have even one part of the Bible in their own language. Help with Bible translation.

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Philip Saunders joins Belfast Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir and others

Philip Saunders (Wycliffe Bible Translators) joins Belfast Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir and others at celebration of the Digital Bible in Belfast City Hall

Recently with some colleagues, I received an invitation to an event at Belfast City Hall.

Celebration of the Digital Bible

Historically the Bible has been viewed primarily as a book – until now. Over the past five years, Bible Societies around the world have been working in partnership with a digital platform called YouVersion to make the text of Scripture available to a new generation. Now it is available as a free download to smart phones and tablets in more than 400 languages. We want to celebrate this achievement and specifically the addition of Irish and Ulster Scots Scriptures to the range of choices that are available worldwide.

You are invited to a special celebratory event in the Banqueting Hall, City Hall, Belfast on Monday 4 November 2013 at 10.30am.

The Lord Mayor and other guests will read Scripture passages, including selections from the newly digitalised Irish and Ulster Scots texts .

And so we went along… Kenny Woodrow, John Young, Marlene Ferguson and myself

IMAG1015-1

A day or two later we heard that we all made a brief appearance on the Irish Language TV station TG4… Fame at last, but I must confess that we understood very little of the commentary in Irish.

Meanwhile in Wycliffe Bible Translators, we focus on how we can help the remaining 1,967 languages that still await Scripture translation; for them YouVersion is still a long way away.

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