11 Apr

Firm Foundations

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I am not a runner. It may seem that I do a lot of running, but I don’t love running. I do it more out of necessity, to keep the happy hormones flowing, to reduce the spare tyre from around my waist, and mostly, because well, I like eating. I run because I eat. Over the past few years I have learnt a lot about running, what to do and what not to do, how to avoid injuries and how a cold beer is a great source of much needed chromium. One thing has remained especially true all this time, if you are running, your feet need to be landing on a firm foundation in order for you to retain any forward momentum. This was hammered home the other day when I was chased by possibly rabid dogs. Dogs here aren’t pets, they are guard dogs, occasionally they will come out of a house or compound to make sure you keep on going past and not in. On this occasion, they kept coming at me. First I thought I’ll speed up, make sure they know I am just going past. I growled and hissed a bit and the first 2 ran off. But then they came back with 4 friends and were eyeing up my heels. They were getting much closer than I was happy with. Being bitten by a dog is something I was DESPERATE to avoid. So as one got closer (close your ears all you dog lovers out there) I had to kick him in the head. He scuppered off and took his friends with him. Phew, I thought, I’m not going to be bitten today. Then, next thing I know, I have hit the ground with my knees and not my feet. Yes, I tripped up. WHY did this happen I asked myself. Well, basically, I was completely distracted by the threat of the dogs coming at me. I looked at the dog as I kicked him and in so doing I took my eyes off where my feet were going to land. IMG_0680I was running fast, missed the firm ground, hit a bit of muddy sand, tripped up and fell over. Adrenaline pumping, I jumped up, saw ANOTHER dog coming at me and ran harder to get around the corner. The end result was a pounding heart, blood mixed with mud and the desire to puke, all because my feet didn’t hit a firm foundation.

As I was thinking about this later in the day and it hit home that this incident was as much about my spiritual life as my ‘running’ life. We need to take our steps based on a solid foundation. It isn’t okay, nor is it a great plan to just simply head out there and see what happens, pick up whatever mud hits us on the way. Our spirituality needs to be based on something solid, a firm foundation. God’s word, the Bible, Scripture, however you prefer to refer to it, IS that solid foundation. It is easy to get distracted from it when trouble is biting at your heels, it is easy in my life to look at the times when I have been grounded in the Word, but dipping in and out on special occasions – the results were the spiritual equivalent of bloody knees.

We are privileged in English to have so so many different versions of the Bible. It is possible I believe, to find one that you are able to read and understand well enough, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, the content can change you. For millions of people around the world and Nigeria, they are yet to have that version of any scripture at all, they have no foundation to base their life on.

05 Apr

Ministry Update – 5th April 2016

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Morning everyone,
Let me set the scene for you . . .the Frangipani is blooming and spreading its sweet smell around the compound, the grass is a faint green haze as it starts to grow after the first decent rains. It is fairly warm, sitting at 27oC inside our relatively cool house at 10am. God is good!

We had a quiet Easter with a few people over for lunch on Easter Sunday. No Easter eggs to be found in our house, but that is not necessarily a bad thing! Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-Easter eggs per se (who doesn’t like a bit of chocolate now and then?) but I certainly don’t miss the commercial eggs-and-bunnies aspect of Easter in the UK. Hard to imagine anything further from the harsh reality of a horrific death on the cross than brightly coloured eggs and cute fluffy bunnies. And frankly they also seem a watered-down joke in comparison with the incredible joy and promise of new life we gain from the resurrection. Sort of seems like the world (Satan?) wants us to throw out our glorious technicolour reality in exchange for a cheap, faded fake. Sorry, rant over.

Tim is heading to the UK in a week or so for a very brief 10 day trip to celebrate the wedding of a friend of ours (Andy Kach) who generously offered to pay for Tim’s travel. As it is such a short trip it is unlikely that he will see any but a small handful of you but please do pray for safe travel for him and protection for Dan and I while he is gone.

While Tim is away we will have our annual SIL Nigeria Spiritual Retreat (15th-19th April). Please pray that it will be a time for all of us to draw closer to God and therefore closer to one another as a team.

Thank you so much to all of you who support us in prayer, financially, emotionally etc! We appreciate you and consider you co-workers with us.

Prayer
Safe and restful (along the lines of “a change is as good as a rest”) trip for Tim to the UK
Peace and protection for Dan and I while Tim is away
Blessed Retreat for Dan and I and the rest of SIL Nigeria

Praise
Serving a living, glorious, technicolour God!

10 Mar

Robinson Ministry Update – 10th March 2016

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Greetings from a slightly sweaty Jos,
Hot season has arrived in force! It certainly makes me more grateful than ever that we live at altitude here on the Plateau so don’t have to suffer through the severely high temperatures the rest of Nigeria is experiencing. This time of year always feels like a waiting game, when will the rains come? We had about 5 minutes of light pattering a few days ago, the first rain in almost 6 months. However, the serious rains probably won’t begin for a while yet.

It feels like life is slowly settling back to normal after a very busy few weeks. The Director and his wife made it back safely, for which we are very thankful. We had a week-long visit from the head of the SIL Language and Culture Archives and his wife (Jeremy and Janell Nordmoe) last week, which kept me busy!

A large chunk of my job is working with the Archives to make sure that all the work produced during a translation project is not lost and is also widely accessible to both the language community and to others who might find it helpful. I had a reminder the other day of how vital this is. I was talking with a member of staff of one of our partner organisations and he told me about a translation project that had translated several books of the New Testament and then had to stop for a few years due to a lack of staff. When they got ready to resume the project, no one could find the books that had already been worked on! They had to start again at the beginning. My desire is to help make sure that this never happens again.

2-IMG_7430At the end of last week we had an Open Day at the office (really more like 2 “Open Afternoons”, but that is just not as catchy!). Our Nigerian Missionary Staff were able to invite their supporters to visit and learn a bit about the work we are doing. I would have loved to invite all of you but I guess the distance would have been a little off-putting! Our estimates are that we had over 100 people come and visit the office over two afternoons. One man told me “Now we really understand what this is all about, you are doing a great work!”.

I am sorry that none of you really have the opportunity to see the exciting and vital work that is going on here first hand and I am so thankful that, despite that, you are willing to pray for and support us! Thank you!

If you have a few minutes, please do pray for us.

Praise
A successful visit from the Nordmoes
A encouraging Open Day, especially for the Nigerian Missionary Staff.

Prayer
That our Director will transition back easily and have the capacity to get back up to speed quickly
That we can help our Partners to develop effective processes for archiving

28 Feb

I now realize that I misunderstood

Bob Creson the Director of Wycliffe USA posted about the Dukawa project where David Heath works. David and Carleen Heath are part of the team we are supporting here in Nigeria.

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Studying the Bible in a language you’re not very familiar with complicates understanding and could compromise the message. The Dukawa people of Nigeria tried to use the Scriptures in the “trade” language,* Hausa. But though Hausa was the language of the marketplace, it wasn’t the language of their home or their heart. Now God’s Word is being translated into their own Dukawa language, and many are surprised to find out what it really means.One man, a pastor for eight years, said, “I have recently compared my understanding of the Hausa Bible with the Dukawa translation, and I now realize that I misunderstood what the Hausa Bible was saying almost all of the time.”

As pastors and lay people alike understand the Good News for the first time, many are turning their hearts and minds over to Christ – 340 in October 2015 alone. Churches are multiplying. When translation advisers David and Carleen Heath first went to Nigeria in 1995, they only knew of two churches with Dukawa pastors and a majority of Dukawa worshipers. There may have been more, but not many. Today there are over 200.

Read More from the original post here.

*A trade language is a language used to facilitate commerce or trade; it allows people to communicate with each other when they don’t share any other language.

11 Feb

Robinson Ministry Update – 11th February 2016

Greetings from a slowly warming Jos,
We are easing very gradually into hot season. At this point I am looking forward to it because wearing leggings under my skirt every day gets old after a while! Dan does not mind the cold but looks forward to the fact that it is easier to persuade us to take him swimming (only unheated open air pools in Jos) in the hot times.

RemainingTomatoesWe are almost at the end of our tomato canning extravaganza. So far we have canned 108 pints of spaghetti sauce, 51 pints of salsa and 157 pints of whole, peeled tomatoes. And we still have a large tub of tomatoes to deal with!
Think we must be overdosing on tomatoes to eat all that in one year? Some of this is for other people who are not currently in the country to make their own. How much would you go through in a year?
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Last weekend Tim and Dan went on a road-trip to Abuja, taking Jono Barnhoorn (who had been staying with us for a few weeks) to the airport for his flight back to Canada. They had a cunning plan to see the new Star Wars movie while they were there (no cinemas in Jos). Tim checked the schedule, yes, it was showing, and at a time that would work. They got to the cinema only to be informed that the screen due to show it was broken so it was not showing after all. Bitter disappointment as that was probably their last chance to see it in the cinema. Dan perked up with a trip to the swimming pool though! On the way back they were able to give a lift to some other friends of ours, Marcus and Niffer Love with their little boy, Emmanuel.
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Tim has survived the first week and a half as Acting Director, thank you for praying for him, please continue to do so. No disasters yet! He will get a week off from the role next week and then he will be back to it again for the week after.
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Dan is looking forward to a day off school on Friday and again on Tuesday of the week after.

Thank you to those of you who prayed for the LPCF (Language Program Coordination Forum) meetings, I (Ali) got a great response to the list of projects that I produced from our database. Several of our partner organisations expressed appreciation and a desire to continue to collaborate to know what languages each organisation is involved with. Information is not always freely shared here so this is really encouraging!

Thank you for all your prayers and support.

Praise
A mini break for Dan
Successful, if somewhat disruptive, tomato canning
Lack of problems so far during Tim’s reign 😉 as Acting Director
Bible translation organisations in Nigeria showing a desire to work together and share information

Prayer
That God will continue to protect SIL Nigeria from major issues with our Director away
Tim will find rest amid the intensity at work

28 Jan

Robinson Ministry Update – 28th Jan 2016

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Greetings from a surprisingly cold Jos,
Okay, so not really cold by English standards but our house thermometer reads 19.1oC as I sit here writing this in leggings, a long skirt, socks, vest, long-sleeved top and fleece. Definitely cold for West Africa.

Things are busy at the office at the moment. Tim is still working intensively with the Human Resources team that has a lot of new staff who have joined it recently. Tom Crabtree, the Executive Director of SIL Nigeria and his wife, Robyn, who is the Human Resources team leader, are both travelling to the States for training in a few days. They will be gone for about a month, during most of which Tim will be the Acting Director for SIL Nigeria. During this period we have quite a few new and returning staff arriving in Nigeria. Please pray for Tim, for protection in this temporary role and especially that he will be able to handle well, with grace and wisdom, any issues that might arise.

CWBOWrPW4AA0XYiMost of my (Ali’s) week has been spent updating NigeL, who is our in-house database of information on Nigerian languages and the projects taking place in those languages. With over 500 languages spoken in Nigeria, at least 7 different organisations involved in Bible translation and around 140 actively ongoing projects, it takes a database and quite a bit of work to keep track of it all. The current push is to ensure that the information about language projects is up to date. The reason for this is a meeting taking place on Friday 29th between those 7 organisations called the Language Programs Coordination Forum (LPCF). We hope to be able to provide them with an accurate list of all the active language projects across all the organisations to help the different organisations to coordinate their efforts more easily.

Dan is settling into this term well and doing much better at getting his homework done in a timely fashion. His appetite for books continues unabated. On Fridays afternoons he is allowed to take 5 books out from the library, on Monday morning this week he informed me that he had already finished reading them all despite the fact that at least one of them was over 500 pages long! He is also currently enjoying staying after school one day a week to play basketball.

On the home front, it is tomato season which means it is canning season! Over the next few weeks we plan to can (or is jar a more appropriate term?) enough tomato based pasta sauce (currently cooking on the fire outside), salsa and whole peeled tomatoes to last a year. It is a lot of work but it will mean that we will have a good stock for the months when tomatoes are scarce and expensive and we want to eat bolognaise!

Praise

  • Skilled househelp who will do most of the canning.
    A meeting between the main Bible Translation organisations in Nigeria (LPCF)
  • Prayer

  • Tim’s time as Acting Director over the next month will be blessed
    That the LPCF meeting will be productive and the different organisations will be able to communicate clearly
  • 16 Jan

    Kasem Bible Dedication

    4-IMG_7782A few months ago I (Ali) had the massive privilege of being able to attend the dedication of the Kasem Bible. In fact, this privilege started a long time before that. My parents have worked with the Kasena people to translate the scriptures into their language from before I was born. I was born into that work. I had the privilege of growing up in Kasena-land and realising from a very early age how important the Bible is and therefore how important it is that people can really understand it.

    1-IMG_7180A young Ghanaian man (Bismark) accompanied us up from the South on this trip to the Bible dedication and he was really struggling to understand why my parents would have left everything they knew, all of their family and a comparatively comfort-filled life in the UK to live in the conditions that they first lived in. No electricity, no running water, no phones, small rooms that the sun beat directly on so that Mum admitted that there were times when she thought she was going to die because it was so hot. You have to understand that my mother is not given to over-dramatization. Seeing Bismark wrestle with this understanding brought home to me just how much my parents were willing to sacrifice to serve God. It challenged me to ask if I am willing to sacrifice that much.
    I want to tell you about one of the moments on the trip that had the biggest impact on me.

    3-IMG_7433An old man sits outside under a tree on a rough wooden bench. He has had leprosy for a long time. One of his legs just ends in a stump, the whole foot is missing. His right hand is deformed and close to useless. His clothes are old and worn and his hair is gray. This is what most people would have noticed, with pity, when they first saw him. But when he looks up, his eyes are shining and he smiles broadly. This man is Oscar Ayira, a man who was involved in the translation work for the Kasem Bible at the very start of the work in the late 60s, even before my parents were on the scene. He is an inspiration to me. When we came to bring him a copy of the completed Bible he was so grateful. 5-IMG_8068 He asked if he could pray for us. He prayed in Kasem and although I could not understand all of his words I was in tears, even writing this now my eyes are welling up. This is not a man to be pitied, this man knows and loves God and now has an opportunity to get to know him even better as he sits under the tree and reads God’s Word in the language he understands best. He will teach the children of the compound and they will have the privilege of growing up with good access to God’s Word. They will be the first generation of Kasenas who can read the whole Bible in their language from childhood.

    2-IMG_7430The Kasenas have the Bible, but of course the story does not stop there. The Bible is useless unless we are allowing it to impact us, it has no benefit sat on a shelf. Please pray that for the Kasena people, the Kasem Bible will be the start of a fresh understanding of God, a closer relationship with their awesome creator.

    11 Jan

    Ministry Update – 11th Jan 2016

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    Loss . . .
    It comes in many different forms and can leave you reeling and in pain.
    We have experienced two specific losses over the last few weeks. Both very different but both painful.

    The first loss was the death of a close friend of ours (Tim Pickering) who was also Daniel’s God-father. He was in his mid-forties and leaves behind a wife and two young children. It happened very suddenly on the 15th December and we are still in shock.
    Please pray for his wife Kath and children Abigail and Caleb. We feel the distance in the fact that we can’t be there to help Kath or even to give her a hug. But we know that no distance is too far for our prayers to penetrate and that ultimately God can comfort them far better than we can. Still hurts.

    The second loss was far less tragic but will have a big impact on us none the less. When we first came to Nigeria we spent the first three weeks staying with the Holman family: Ian, Lizz and their kids Edward, William and Kathryn (not to mention Harry who has been born since then). Ian and Lizz are both Wycliffe missionary kids, just like Tim and I are, and we became really good friends. On the 30th December they left Jos to return to the UK for the forseeable future. Our whole family will miss them very much.

    Please pray for us as we process these losses.

    Pray
    Comfort and peace for Kath and the kids
    Good transition for the Holman’s as they move to the UK

    Praise
    We serve a faithful God who remains our loving Father even when everything else is falling apart

    02 Jan

    2015 in Nigerian Numbers (and other Bible books).

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    Bible Translation is all about resourcing the local church with scripture that people in their community can truly understand, engage with and be transformed by. We can’t count converts or restorations, but we do hear story after story of lives changed. We know that the more people who have access to translated scripture; the more lives are changed by it. In 2015 the following groups having worked tirelessly over many years received translated scripture.

    Portions:
    Tarok Old Testament books – 300 thousand speakers
    Nyankpa Gospel according to Mark – 70 thousand speakers
    Duya Acts of the Apostles – 78 thousand speakers

    New Testaments:
    Tula New Testament – 30 thousand speakers
    Tyap New Testament – 130 thousand speakers

    Between Tyap and Tula who both received their new testaments, 160 thousand speakers were able to understand the Christmas story possibly for the very first time this year — pretty cool. It really opens the doors for evangelism, discipleship, church planting and dozens of other ministries with the church here.

    Obolo man reading his Bible for the first time.

    Obolo man reading his Bible for the first time.

    Bibles:
    Hausa Common Language Bible – 18 million speakers

    The Hausa Common Language is the people’s Hausa, the language that they really speak and understand well. In fact Hausa is a language spoken, usually fluently, by an additional 15 million Nigerians who are not actually Hausas. This means that this translation has the potential to impact 33 million people! The original Hausa translation was like trying to read and understand the King James, okay to a point, but not always the most accessible and useable. Any version of scripture you can really understand easily is far more likely to be used and far more likely to change lives.

    24 Nov

    High or low – it is all about Tone.

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    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.

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