Posts Tagged ‘Belfast’

It was always my intention to become a Guest Bible Scholar after retiring from Wycliffe Bible Translators UK and Ireland on 31 December 2016. The title sounds very grand – Bible Scholar! Never really saw myself as a bible scholar, never mind one in capital letters. But I’ve started!

Paratext screen

Above is a screenshot without which Guest Bible Scholars like myself couldn’t function. It’s a wonderful tool called Paratext. I can see six windows:

  • the passage that I’m working on in an English translation
  • two French translations
  • the Greek / English interlinear
  • some notes written by experienced translators
  • and of course the back translation into French that the translation team in a francophone African country has provided for me to check

I have recently checked 4 New Testament chapters all by myself, passed them on to a second checker – and then they will go to an experienced translation consultant. Hopefully he will give me some encouraging feedback – or sack me!

Why bother? Wouldn’t it be quicker and better if the experienced translation consultant just did it?

Of course it would! If he or she had the time. The problem is that more translation is being done than there are experienced translation consultants to check. There’s a bottleneck in the process… and that’s why I’ve been trained to be an apprentice low level checker of first drafts of translations – with the grand title of Guest Bible Scholar.

Hopefully there will be more blogs about my life as a Guest Bible Scholar…

With colleagues at GBS training August 2016

Postscript: I’m reading a book by Tony Macaulay who grew up in north Belfast in the 1970s during the “Troubles” in N. Ireland, so I am. It’s called “Bread Boy”, so it is. Tony writes in Belfast English, so he does. And that explains the title of this blog, so it does! Have you got that?


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GBS training week 2014 team photo

GBS training week 2014 team photo


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……………..


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So why does Wycliffe Bible Translators hold a worldwide Day of Prayer on 11 November every year? Why do offices and projects suspend their work to pray?

Well, first of all, prayer is and should be part of our work every working day. In the Belfast office, usually fuelled by a cup of coffee and perhaps a Seasons Restaurant scone, we pray every morning at 11am for our Irish colleagues  around the world.

Secondly on 11 November, we remember answered prayer way back in the beginnings of what developed into what Wycliffe has become today.

On November 11, 1933, Wycliffe founders, Cameron Townsend and L.L. Legters, crossed the border from the U.S. into Mexico because God answered prayer. It was a major step forward for Bible translation and also the beginning of what eventually became Wycliffe, now more than 100 Wycliffe Global Alliance organization.       Source Wycliffe Global Alliance

However, for various logistical reasons, Wycliffe UK & Ireland held our annual prayer event on 12 November this year and in Belfast we began by declaring together:


We were a smallish group which included Belfast office staff, a couple of translation consultants (there would have been more but there were working in Zambia and Mali), four Guest Bible Scholars, a Presbyterian minister from the church of two of our members,  our Irish Personnel Coordinator and one year old Emily Ferguson who participated enthusiastically.


We watched videos, we prayed, we shared ideas and experiences, we prayed several times more, we had coffee and scones – we identified with colleagues worldwide involved in helping individuals and language groups encounter God’s word and applying it in a wide variety of ways including writing Scripture songs, HIV-Aids education, multi-lingual education, trauma counselling and much more.

Here are some more images from yesterday including the last one which would have been an excellent way to end except that I forgot about it 😦




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Wyc Live MenuThis whole Wycliffe Menu idea was born out of desperation on the morning of the day that we needed to assemble our stand at Bangor Worldwide 2015. We wanted something a bit different and we ended up with a table for two with cutlery and mugs – and a menu! You can read our menu on the left above and see Ricky Ferguson seated and waiting for customers on the opening night of the mission exhibition at Bangor below.

Ricky at Bangor Worldwide

Wycliffe:Live has been an autumn fixture in the Wycliffe calendar in Ireland for many years, but for 7 October 2015, we have planned something different – a dinner priced £17 per person.

Monday 1 June past was a significant day for us. We moved to our new office in The Mount Business and Conference Centre in Belfast. Ricky Ferguson became the new NI Church Engagement Team Leader. Alf Thompson joined us as part of Wycliffe UK Communications Team and James Poole had been the new Wycliffe Bible Translators UK and Ireland Executive Director for just over a year.

So with a new office location and new team members, but the same passion and vision that every language group in the world should have access to God’s word in the language they understand best, we want to spread the word about…

Wycliffe:Live Dinner

Our theme is a Wycliffe Menu of news and stories of what God is doing through the work of Wycliffe and our partners worldwide interspersed with a meal.

Check out the details on the poster at top right in this blog. If you live close enough to Belfast and are interested in coming, you can reserve your place by emailing us at northernireland@wycliffe.org.uk or phoning 028 9073 5854

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Monday 1 June 2015 was a significant day for Wycliffe Bible Translators in N. Ireland.

After almost 14 years in our office on Beersbridge Road, Belfast, we moved downtown. Well, a little bit closer to the centre of Belfast. We are in two adjoining rooms in The Mount Business and Conference Centre not too far from Belfast Central Station.


Our address is: The Mount Business Centre,  2 Woodstock Link, Belfast  BT6 8DD and our  phone number is 028 9073 5854.

Here is an extract from my latest newsletter…

NI Team
On the same day Ricky Ferguson started as Leader of the Church Engagement Team in N. Ireland. Ricky brings youth, enthusiasm and his passion for Bible translation. He also has the advantage of being married to Marlene!

Also on 1 June, Alfred Thompson started working with the Wycliffe UK Communications Team based with us in The Mount. Completing the NI team are Kenny Woodrow (Uganda / Tanzania Branch communications) and our invaluable long term volunteer Bill Bailie.

I really like working in this team. Not only is there coffee and yummy scones from Seasons Restaurant downstairs, but we have regular team meetings, daily prayer together and we get to bounce ideas and banter off each other.

What about me?
These changes mean I have fewer responsibilities and renewed enthusiasm as I work a three day week as part of Ricky’s team. I hope that I can help him in his new role. I continue to be involved with the Kairos World Mission Course at Belfast Bible College and to be our contact with the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. As a team, we want to build partnerships with all denominations and with new churches. We pray that God will call more people from Ireland to join Wycliffe.

A new office, new colleagues… all good stuff. But the task remains the same. As the front page of our Wycliffe UK website currently says…

Wycliffe Bible Translators believe that the Bible is the best way for people to come to know and understand who God is. Our 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, 180 million people speaking 1,860 languages need Bible translation to begin, because they 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. Of the 6,901 languages in the world today, only 531 have a complete Bible.

And there’s also a wee video from one of our partner organisations to watch…

Inspired? See where you might fit in? Contact us at our new office at The Mount to find out more.

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Sarah BuchananThis is the second of a series (currently a series of two, but you never know) of guest blogs from Sarah Buchanan, a PhD Translation student at Queen’s University, Belfast who loves languages and the Bible!

Sarah asked my colleague Marlene in the Wycliffe Bible Translators office in Belfast to help her access a Bible translation workshop in Africa. This is Sarah’s second Encounter story from that trip…


Marc KousiballeLet me introduce you to Marc, an ethnomusicologist and Bible translator from the San Maya people group in Northern Burkina Faso.

I first met Marc as he stood at the front of our morning worship at the translation workshop. He played his guitar and led some singing, then shared his thoughts about sowing and reaping spiritually from 2 Corinthians 9.

Marc comes from a family of 15. His family was greatly impacted by the life of one lady, whose name will probably not be recorded in any great volumes of Christian history. She was  an unassuming female missionary who came to his village and gave his aunt a wheelchair, which she so desperately needed. There was something so consistent and pure about this lady’s character that although uninterested in Christianity, many of his family started going to church, and now all but two are devout Christians. What a beginning.


Marc was one of the brightest children in his class so he continued his education as far as he could. He ended up teaching Mathematics at the University of Ouagadougou. Yet after some years in the capital city, there was a sense of unrest in his heart, and when he was approached to take up a temporary teaching post in his village, he accepted and returned.

While back in Tougan, Marc was approached by SIL about a Bible translation project that would use the translation for the Southern San language, and adapt it for the people in the North and West. The team was looking for the most educated people to complete the project. Marc fitted the job description and he had peace about accepting the role. Meanwhile, he got involved with working with the youth in his village as he worked on the project. Then Marc met his bride and had a son, who is now 2 years old.

Marc’s wife, a schoolteacher, shares his vision and helps him teach a Sunday school, welcoming the young people of the village into their home, although sometimes Marc has to say “can you please go home now” to the young people who would stay just as long as they used to before he had a family! Marc continues working on the Bible translation and developing other projects, borne out of his own vision and passion for the people of his community. Marc is taking courses on Scripture Use through SIL, which help him as he travels from village to village after harvest time with a small projector, creating dramatic productions of Bible stories with the local people, and sharing the good news. He writes songs in his own language with local instruments, as this speaks more powerfully and maintains the traditions and language of the San Maya people.

No doubt, things are not always easy for Marc and he worries about his wife who has to take a dangerous journey by motorbike to work at the school, yet he has a deep faith and prays fervently as he seeks to make innovative plans to share God’s love and impact his community. He plants ground nuts and sesame, employing teenagers in his village and thereby teaching them new skills. Marc dreams of building a storehouse to increase this enterprise, and of setting up a library with the funds to help educate the young people: he asks us to pray for the young people and for these two projects.

Marc’s story inspires me in a few ways. The testimony of the lady shows me the importance of living a consistent and authentic life. His own story reminds us of the power planting the seed of God’s word in different forms in peoples’ heart language, and it challenges us to pray for our brothers and sisters in West Africa, while asking, what does God want us to do in our own communities?

Sarah with the other workshop participants in Burkina Faso

Sarah with the other workshop participants in Burkina Faso

I would love to post more of Sarah’s Encounters En-route stories from her trip to Burkina Faso… what about it, Sarah? Meanwhile look up Sarah on her translation Facebook page

In this post, Sarah talks about ethnomusicology, Bible translation, teaching and Scripture Use – see roles with Wycliffe in these areas

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Sarah BuchananThis is the first of a series (currently a series of two, but you never know) of guest blogs from Sarah Buchanan, a PhD Translation student at Queen’s University, Belfast who loves languages and the Bible!

Sarah asked my colleague Marlene in the Wycliffe Bible Translators office in Belfast to help her access a Bible translation workshop in Africa. Read on…


In June 2014, I had the privilege of attending a Bible translation workshop in Burkina Faso for 10 days, with the help and encouragement of Marlene Ferguson and others in the Wycliffe office. Let me introduce you to a couple of people I met there, over the next few blog posts.

Burkina Faso

Burkina Faso

Struggling with French and straining to understand the West African dialect I think I managed a Bonjour as I sat down on the plane from Paris. Sitting next to me, this middle-aged man from Mali with a friendly demeanour was my first impression of Africa. We started talking about family and respective countries. Why was I going to Burkina? Who was I staying with? Did I realise Burkina Faso was known as the furnace because of its heat, even among Africans? He helped me with my TV and headset as I get incredibly confused with anything technological.

A little while before landing, the flight attendant handed out cards to fill in all the whys and wheres of one’s trip. I diligently filled mine in, worried that I might write a dash or a full stop in the wrong place. I noticed Mr Traore didn’t have a pen, so I offered him one. He declined politely. I waited and wondered and then I realized, much slower than I should have, that he hadn’t read the in-flight magazine or any books; that he hadn’t read anything during the whole flight. I had heard about illiteracy but had never met anyone who couldn’t read or write, nor had I really considered the implications. Eventually he handed me his passport and asked me to fill out his form.

Ouagadougou International Airport

Ouagadougou International Airport

We arrived in the early evening, and entered a room in an airport with a few desks, a number of insects, and a mass of people. Suddenly my heart sunk and my imagination fuelled a state of panic with the realization that I had forgotten one very important item: my vaccination card. What am I going to do? There isn’t even a British Embassy in Burkina. I froze for a moment, managed “J’ai oublié mais j’ai eu les vaccinations”, and waited some more as a sea of travellers poured into the airport in front of me. Eventually, I got a nod to walk on through, praise God.

By this time, I felt a bit disorientated…until I heard the call, “Fille!” It was Mr Traore, who moved me right to the front of the queue beside him, signalling to others that I was his friend. He guided me through the next hour that ensued, switching from one queue to another, until we were able to walk through into the arrivals area where a taxi driver waited to take me to the SIL centre.

Sometimes it’s the simple meetings that are most memorable. You might see nothing special in this encounter, but I do, just like many of the encounters that happen in Belfast or Ballymena or Ballygawley contain something special we choose not to see because we’re busy thinking about the next job on our list. In this case, I met someone that I wouldn’t usually encounter and struggled to communicate, yet I see acts of hospitality in the invitations I received: the invitation to converse, the invitation to listen to Mr Traore’s family and story, the invitation to share (my family, my faith, my interests). I was invited to help in a very small way, and in return, to accept help on this part of the journey.

Meanwhile statistics on illiteracy left the pages of NGO leaflets to take on shape and form in real life, albeit in a passing moment.

I see God’s provision and protection in this encounter, and am reminded that even when there is much misunderstanding (linguistically, culturally, politically…) there’s usually the possibility to learn and gain something from another person who is quite different to us, as we have to strain our ears and listen more closely.

Look out for Encounters En-route number two soon and look up Sarah on her translation Facebook page

Sarah focussed on literacy in this post:find out more about literacy and other roles with Wycliffe or investigate Two Week Stint in the south of France this summer which has both literacy and linguistic tracks.

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A week or so ago, I was thinking that holding First Steps on the Saturday at the end of half term had been a daft idea! However promotion on social media went out there and, more significantly, prayer was answered: 14 people registered online and more turned up on the day. My pessimism was well and truly squashed.

And after all, it turned out that Saturday 21 February was International Mother Language Day!

Int Mother Lang day

In the end 15 participants arrived promptly at Windsor Baptist Church  to spend the day at First Steps exploring the impact of Bible translation in God’s mission… and for most, it was a chance to explore how they might become involved at home or overseas.


Stewart getting us started…

Having started by by praising God in the Logoti language of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), we explored Jesus’ compassion for people in Matthew 9, before Joanna, who had just spent three days on work experience with us, shared her (rather encouragingly positive!) impressions.

Great to have Marlene with us on a brief break from maternity leave

Great to have Marlene with us on a brief break from maternity leave

Up to lunchtime, we had sessions on dictionary making in DRC accompanied by the presenter’s baby girl crying for her mother’s attention; literacy in Côte d’Ivoire; translation, personnel member care, and communications in E Africa, plus a plug for Two Week Stint by a teacher who had been there last summer.

After lunch, we were off to a market with buyers and sellers who had very different cultural rules about buying and selling and general interaction with other people. Despite the chaos, the sellers made lucrative profits on their toilet rolls, oranges and second hand trainers!

Andrea delighted at completing a sale with Mandy

Andrea delighted at completing a sale with Mandy who dropped one of her cultural rules to look the camera in the eye

Who were they, these 15 people?

Two primary teachers, both with past short term mission experience overseas.

One minister invited along by his son who was exploring his options…

Four sixth formers, two of whom have been with us on work experience in the Belfast office.

Two students from Queen’s University Belfast.

A journalist, a law lecturer, a multi-media developer – and a couple of boyfriends brought along by their girl friends.

Not to mention Lindsay, the coordinator of MAP – Mission Agencies Partnership!

God brought them along. Jesus calls us to come with him in his mission to his world wherever we happen to be.

We’re now praying that God will continue to speak to each one; that they will be encouraged that they are where God wants them to be; or that God will prompt them to be where he wants them to be in the months and years ahead. Please pray with us for wisdom as we follow up and walk alongside them.

If this blog inspires you to explore other events and opportunities with Wycliffe and Bible translation go to or to your local Wycliffe website

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A day for discovering the world of Bible translation

I’ve been busy promoting this Wycliffe event today via e-mail and Facebook – so now let’s put out a wee blog too.

You can find out more about this event on your doorstep. Well, if your doorstep is near Belfast, Edinburgh, London or Chesterfield you can…

First Steps is a one-day event running across the United Kingdom.

runner on starting blocks

Please register your interest using the registration form, and we will confirm the remaining venues and dates as we know them. We will generally start at around 10am with coffee and finish at 4.30pm. There is no cost but we ask that you bring lunch along.

When and Where:
14 February 2015 – Central London
21 February 2015 – Belfast
28 February 2015 – Edinburgh
14 March 2015 – Brimington Chesterfield.
Register now.

You might be asking the following questions:
What is Wycliffe’s work all about? Why is it important for people to have access to Scripture in their heart language? Does it matter whether people can read and write in their own language? How could I be involved in what God is doing through Wycliffe? Is it just for people who speak lots of languages? Would I need to leave the UK? How can God use my skills and experience?

All ears at a previous First Steps in Belfast

All ears at a previous First Steps in Belfast

If you are asking any of these questions, then First Steps is for you. The event is informative, inspiring and interactive. At the end of the day, we promise you will know more about how God is using people with a wide range of skills throughout the world to fulfil His mission. You’ll have heard about how people’s lives are changed by having access to Scripture and other materials in the heart language. We hope that you will be inspired to be involved – whether through prayer, supporting others or by going!

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With Wycliffe Bible Translators of course!

Emma got the train from Coleraine to Belfast (at a ridiculously early hour for a teenager) to join us in the Belfast office for three days work experience. Here are her reactions.

I had the privilege of spending three days at the end of January in the Wycliffe office in Belfast as part of my work experience.

As a lower sixth pupil studying French and Spanish, where I could find a  placement linked to languages that would not only be informative, but also interesting? So when my French teacher told me about the opportunity of spending a few days with Wycliffe, I was really excited. I first heard about Wycliffe through two members of my Church, Clarke and Alison Rice, who spent a year in Cameroon – and I believe that this is an area of mission which is both worthwhile and exciting.

I didn’t quite know what to expect. Any Wycliffe work I’d heard about has been in places like Africa or Asia in towns and villages that speak foreign languages, not in an office in Belfast. So, when I arrived to find out that I had a varied programme ahead of me, I couldn’t wait to get started.

Working on a grammar puzzle at First Steps last Saturday


We began by looking at a general overview of the tasks involved in Bible translation, including the training process, language surveys, language learning and analysis, creating an alphabet, literacy classes, translation checking and typesetting. I had the opportunity to do some simple language analysis of my own and I really enjoyed looking at how different languages are put together and considering the impact of cultural issues on the way certain words or phrases are translated. Something that struck me was the wide range of skills that are involved in the work of Wycliffe. There are so many people who aren’t directly involved in translation work and perhaps, before now, I hadn’t fully appreciated the importance of these roles.

There is clearly such a great need for Bible translation as there are still over 1,900 languages that don’t have any scripture in their own language.

Bible translation wisdom by Dorothea at First Steps

Bible translation wisdom by Dorothea at First Steps


Over my few days with Wycliffe, I was reminded afresh of the importance of God’s Word and how all too often we take it for granted. As I watched videos of the dedication of the Kimyal New Testament in Papua, and of people watching the Jesus film in their language for the first time, I was struck by their enthusiasm and desire to read God’s word. The excitement on their faces was a challenge in itself as I thought about how little I appreciate the fact that I have always had the Bible and many other resources in my own language.

I find Wycliffe’s vision, to have a Bible translation programme started in all the remaining languages that need one by 2025, an exciting prospect and as I read through lists of completed Scripture in 2012 and 2013, I felt greatly encouraged that God is clearly at work.

In recent years, so many people have received the Bible in their language and this gives such hope that although Vision 2025 is an ambitious target, it is definitely achievable with God’s help.

On Tuesday I enjoyed meeting Clare Orr, who has recently completed her training with Wycliffe and is going to work on literacy projects in Senegal. As I talked to her about the importance of literacy work, I realised that when Wycliffe translate the Bible into a language, it also brings many other great benefits. It is extremely helpful for people to be able to read and write in their own language and it can also improve their education system as it gives them the opportunity to be taught in their mother tongue.

Heather Saunders testing Kouya literacy

Heather Saunders testing Kouya literacy

On Wednesday, I enjoyed meeting Heather Saunders who showed me photographs of her time in the Ivory Coast and this gave me an insight into the work that she and her husband, Philip, did there. She also taught me some phonetics to show me how they initially went about writing down words before creating an alphabet. The language they worked on – Kouya – is a tonal language and so I was able to see the value of having a musical ear when listening to languages like this. I would say that hearing about her personal experiences from her many years with Wycliffe was one of the highlights of my three days.

I really enjoyed the few days I spent in the office and I’m very grateful to everyone who made it such a brilliant experience. I’d like to finish by sharing a Bible verse which I think shows why it is so important that people can read the Bible in their own language:

“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as what it really is, the word of God which is at work in you believers.” 1 Thessalonians 2:13

Emma enjoyed work experience so much that she brought a friend along to the Belfast First Steps last Saturday! And we were encouraged by her enthusiasm and aptitude for the work. Thank you, Emma 🙂

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