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Posts Tagged ‘Ghana’

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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Mary Steele in Ghana

Just a few minutes ago, Wycliffe partner in Ghana GILLBT published this on their Facebook page

The work of Mary Steele is being celebrated at the British High Commission today!
Mary Steele has, through a period of over 50 fifty years, contributed significantly to the intellectual, material and spiritual life of Ghana. Her contribution to language development and the spiritual transformation of language groups in Ghana was recognized by Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain and was awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of British Empire) at the Buckingham Palace in London in May 2006.
GILLBT congratulates Mary Steele for the great work the Lord has used her to do in Ghana!

Wycliffe UK director Eddie Arthur travelled to Ghana yesterday to be with Mary Steele at the British High Commission in Ghana today, celebrating the work of Bible translation partner GILLBT and Mary in Ghana.

As referred to in the GILLBT statement above, Mary was awarded the MBE at Buckingham Palace May 2006 for services to Bible translation, literacy and language development in Ghana. I had the privilege to be there with Mary, her neice Linda and former GILLBT Director Justin Frempong.

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Mary Steele MBE at Buckingham Palace with some colourful friends

Mary Steele MBE at Buckingham Palace

In a recent blog about the impact of the translated Bible on the Bimoba people group in Ghana, I referred to Mary Steele who was involved in the translation of the Bible into the Bimoba language.

Mary is planning to spend her summer back home in N. Ireland but is currently consultant checking the Book of Acts in the Avatime language. A few days ago she sent me a request for prayer for this work imbedded in a touching story about the Avatime people’s wait for the Scriptures in their heart language…

Steele, Mary Apr 10

They have been Christians for a hundred years but still have no Bible in their language. The Avatime people live in the Volta region of Ghana, in the southeast of the country. The majority of them profess to be Christians, but as yet they do not have a Bible or even a New Testament in their language. The Gospels have been translated and we are now checking the book of Acts.

There is a feeling of spiritual opposition to the work of Scripture translation in this language, and it seems to go with difficulty. Please pray for spiritual victory, and that the Word will be a blessing to the team, Divine, Jacob and Gershon, and myself, as we work just now on checking the book of Acts in the Avatime language (pronounced Avateemee – but the Lord will know who you mean no matter how you pronounce it.)

Also please pray that the work of translating and publishing the New Testament, and eventually the whole Bible, in this language, will go ahead smoothly and quickly. A hundred years is a long time to wait.

Thank you for helping to bring the Bible to the Avatime people, by your prayers.
Mary Steele

If you Google Avatime, you can read things like this on Wikipedia

Avatime is a tonal language with three tones, has vowel harmony, and has been claimed to have doubly articulated fricatives.

Avatime has nine vowels, /i ɪ e ɛ a ɔ o ʊ u/. It is not clear if the difference between /i e o u/ and /ɪ ɛ ɔ ʊ/ is one of advanced and retracted tongue root (laryngeal contraction), as in so many languages of Ghana, or of vowel height: different phonetic parameters support different analyses.

Avatime has vowel harmony. A root may not mix vowels of the relaxed /i e o u/ and contracted /ɪ ɛ a ɔ ʊ/ sets, and prefixes change vowels to harmonize with the vowels of the root. For example, the human singular gender prefix is /ɔ ~ o/, and the human plural is /a ~ e/: /o-ze/ “thief”, /ɔ-ka/ “father”; /be-ze/ “thieves”, /ba-ka/ “fathers”; also /o-bu/ “bee” but /ɔ-bʊ/ “god”.

… all of which gives some insight into the work of a linguist translator like Mary!

If linguistics turns you on – read more. Whether it does or not, please pray for the Avatime team in their work right now.

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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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I’m not going to blog about this month’s deservedly acclaimed good news story about the rescue of the Chilean miners – nor think about preaching on the subject. I’ve been warned off that by fellow blogger Richard Littledale – worth a look here.

No, it was a combination of random connections that led me back to some notes I wrote in June 2008…

I have been reading Luke’s account in Acts 12 of how King Herod played politics with the early church: having James, the brother of John, put to the sword and then arresting Peter only for an angel of the Lord to spring Peter from high security imprisonment. Soon after, it appears, Herod was in Caesarea where he accepted the sort of blasphemous praise from the crowds so beloved by dictators – and “an angel of the Lord struck him down”!

In my SU Encounter with God notes, David Smith comments: “If newspapers and TV stations had existed when Luke wrote this account, the gory end of King Herod would certainly have been front page news… What they would have missed. and what today goes almost completely unnoticed by the world’s press, is the slow, silent advance of the kingdom of Jesus Christ.”

However at about the same time as I was reading Acts 12, something of the “slow, silent advance of the kingdom of Jesus Christ” did appear on the media…

With Linda, Mary and Justin at Buckingham Palce May 2006

UTV LIve news last night (Tuesday 10 June 2008) twice carried the story of Mary Steele MBE, 80 year old veteran Bible translator in Ghana. Mary is home near Ballymena in N. Ireland for a few months before returning to Ghana to complete the revision of the Konkomba Bible to be type-set in the autumn. She was very sensitively interviewed by Paul Clarke and Mary was her usual calm and clear speaking self. She talked about the growth of the Konkomba church since the sixties when she first went there and the amazing growth in literacy – hence the need for a new edition of the Konkomba Bible.

When asked why she does what she does, Mary replied, “I love the work, I love the people and I love the Lord!”

Yesterday evening at least, the slow, silent advance of the kingdom of Jesus Christ did not go completely unnoticed. The Word of God continues to increase and spread.

Over two years later, Mary continues to work in Ghana as a translation consultant – and you can watch the UTV interview here

And talking about good news stories, here’s one from BBC Scotland about Scottish development funds to train up to 1,000 Malawian teachers.

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Colleague Philip Hewer has recently blogged on the joys of a Bible translation consultant checking the translation of Psalm 119 in the Kasem language of Ghana.

The Hebrew uses 8 different terms in referring to the Word of God, e.g. law, testimony, ordinance/judgment, commandment, statutes, precepts, word, promise/word. However, the Psalmist’s choice from among these terms is largely governed by the demands of the poetic structure, rather than focusing on a particular facet of meaning in each instance. The 176 verses are divided into 22 stanzas (strophes) of 8 lines each, and within each stanza each of the 8 lines starts with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet, working through all 22 letters successively. Wow! Can you imagine the Psalmist composing within those restrictions? If we tried it in English, how would we manage when we got to the letter X? Even Q or J would be difficult enough.

Even looking at Psalm 119 in English, it’s possible to see something of what Philip has described. Read more of his blog here.

I have a number of favourite verses from Psalm 119, but perhaps one of the most memorable was a paraphrase of verse 108.

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.

Back in the early nineties at a Kouya church conference in Ivory Coast, Bai Laurent spoke about life with God being as sweet as honey, but life without God being bitter like Nivaquine – a particularly nasty tasting anti malaria treatment.

Bai Laurent in Gouabafla in the late 1990s

Another colleague Phil Prior has alo picked up on Philip’s blog.

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Boxes of Konkomba Bibles arrive by truck

10,000 copies of the newly printed 2nd edition of the Konkomba Bible have arrived in Ghana in time for Christmas.

Konkomba translation consultant, Mary Steele, a Wycliffe Bible Translators member from N. Ireland has served in Ghana for over 50 years. Mary recently talked to me about the impact of the Konkomba Scriptures in Ghana.

In addition to the enthusiasm in reading Scripture and a demand for the full Bible, which is now in its second edition, interest developed in literacy classes and bringing many people to Christ. The dubbing of the soundtrack of the Jesus Film in Konkomba itself has resulted in the planting of hundreds of new churches.

At our October Wycliffe:Live event in Ballymena, N. Ireland, veteran Mary discussed her Wycliffe career with relative new-comer Marlene Beattie, a DRC dictionary specialist.

Mary Steele discusses 50 years in Wycliffe with Marlene Beattie

Mary returned to Ghana soon afterwards to await the arrival of the new revised 2nd edition of the Konkomba Bible and to continue her work as a translation consultant with Ghanaian  Bible translators.

Colleague Phil Prior also saw this truck photo, but his blog Things that make me smile had a rather different slant to mine – it’s definitely worth a read!.

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