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… 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”.

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messy-ch-pentecost

No, this is not another blog about another way of “doing church”!

It is inspired by the fact that I really enjoyed Eddie Arthur’s Pentecost post this morning!

Pentecost: Miracles Don’t happen

OK; miracles do happen – but stick with me on this one.

Sometimes the events of the day of Pentecost are presented something like this; the Spirit descended on the disciples, they reached out and preached in the streets in all sorts of languages, 3,000 people became Christians and the church was now a glorious multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-lingual group.

That’s a great story; but unfortunately, the New Testament picture is somewhat different in a few crucial respects. Yes, the disciples rushed out and preached in all sorts of languages (or were understood in different languages) and many people became believers (the term Christian is not appropriate at this point in the story). However, as we saw yesterday, the people who joined the disciples were all Jewish, this was not really a multi-ethnic group.

Eddie goes on to emphasise the point that, as we read further in the New Testament, we see that the early church was just like all our churches – brilliant yet flawed.

Eddie concludes with the words below, but do take a look at the rest of his blog – more good bits in between.

Sadly, there are no miracles which will make the church more diverse; only the gritty work of sharing, learning, making mistakes and forgiving one another. It isn’t glamorous, but it is the way forward for the church in our increasingly diverse world…

Just one final thought; part of the problem of integrating people into the early Church lay in the fact that the Jewish people saw themselves as being better than others; a privileged race. We wouldn’t be guilty of that would we?

Wouldn’t it be great if Bible translators , in fact all sorts of cross cultural missionaries, could have their own mini Pentecost and not have to struggle to learn minority languages? But God doesn’t seem to work that way…

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PCI logo

Once every four weeks, Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland has the opportunity to submit prayer items for the Presbyterian Church in Ireland weekly Prayerline.

In Prayerline, published today and covering the next 7 days, Wycliffe focussed on some current events in N. Ireland…

On Sunday past our Wycliffe NI Church Engagement team leader Ricky Ferguson was back in his old stomping ground speaking at Fahan Presbyterian Church in Donegal. His topic was “Bible Translation: what’s it all about?” We give thanks for how Ricky was taught and mentored in Fahan as he grew up and for the work he is now doing sharing his passion for Bible translation worldwide.

Fahan

Fahan Presbyterian with Ricky & Marlene Ferguson middle front

This coming Saturday, Ricky’s wife Marlene is taking a team of five to Union Road Presbyterian Church, Magherafelt who have invited us to put on a primary children’s missionary adventure day. They are expecting at least 100 children from the area to explore the theme “Let Your Light Shine!”  Pray for Marlene, her team, the children and all the local helpers involved.

We are excited in the Belfast office that by the time you are reading this, two new applicants will have been interviewed.  Pray that all will go well and that we will be able to share good news in our next contribution to Prayerline.

Please pray with us and our Presbyterian partners…

To view the whole Prayerline published Wednesday 13 April 2016 with the Wycliffe item at the end Click here to download Word file

wycliffe-logo-colour

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“Wycliffe Bible Translators are vital in supporting the life and witness of the worldwide church, so to this end I would like to encourage congregations to support them in any way they can,” said Dr. McNie in a news release from the Presbyterian Church in Ireland.

On Monday morning 25 January 2016, the Presbyterian Moderator, Rt. Rev. Dr. Ian McNie, joined us in the Belfast office of Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland. Ian met five of the staff over tea and scones, then spent most of his time in conversation with the Church Engagement Team – see below.

John Hamilton, Ricky Ferguson, Marlene Ferguson and Rev Dr Ian McNie

In a wide ranging conversation, we presented the biblical basis for Bible translation: debated current Scripture access statistics; discussed how together we might address the issue of Bible poverty in today’s world; and answered Ian’s perceptive questions.

As of October 1st 2015, estimates suggest between 165 and 180 million people speaking up to 1,800 languages are understood to ‘likely need Bible translation to begin’

For example from his knowledge of East Africa, he was interested to know whether the Turkana people from the north of Kenya yet have Scripture in their heart language. Having consulted The Ethnologue, we were able to assure him that the Turkana New Testament was completed and published in 1986.

We were also pleased to show him photographs of 22 Presbyterians supported by their home congregations throughout Ireland. They are working in 10 countries in Africa, Asia and Europe engaged in a wide range of Bible translation, linguistics, literacy, Scripture engagement, IT and administrative roles.

As he left us for other engagements, Ian received an invitation to First Steps on Saturday 6 February 2016 at Ballyhenry Presbyterian Church. I wonder if his schedule will allow a brief drop-in..?

Below is the full text of the PCI news release on 28 January 2016

The Presbyterian Moderator, Rt. Rev. Dr. Ian McNie, visited and encouraged those who work in the Belfast branch of Wycliffe Bible Translators UK and Ireland earlier this week.

Wycliffe Bible Translators believe that the Bible is the best way for people to discover and understand who God is. Their vision is that by working with churches, organizations and individuals from across the world, all people will be able to access the Word of God in their own language.

Located in east Belfast, the Moderator had the opportunity to talk with those involved in Bible translation locally. He heard about their work and meeting the staff and volunteers, discovered first hand what it means to translate God’s word into another language.

“I discovered that around 180 million people, speaking at least 1,800 languages, need a Bible in the language they understand best. Without this incredible work taking place those people will never be able to read the story of God’s love for themselves.

“Wycliffe Bible Translators are vital in supporting the life and witness of the worldwide church, so to this end I would like to encourage congregations to support them in any way they can,” said Dr. McNie.

Along with other agencies involved in Bible distribution and Christian broadcasting, Wycliffe Bible Translators play a crucial role in supporting the life and witness of the worldwide church. Of the 6,887 languages in the world today, only 554 have a complete Bible.

As a result, the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) has identified Wycliffe Bible Translators as a Specialist Service Agency. This special relationship with PCI recognises the fact that the valuable service Wycliffe is doing is something that no one church or denomination can easily do.

John Hamilton, of Wycliffe Bible Translators in Belfast said, “We had an enjoyable and encouraging time with the Moderator. He already knew a lot about Bible translation, but also confessed that the visit had widened his perspective.

“We told him how much Wycliffe values the partnership with PCI and that together we can work to alleviate the Bible poverty that still exists in the world. Our staff would be delighted to visit congregations to tell them more about Wycliffe’s work and to encourage them in their global mission.”

To find out more about the work of Wycliffe Bible Translators visit their website (www.wycliffe.org.uk/) or contact the Belfast office at 028 9073 5854

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Wycliffe:Live is an October fixture in N. Ireland. It’s when the Wycliffe family of members and supporters – and people exploring what we are about – get together to share what God is doing through Bible translation and literacy and lots of other things around the world.

This year we decided to have a dinner – and so we needed a menu!

WycLive Dinner menu

Apparently we eat starters as a taster, as a light dish to get our stomachs ready for the main event. But that’s more of a habit than an essential. In Bible translation it’s crucial! Without language survey, linguistic analysis and phonetics expertise to create an alphabet, we’re stuck.

Jennifer “Niffer” Love provided our starter on Wednesday evening 7 October at The Mount in Belfast and talked about her pre-translation work with a language group in Nigeria.

Niffer

So with stomachs prepared, the food menu took over…

MainThe main course was a video It Starts in the Strangest Place which lists the various impacts of mother tongue Scripture on communities – take a look and see how many impacts you can spot!

Time for desserts. Don’t you love to have a choice of desserts? Like starters, some people may think that desserts are optional. For me a dessert is a no brainer – and in our Wycliffe:Live Dinner menu, it is essential. Desserts are the crucial support roles without which Bible translation just doesn’t happen: teaching, IT, finance, administration and many more.

On the night, Sharon told us about her two year stint working in finance and project management in Côte d’Ivoire while Elaine talked about teaching with the Institute for Development of Languages and Translation in Nairobi last summer – 30 students, 11 teachers, 14 nationalities, 32 mother tongues, 1 God and Father of all. Sounds like a starter for Revelation 7 verse 9…

“a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb

No meal is complete without a takeaway. Cue James Poole, Executive Director of Wycliffe Bible Translators UK and Ireland. James told us that he had the best job in the world! He also said that the best thing in the world is being part of a local church – and local churches need God’s Word in their heart languages. And so, as members of local churches, we were challenged to be local churches providing the Bible for local churches everywhere. Some takeaway…

IMG_1910 crop

I’ve written a few other blogs about Wycliffe:Live – for example in 2011 it was Going Backstage: behind the scenes in Bible translation. You can read about it here, here and here. And here’s the poster from back then…

WycliffeLive 2011

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BBC one week Sep15 Kairos flyerI have now been a facilitator (a politically correct term for teacher) on four Kairos World Mission courses and every time I come away with the same phrase ringing through my mind – Blessed to be a blessing!

It starts in Genesis and reverberates throughout the Bible all the way to Revelation.

‘I will make you into a great nation,
    and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
    and you will be a blessing…
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.’   Genesis 12:2-3

‘After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.’   Revelation 7:9

As you can see from the image above, we have recently finished a preterm Kairos for students at Belfast Bible College. Personally I felt blessed, not just by re-visiting the mind-blowing Biblical overview of mission, but also by the super bunch of 22 students with whom we worked for five intensive days.

Here are some images from the week…

M&Ms inspired interest for Kairos Ch3

Day 4 started with prayer for Buddhists in cambodia

Day 4 started with prayer for Buddhists in Cambodia

Worshipping the everlasting God on Day 5

Worshipping the everlasting God on Day 5

On the last day, students were invited to reflect on the week with the options of writing a letter to God or making a drawing. My group shared moving and encouraging extracts from their letters while Amy produced this impressive sketch.

God's heart for the nations

Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Psalm 51v10

Amy’s message was that she was handing her heart over to God as a symbol of her desire to serve in his mission to his world. As I look at the drawing, I am forcefully reminded of God’s heart for the nations of the world that he created. Perhaps other people will identify their own layers of meaning as they apply the image to themselves. My thanks to Amy for allowing me to share this.

Finally here is the photo of my group (and me) with their Kairos certificates. Thank you to all of you. You’ll probably never know how much you encouraged me throughout the week. God bless you.

My Growth Team

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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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