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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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No Ordinary Book revised 2015 edition

No Ordinary Book revised 2015 edition

I think it was the first time I read a book about mission and felt like the missionary was a human being… and I liked that. Such a challenge and an eye-opener! I hope many young linguists read this book and get a taste for Bible translation.

Rachel Hanna (PhD student at Queen’s Universitty Belfast) quote on back cover of No Ordinary Book

In May 2013 I blogged Kouya Goes Kindle which flagged up that No Ordinary Book, revised and updated to include the 2012 New Testament dedication, had just become available on Kindle.

Last Friday, Philip gave me a personal copy of the new paperback version of the revised and updated edition which is now available from Amazon and soon via Philip’s independent publishing platform website.

Talking about the book with a colleague and flipping through some of the pages, took me back through over thrity years of friendship with Philip and Heather. I remembered times we have shared together in Côte d’Ivoire.

Although No Ordinary Book continues to bring memories for me, I want to endorse Rachel Hanna’s hope expressed above that many readers both young and older will be challenged to get involved in Bible translation. If that happens to you, here is a great place to start.

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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A few days ago, someone looked at a blog I posted just over four years ago. Since that one person hopefully found it interesting, I thought I would re-blog it.

Besides the comments that I made and the comments that I quoted are still both interesting and relevant – what do you think?

 

An old copy of the King James Bible, thought to be a rare original 1611 edition has been found in a village church in Wiltshire.

There are fewer than 200 original printings of the King James version known to exist. And it is believed that the rediscovered Bible is one of the few remaining editions printed in 1611.

As a former historian, this news appeals to me; original documents are the stuff of historical research, but the Bible has never been lost to us. The King James is just one of a long line of translations into English, all of which sought to make the Bible accessible to people in a way they could understand.

This year is of course the 400th anniversary of the first edition of the King James Version being printed in London. At that time, no one could have envisaged the impact that the translation would have: since then the King James Version has become the biggest selling book in the English language – apparently it has also been the most shop lifted book in history. It has shaped the English language and had a huge effect on the English speaking world. The King James Version has become a cultural icon.

But the Bible is far more than just a piece of literature, far more than a cultural icon – we believe it is the story of God’s involvement with the earth and its people from creation to the end of the world. Wycliffe Bible Translators wants to concentrate less on Bible historic and more on Biblefresh – whether that be people in the UK re-engaging with the Bible in ways that enables God to speak to them afresh or people in Burkina Faso and elsewhere receiving the Bible in their heart languages for the first time.

Geoff Procter is a member of the parochial church council where the rare original was found; I like his comment.

Mr Procter said the most important thing about the Bible was that it was meant to be a living working book for people to live by.

“Well I think what it’s going to do is enable us to talk about the Bible,” he said.

“Because in a secular world it’s seen as an important document it will actually bring the opportunities to us to go and discuss it in more detail.

“When we took it for evaluation to the curator of a Bible museum, one of the first things he said was whatever you do you must display this so that people can read the word.

“That stuck with me – you know the fact that it’s what it says rather than what it is.”

In a blog discussing reading the Bible together online in a variety of ways, Richard Littledale reminds us of the danger of God’s Word getting lost in the 2011 media plethora about the King James Bible…

Although people are talking at length about the linguistic heritage of the Bible in the English language, there is a danger that it becomes little more than a piece of heritage – like a stately home or a love letter preserved behind glass. We cannot afford to do this – which is why we must embrace these Twenty-First Century media to encourage a wholehearted debate about a book whose pages we regard as sacred.

This is the vision of Wycliffe Bible Translators – could you be a part of this?

By 2025, together with partners worldwide, we aim to see a Bible translation project begun in all the remaining languages that need one.

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Kindle NOB

On Wednesday 21 March 2012, hundreds of tee shirts proclaimed in the Kouya language that the Word of God is living and powerful. Kouya Christians and their neighbours gathered for the dedication of the Kouya New Testament which had been delayed during a decade of civil unrest and violence in the Ivory Coast.

Philip Saunders presented a copy of the Kouya New Testament to the chief of Dema village. That photo now adorns the front cover of the new edition of No Ordinary Book, the story of the Kouya New Testament.

No Ordinary Book, revised and updated to include the dedication, has just become available on Kindle

It was a privilege to live alongside the Kouya Project for 8 years in Ivory Coast.

It was a privilege to become friends with Kouya Christians including the translators.

It was a privilege to be asked to write the foreword for No Ordinary Book.

It was a privilege to have been at the dedication of the Kouya New Testament in March 2012.

It is a privilege now to recommend that you upload this great story to your Kindle!

If you want to see a few of the many photos that I took at the dedication, you can see them in my Facebook photo album

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Today is the first anniversary of the Kouya New Testament dedication on 21 March 2012. Well worth re-posting this 29 March 2012 blog!

Hebrews 4:12 proclaims that the Word of God is living and powerful!

Last Wednesday morning hundreds of tee shirts proclaimed the same message in the Kouya language as people gathered for the dedication of the Kouya New Testament which has been delayed during a decade of civil unrest and violence in the Ivory Coast.

The Kouya dedication tee shirt

It was a privilege, a pleasure and very humbling to be there and share with Wycliffe colleagues and Kouya friends that we had not see for nearly 15 years.

I’m still working through my reactions to the event, but it was a truly Kouya event! White faces were a very small minority. The programme had been prepared and was led by Kouya Christian pastors and leaders. A crowd of around 500 sat for hours under shelters erected in a square behind Dema village church, praised God in song and dance and speech and the reading and hearing of -Lagɔwɛlɩ in the Kouya language.

When my thoughts are more focussed, I will write some more, but below are a few of the many photos that I took. You can see more in my Facebook photo album

One of the church singing groups

Dema chief welcomes everyone

Pastor Bai Emile speaking

The Kouya New Testaments arrive

Marguerite, Sue Arthur and Philip Saunders

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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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