Posts Tagged ‘The Story everybody needs’

Je n'ai pas de chevre

“Je n’ai pas de chevre”

The book was sent by a friend and former member of Wycliffe Bible Translators from N. Ireland who spent some time working with Wycliffe Switzerland. Recently she has been in Switzerland at the 50th anniversary of Wycliffe Suisse.

The book contains 50 stories celebrating those 50 years written by Swiss members who have lived and worked in Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Cameroon, the Gambia, Nepal, Cambodia, Chad, Togo, Benin, Papua New Guinea, Congo Brazzaville and Brazil.

wycliffe suisse card

Wycliffe Switzerland have produced cards like the one above. On the reverse side it says…

La Parole de Dieu est indispensible pour traverser le fleuve de la vie. Vraiment? Intéressé à d’autres cartes? fr.wycliffe.ch/cartes

Some of the story writers in the book are former colleagues from our time in Ivory Coast. It is a pleasure to celebrate with them!

And like them, I remember the 1,919 languages of the world still awaiting the indispensable Word of God.

wycliffe suisse_logo

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With Wycliffe Bible Translators of course!

Emma got the train from Coleraine to Belfast (at a ridiculously early hour for a teenager) to join us in the Belfast office for three days work experience. Here are her reactions.

I had the privilege of spending three days at the end of January in the Wycliffe office in Belfast as part of my work experience.

As a lower sixth pupil studying French and Spanish, where I could find a  placement linked to languages that would not only be informative, but also interesting? So when my French teacher told me about the opportunity of spending a few days with Wycliffe, I was really excited. I first heard about Wycliffe through two members of my Church, Clarke and Alison Rice, who spent a year in Cameroon – and I believe that this is an area of mission which is both worthwhile and exciting.

I didn’t quite know what to expect. Any Wycliffe work I’d heard about has been in places like Africa or Asia in towns and villages that speak foreign languages, not in an office in Belfast. So, when I arrived to find out that I had a varied programme ahead of me, I couldn’t wait to get started.

Working on a grammar puzzle at First Steps last Saturday


We began by looking at a general overview of the tasks involved in Bible translation, including the training process, language surveys, language learning and analysis, creating an alphabet, literacy classes, translation checking and typesetting. I had the opportunity to do some simple language analysis of my own and I really enjoyed looking at how different languages are put together and considering the impact of cultural issues on the way certain words or phrases are translated. Something that struck me was the wide range of skills that are involved in the work of Wycliffe. There are so many people who aren’t directly involved in translation work and perhaps, before now, I hadn’t fully appreciated the importance of these roles.

There is clearly such a great need for Bible translation as there are still over 1,900 languages that don’t have any scripture in their own language.

Bible translation wisdom by Dorothea at First Steps

Bible translation wisdom by Dorothea at First Steps


Over my few days with Wycliffe, I was reminded afresh of the importance of God’s Word and how all too often we take it for granted. As I watched videos of the dedication of the Kimyal New Testament in Papua, and of people watching the Jesus film in their language for the first time, I was struck by their enthusiasm and desire to read God’s word. The excitement on their faces was a challenge in itself as I thought about how little I appreciate the fact that I have always had the Bible and many other resources in my own language.

I find Wycliffe’s vision, to have a Bible translation programme started in all the remaining languages that need one by 2025, an exciting prospect and as I read through lists of completed Scripture in 2012 and 2013, I felt greatly encouraged that God is clearly at work.

In recent years, so many people have received the Bible in their language and this gives such hope that although Vision 2025 is an ambitious target, it is definitely achievable with God’s help.

On Tuesday I enjoyed meeting Clare Orr, who has recently completed her training with Wycliffe and is going to work on literacy projects in Senegal. As I talked to her about the importance of literacy work, I realised that when Wycliffe translate the Bible into a language, it also brings many other great benefits. It is extremely helpful for people to be able to read and write in their own language and it can also improve their education system as it gives them the opportunity to be taught in their mother tongue.

Heather Saunders testing Kouya literacy

Heather Saunders testing Kouya literacy

On Wednesday, I enjoyed meeting Heather Saunders who showed me photographs of her time in the Ivory Coast and this gave me an insight into the work that she and her husband, Philip, did there. She also taught me some phonetics to show me how they initially went about writing down words before creating an alphabet. The language they worked on – Kouya – is a tonal language and so I was able to see the value of having a musical ear when listening to languages like this. I would say that hearing about her personal experiences from her many years with Wycliffe was one of the highlights of my three days.

I really enjoyed the few days I spent in the office and I’m very grateful to everyone who made it such a brilliant experience. I’d like to finish by sharing a Bible verse which I think shows why it is so important that people can read the Bible in their own language:

“And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as what it really is, the word of God which is at work in you believers.” 1 Thessalonians 2:13

Emma enjoyed work experience so much that she brought a friend along to the Belfast First Steps last Saturday! And we were encouraged by her enthusiasm and aptitude for the work. Thank you, Emma 🙂

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Pope Francis

Pope Francis

An ironic question (see meaning if you’ve never heard this phrase before) which popped into my head this evening as I read the current Evangelical Alliance Friday Night Theology post which focusses on the latest statement by Pope Francis – The Joy of the Gospel.

The admission of the writer David Smyth (public policy officer at the Evangelical Alliance Northern Ireland) added some poignancy:

Growing up as a Protestant in Northern Ireland I am fascinated by this man and especially hearing him talk of evangelisation and being born anew. Many Protestants here were told from a church pulpit that the Pope was the anti-Christ. Yet this man challenges me deeply both in how I look at him and how I look at others.

David goes on to confess to doing what we all do – whether we admit it or not – we put labels on people!

You see, I label people. Not as the literal anti-Christ so much, but try as I might not to, I do label others who claim to follow Christ: sound, liberal, fundamentalist, happy-clappy. And it’s not just me or confined to the Church. A brief reading of the headlines this week shows some of the labels society places on others: prostitute, druggie, slave, alcoholic. We take someone’s action or aspect of their personhood and use that to define that entire person. We constantly use labels to separate ourselves and to define ‘us’ against ‘them’. In doing so we dehumanise the image of God in others, reducing them down to a word.

I can’t escape the fact that when I look at the way Pope Francis rejects labels and encounters individuals I am reminded of Christ. Jesus looked at people through God’s eyes, literally. He refused to put labels on people, seeing the holy humanity of each person made in the image of God. When we encounter Jesus and become his followers he takes our labels away. This is part of the ‘joy of the gospel’, a new identity in Christ. We are given new life, new relationships with God and others and a new identity beyond our labels.

As I get older, I seem to get wiser… well, sometimes. Or maybe I’m maturing in my  understanding of how God sees people? Anyway, I’m starting to see people differently. People in my church whose gifts I never recognised before. Colleagues in work who have a different perspective on things, but hey, that’s OK! People on the street or on the bus… I wonder about the person behind the front, the facade, the fashion…

And here’s David’s punchline!

So here’s the challenge this weekend. What labels have you put on yourself or on others? Is there someone you need to take out of a pigeonhole? What’s stopping you seeing people through Jesus’s eyes?

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My wife used to strongly advise me to tell stories rather than quote statistics when speaking about the work of Wycliffe Bible Translators. She was and is basically right – and I do love to tell stories. But sometimes there are people who need to hear the stats and there are other people who just love stats.

So I was delighted to recently receive this infographic which successfully (if not very colourfully) combines stats with stories – and gives us the latest Bible translation statistics.

WFL infographic - uk edit

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Bosnian Bible

About 10 or 11 years ago, I helped some people to make contacts with colleagues in Wycliffe Bible Translators. These people, in N. Ireland and Bosnia, set out on a dream. Yesterday I held the fruit of that dream in my hands.

Back then, linguistic wisdom declared that Bosnians, Serbs and Croats could all understand the Bible in Serbo-Croat. Even today, The Ethnologue references to Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian all state – Bible: 1804–1968. In other words, there was a Bible developed over that time span that is mutually understandable to all three language groups.

However the  Bosnian conflict of the 1990s, and the subsequent independence of Bosnia-Herzegovina, has resulted in a nationalisation of all three languages.

While linguistically, there was no pressing reason for a translation of the Bible into Bosnian, there were very strong socio-linguistic reasons for doing so. Bosnian Christians, with clear memories of Serbian war crimes, wanted a Bible of their own.

The Bible in modern Bosnian is now complete. The translation was done by a group of Bosniak scholars in Sarajevo with supervision from an experienced Bible translator.

Last Friday I went to the Europa Hotel in Belfast, not to met Richard Haass and his team, but to catch up with two men who were instrumental in raising funds in N. Ireland to finance the project.

The English translation of the Introduction to the Bible says:

It is our prayer that God Almighty would speak through the pages of this translation and bless everyone who reads it, whatever religion they belong to.

And that’s how I now have the Bosnian Bible that you see in the photo above.

This is another reason why I work for Wycliffe Translators

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Find out more

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Easter 2013 in N. Ireland. Too much snow, power cuts, inconvenience in the towns, serious anxiety for sheep farmers. Surely it should be sunshine, daffodils and crocuses, pleasant walks in pleasant temperatures, cute lambs in green fields.

Easter for the 21st century. Eggs, bunnies, chicks and chocolates or an eternally pivotal Christian festival…

crown of thorns

The first Easter appears at first glance to be all confusion.

A derisory king: mocked, abused and tortured by cruel soldiers.

A rejected king: accused via trumped up charges, his death demanded by power threatened priests.

An alternative king: proclaimed innocent, misunderstood and oddly feared by a puzzled Pilate.

The King of Kings: crucified to rise again by God’s plan to bear our sins and re-establish God’s true kingship on earth.

Confusion at Easter? Not for God nor for his son Jesus. Ultimately not for us either.

With thanks to SU WordLive today and especially Derek Tidball’s Deeper Bible Study

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PW widerworld 002A

Did you ever pray and hear no answer from God?

A man from Ivory Coast called Toualy Bai Laurent, who became a Christian in 1958, wanted to learn more and began to pray that God would send someone to translate the Bible into his Kouya language. By 1980 he was still praying with no sign that God had heard his prayers…

Francois Sare, a man from Burkina Faso became a Christian in 1989, the same year we went with Wycliffe Bible Translators to next door Ivory Coast.

“During all those years I haven’t been able to read the Bible in my own language. I’ve got my own French Bible but my first language is Bissa Barka. If the Bible was in Bissa Barka then I would be able to understand more than I can now. I think about how long it will be until we have the New Testament. I’m in a hurry to have it.”

Did you ever try to tell someone something, but they wouldn’t listen? That’s the same as the Old Testament prophets, like Amos, from Judah, whom God sent to “prophesy to my people Israel”. The prophets spent years proclaiming the Lord’s message, but nobody listened.

In the opening chapter of his book, Amos proclaimed God’s judgment on Israel’s neighbours – Damascus, Gaza, Tyre, Edom, Ammon and Moab – for what they had done to Israel. God would relent no longer: he would send fire to consume fortresses; kings and peoples would go into exile. Can you imagine Amos’ hearers enjoying this? Good for the Lord! They’re going to get what they deserve!

But in chapter two, Amos proclaimed judgment on Judah and Israel. Judah had been led astray by false gods just like their ancestors before them. They rejected the law of the Lord and did not keep his decrees. It was a chicken and egg situation: their rejection of God’s law led to worship of false gods which prevented them obeying God’s law… and so it went on.

Judah gets it quick and sharp, but the judgment on Israel lasts for almost five chapters. Israel is condemned for pressing into slavery those who cannot repay paltry debts; trampling on the heads of the poor; sexual immorality and drunkenness in the temples of false gods.

God said, “I will crush you!” You will not escape my judgment. You have been warned and you have continued to disobey. God said, “I hate, I despise your religious feasts.” Their token sacrifices failed to stop their wallowing in complacent pride and self-centred prosperity. “They do not know how to do right,” declared the Lord.

Interspersed in all this are appeals to “seek the Lord and live” – but no! Israel’s leaders, her priests and her king don’t like what they are hearing. If Amos could just be persuaded to go away.

So Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, accused Amos of conspiring against King Jeroboam. Imagine him spitting invective in the face of Amos as he says,  “Get out, you seer! Go back to the land of Judah. Don’t prophesy any more at Bethel, because this is the king’s sanctuary and the temple of the kingdom.”

Amaziah confirmed the rejection of God. The ancient sanctuary of Bethel was not God’s. It belonged to king Jeroboam and his kingdom. Amaziah accused Amos of trying to profit from his prophecy.  Amos responded that the Lord would surely send Israel into exile.

And so we arrive at chapter 8 with Amos’ vision of a basket of ripe fruit. A positive harvest image? But no – the fruit was Israel ripe for punishment. Israel had rejected the invitations to seek the Lord; Israel had evicted Amos because they didn’t want to hear what he was saying.

They continued to do what the Lord had deplored:

“Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land, saying, ‘When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?’ – skimping on the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat.”

The judgment was serious: the earth darkened in broad daylight; joyful religious feasts turned to mourning; temple songs to wailing. But the bit that really hit me was verse 11!

“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.”

The awful silence of God!

If you won’t listen to me, the Lord said, I won’t speak to you. It had been prophesied before. Amos prophesied over 300 years before Malachi, the last of the Old Testament prophets. There were several times when there seemed to be a famine of hearing the words of the Lord, but the big one came in the inter-testamental period – those 400 years or so between the Old and New Testaments.

So what broke the silence? Gabriel spoke to a flabbergasted Zechariah and to an astonished Mary. Thirty years later, John the Baptist called out in a voice from the desert to prepare the way for the Lord, the arrival of the Messiah, fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus, his cousin. The Lord chose to speak to his people again. Would they listen this time?

The modern famine of hearing the word of the Lord is double sided. One side is the majority of the world’s population who have access to the Bible but, like the people of Israel, many refuse to listen. Twenty first century people see the Bible and Christianity and even God as irrelevant, outdated, and often badly represented by Christians.

The other side is the millions who want to listen and hear, but they cannot – because the Bible is not available in their heart languages.

Toualy Bai Laurent from Ivory Coast had his prayers answered in the 1980s and, before he died a few years ago, he had his copy of the Kouya New Testament.

Francois from Burkina Faso is encouraged because a translation into Bissa Barka has begun thanks to fundraising during the 2011 Biblefresh year.

PW widerworld 001APostscript: Current estimates suggest around 209 million people speaking 1,967 languages may have a need for Bible translation to begin. See also

They still experience the famine of hearing the Word of the Lord.

This piece was first published on my blog on 20 December 2012 when I flagged it up as a draft. Now the article has been printed in the current edition of Presbyterian Women’s Wider World magazine..

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My Fav BiblesEddie Arthur has just blogged referring to four bullet points on Bible translation from The Proclamation Trust blog.  Eddie’s blog is entitled Moo on Translation.

  • it is important to read theology out of the text rather than the temptation to read it into the text
  • all translations have to think about meaning – you can’t simply translate words. A literal Bible is not, by definition, a more accurate Bible
  • translation is important because translation is a form of communication; therefore you always have to be asking for whom you are translating (all preachers should be thinking this way)
  • the general and steep decline in the ability to read and comprehend has huge implications for Christianity given that it is based on the interpretation of a book. Churches have not really begun to grapple with this sea-change

I took my title from the second bullet point because that is a point of view that I find very frustrating. As it says above:  you can’t simply translate words! That is, or should be, pretty obvious when we are translating God’s Word into languages with a very different culture from the English speaking world.

But perhaps even more worrying is the assertion of a general and steep decline in the ability to read and understand the Bible in the West.

Eddie suggests that Wycliffe Bible Translators (and others working cross-culturally) may have much to offer to the church in this regard:

The only point which I think needs comment is the final one. Moo is dead right to highlight the way in which we can no longer assume that people (in the western world) are fluent readers, able to handle a text as complex as the Bible. It is also true that Churches in the West have not really begun to get to grips with this issue. However, those of us working in Bible translation and church-planting around the world have been wrestling with this issue for many years and there is a huge body of experience and literature that the western church could tap into. I fear, however, that Churches in Europe and North-America would prefer to reinvent the wheel, rather than build on the experience of others.


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cityofculture-logoTHE four largest Christian churches are uniting for a special evangelical initiative that will see a copy of Luke’s Gospel delivered to every home in Londonderry during UK City of Culture 2013.

The leaders of the four main Churches will be launching the free gift for all in Foyleside Shopping Centre on Monday, January 21 2013.

Bishop Ken Good (Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe), Monsignor Eamonn Martin (Catholic Diocesan Administrator for Derry diocese), Rev Robert Buick (Moderator of the local Presbytery) and Rev Peter Murray (leader of the Methodist Church in the district) will join together with choirs and perfomers from local schools to launch A Free Gift for All.

A spokesperson for the initiative said: “The christian message is something that crosses divides and is good news for every person. Not only do we want to celebrate this special year in our city we also do so as a recognition of the common christian heritage of our city.”

The project involves the four churches joining together to distribute a special copy of Luke’s Gospel to every household in the city.

This joint initiative is a contribution from the churches to mark the 2013 UK City of Culture in the city. It is also a sign of a common commitment to the good news of the Christian message.

The public launch of A Free Gift for All will see choirs from schools across the community perform at this unique event. Pupils from the different communities, in some instances, will join to walk together to the event. There will also be performance art to mark the event.

Published on Tuesday 15 January 2013  in Londonderry Sentinel

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