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With Lynda Farncombe, Mary Steele and Justin Frempong

I don’t intend to write all about that very special day at Buckingham Palace. Let the photos tell the story…

Before the ceremony in the Palace courtyard

And afterwards: spot the MBE medal

Mary Steele MBE

Lots of traditional dress on the day

Heading off to find some lunch…

… Mary turned down The Ritz for a humble Italian restaurant

It was a very special and memorable day which I feel very privileged to have shared with Mary.

My two recent posts here and here about Mary Steele MBE and Wycliffe Bible Translator, have taken me back to 10 May 2006 when I was one of Mary’s three guests at Buckingham Palace. The others were Lynda Farncombe (Mary’s niece, a Wycliffe UK member) and Justin Frempong (Director of the Ghana Institute of Linguistics, Literacy and Bible Translation GILLBT) Mary’s boss in Ghana.

That’s the photo story you have just been reading above…

Mary Steele died at the age of 89 having made an incredible contribution to Bible translation in the languages of Ghana over a period of 55 years.

 

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In 1962 Mary Steele arrived in Ghana to work with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Moving up to the north of the country, which was very under-developed at the time and had few schools, Mary started work on the Konkomba language.

Mary with her MBE at Buckingham Palace

Mary with her MBE at Buckingham Palace

When the Konkomba New Testament was completed and local language literacy well underway, Mary started work in another language, Bimoba.  Then when the Bimoba NT was translated, she returned to help the Konkomba team work on the Old Testament.

Readers of this blog may recall that Mary received the MBE at Buckingham Palace in May 2006 for services to linguistics, literacy and Bible translation in Ghana.

Just last week the Ghana Institute of Linguistics, Literacy and Bible Translation (GILLBT) recognized Mary’s long service with them.

Mary at the British High Commission in Ghana

Mary at the British High Commission in Ghana

Wycliffe Bible Translators UK executive director Eddie Arthur was present at the event.

Last Thursday 20 March 2014 I attended a reception at the British High Commission in Accra to celebrate Mary’s 52 years of service to this country. Perhaps the most remarkable intervention was from a former government minister from the Konkomba area who said that he and other successful Konkombas could not have received an education and done as well as they did without the work of the woman they call their mother.

Eddie quoted a recent blog by Rollin Grams.

The local church can support a missionary perspective by separating the recent concept of ‘short-term missions’ from ‘missionaries.’ Missionaries are called into a life-time of cross-cultural ministry. They are skilled in cross-cultural interaction, Biblically educated (or should be!), able to share the Gospel clearly, and working to evangelize, plant churches, and nourish people and churches in the faith through training in the Scriptures and for ministry. Their example is Paul the apostle and his missionary team, not the Peace Corps or the Red Cross.

Mary is rather unique in having been blessed with the health and strength to serve for 52 years. Her career illustrates that mission work – and especially Bible translation – is by its nature a long-term venture. Perhaps this is something our short-term church culture needs to grasp.

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Well, first of all, for a very few Bible translators, it leads to an invitation to Buckingham Palace!

Mary Steele, the first Irish member of Wycliffe Bible Translators UK, received the MBE for services to linguistics, literacy and Bible translation in Ghana. And I got the chance to go with her for the investiture. Mary was also interviewed on Ulster Television about her many years with Wycliffe.

Mary Steele MBE at Buckingham Palace with some colourful friends

Mary Steele MBE at Buckingham Palace with some colourful friends 10 May 2006

However what sparked my reminiscing about Mary today was finding a story posted by Wycliffe colleague Ed Lauber about one of the two Ghanaian Bibles that Mary was involved in translating – the Bible for the Bimoba people of Northern Ghana.

I have written before about Solomon Sule-Saa, a Ghanaian who has done extensive research on the impact of translating the Bible into the Konkomba and Bimoba languages of northern Ghana. In a summary of his research presented to a conference in September, he said of the Konkomba and Bimoba peoples:

“The Bible now provides the key to understand the world”

During an ethnic conflict which was so serious the Ghana army had to intervene, the Bimoba lost confidence in the neutrality and good will of the Ghana government. They saw no way forward but to continue fight for their rights. In a war council, several leaders quoted from the translated Bible, arguing that that Jesus way is the way of reconciliation. So, abandoning their own wisdom they agreed to engage in peace talks moderated by the government they no longer trusted. It worked. They got what they were seeking through negotiation. Now that is faith – following the teachings of the Bible when your life and your livelihoods are at stake. This story shows that the Bible in these languages is doing more than influencing the decisions of individuals. It is also affecting the decisions made by the chiefs for the whole group. Now that is being transformed.

Wycliffe UK’s tag line used to be Translated Scripture Transforms Lives – it still does.

mary-marlene-small

Mary Steele in conversation with Marlene Ferguson at Wycliffe:Live 2009 when we marked her 50 years with Wycliffe

Doing your sums? Mary will be 54 years with Wycliffe sometime this year and continues to work as a translation consultant in Ghana.

Find out how you could be part of your generation translating Scriptures to transform lives.

Or try a taster at Two Week Stint this summer in France!

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