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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

when-a-foreigner-residesIn my previous post Praying for a generosity of spirit, I touched on current news themes about accepting or rejecting the stranger and the foreigner in our midst.

A week or so ago I received my friend Clare Orr’s prayer letter from Senegal where she works with SIL in literacy and numeracy development with a number of Senegalese languages.

Clare’s account of how she relates to local people is fascinating; but the ways in which the local people relate to her, a stranger and foreigner, are impressive and very challenging.

First Clare shared observations about the people she lives with…

I recently had a visitor stay with me for a week. Rebecca has been in Senegal since October, on a six-month placement with SIL, Wycliffe’s partner organisation here. The time I spent with her and the discussions we had made me reflect on my time here.

clares-zig-family

Setting off for church on Christmas Day

Home life
Rebecca’s time with my host family was her first experience of life in a Senegalese home. That household is something I continually give thanks for, and she joined me in singing their praises. The fact that my host mum, Tante Adèle, opens her house to whoever might turn up has become almost commonplace to me – and yet it is still something amazing. At the beginning of the school year, she got a phone call from someone in her late husband’s village. The next day, that woman’s 27-year-old son turned up on our doorstep. He moved in and started attending a school in Ziguinchor.

There are three other guys living here aged between 19 and 26, plus a 7-year-old, all connections from her late husband’s village, all in Ziguinchor for education. Plus me. And over Christmas three of her own children were back, one of them brought another friend, another girl from her husband’s village came for a week, and so on. And yet Tante never complains about having to look after so many people. And even though they – we – aren’t even all related by blood, we look out for one another. Homework time? Those further on in school help those in younger years. English homework gets brought to me, of course! Whenever my water filter is empty, I ask one of the guys to fetch me some water. Need something carried, an errand done, to borrow phone credit? Ask and someone will help out. Everyone has their turn at cooking, sweeping, dishwashing.

Even more impressive is how the local community relates to Clare…

Neighbourhood life
Then there are my neighbours. Women who have never left Senegal, women who have rarely encountered Westerners, women who speak little French. Yet they are always quick to greet me. They are happy to welcome me into their homes, to be patient with my Wolof as we sit and chat in a language that is neither my nor their first language, nor our second.

At Christmas, my host family cooked extra food and sent it to the homes of our neighbours who don’t celebrate Christmas – and our neighbours had done the same for us when they had a religious festival in September. These are women who have little in common with me, an outsider, but have chosen to accept me into their lives.

Every time I leave the house, whichever direction I go, someone calls out my Senegalese name, Soda. Sometimes just one person, sometimes three or four, sometimes a dozen. Occasionally, I know their name too. More often, I’ve forgotten it! With my host family, we joke that if someone is being given directions for our house, there’s no point in telling them to ask for anyone else – but if they ask anyone in the neighbourhood for Soda’s house, they’ll be shown to our front door.

When people who don’t know me see me, they shout out “toubab”, white person. I’d rather they didn’t shout toubab – so that’s why they all know me name. I tell them, no, please don’t call me toubab. My name is Soda (or aunty Soda to children).

Sometimes I find it annoying. Sometimes I feel like I’m being watched wherever I go. Sometimes I feel like I’d rather stay in rather than going out and having to talk to people I barely know – because if someone greets me by name, I can’t just ignore them. But more often, it’s reassuring. I feel safety in the fact that I’m known. These people may not know me well, but they know me to see, they know my name, and if I ever needed them, I know they’d come to my help. Also, even if I don’t recognise someone, I can tell whether or not they actually know me by whether or not they know my name.

Thank you to Clare for allowing me to re-blog this – and for the honesty in your writing. I think there is so much to teach those of us who live in less welcoming communities – whether our lack of welcome stems from culture, politics, suspicion, fear or just self-centred laziness.

… among God’s people in God’s world; in the hearts of those who, like me, claim to follow Jesus and too often get it wrong.

The news could make one rather depressed if one identified with…

  • the holder of a valid visa refused entry because of a Presidential Executive Order which may have been unconstitutional and unlawful.
  • someone living in N. Ireland hoping the Executive might have led the country prudently and selflessly rather than selfishly slithering into yet another potentially tribal election.
  • a disoriented refugee family facing rejection and suspicion because they are different from “us”.

In the early hours of Sunday 24 July 2016, someone started several fires inside Saintfield Road Presbyterian Church in Belfast. On Sunday 5 February 2017 – 30 Sundays later – we worshipped God again in our own buildings. Not in the church itself, but in the church hall.

It was a time for rejoicing at having got this far; for thanking local churches and the local primary school for the use of their premises; for continuing a preaching series on prayer; for praying for wisdom in planning the church restoration – but most of all for thanking God and acknowledging that he is in control.

So how is this story about my church’s problems connected with where I started above?

 

Well, because a friend led the prayer of intercession which included these words which touched me:

We are sorry that we are so obviously sinful. We recognise that we are selfish if our well-being is threatened. We see intolerance within us when we hear and see what is unfamiliar and we lack a generosity of spirit and an attitude of hospitality and acceptance.

But Father God, we see that you are good and pure and with you there is full acceptance and generosity and safety.

when-a-foreigner-resides

And my friend’s prayer is so relevant to a story I plan to post in the next few days.

It is based on some news from a Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland colleague living and working in a West African country where she is so obviously “different”.

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.

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

Karl Barth

Karl Barth

I don’t know when or where I first found this prayer, but I think it must have been late 2016.

Perhaps it was on the blog written by Mark Goudy, the “pill dispensing Pharmacist turned Presbyterian pastor”. If so, thanks, Mark!

I know that I downloaded it from somewhere and this afternoon, two weeks into 2017, I found it in my Downloads folder.

Our church home group usually gets together on New Year’s Eve, but this year it didn’t work out. However we are meeting tonight… just two weeks late.

Barth died in 1968 but his words to me have a timeless quality.

Let’s pray.

Karl Barth’s New Year Prayer

O Lord, our Father!
We have gathered here at the turn of the year
because we do not want to be alone but want to be with each other,
and together be united with you.

Our hearts are filled with somber thoughts
as we reflect on our misdeeds of the past year.
And our ears are deafened by the voices of the radio and in the newspapers,
with their numerous predictions for the coming year.
Instead we want to hear your word, your voice, your assurance, your guidance.
We know that you are in our midst,
and are eager to give us all that we need, whether we ask or not.

On this night we ask for one thing only:
that you collect our scattered thoughts,
getting rid of the confused and defiant thoughts that may distract us,
and thus enable us to concentrate on your limitless generosity to us.
You were abundantly generous to us last year,
and will be no less generous to us next year, and in every year to come.
Fill us with gratitude to you.

Karl Barth (1886–1968)

 

Eight days ago I officially retired from Wycliffe Bible Translators on 31 December 2016, the anniversary of the death of John Wycliffe in 1384. Not that it was deliberate! It was only yesterday that I discovered the coincidence.

john-wycliffe

For God louede so the world, that he ȝaf his oon bigetun sone, that ech man that bileueth in him perische not, but haue euerlastynge lijf.             John 3.16 in the Wyclif Bible

John Wycliffe and his team of helpers translated the Bible into English. He believed that:

it helpeth Christian men to study the Gospel in that tongue in which they know best Christ’s sentence.

The powers, both spiritual and temporal of the time, declared him a heretic although he had powerful protectors among the nobles. His response was:

You say it is heresy to speak of the Holy Scriptures in English. You call me a heretic because I have translated the Bible into the common tongue of the people. Do you know whom you blaspheme? Did not the Holy Ghost give the Word of God at first in the mother-tongue of the nations to whom it was addressed?

So it’s no surprise that Wycliffe Bible Translators was named after him.

It has been a privilege for Ruth and me to be members of Wycliffe Bible Translators for over 28 years.

This Christmas more people than ever before have had the name of Jesus in their languages.

Jesus, Light of the World

Jesus, Light of the World

Please pray for even more in 2017!

Read more  about John Wycliffe on the Wycliffe UK blog

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