07 Jul

Dialect Delights.

I recently received an e-mail granting the new codes to seven dialects that I had requested.  Before you switch off (Yawn, Ali is talking about her boring job again!) or wonder what on earth a dialect is going to do with a code, let me try to explain. 

Let’s start with languages . . .

There are a great many languages in the world, 7,106 at the last count (Ethnologue, 2014).  There are also lots of languages, in different countries (and sometimes even in the same country!) that share the same name despite having nothing else in common.  For example, in Nigeria there are two unrelated languages that go by the name of Ichen.  To save confusion and to ensure that we do not duplicate our effort needlessly we need to be able to identify exactly which language we are talking about without having to go into a great long description of that language e.g. “You know, the Ichen that is spoken in Taraba state and is related to Jukun, not the one related to Izere that is spoken in Plateau State.”  Bit of a mouthful!

So, to avoid all this messing about, each identified language in the world has been given a unique ISO 639-3 code.  Ichen from Taraba State is [ich], whereas the Ichen from Plateau is [cen].  No two languages have the same code.

I have to say that from a scientist’s perspective I find this rather pleasing.  I used to work with small worms, crustaceans and molluscs that each had their own unique scientific names like Calliostoma zizyphinum (a personal favourite) and Crepidula fornicata.  These names could be used among scientists anywhere in the world and everyone would be talking about the same thing, whereas if someone just mentioned the Slipper Limpet, it could mean any one of a dozen different species. 

However, I digress.  Back to languages and their dialects.  So, described languages are quite tidy, they each have their own ISO code, all neat and sorted, right?

Er, not quite.  You see some languages are made up of several dialects, these are closely related but sometimes still not fully comprehensible to a speaker of a different dialect.  In some cases they really are so incomprehensible to each other that separate translations are needed in each dialect.  So we need to go one deeper and be able to give a unique code to some dialects as well, otherwise, once again we could find ourselves reinventing the wheel in a dialect that already has work in it.

So back to the beginning – these dialects are ones where language work is progressing to ensure that the speakers of those dialects have scripture in a form that they can really relate to and understand deeply.  I always think of this in terms of French but maybe if we are thinking dialects then a broad Glaswegian might be more appropriate.  Imagine if you only had the Bible in audio form and the reader spoke in a broad accent using words and figures of speech that only a Glaswegian could comprehend – how well would you grow as a Christian?  Always struggling to really understand what God’s Word really meant, maybe thinking that God didn’t really understand you or care about you because he didn’t even speak your dialect.  For many people in Nigeria they face a similar situation.

These seven new dialect codes represent groups of people who are that bit closer to getting God’s Word in their own, fully understood, dialect.   Six have active projects where speakers of the language are translating the Bible into their language!

28 Nov

Prayer Update – 27th November 2013

It feels strange to be in the run up to Christmas when the weather feels more like a beautiful August in the UK.  I definitely still have not adjusted to the different seasonal cues here.  On the subject of holidays, we are thankful to be sharing an American holiday with friends this evening – Thanksgiving!  One of the many benefits of living in a multi-cultural community – you get to partake in each other’s special occasions. 


We are approaching the end of the semester at Hillcrest [International School] and my students are now deep in their final burst of projects.  The subject that I teach (Computer Applications) is only a single semester course and does not need to be taught again next semester.  As a result I have decided not to teach next semester.  I could take on a new subject but the preparation time required (when I would probably only teach it once) is just not worth it.  I have plenty to do at the office and I am hoping that the extra time I will gain there will mean that I can finally complete some of the things that have been on the back burner for a while.  The main thing that I am desperate to get finished is our Nigerian Languages Database which will help to more efficiently keep track of what is happening in the different languages around Nigeria.

Our Director (Ian Hollman) is currently out of the country and so Tim is adjusting to a slightly different way of working.  He skypes regularly with Ian and is working closely with the Acting Director to keep things running smoothly.  The Hollmans are expecting a baby in about a week’s time, please pray that everything will go smoothly for them and that they will be able to return on schedule in February.

If you can, please take a few minutes to pray for . . .


Opportunities to be thankful with friends!

Approaching the end of another peaceful semester at Hillcrest


Safe delivery for the Hollman’s baby 

Good communication between the leadership while Ian is away

Effective use of my extra time at the office next semester

16 Nov

Prayer Update – 16th November 2013

Greetings from Jos.

1-IMG_0082The large junction right outside our compound is being pulled apart and reconstructed, they have been working on it for several months now and still have a long way to go!  So we are basically living on the edge of a construction site.  The noise is not too bad, much better than the constant car horns we used to have anyway!  Over the last couple of days they have expanded their site further along the road and this morning Dan and I had to clamber around a large pile of dirt that blocked our path to school.  Not too much of a big deal really, until we realised that there was a large digger adding dirt to it as we were trying to squeeze around it!  Health and Safety here is certainly is not the restrictive beast that it is in the UK.

Tim and I both had a fairly busy weekend last weekend, both of us on very different “retreats” that happened to have been organised for the same weekend.

Mine was for Hillcrest Staff and it was very relaxing with plenty of time to read and enjoy good food. 

Tim’s retreat was much more work orientated.  There is a group of leaders from different organisations involved with Bible Translation that meet every two months or so and share what they are up to.  There was a desire to push it beyond just sharing reports and to try and actually talk about strategy and how they can better work together.  So they set aside this weekend to spend together and have more time to discuss partnership, strategy and build relationships.  Tim came back very energised (at least emotionally if not physically!) and excited about the progress that had been made.  We are praying that it will have an on-going impact in the way these organisations work together.

In many ways it was a massive answer to prayer.  Tim was remembering back to a meeting 3.5 years ago when he was visiting Nigeria with Kent Anderson, before we had even considered moving to Nigeria.  That meeting was supposed to be a gathering of the Bible Translation organisations to talk about partnership but it didn’t really have the desired effect. To have come from that to the groups spending a weekend together and talking seriously about how they can better work together is amazing and clearly shows God at work in these organisations.  This is God’s task that he has allowed us to have a part of!

On Monday we had our Wycliffe World Day of Prayer that Tim was organising for our group.  The idea is that all over the world, the Wycliffe Groups gather together and pray on that day as a reminder of how fundamental prayer is to our mission.  We had a good time praying in small groups and large groups and individually for the work and for the country.  Tim did a great job of organising it and keeping it varied and interesting.

Dan had to present his Creative Arts Fair project to his class at school on Wednesday.  Last year he wrote a stand-up routine which brought the house (or maybe I should say the school) down.  This year lots of people were asking him if he was going to do the same thing again but he opted to do a family tree of the Greek gods instead.  He has been enjoying reading a series by Rick Riordan that is kind of the Greek gods in modern day and that has got him interested in Greek mythology.  We haven’t heard yet if he will be presenting again in the main chapel (if you are British, think assembly) as well.

I hope you are all well, please do let us know if there is anything that we can pray for!

If you can, please could you take a few minutes to pray for the following:



A hugely encouraging weekend for Tim and beyond that for Bible Translation in Nigeria!

Dan enjoyed presenting his Creative Arts Project


That the ideas shared and commitments made over the weekend would bear fruit

That Tim would be able to rest well and recover from all the hard work he put in

07 Nov

Prayer update – 8th November 2013

Greetings from hot, dry and dusty Jos.

We are definitely easing into dry season now.  We have had no rain for almost a month and things are starting to dry out.  It is quite warm with clear blue skies every day without fail, the nights are nice and cool though, making it easier to sleep.

Last Saturday we hosted a bonfire night on our compound.  I know, it was on the wrong date but a Saturday night is so much more convenient than a Tuesday!  As we sat around the fire in our short sleeves enjoying the blaze I did think of all those of you who will be celebrating in many layers, complete with scarves and gloves.  There are definitely some advantages to the weather here!

The last two days Tim has been attending the local video cast of the Global Leadership Summit.  The original one takes place in America and then recordings of the talks are presented by local facilitators all over the world.  Fourteen people from our group were able to attend and learn more about how to “Lead where you are”.

This coming weekend (8th-10th) Tim is helping to facilitate a retreat for leaders in Bible translation organisations in N1geria.  They are hoping to spend some of their time looking at the strategy needed for them to work together to promote and support Bible Translation.

I am going to be on a short retreat this weekend for Hillcrest Staff, it will be good to have the opportunity to get to know some of the staff better.  Now, some of you may have noticed that this leaves Dan on his own!  Fear not, he is going to spend Friday night with friends and I will be back to collect him on Saturday afternoon.

Thank you so much to all of you who have been praying for Dan, especially during his Tuesday afternoon Art class.  He seems much more settled in general and he reports that there have been no further incidents in Art class.  Please do continue to pray for him, especially that he will learn more about how to be a good friend to others.


Dan is feeling more settled and happy at school

Opportunity for Tim to attend the Global Leadership Summit

Opportunity for Ali to attend the Hillcrest Staff Retreat


The strategy discussions between the different organisations will be productive and unifying

Dan will learn the skills he needs to befriend the other members of his class without compromising who he is

29 Oct

Prayer Update 28th October 2013

Greetings all!

Daniel and I have had a fairly quiet week at home as Hillcrest has been on holiday. Tim took one day off during the week but apart from that remained busy at the office.

Some of our activities last week have included:

• Watering our ever-expanding butternut squash plants 
• Evicting a large toad from the radish patch where he had buried himself
• Dealing with black hairy caterpillars that were trying to eat everything in sight
• Admiring a snake that Dan had helped to kill
• Attempting (with marginal success) to make marshmallows and honey roast peanuts from scratch
• Visiting the abattoir, preparing and mincing 4 kg of beef and 2 kg of pork for the freezer and curing another 2 kg of bacon
• Reading the fourth Tiffany Aching book by Terry Pratchett – I Shall Wear Midnight
• Reading Fahrenheit 451 for the first time – scarily recognisable in places
• Watching all three Lord of the Rings movies back to back with some friends in a movie marathon extraordinaire
• Keeping an eye on my e-mails and dealing with a few urgent jobs

A pretty chilled out week, all things considered!

So now it is back to work, it is really good to be back in the office, catching up with friends and getting stuck back into the nitty-gritty. We read a passage from Habakkuk this morning in our office devotions which included the verse that says that the knowledge of the glory of the Lord will cover the earth. Sometimes when times are hard here and people seem to be suffering so much we forget the reality that this is coming. It was a great encouragement to picture this golden flood of the realisation of God’s glory just completely coating the Earth with no part left untouched. In the meantime we work on our little area to bring a taste of His glory as people receive His Word in a language that really communicates to them.

Tim is currently getting stuck into helping rework and organise our Nigeria Group strategy. Not a job that I would enjoy but it suits Tim down to the ground! It is vital that we have a clearly worded, God-inspired, well organised and presented strategy so that we can focus our energies in the most productive way possible. He is also tackling how this should link into the Africa Area strategy and how it will adapt to possible new funding strategies. Needless to say he is enjoying getting his teeth into something big.

If you can, please take a few minutes to pray for us . . .

• A relaxing break from routine for Ali and Dan.
• A fun day watching Lord of the Rings together with friends.

• For Dan’s relationships with his classmates, that he will be open and not defensive.
• That Tim’s work on the strategy document will reflect God’s will for our organisation and be helpful in moving us forward on the right path.

11 Oct

Prayer Update 11th October 2013

Greetings from Jos!

Last week Tim did a road trip with Jono, a colleague and good mate of his. They travelled to Niger (sounds like tiger) State, not to be confused with Niger (sounds more like kneezjair with a French accent) the country! Niger State is found in the north west of Nigeria. There are a number of language projects that we are involved with in Niger State and Jono, as our Language Projects Co-ordinator, needed to go and visit them. Travelling on your own is not really recommended here, the prospect of a New Testament dedication and eager to try out his new camera, Tim jumped at the opportunity to accompany him. Despite a minor car problems involving leaking automatic transmission fluid on the way, they made it safely to their first stop. The second day’s travel involved heading further across the state towards to Benin border including a very poor section of road where it took nearly 3 hours to travel 90km, but once again they arrived safely and in plenty of time before dark. A couple of days later, having met local translators and heard about how the work is progressing, they headed back home. This time they did the whole distance in one day, leaving at 6am and making it back to Jos by 4.30pm. The distances they were travelling didn’t look all that far on our wall map of Nigeria but in reality it was a round trip of 850 miles, Nigeria really is a BIG country! One disappointment was that the community decided to postpone the dedication until November. We are quiet sure why but it is not uncommon over here!

For larger high quality pictures go to Tim's Flickr page. 

I have been tackling an update to one aspect of the Ethnologue (a book that describes, albeit briefly, all the languages of the world) this week. We are trying to describe the vitality (or “aliveness” if you like) of the different languages in Nigeria. The thing that really affects the alive status of a language is whether it is being passed on to the next generation. If parents are not teaching the language to their children then the language will become threatened and unless something changes, will eventually die out. One of the reasons we need to know about language vitality is so that we can make wise decisions about which languages to invest our limited resources in translation.

Thank you to all of you who e-mailed to say that you were praying for Dan. In general he has had a better week this week, in particular he has felt more included by the other kids at break times. He finds the less structured class time in Art difficult and this is often a trouble spot in the week for him. He has Art on a Tuesday afternoon so if you remember please do try and pray for him then. We have spent some time talking about (and drawing) the armour of God and Dan has come up with his own, personalised version, so rather than the sword of the Spirit he has the light-sabre of the Spirit! This has definitely helped him to be more conscious about calling on God’s help in difficult situations. Thank you so much to all of you who pray for us so faithfully, it makes a huge difference. We often forget how powerful prayer is!


• Dan has had a better week at school
• Tim’s road trip went well and they made it back safely


• That Dan would have a better experience at school, especially during Art class
• That I can gather the necessary information about language vitality in time

12 Sep

Prayer Update 12th September 2013

Greetings one and all!

Rainy season is starting to ease off here, we are no longer having rain every day without fail and the sun is putting in more of an appearance. I like this time of year because after months of damp and cold (OK so at around 20oC I appreciate it is all relative!) the weather is warming up and drying up.

I am attempting a small vegetable growing area this year (hence at least part of my obsession with the weather!) and am currently having at least some success with radishes, broccoli, red bell peppers and butternut squash. Not so much with the beetroot sadly, only 2 of about 20 have germinated. Any suggestions from the experienced gardeners out there gratefully received!

Also on the domestic front, I had a Massively Meaty Saturday last weekend. I took a group of 9 ladies to the local Abattoir to buy beef and pork. We then returned to our house (where, in a rather embarrassing mishap, I had managed to lock us out!) and processed the meat, preparing most of the pork with curing salts to make ham and bacon. Looking forward to trying some of that in a few days once it has finished curing! I also made sausages using casings (for the uninitiated this is the outside bit that holds the sausage together) that I had brought from the UK. Last time I tried this I actually bought fresh intestines from the Abattoir, cleaned them and stripped them, but the smell and the amount of work was just too much, even considering the tastiness of the sausages! So this time I “cheated” and bought ready-made casings.After making about 5 kg of sausages our freezer is now full to bursting! 

Dan is enjoying fourth grade but does not seem to be quite himself at the moment. Some days he seems fine and is his usual cheery self but then the next day he will be easily upset and see even basic tasks as massive mountains that he can’t face. Please pray that we will have wisdom to know what the root issue is and how best to help him.

We have our Staff Conference coming up next week, Wednesday to Friday. Tim is involved in the logistics for this and will be helping to make sure that everything runs smoothly. I will be giving a brief presentation on one of the aspects of my job (REAP – Repository for Electronic Archiving and Publishing) to try and encourage people to use this resource to protect and share their work more widely. I am also hoping to run an after-hours hands-on session for people to come and get some help to get started on using it.

  • Praise Enjoying the improved weather Having fun in the garden and the kitchen!
  • Prayer Spiritual, emotional and physical heath for Dan Successful Staff Conference next week
30 Aug

Prayer Update – 30th Aug 2013

Greetings from a rain soaked Jos. rain on the ground

We are definitely in the depths of the rainy season at the moment.  Almost every afternoon (right at about school pick up time – of course!) the skies open, thunder and lightning explode and we all get drenched! 

We are settling back into the routine of life here very well, catching up with friends and getting stuck into work.  

We have our Staff Conference (aka Business Meetings) in mid-September so Tim is busy with preparations towards that.  He is gathering reports from all the different departments to put together a booklet to help us all understand what everyone else is up to without taking up hours with presentations at the meetings. 

PABTEN recently incorperated in Nigeria but were forced to change thier name, they are now known as IBTEN.  Tim has been in the middle of this process and in now redeveeloping the website (again!)  One cool thing he is tryign to do is some more work with SIL International in Dallas towards a system that will enable the display of Nigerian language materials on the new site.

There has been a lot of work (scriptures translated, adult literacy materials produced, etc.) done in some Nigerian languages but that work is useless if people can’t access it.  One way for them to do that is on the web – so Tim is working on a way to share the materials that have been produced.  Thos ematerials are stored in the systems that I am involved in populating.  In other words I put the work into the database and Tim’s website will pull copies of it out to display (and be downloadable) on the website!

Dan has had a good start to his new school year.  He has made good friends with one of the new kids in the class, which is a big answer to prayer.  We are praying that he will continue to develop healthy, strong relationships with his classmates throughout this year.

worm in Dan's backNot on such a good note, the local wildlife decided to get stuck into Dan a few days ago.  There is a particularly odious insect here that lays eggs on damp clothes, then when you put the clothing on, the egg hatches and the larvae burrows its way into your flesh where it feasts and grows fat.  Despite my best efforts on the drying-laundry-thoroughly front Dan developed one of these, affectionately named, mango worms.  After much shenanigans, we managed to get the larvae out, much to Dan’s relief.  For those among you who would like more details – Tim or maybe even Dan will be blogging all the gory ones in due time!





  • Good start to term for Dan
  • Settling in well back at work
  • Seeing friends again


  • Godly friendships for Dan
  • Good preparation for the Staff Conference
14 Aug

Prayer Update – Home safe and sound.

Greetings from N1geria again!

We arrived back in Jos mid-morning on Friday after a safe flight and drive from Abuja. The morning of the day we were due to fly (Thursday) I suddenly realised that my thyroxine tablets (a daily medication that keeps my metabolism going) had not arrived in the post.  We thought they had arrived much earlier but the package we thought contained them turned out to be sausage casings!  On calling the suppliers it turned out that due to a miscommunication they had not in fact posted them and were expecting me to collect them. So following a brief period of panic stations we came to the conclusion that the only way to be sure of getting them in time was for me to travel into London on the train and pick them up myself.  Thankfully the suppliers were willing to pay for my train fare as they acknowledged that they were at fault for not posting them.  So I hopped onto a train at the bustling Haddenham and Thame Parkway and made my way to London – not what I had expected to be doing on the morning of our departure!  I was able to make it there, collect the tablets and get home again in less than 3 hours so I wasn’t even late for lunch.  Never been more grateful for a combination of good public transport, living close to London and over-night flights! IMG_9534

Tim’s organisational skills were put to good use in packing our 9 cases.  After repeated checking on multiple weighing devices he was still not confident that none were over the limit so we approached the check-in desk with a small amount of trepidation and lots of prayer. The poor bloke who was on the desk had been on shift since 4.45am and in his words “my desire to finish my shift far outweighs your desire to have underweight bags” so despite several bags being a touch on the heavy side (fine example of British understatement) he didn’t charge us any extra! Thank you Lord!

On the other side of security we met up with another family travelling back to Nigeria with their three young girls, it was great to have friends to pass the time with until our flight took off at 10.50pm.  Despite the late hour the kids did really well and all was peaceful during the flight. 

We arrived in a wet, rather chilly Abuja at about 5 am and proceeded through immigration without a hitch – again thank you Lord!  After much careful manoeuvring we finally fitted all our bags into the car, squeezed in ourselves and headed to Jos.  It was wonderful to get back into our own home and unpack all the bits and bobs that we brought back with us. 


Thank you so much to all of you who gave us your hospitality while we were in the UK, it was great to see you all but I must admit that it is very good to be home!


School starts again on Thursday and they are woefully short of teachers.  This places a great burden on the teachers and on the administration as they try to work out how to cover all the classes.  Please pray that God will give the administration wisdom and that He will provide the necessary teachers.



Good health while we were in the UK

Being able to return on schedule

Safely back home and settling back into life here



Wisdom for Hillcrest administration

More teachers for Hillcrest

A good start to the year for Dan and good relations with his classmates

20 Jul

Foody Friday – Mango Sorbet

A more recent adventure in my search for a great sorbet came with mango season.  On the compound of our new house there are numerous mango trees that produce small, sweet, fairly stringy, mangos.  At the height of the season the floor under the tree was coated in mangos, we just couldn’t eat them fast enough!  My Mum and Dad were visiting and Mum (who I have decided is incapable of just sitting, always has to be doing something) suggested that we could make sorbet out of them.  She proceeded to peel and scrape the flesh of 10 or more mangoes off into a bowl, we added some sugar and lemon juice and stuck it in the freezer.  Delicious!

Ali peeling mangoes

Scraping the mangoes was quite a lot of effort, so for the next lot of mangoes Mum decided to try peeling and then simply grasping the stone in her hand and squeezing.  Messy, but surprisingly effective! We served some of the sorbet at our house-warming/meet the parents party and had lots of requests for the recipe.

Mum and Dad headed back to the UK and still the mangoes fell, so I decided to have a mango squishing party.  I invited several friends, told them to bring a cup of sugar and a plastic container each.  We sent the kids out with buckets to collect the mangoes and set up a production line with some people peeling, some squeezing.  An hour or so later we had two big basins of mango sludge and some very orange fingers.  Everyone went home with plenty of sorbet mixture (and still slightly orange fingers) ready to freeze it up.

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