24 Nov

High or low – it is all about Tone.


20150609_092858I love hearing stories from around the world illustrating the importance of having a good understanding of a language and culture before launching into translation.

One thing our linguistics experts try to work on is a language’s tonal structure. What this means is that the tone used when saying a word can completely change the meaning.

One of my colleagues shared this story recently.

“One missionary translator in East Africa had never accurately analysed the tonal differences in a local language and accordingly in the communion service, he seriously mispronounced the statement, “This cup of blessing do we bless”. What the people heard was “This cup of poison do we bless”, because the words for blessing and poison differed only in tonal patterns. But the congregation did not realise that this was a mistake in pronunciation. They themselves had a custom of drinking a poison cup in the case of trial by ordeal when someone died under mysterious circumstances. Accordingly, the people assumed that each Sunday believers drank a poison cup and in this way showed that they were innocent.” In writing, it would be crucial to mark such a tonal difference, otherwise major misunderstandings would ensue.

Isn’t that amazing – the difference HOW you say the word can make! Our teams do multiple drafts and checks to make sure the final product is both accurate and understandable.

09 Nov

Ministry update – 9th November 2015


Dear Awesome People,
Thank you so much for your prayers and support of us and through us, of God’s work here in Nigeria.
It means so much to us when we hear from you that you are praying for us. We received a couple of postcards from our church a few weeks ago and it was so encouraging to know that people are thinking, and much more importantly, praying, for us! There is something special about getting something in the post, at least for me! Maybe it is because I was not really born in the digital age? However, e-mails and Facebook messages and other digital communications are also great to get!

We are going through a bit of a busy time at the moment.

We had our annual Staff Conference at the end of last week. It was a fantastic time of getting together with all of our staff who are in Nigeria, celebrating what God has done and reminding ourselves of the importance of prayer through everything we do. There were also some sessions dealing with tough issues like funding and how that is changing. Tim was very involved in planning and presenting that topic. There was some concern beforehand about how it would be received but we had some really encouraging feedback afterwards. They said that Tim did a great job of presenting a very difficult and potentially controversial subject clearly, interactively and in a way that helped people to really understand it better. James Poole (the Wycliffe UK director) joined us for Conference and led the devotions each morning. He spoke on Jesus’ parables from Matthew 13 and managed to make an oh-so-familiar passage
speak in a new way to me.

There have also been a number of social/community events that I (Ali) have been involved in preparing things for. One was our celebration of Bonfire night last night that involved Sticky Toffee Pudding cooked on the fire! Another one is coming up on Saturday, the biannual International Food Fair at Dan’s school.

On Sunday morning I am traveled to Abuja and from there I flew on to Ghana. I will spend a week and half in Ghana, joining in the celebration and dedication of the full Bible in Kasem. My parents first started working in the Kasem language before I was born so this is also a kind of celebration of their life’s work! Most importantly however, it is a celebration that another group of people has the full Word of God in the language that will best speak to them! Please pray that God’s Word will not just remain on the pages but will be written on their hearts and minds.

I will be leaving Tim and Dan at home in Nigeria. We also have a good friend staying with us for the month, Jono Barnhoorn, whose family are in furlough at the moment in Canada. He will be with Tim and Dan while I am away so I am sure they will have fun together!

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

An encouraging Staff Conference
Lots of fun community activities to get involved in

Safe travel for me to the north of Ghana for the Kasem dedication
That the Kasem Bible will impact lives and not just be a book on the shelf
Peace and joy for Tim and Dan while I am gone
That Tim and I will communicate well in the midst of the busyness

09 Oct

Ministry update – 9th October 2015


Good morning from what may well be one of our last damp days of the season.

The weather is changing. We are reaching the end of rainy season and are experiencing some big wind storms. They can be quite exhilarating but also potentially a little dangerous. When I was little, growing up in the north of Ghana, we had a really wild wind storm, and it took the roof off our house! Thankfully this time we have escaped anything beyond a few small branches coming down.

Change is often turbulent and can be messy, it can be exciting and at the same time tiring. It can remove dead wood and bring potential for fresh growth.

Tom&IanWe are in the middle of considerable change at work. We have a new Director for SIL N1geria, Tom Crabtree (on the left in the picture). He and his wife are godly, prayerful, wise people, not to mention good friends of ours :-) and we are looking forward to a new era. Our previous Director, Ian Hollman, did an amazing job and really knit together a diverse group of people with one passion – to see God’s Word being used and understood by people from every language group in Nigeria. He is now focusing on his job as an Africa Area Director and he and his family will still be based in Nigeria for the time being. We are very happy about this as our families are close and we would miss them terribly if they left Nigeria.

With this charge of Director has come some change to the structure and set up of our group. Tim has been responsible for the Finance, Facilities Management and IT teams for a while and Tom asked Tim to add the Human Resources team to his responsibilities. He is looking forward working with a new group of people, many of whom he has worked with on projects before. It will be a learning curve but we thanks God for His timing and His provision and His peace throughout these changes!

Still on the subject of change, our next door neighbours (Kostrevas) are leaving Nigeria next month. One of the many blessings of our life here is that we get to share our lives with people from all over the world. And we really do share our lives, we become family to each other because usually our blood families are not nearby. However, this blessing also brings a challenge because people come and go. We sometimes have to say “Goodbye” to parts of our adopted family with no expectation of ever seeing them again, at least until Jesus returns!

• New beginnings in SIL N1geria
• Friends who become family

• That we will cling to God in the midst of the changes and always seek His will
• Wisdom and strength for Tom, the new Director, and for Tim with his new team
• Peace and joy even as we say “Goodbye” to family

10 Sep

Ministry Update – 9th September 2015


Delightfully damp greetings from Jos,
I know that rain is a blessing as I sit here watching the rain fall this morning. All living things need water (trust me, I have been a Biology teacher, I know these things!). However, sometimes the actual coming down of the rain does not feel like a blessing.
Thought that I am now pondering . . . are there other blessings in our lives that don’t always feel like blessings? That we forget to thank God for as a result? Your fellow musings on a postcard (or by e-mail) gratefully received.

Reading through the last update we sent out, not much seems to have changed. We are still having issues with securing group cash, please do continue to pray for a good resolution for that. I am still wading through my e-mail backlog. Dan is keeping his head above water at school but is struggling a bit with organisation and keeps losing things.

There are two things that I (Ali) was involved in over the last two weeks that I wanted to share with you. One of the things that I do is to maintain a database of all the translation projects in N1geria and all the materials (especially scripture) that have been produced. I nicknamed the database NigeL as it is the Nigerian Languages database and it is a lot easier to say NigeL. 😉

At the end of last week, a friend of mine who works for a partner organisation told me that he was travelling to a state north of Jos to work with a people group called the Polci for a few days. As a result of my work with the database I was able to tell him that there was a language project working on translating the New Testament into a closely related language. When he came back from his trip he told me that the people he was working with said that they also wanted the New Testament in their language and wanted to know how to go about it. In fact one of the people he was working with was so desperate to meet with him that he swam across a fast-flowing swollen river to talk about translating God’s Word into his language!

Another Nigerian friend, a colleague at SIL N1geria, has been working on raising financial and prayer support amongst Nigerians and Nigerian churches. One of his supporters is passionate about getting the Bible in his language (Esan) and wanted to know if anything had been translated yet in his language. After a bit of research I found that some ground work had been done by a partner organisation but nothing was published before the project ground to a halt. This supporter is rapidly mobilising people to get involved with the project so that they can finally get God’s Word in their language.

It is this evidence of hunger for God’s Word among N1gerians that inspires us as we work. Please pray that God’s will is done as these two people groups seek to take the next step towards the scriptures in their languages.

I(Tim) held a meeting with all my operations team a couple of weeks ago and we had a wonderful time together. We spent time exploring who we are, what we do as part of

‘Seeing Nigerian communities have access to scriptures in their language and be using them to transform their communities’

and also spent some time praying together.

We are blessed with abundant rain!
Many N1gerians are hungry for God’s Word in their language

Financial issues to be resolved completely and in a way that honours God
That Dan will find the things that he has lost and will be able to tighten up his organisation!
That the Esan and Polci will be able to make progress towards the scriptures in their languages.

15 Aug

Ministry Update – 15th August 2015


Greetings once again from Jos!

We are safely back to our N1gerian home and settling in well. Dan has started school and despite tiredness and a definite increase in the volume of homework, he is remaining positive and doing well.

Rainy season is in full flow, we get rain most afternoons. In fact the last three days, the rain has started pretty much on the dot of 3pm, right when I need to leave to collect Dan from school, and when it rains here, it does not mess around! The road becomes a river, masking the deceptively deep potholes and making travel by kekenapep (N1geria’s version of the tuk-tuk, aka motorised rickshaw) a rather damp adventure.

Tim and I are back at work. I am battling large volumes of e-mail and processing some possible changes to my role, more on that another time.
Tim has come back into some very tricky situations relating to our group finances. Praise God it is not any issue within the organisation but rather an external issue that is affecting our ability to get money transferred into the country. This in turn means that we can’t get enough cash as an organisation and therefore having to find alternative pay our bills in-country. When some of those bills relate to immigration charges it could also affect individuals’ ability to remain in the country! Please pray for God’s good and perfect will to be done so that the situation might be resolved in the best possible way, bringing glory to His name.

One piece of exciting news that we received just before we left the UK is that SIL N1geria (the group that we work with here) has finally been incorporated as an organisation. It is a bit of a long story (somewhat crazy details available on request) but the key thing is that this means that we are now officially recognised here and we are praying that God will use this to open more doors for us, to do things like working with the government to promote the use of minority languages in education.

Thank you for all your prayers and support, we are able to be here because of you.

Settled back into life here quickly and with minimal disruption
Dan is tackling middle school with a positive attitude
SIL N1geria now incorporated

Good resolution for the financial issues facing SIL N1geria
Dan to adjust to the increased responsibility he needs to take at school and to the more challenging homework
Godly wisdom for me as I process how my role might change

31 Jul

Ministry update – 31st July 2015


Greetings from our last few days in the UK.

Tomorrow our iceberg sets sail for home (if you have no idea why I am talking about icebergs, take a look at our previous update). It has been great to see so many people who are integral parts of our iceberg and I hope that we have been able to be part of your icebergs too. We are floating high and really looking forward to getting back to N1geria, looking forward to seeing friends and colleagues again, looking forward to getting stuck back into work, and to be honest, looking forward to sleeping in our own beds again!CLQsKT0W8AATwTC

I has been a bit of a whirlwind and we are tired, but sharing about God’s work in N1geria and our small part in it has had the slightly unexpected side-effect of re-enthusing us! It has helped us to lift our heads and remember the big picture and see more clearly how our little corner fits in.

A good, re-envisioning time in the UK with a remarkably good balance of times of rest and times of busyness
Looking forward to heading home to Nigeria

Safe travels flying to Abuja and then by road to Jos
For a good settling in time and not to much work to do on the house

11 Jul

4 bed in 4 nights – Ministry Update – 10th June 2015


Greetings from Thame / Gateshead!
So far in our whistle-stop tour of the UK we have been to:
Thame, Saunderton, Princes Risborough, Chinnor, Altringham (Manchester), Soulby (Cumbria), Lancaster, High Wycombe, Polegate, Eastbourne, Iden Green, Maidstone, London, Rugby, Corsham, Bristol, Malvern, Worcester Stroud, Weston-super-Mare AND Gloucester.
I think our record so far is four different beds in four nights. Thankfully God has been very gracious and our schedule really has not felt too hectic. We have had great times hanging out with old friends, renewing friendships (Richard – here is your mention), making new friends, living with family.

Still to come (at time of writing) we have:
Lincoln, Preston, Gateshead, Newcastle, Sunderland, Horley, Redhill, Reigate, Henley, and probably some others that I have forgotten!

Someone at one of the churches we visited asked a really interesting question that made me stop and think. She asked “Why is it important for you to remain connected with people in the UK?”
We are putting a lot of energy and time into visiting as many people and churches as we can while we are in the UK and being asked this question helped me to really think through why. Firstly, of course it is great to catch up with all y’all (as some of our American friends would say). But it actually goes a lot deeper than that.
I have this picture in my head of an iceberg. Weird, you might say, I thought you were based in N1geria, not the Antarctic? Bear with me. Tim and Dan and I are the tip of the iceberg, the bit that sticks up out of the water, that sticks into N1geria. That tip of the iceberg can’t stay above the water, can’t stay in N1geria, unless there is a whole lot more of the iceberg sitting below the surface. We need a vast team of people, praying for us, supporting us financially and generally being there for us in order for our family to be above the water in N1geria. This means that every single one of you who prays for us, who supports us, are just as much a part of the iceberg as we are, just as much a part of what God is doing through Bible translation in N1geria. So next time you are tempted to think that your life is boring, or that nothing you are doing is impacting the world, remember the iceberg!
If you don’t really feel like you are part of the iceberg yet and would like to join our iceberg, please do drop us a line, we would love to have you on board (or should that be on ice?)!
We have just heard that there has been another twin bombing in Jos on Sunday night. Please pray for peace and unity in our home city. Pray for those who have lost friends and family that they will turn to their loving heavenly Father for comfort.

06 Jun

Ministry Update – 6th June 2015


Greetings from actually surprisingly sunny England!

We are here! Tim, Dan and I landed in the UK about 2 weeks ago.

A few of the things we have been up to so far:
Finding our feet – including buying new shoes
Dealing with essentials – visiting the dentist (no fillings needed – yahoo!)
Visiting the new Wycliffe office – strange, but friendly faces lessened the weirdness.
1-IMG_4354Holidaying with family – staying in Cumbria for a few days with my (Ali’s) folks, and my brother and sister in law, along with their lovely brood.
Catching up with family – sharing a yummy cream tea with Tim’s Mum, staying for a couple of nights with Tim’s Dad, Jacqueline and Sarah.
Shopping – so many clothes to buy for a growing boy!

Plans are still somewhat in flux as we are waiting on a few people/churches to get back to us about possible dates. However, we hope to spend a week or so in the North East (based primarily in Gateshead), a week in Bristol, a few days on the south coast (based in Eastbourne), a few days in Surrey. If you are in one of those general areas, would like to see us and have not already let us know, get in touch!

We do have new UK numbers, drop us a line if you would like to have them.

Safe travel to the UK
Good times already with friends and family
Smooth transition to our time in the UK (there are lots of things that are so different here!)

Finalising of dates, especially for times with churches
The right connections with the right people at the right time
That our focus would continue to be on God and seeking His will

24 May

Summer 2015 Newsletter

Dear all who are near and far.

As we prepare to head to the capital in order to fly ‘home’ tomorrow here is the link to our latest newsletter. If you would like a high resolution print or email copy – let me know!

http://www.robinsonta.org/wp-admin/newsletter/summer2015web.pdf — 990kb



15 May

14th May 2015 – Ministry Update

Greetings from a joyfully damp and cloudy Jos!
The rains have come! Thank you so much for praying. The day after we sent out the last update asking you to pray for rain, it came! Every afternoon since then the sky has been pregnant with rain and most day the waters have broken (did I just take that analogy a little too far?!).

We are in the middle of the mad transition period of finishing up work key jobs at work, sorting out the house and finishing term prior to heading to the UK for the summer. As a result this is going to be a very brief update!
Please do pray for us during this transition, especially for Tim as he has several really important jobs he has to get done before we leave.
Please pray for me that I can also finish well here and start to look forward to there.
Pray for Dan that he can finish term well.

Much love,
Tim, Ali and Dan

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