Posts Tagged ‘technology’

j-nicholsonWhen we got an e-mail from Jack Nicholson in 2016 asking to do work experience in the Belfast office of Wycliffe Bible Translators, we thought: “We can’t be that famous! Jack Nicholson?”

Turns out it wasn’t the star of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. It was the Jack Nicholson,  A level languages student from Kilkeel.

Like all our work experience students, Jack was invited to write a guest blog about his experiences over three days in January 2016.

Marlene Ferguson had been at a careers day in Jack’s school and he had also heard about Wycliffe at his church. So here goes…

As an avid language student, I was looking forward to see what happened in the Wycliffe office. In my naivety, Bible translation took place in the most distant, isolated ends of the earth. I have to say, I wasn’t disappointed!

It struck me how many languages exist in the world, over 800 in Papua New Guinea alone, and how many, at least 1.5 billion people, do not have a Bible in the language which they understand best and are therefore unable to grasp the complete image of God and his plan. These thoughts were reinforced when I considered the widespread availability and variety of God’s word in our own country.

Contrary to my belief, Wycliffe members do not simply throw a dart at a map and book the next available tickets to that country. Nor do they charge into a village or town and carry out their plans without involving the local people.

I discovered that the process to begin a new translation project is meticulous, with an emphasis on prayer and financial support. I also got a taste of the joyful celebrations when a New Testament or a Bible is completed and dedicated.

A celebration of DVD Scripture for sign languages in Ghana, Burundi, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria

A celebration of DVD Scripture for sign languages in Ghana, Burundi, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria

Jack talked to Kenny Woodrow about his work in Uganda – Tanzania and discovered that artistic and many other skills are used in the Bible translation process.

This illustration shows art being used to convey the message of God creating the sun, moon and stars in the Kwoma visual language.

On day 2, Jack was introduced to back translations, sign language translation, how technology is used in the Bible translation process – and language cluster groups when talking to Ricky Ferguson about his trip to the Mongu Cluster in Zambia.

Words for Life - Wycliffe UK's magazine

Words for Life – Wycliffe UK’s magazine


After lunch, I joined Alf Thompson who works in communications for Wycliffe UK and Ireland. I heard about his job editing the Words for Life magazine. It was fascinating – and again, it reminded me of the importance of a diversity of skills and roles in Christian mission – as well as treating me to a sneak peek of the next Words for Life magazine!

Friday, my last day… and along came Olive Craig – a Guest Bible Scholar volunteer with  Wycliffe.  Olive showed me the importance of clarity when translating God’s Word to different people groups and also the importance of context in translation. Then, after a few challenging translation enigmas and idioms, Olive led me through the diligent, step-by-step method of the translation of the Bible followed by Wycliffe. The true intensity of Bible translation dawned on me when Olive opened up Paratext – a computer software programme designed specifically for Bible translation. She showed me her part in the overall translation process and how translators aim for Biblical translation to be clear, accurate and natural. I particularly enjoyed Olive’s visit, as I witnessed the practical approach of translation and the skills of so many being used to bring God’s word to others.

Paratext screenshot

Paratext screenshot

I thank God for giving me the chance to witness first-hand Wycliffe’s work in fulfilling his purposes to translate and communicate his word, the Bible, to all the languages of the world.

I retired from Wycliffe at the end of December 2016. One part of my work which I really enjoyed was helping students have a worthwhile work experience with us. So, thanks to Jack and to Ricky for giving me the opportunity to edit Jack’s blog and post it here.

Find out more about Wycliffe and Bible translation at First Steps events around the UK and Ireland.

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Apparently someone has developed what3words, a global grid of 57 trillion 3mx3m squares each with a unique three word address that can be communicated quickly, easily and unambiguously.

It was hearing about what3words that inspired my Retirement Reflections in the recently published January edition of Wycliffe News

Jon, a former student at Vavoua International School (VIS) in Côte d’Ivoire, where Ruth and I taught for eight years, recently posted an interesting story on the VIS Facebook group. People living in rural villages in Côte d’Ivoire – and many other places around the world – don’t have addresses and postcodes like we do. So among other things, it’s hard for Amazon to deliver their Christmas presents.


Click on photo to read BBC article about what3words

Apparently someone has developed what3words, a global grid of 57 trillion 3mx3m squares each with a unique three word address that can be communicated quickly, easily and unambiguously.

No, I don’t understand how it works, but it prompted me to reflect on how so many things have changed during our 28 years with Wycliffe.

Just before we went to Ivory Coast

Just before we went to Ivory Coast

Communication between VIS and home in the early 1990s depended on hand written airmail letters written on flimsy paper which might get a reply within three weeks. Telephone calls from the rented room in Vavoua town where one tried for up to an hour to get a line and all too often failed. Eventually we got a phone line at the school and a fax machine spewed out messages which promptly faded in the Ivorian sunshine if they weren’t instantly photocopied.

But what developments in technology we now enjoy: whether we work in a Wycliffe office in UK; or with a translation team overseas; or as translation consultants interacting remotely from home with teams overseas! Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Bible apps on smart phones the world over are familiar to most people. Bible translation specific software like Paratext has revolutionised life for translators and consultants.

An American colleague once commented that God invented computers for Bible translation, but he graciously lets the rest of the world use them.

So much change!

What never changes is our loving God who desires to reach every nation, tribe, people and language with the Good News of Jesus. What a privilege to have been a small cog within Wycliffe striving to make that a reality.

What never changes is that God still uses his people, blessed with the skills that he has given them, to bring his word to those still waiting to hear about the love of God in Christ.

His people? Friends and colleagues in the Belfast office; the wider team in Wycliffe UK and Ireland; and the even wider team that God has built within the Wycliffe Global Alliance. And since this is appearing in Wycliffe News – especially all those friends and colleagues in this magazine who have been an encouragement to us in our work and for whom we can all pray as they share their news, their joys and their challenges.

July 2016 North Berwick practising for retirement

As we retire, thank you everyone for your friendship past, present and future.

God bless, John and Ruth

PS By the way, Wycliffe’s what3words office address at The Mount is toward.image.enable and my home address is heavy.danger.plot – looking forward to hearing from you.

To receive Wycliffe News contact Ricky or Bill at northernireland@wycliffe.org.uk

To find out more about how Wycliffe is using technology to support Bible translation

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The role of IT in mission: guest blog by Neil McKnight

CheckITOut NI

One Sunday after church, I had a wee chat with John Hamilton. I asked, “What’s all this about computers and Wycliffe Bible Translators?” John suggested that I go to Wycliffe’s CheckITOut evening…

Over recent years missionaries around the world have been forced to embrace new technologies and use more and more new tools for many different tasks when carrying out their work both in the field and in many different support roles.

I went to the CheckITOut event as suggested and they took some time to explain the role of IT, but more importantly, the need for experienced IT personnel throughout the world.

The vision of Wycliffe Bible Translators is to start a Bible translation project in 1,967 different languages by the year 2025, and it is estimated that these projects will have the potential to reach over 200 million people.

To meet this goal they are currently utilising around 5,500 staff in 97 countries, which in itself is a staggering amount of people. Yet they have approximately 2,500 positions vacant in roles around the globe.

Over the years they have had different manual systems and ways of gathering information, keeping track of people, recording translations, working with the local people, but as new technologies have evolved, so have the people and the systems.

One of the big areas is people management. If there are people posted around the world carrying out their roles, or possibly even on holiday or at a conference, it is important that the organisation knows exactly where they are during their travelling and time away. If there happens to be some sort of a natural disaster or a civil war breaks out, basically anything that could put individual in danger, Wycliffe may need to know all sorts of important information that could be relevant in those different situations. Heights and weights could be important in the event of an evacuation; blood types in the event of an emergency; copies of passports and important documents; any sort of information that may normally be taken for granted could be important in difficult situations. This needs to be stored centrally and in a way that can be easily managed. A Wycliffe member from N. Ireland currently manages this project from his home near Ballyclare.

For people working in areas where there may be no power, there is little point in giving them a case full of equipment that all depends on electricity to operate, or possibly an internet connection to be useful. Nowadays, along with that case of essential equipment, Wycliffe may also issue two other cases: one with a solar panel and one with a small satellite dish which has the ability to connect remote workers to the internet.

"God's Word is powerful" Catalan Sign Language

“God’s Word is powerful” Catalan Sign Language

Another fantastic use of technology is in using video capture to record sign language, and using software to over lay the person with a female face, or an ethnic face, or an adult or child, enabling the sign language translation to be distributed in many different ways, but actually all created from the one initial motion capture. This technique is used commonly now in the film industry to bring to life animated or CGI characters, but to think to use it in this way is just astounding.

Sick PCOne of the inherent problems with all this use of technology is that it brings with it its own problems. Computers generally break down or fail to function correctly, printers need fixed, cables break, all sorts of things that a lot of the time we take for granted. However when you don’t have a tech savvy family friend or a local computer shop to walk into, it can be a bit of a problem. So backup and support staff with specific IT skills play a big role in keeping equipment going, training people in new systems and fixing everything from the network to the microwave in the office – just because it’s perceived they can.

There are many different ways that experienced IT workers and enthusiastic computer hobbyists can help out both at home and abroad, and for a more comprehensive list please visit either the Wycliffe Bible Translators UK or Saintfield Road Presbyterian Church websites for more information.

Neil McKnight

Neil is a friend and fellow member of Saintfield Road Presbyterian Church in Belfast, N. Ireland. Having attended Wycliffe’s CheckITOut event, he wrote this piece for the church quarterly newsletter.

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Not book – but a Nook!

The Nook ebook reader

I had never heard of a Nook until yesterday. Nooks and crannies, yes, but an ereader Nook which apparently fills a market niche somewhere between a Kindle and an iPad was new to me.

This story popped up in Christianity Today…

A couple of Sundays ago, my husband, son, and I enacted a mini-drama from a script that has likely played out in every churchgoing family in America. Never mind that we live in Kodiak, Alaska, thousands of miles from the rest of the country. Electronics, we know, are borderless.

During the sermon, with our heads intently bent over our study Bibles, my husband and I glanced down the pew to see our teenage son leaning over his cell phone. Texting during the sermon? My husband, later claiming self-defense, drew his own cell from his holster and began furiously sending texts to the other end of the pew. Teenage son didn’t respond, which drew more urgent messages. No response again. By now we were steaming toward a march around the center pews to snatch the offensive item from the perpetrator’s hands. Thankfully, “we’ll get him later” prevailed.

Can you guess what happened next? Read on

The title People of the Nook just hit me between the eyes in the light of my 8 May blog People of the Book.

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