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Posts Tagged ‘Literacy’

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.

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On Sunday 28 August 2016 at 10.30 am, I had the privilege of speaking at Newtownbreda Presbyterian Church in Belfast as they sent Wycliffe UK member Clare Orr back to Senegal. Here is an edited version of what I said…

office-world-map-old

Back in the days when the Wycliffe office was on the Beersbridge Road, we had a world map on the wall. And on the map we had a piece of paper with some verses from Matthew chapter 9.

Clare’s Dad has already read Matthew 9: 35-38 for us. In NIV, it is entitled The Workers Are Few.

We had the last verse on the office map, the words Jesus spoke to his disciples: “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Just before this, Matthew tells us that Jesus had compassion on the crowds: “because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

In a way this passage sums up what we’re doing here this morning. You’re sending – or perhaps more accurately, re-sending – Newtownbreda’s worker Clare back to the harvest field where she has worked before – and where Jesus still has compassion on people who are harassed and helpless; people who need a shepherd; people who need to hear the good news of the gospel; people who need to find Jesus as their shepherd..

And by the way, there are people around us here at home, or maybe even sitting here in church this morning, who are harassed and helpless who need to find Jesus as their shepherd.

The verse on the world map was both an encouragement and a challenge to us working in the Wycliffe office.

  • We were so encouraged every time we produced Wycliffe News and read the updates from around 50 people from Ireland working around the world in Bible translation and literacy and many other roles
  • We were challenged by Jesus’ words because we knew that there were still many millions of people yet to hear the good news in their heart languages

It was such a joy when Clare walked into the office one morning back in late 2012… We thought she was there for a bit of a chat. But no, Clare came straight out and said, “I want to join Wycliffe. What do I have to do?” So we told her; she applied in early 2013 and was accepted in spring 2013; started training in August 2013; and in February 2014, she went to Senegal.

This morning, together, we are sending Clare back to Senegal…

Clare with an Ebola poster

Because what she is doing there is important!

Do you remember the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014? Do you remember the Ebola prevention posters that Clare and her Senegalese colleagues produced in – I can’t remember how many languages… Those posters – produced because Clare was there working in literacy development – helped to save lives by giving people information about how to avoid Ebola in a language they could understand.

There are lots of ways in which literacy helps people – and it is a very important part of what Wycliffe does. But our main aim is that people can have access to the Bible in the language of their hearts.

So why is literacy crucial?

There’s an old Wycliffe saying that Bible translation without literacy is like a tin of beans without a tin opener. If you can’t get the tin open, you can’t eat the beans.

Yesterday morning I searched the kitchen cupboards in vain to find a tin of beans. So I’ve had to make do with a tin of Cream of Tomato Soup with a hint of basil. You need a tin opener to get access to and enjoy the soup.

tin-of-soup

It’s a little parable… If the Bible is translated into your language, but you can’t read – how do you access and enjoy and be challenged by God’s word?

Actually with modern tins, you don’t actually need a tin opener. You have this little pull thingy. Perhaps you could say that the little pull thingy is literacy. Clare, and literacy specialists like her, provide little pull thingies 🙂 If only it were so simple…

Be assured that our prayers and best wishes go with you, Clare, in the weeks ahead.

Jesus still has compassion on those who do not know him. Jesus still says to his disciples, to us…

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

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Caitlin Hamilton was one of four students from N. Ireland who attended Wycliffe’s Two Week Stint programme in the south of France this past summer. We invited Caitlin to write a blog for us and here it is. She starts by tracing her journey with Wycliffe…     

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I will never forget the moment I walked into a boulangerie in the south of France to ask for 18 baguettes! The boulangerie was in Charmes-sur-Rhône, a little village in the Ardèche area of France. The reason I was there was because I was taking part in the Two Week Stint.

It started on Sunday the 17 July 2016, when I arrived at the gîte to find this group of then strangers, now friends, all standing around outside and talking. Well, you could say it started that morning when I left the house at 6.30 to get the bus for Dublin. After a lift, a bus, a plane, a tram, a train, another bus and a lift from the bus stop, I was finally there, ready for the two weeks to begin.

Or then again, maybe it started even before that. I first heard of Wycliffe through church. I love languages, so when it came time to do work experience in lower sixth, my first thought was Wycliffe. I spent a fascinating week in the Belfast office, where I learnt translation wasn’t as simple as you would think. I was so taken with the work of Wycliffe, that I brought a friend along to the First Steps a few weeks later. Ever since I had been considering coming on the Two Week Stint, but the timing had never been right – until this year. I’m very thankful that I was able to get a travel scholarship at Queens: God is good.

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Each morning began with worship, prayer and Bible teaching

Over the two weeks, we spent time together each morning in worship and Bible teaching. Our focus was on Acts, that God is on a mission. I really enjoyed the chance to worship together with this group of people from so many places, singing in both English and French as we praised our Lord. Then, each morning, we spent time learning more about the work of Wycliffe, and what is involved in Bible translation. We spent three days on each of linguistics, literacy and Scripture Engagement.

Linguistics covers a wide range of areas including: sounds, how language is written down, grammar, and meaning, and all of this is vital in producing a translation that can be read, can be understood, and makes sense. I found it fascinating, especially since we were using a real African language, Mankanya, as an example. Literacy focused on the importance teaching people to read their own mother tongue, and various methods which can be used to do this. The last topic we studied was Scripture engagement. This encourages and equips people to use the Scripture and to understand it, for example, by encouraging churches to read the Bible in the local language.

Teaching

Teaching

I really enjoyed the fact that all of the camp was bilingual, in French and English. It was a great chance to practice my French and I’m feeling a lot more confident about speaking French now. Throughout the two weeks there were a number of French classes, which I found really useful as they focussed on practical things like giving your testimony and praying in French. This will certainly be useful next year as I spend my year abroad in France.

Learning

Learning

It wasn’t all classes though! Every afternoon, and at the weekend, we had free time to spend as we wished. A couple of afternoons were spent having fun by the river. We also went into the local city to explore, went to a Reformation museum, visited an impressive castle overlooking the area, went on a guided tour around some caves, and went around a maize maze. We had a lot of fun in the evenings too, chatting, playing games, and one night we even had a ceilidh!

Reformation museum visit

Reformation museum visit

The Two Week Stint was an amazing opportunity, and I enjoyed it so much. It was great getting to spend time in such an idyllic place with some lovely people while learning about the work of Wycliffe.

This article also appears in the September edition of Wycliffe News which can be ordered by e-mail or post here

My thanks to Caitlin for this guest blog about her Two Week Stint experience .
Photos © Knut Burmeister, ALLTAG  http://foto.alltagmedia.de/
For information on Two Week Stint 2017, keep an eye here

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Every fourth week, I write a 200 word prayer post for Prayerline which is published weekly by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland‘s Council for Global Mission: this is what I sent this week.

On Sunday afternoon we had a picnic beside Strangford Lough. On Monday morning as I write this, summer rain beats steadily on the Wycliffe office roof. This week we want to offer you a Wycliffe Prayer Goody Bag which you can use this summer – rain, hail or heatwave!

Prayer Goody Bags

Prayer Goody Bags

Prayer Goody Bags provide video, audio and written resources to inform, enthuse and give plenty of inspiration for prayer. One of the prayer themes is Encountering God’s word.

“It’s not enough to translate the Bible. It’s not enough to distribute the Bible. Our desire is to see real Scripture engagement: people encountering God’s word in life changing ways”

This Prayer Goody Bag will enable you to pray for Scripture song writing workshops, AIDS education literature, trauma healing workshops, Jesus Film production, and multi-lingual education initiatives.

As we pray that language groups around the world will encounter God through his word for perhaps the first time, let’s also pray for PCI congregations around Ireland – that engaging with God’s word will inspire every one of us to be a community of global concern from our doorsteps to the ends of the earth.

You can find the Prayer Goody Bags at https://www.wycliffe.org.uk/goodybags

Here is the prayer menu of more Goody Bags to explore and lead you individually or as a group to pray:

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Recently I was thinking about how I should react to people with whom I’m not getting on too well… This story from a primarily oral culture in Mali was a challenge and an encouragement, not to mention the reminder that God speaks to people through his word in their heart languages!

Jesus lived in a primarily oral culture. People gathered to hear him teach and tell stories – and what they heard transformed their lives.

Today many of the places where Wycliffe works remain primarily oral cultures – and that means that Bible translation can be as much about producing recordings of the Bible that people can listen to, as it is about printing copies of the Bible that people can read.

In many of these cultures, like the Supyire in Mali, Bible listening groups gather people together to listen to passages from the Bible – as in the picture below of people listening to the audio Bible sitting on the yellow can.

Supyire listening group

Supyire listening group

After listening to the passage they discuss how to apply it to their lives. And, as this story of one Supyire women called Ndeere shows, hearing the teaching of Jesus and the Bible continues to transform lives:

‘The word of God in Romans 12:20 says if you do good to your enemy it is as though you are placing burning coals on their head. I thought hard about this passage and then I applied it to the case of a woman who lives in the same courtyard as me who doesn’t like me at all. She used to say to her friends that she didn’t even want to see me.

It is our custom that if women are heading out to work in the fields, the younger women carry the baskets of the older ones. But this woman, such a nasty person as she is, nobody would carry her basket for her.

When I heard the part in Romans on the audio player I started to carry her basket each time we went to the fields and we came back from the fields. Some of my friends told me not to do that, because she doesn’t like me. But still I carried on. At last the nasty lady said to me she was afraid of me because I respect her so much. And in the end she stopped hating me.

What is more, I have to say that listening to the audio Bible player has made me more patient. There was a time when if someone would criticise me I wouldn’t feel at ease unless I attacked them back. Now everyone is surprised at the change in my behaviour.’

This story was sent to Wycliffe supporters who receive our bi-monthly e-newsletter, thanking them for their continuing support and prayers for the work of Wycliffe. If you wish to support and pray for  people like Ndeere to hear and be transformed by the Bible, you can sign up here.

And I’m learning to carry my enemies’ baskets… I hope.

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Work experience time continues… this year we have the opportunity in Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland to host four A level languages students in the Belfast office. Last week Rachel, from a school in Ballymena, spent three days with us…  and here are some of her reflections…

During my three days of work experience in the Belfast office of Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland, I have learned so much of the work involved in Bible translation.

Bible translation statistics Oct 2015

Bible translation statistics Oct 2015

I was amazed to learn how many languages there are in the world – almost 7,000 – and how few of them have the Bible translated. It has really challenged me about how I think of the Bible as, here in N. Ireland, we have so many different versions that we can all too often take the Bible for granted. Yet there are so many people who are still waiting for the Bible to be translated in their language.

I had the privilege of being able to spend time with Dorothea Jeffrey and see her work on the Lig* project. It was amazing to be able to see a translation being checked and to see the work involved in doing that. On the computer I could see the text in the original Greek; the language it was being translated into; and then an English back translation to check the accuracy. It was a fascinating experience and I am very thankful to Dorothea for allowing me to be there.

Before my work experience I thought the only work Wycliffe was involved in is Bible translation. From speaking to the staff in the office I have learned that there are many people with different skills involved in the work of Wycliffe, not just translators. Literacy work among the people is very important as the so that people will now be able to read God’s word in their own language. Seeing the Bible in their mother tongue is important to them as it shows them God can speak their language.

I have really enjoyed my time with the Wycliffe team and they have encouraged me to consider future service in this area.

Revelation 7 v.9 ‘After this I looked and saw a great multitude that no one could number from every nation, tribe, people and language.’

Lig* is a pseudonym for this language

My thanks to Rachel for this guest blog about her work experience with us.

Dorothea

Dorothea Skype consulting

POSTSCRIPT: from Dorothea Jeffrey’s February Prayer & Praise:
I enjoyed First Steps, a Wycliffe event for enquirers on 6th February. We had about 14 enquirers present and there was quite a buzz! Some are 6th formers who have been doing work experience in the Belfast Wycliffe Office. I had one of them sitting in on the Lig* checking session with me this week. We are praying for five new Wycliffe members from Northern Ireland.”

A few Saturdays ago, Rachel joined us at First Steps on 6 February 2016 at Ballyhenry Presbyterian Church Newtownabbey. To find out more about First Steps and to register go to

There are still at least 1,800 languages that don’t have a Bible.

Find out more about Bible translation and mission and the ways that you could become involved on our website.

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Third in a series on First Steps NI 2016…

Assaalaamalekum mbokk yi.
Maangi leen di nuyu ci tuuru Yàlla boroom jàmm.
Maangi tudd Clare Orr. Irland laa joge waaye Senegal laa liggéey leggi.
Maangi liggéey ci mbiru alphabetisasyon, mooy nga xam ne nu danu jappale ay nit ngir ñu mënu bind di jàng ci seeni làkk. Fi ci Senegal lu ëpp benn ci ñaari sunu reewandoo mënuñu bind, mënuñu jàng.

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Clare was one of the First Steps team at Ballyhenry Presbyterian Church on 6 February 2016. Her topic was literacy and Scripture engagement- and here’s some of what she shared with us…

How much of that were you able to understand? Probably not very much, if any. Maybe a few words of French! That was Wolof, Senegal’s main trade language. If we want to learn, we need to understand the language. We’re here today to hear stories of how having access in the mother tongue to information, whether it’s God’s word, health information, schooling or Christian resources, helps us to be able to learn, to grow in our faith and to improve our lives.

What I’ve just said in Wolof is this:
Welcome. My name is Clare Orr. I’m from Northern Ireland and work in Senegal.
I work in literacy, which means helping people to learn to read and write in their own languages. In Senegal, fewer than one in two people is able to read and write.

Nowadays, lots of children go to school. The numbers of children in schools in Senegal has risen and primary school enrolment is currently around 80%. Yet, the literacy rate remains low. When children start school, what language do they understand?

Maybe Wolof, or Jola Kassa, or Manjaku. Senegal has more than thirty languages. Children understand their own language and maybe Wolof or another Senegalese language. They don’t understand French. Nobody at home talks to them in French. Yet what language do teachers speak and teach in at school? French. This is a huge problem. A child who doesn’t understand French, can’t learn in French.

It’s not that education isn’t possible in other languages. Learning can take place in their mother tongues, and this is something Wycliffe members are involved with in Senegal.

For the past few years, literacy classes have been offered for children in the Manjaku language. These classes aren’t part of the formal curriculum. Instead, the children come back in the afternoon, when normally they would be off school, and learn to read and write in their own language. Originally, parents were suspicious, thinking that learning Manjaku would hinder their children’s abilities to learn in French. However, parents are now realising that their children are advancing in French more quickly because of these mother tongue classes.

Famata, a 17 year old, didn’t understand much French, did badly at school and therefore had dropped out a couple of years previously when she became pregnant. When Manjaku classes began in her village, she went to the classes, and was able to follow them and learnt well, even encouraging the others in her class to keep up their regular attendance. Thanks to the confidence that this gave her, she was able to return to French school, and was near the top of her class there. She dreams of being a teacher some day.

As one Manjaku parent said, “The step backward into their tradition means they are in a better position to then step forwards.”

Of course, it’s not only children who can benefit from learning to read and write in their mother tongue. Coming back to the Manjaku, Lamine, the leader of the literacy team, spoke of how happy the people in one village were to have a class in their mother tongue rather than in one of the neighbouring languages. One learner said, “We have this proverb that we always take the flash-light of others to light the room. Now we have our own torch to shine on our path so we know where we are going.”

Clare with one of the Ebola posters

Clare with  Ebola poster

Ku la abal i gët, nga xool fa ko neex.
If someone lends you eyes, you will look wherever he wishes.

By enabling people to read and write in their language and by giving them new ways to engage with Scripture in the mother tongue, we are helping them to look with their own eyes, and through their own eyes to come to know the God of the Bible for themselves.

You can read about how Clare’s work helped prevention when Ebola threatened Senegal in 2014.

Find a Wycliffe Bible Translators UK & Ireland First Steps day near you!

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