Ncham Bible Dedication, Bassar, Togo.

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11-IMG_3629In 1998 I took the plunge and went on my first short-term missions trip. It was a little unusual in the big realm of short term trips, as it was to a Bible translation project in Togo, West Africa, a Francophone country. I didn’t speak a whole lot of French and having grown up in Wycliffe, I was sure I already ‘got’ the need for Bible translation. However, all the circumstances and gifts to make it happen were clearly leading me to go on the trip. I could write a TON more about that trip but I’ll have to save that for another day.

54-IMG_3937On the 14th January 2015, 16.5 years later, I started my journey back to that very same village. Before you think ‘ooo dramatic’, I had been back already, leading multiple other short term teams to the same project. It had, however, been 4.5 years since I last visited.

I left our home in Jos and drove to the capital, Abuja, picking Gareth Mort up in a town along the way. Gareth was my team leader from 1998, and is now my colleague here in Nigeria. The next day we flew direct to Lome where we successfully negotiated the Ebola check and the general health check (but only by God’s grace, due to Gareth’s missing Yellow Fever certificate!). We applied for and were granted visas in the airport in Lome.

The bus getting loaded up.

The bus getting loaded up.

On Friday we were due to catch a nice coach up country, but there were no seats left. So we took ‘public’, aka a mini-bus with 4 people squished onto every three seats and more luggage on top of the bus than capacity inside. I was thankful for Gareth’s thinness! We weren’t so thankful for the bus stopping every 10 miles looking for more passengers. It took nearly 10 hours to get to Sokode, not even the town we were finally destined for. We arrived in Bassar late, in the dark, to a very warm welcome from Samuel’s family. In 1998, Samuel had only just joined the translation team, he was young and unmarried. We were blessed that he spoke English, both then and now!
Samuel and his family

Samuel and his family

Saturday at 07:20 Gareth and I left the house and wandered into town. We were hoping to come across the parades headed to the football stadium where the Dedication was to be held. We saw what we thought was probably one of the 3 parades, but they were headed in the wrong direction, so we carried on to the stadium.

One of the brass band parades

One of the brass band parades

It was fantastic to see banners and greet some people, slightly odd to be ignored by most of the other white faces – it wasn’t like they could miss us!

The dedication itself was marvellous. There were LOADS of people. There were some very high profile folks out there too. The national director of AOG, the chief, the Prefet, the representative of the local government, pastors, preachers, most of the Catholic diocese, the church association committee (ACEB), SIL, Wycliffe, Bible Society, 2 brass bands and people of literally ALL ages came out to join the celebration.

The chairman of ACEB

The chairman of ACEB

Now I do probably suffer from a bit of attention deficit disorder, I doubted I could sit still for 6 hours and listen to speeches in 2 different languages neither of which I spoke. So I tried to find out what people were saying and I took to live tweeting the event. You can go to http://twitter.com/hashtag/nchambible and see the event as it unfolded. You could tell when people appreciated what was said by the enormous cheer that was let out.

The most enormous cheer certainly came when Sheila Crunden was giving her speech.

Sheila giving her speech

Sheila giving her speech

Sheila is a Brit who arrived in Bassar, Togo in 1969 and was very involved in translating the New Testament with a whole string of people including Monica Cox who was also in attendance at the dedication. These two remarkable ladies, now in their mid seventies and eighties, had returned specially for the Dedication but still trekked to church and to visit houses. During one dinner we shared with them, they engaged in a healthy discussion about how to mark tones in translation. Monica, who worked on literacy, and Sheila who worked on the translation entered what seems to me to be an age-old debate about marking them all or only marking some of them. I admit I didn’t follow all the technicalities, but it was fun!

46-IMG_3887After about 3 hours of speeches the Bibles were finally revealed and prayed over and paraded around the stadium and then distribution begun. It started with an offer for the “big” ie important people to buy the very first copy for a lot of money. Then the price reduced bit by bit and eventually swarms of people came to buy. It was funny, even knowing this was going to happen, 39-IMG_3804
the boxes were being held on the edge of the stadium and the seller kept running out at his table! It was wonderful to see so many people desperate to get their hands on the Bible in their own language.

You can see more pictures at my Facebook album, or high res collection here on Flickr.

We attended church with Samuel the next morning and it was brilliant seeing so many people clutching their new Bibles. It was sad that so many people were struggling to actually read it fluently – it reinforced to me the need to be doing literacy as soon as is possible in our projects.44-IMG_3842 There was a couple who were married 3 weeks before and were brought to the front of the church and introduced (it seems that is customary in this church) and when they came they were clutching a copy of the new Bible. The groom, despite not being a native Ncham speaker, received huge applause as he tried to read a couple of verses. People DO love hearing and having God’s word in their own language!

33-IMG_3760 Monday we relaxed, although actually I think Gareth worked on one of his projects from Nigeria. Then on Tuesday we started the long journey home in reverse. We did get to travel in the nice coach this time, though we also had to fly Lome to Lagos to Abuja, the last leg of which was delayed a couple of hours. But we got home safe and glad to have made the trip and been part of the dedication. The people in Bassar and particularly Samuel and his family have been part of my life for nearly 17 years. They will always have a place in my heart, my email inbox and my Whatsapp.

Prayer Update – 9th Jan 2015

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Greetings from a New Year!

We have been thankful for a peaceful start to the New Year here in Jos.

A quick recap on the end of last year . . .
There were twin explosions in a busy market area of Jos in mid-December but all has been peaceful since then. The first round of the elections went off without any violence or disruption in Jos, for which we are thankful!

Moving into the New Year we are praying that the Presidential and State Governor elections in February will go smoothly and that God’s will will be done in the choice of leadership for this country.

We are looking forward to visiting the UK this summer, we hope to be arriving in the UK in late May and returning to Nigeria in early August. I know it may seem early to be thinking about the summer while you are still in the depths of a chilly winter but if you live in the UK and would like to see us while we are there, please do drop us a line in response to this e-mail.

On the subject of chilliness, we have been experiencing rather low temperatures here, dipping down below 10 o C. I know, that is not really worth complaining about! However, as none of the buildings are heated, most of my shoes are sandals and most of my clothes are designed to keep me cool, I am really feeling very cold! In fact, I am having to sit outside on a stump of wood to write this because I could not get warm inside the house! However, I don’t really want your sympathy, what I want are your prayers for those who are living in Jos, many as refugees, with very little shelter or warm clothing. Thanks!

We pray that your Christmas and New Year have been peaceful and blessed. Thank you so much for your faithful prayers and support of us this last year. You are a very real part of getting God’s transforming Word to more people in a way that speaks to them.

Please praise and pray with us . . .

Praise
A blessed Christmas with opportunities to bless others
A peaceful start to 2015

Prayer
Peaceful elections in February
Provision for those in need, especially those who have fled from violence in the North-East

Finally, don’t forget to let us know if you will be in the UK this summer and would like to meet up.

New Newsletter

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Our Winter 2014 Newsletter is HERE!

You can download it if you haven’t already seen a copy :-)

Winter 2014 Newsletter

Prayer Update – 5 December 2014

Greetings from chilly (well, it’s all relative!) mornings, clear blue skies and sunny days.
I hope you are all enjoying the weather wherever you are and whatever it is. We certainly are!

So, Mum and Dad Hewer have been here in Nigeria for 3 weeks now. They are staying on site at the Nigeria Bible Translation Trust (NBTT) and have been working with 3 different language translation teams between the two of them. We have enjoyed having them here on the weekends and sharing a bit of our life with them.

The first stages of the elections in Nigeria are due to happen this coming week. There is some concern that this could spark unrest in Jos as our State is considered to be in a key strategic position. Please pray for God’s will to be done in who is elected and for his peace that passes all understanding to reign.

Tim is heading to Nairobi on Sunday with the Nigeria Group Finance Manager Paul. They will be spending time with the finance team there to help them both develop their understanding of how the finance systems work so that they can co-ordinate better with the team in Nairobi. Paul has never left Nigeria before so Tim is looking forward to introducing him to a new country!

Short one today.
Please do take some time if you can, to pray for us as follows:

Praise
Good times with Mum and Dad
Opportunity for Tim and Paul to learn more about the Africa Area finance systems

Prayer
Peaceful and God-directed elections
Safe travel for Tim and Paul to Nairobi
Beneficial time for them spent with the Finance team that will enable them both to do their jobs better

Prayer update – 12th November 2014

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Morning all!
I remember being told once that those who had the time to write a diary never had anything interesting to put in it and those who had interesting things to write about in a diary never had time to write one. Not convinced that is really true but it has kind-of been the case with our e-mail updates recently – too many interesting things happening and no time to write about them!
So a quick whistle-stop tour of the last month or so . . .

IMG_2322On a Monday and Tuesday in early Oct we had a Sallah break (in Nigeria both the Muslim and Christian holidays are national holidays). On the Monday we went on an adventurous hike in the hills near Jos, lots of rock scrambling and an interesting time trying to work out how to get back down the hill! On the Tuesday we went swimming with some new friends (a family with four kids who recently arrived from America to join Nigeria Group).

In mid-October Ali travelled to Ghana for a week to learn more about GILLBT (Ghana Institute of Linguistics, Literacy and Bible Translation – an organisation that does similar work to us, but in Ghana – in fact the organisation that my (Ali’s) parents worked for when I was growing up). Before you start to wonder, we are not looking to move to Ghana, but to see how our organisations can work together and learn from each other. I was particularly learning about their digital archiving and digital publishing plans.

The financial year ended at the end of September and as the finance department comes under Tim now in his role as Operations Director he was buried in year end processes for pretty much all of October and on into November. Despite discovering a few new things he did not know about previously, the process really went very well considering it was his first time! He also had the complication of introducing a paradigm shift in the way we deal with project funding for next year. The exciting thing is that Nigeria Group really is leading the way in implementing this, but it does mean that Tim gets to discover the pit falls first!

IMG_2336Near the end of October Dan had his one week mid-semester break, so we headed to Abuja for a few days with another family. The place we normally stay very generously offers missionaries free accomodation in beautiful self-catering apartments. This year they were full but kindly found space for us in some longer-term rental apartments next door. We had one two-bedroom apartment between us and our friends the Barnhoorns (who have 4 kids), it was a little cosy, especially after we added Jono’s brother! Great fun though and good to be somewhere different for a few days.

Then for the 3 days at the end of the week just gone, we had our annual Staff Conference. Everyone in Nigeria Group gathers together for a time of remembering what God has done over the last year and looking forward to what he is going to do in the years to come. Tim and I both ran workshop sessions where we had to run the same 20 minute workshop 5 times in row – I went to sleep at about 7.30 that night! One thing that stuck with me from this year’s conference was a reminder that this is not our mission that we ask God for his help with but that it is God’s mission (Missio Dei) that he generously allows us to be a part of.

Looking forward, my (Ali’s) parents are coming to Nigeria on Friday to stay for about a month! They are coming primarily to work with the Nigeria Bible Translation Trust (one of Nigeria Group’s partners) but we hope to see them on the weekends!

Nigeria is in election season. The president is up for election. This can be a time of unrest, especially as the parties vote for and announce their candidates. This first round (Primaries) were to take place on the 22nd of November but will have been moved. They and various other votes will now take place 6,7,8,10 + 11 December, so please be praying for it to be a peaceful process and that God’s will be done.

Praise
-Ali got to revisit Ghana, her childhood home
-Good times of rest and fun with friends
-Successful financial year-end processing
-Encouraging Staff Conference

Prayer
-Recovery of our energy after the busyness of Staff Conference
-Mum and Dad will travel safely and their time here will go well
-That elections proceed peacefully

Blog about Bananas

It is true to say that right now, there is an abundance of bananas in our town. They are available in all shapes and sizes, most of them are very very tasty. I should warn you though, that if you are ever driving up from Abuja and decide that the little fat ones look REALLY tasty – they are not. They have very thin skin and lots of banana, but it tastes as if the harmattan sand has somehow penetrated that thin layer of skin. Gross.


We buy bananas, we eat bananas, but there is always a few left that don’t quite get eaten before they start to go off. The result – well we make (clearly what we do is ask our glorious house help to make) banana choc chip muffins!

muffin

If you want to try some yourself, here is a
link to a recipe

Not by works

One of our staff was sharing at our devotion about last years new doctrine that declared if you wear trousers you will go to hell. If you wear jewellery or perfume you will go to hell.

Our reading was Eph 2 – Not by works.

The false doctrine caused trouble in churches it nearly divided families – all because people don’t have the foundation of God’s word to judge and test these new ideas when they arrive.
Folks need to have God’s word in a language and form that they can access, understand and be transformed by.

Romans 12 says we need to test things against God’s word to check their validity – it occurred to me in that moment that it is pretty hard to so if you don’t have access to God’s word in the first place.

Nigeria has around 250 languages without a single word of scripture, or even a project started.

Prayer Update – 3rd October 2014

Greetings to you all!

Nigeria is officially Ebola-free! We are delighted that there are no more known cases of Ebola in Nigeria. People are still cautious and precautions are still being taken but we praise God that it has been contained here.

Dan’s school, Hillcrest, has reopened and life is starting to settle back into a more recognisable pattern. One change is that we currently have a house mate. He is a single British guy who joined the group about 6 months ago. He has been suffering from re-current bouts of malaria and is now staying with us to give him a chance to rest and recover for a while. His name is also Tim so we currently have first and second Timothy in our house!

We mentioned in the last e-mail update that we might be looking for a new place to live. We have managed to resolve the main challenges with our new landlord and will be staying in our current place at least until the end of December.

On the work front I (Ali) may be going on a visit to Ghana in mid-October. I will be going to learn more about how things are set up at GILLBT (Ghana Institute of Linguistics, Literacy and Bible Translation) and about how both they and we are going to handle Intellectual Property and copyright. Although I am really excited about the possibility of re-visiting my childhood home I am trying to hold it lightly as there may once again be a challenge with obtaining the visas.

Tim is fully occupied with finances at the office at the moment. This is due to a number of things. September is the end of the financial year for us and as always that involves tying up all the loose ends and making sure all the books balance. There is also the challenge that we are moving to a new way of approaching the funding of some aspects of our work. This means a lot more work for Tim both to educate people in how this works and also to set up the systems so that it will work!

Praying that you are all experiencing peace and joy.

If you can, please take a few minutes to pray for us now. Here are some areas you could include . . .

Praise
No more Ebola in Nigeria!
Hillcrest School has re-opened
We are no longer trying to move house

Prayer
That second Timothy would be fully healed
Visas so Ali can go to Ghana
Peace and wisdom for Tim as he tackles the financial year-end

Prayer Update – 29th August 2014

Kwana biyu!
The literal translation of this is “two days” but it means that it has been a long time.
Due to Dan being on holiday from school, my travelling to Kenya and general lack of routine it has indeed been a long time since I wrote to you!

Dan started back at school two weeks ago and we have been gradually getting back into our usual routine. Yesterday, however, that was interrupted. The Nigerian government has just ordered all schools to delay their starting back after the summer break until the 13th of October. They want to make sure that teachers are trained and systems put in place to reduce the possible spread of Ebola. This is obviously a good aim!

Dan’s school had started back and was already going above and beyond the government requirements so although they have now closed again they are applying for a waiver to allow them to re-open as soon as possible. Please pray that this waiver is granted! The school does not currently have a Superintendent (think Head Teacher) and one of our good friends (Janice Barnhoorn) is having to cover that role until one can be found. She has four school age kids of her own and as a result she has a lot on her plate at the moment! Please pray for her.

In other news . . .
I had a bit of an adventure getting to Kenya for the workshop on the Digital Bible Library. Some of you may have caught some of it on Facebook. In brief – I had difficultly getting a re-entry visa for Nigeria without which I would not have been allowed back into the country after the workshop. Strangely enough the rest of the family was not too keen on my travelling without one ;-) ! Due to the delay in granting it I had to change my flight to two days later and miss the start of the workshop. It was finally granted and most of the parts of the workshop that I missed covered areas that I was already familiar with. Thank you so much to all of you who were praying, God really gave me so much peace through the whole experience!

I will tell you more about the workshop another time because it is a really exciting development that I don’t want you to miss hearing about because it is stuck at the[m] bottom of an already really long and slightly rambling e-mail!

One last quick thing – we are considering moving out of our current house due to various complications and are looking for other housing options. Please pray for wisdom and God’s good timing in this.

Thanks again to all of you who faithfully support and pray for us – you’re the best!

Praise
Ebola has not made it to Jos and all measures are purely precautionary
I knew that God was with me and giving me peace through all the visa craziness
I did make it to most of the Digital Bible Library workshop

Prayer
Our housing situation – that God will provide for all our needs
Dan’s school will re-open soon
The stand-in Superintendent will have wisdom, energy and peace

Prayer Update – 27th July 2014

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Morning All!

P1010017Why is it that routine is so hard to maintain when kids are on holiday?  Or is that just me?!  Dan is on holiday so I am spending more time at home than usual and yet my normal "home" jobs are not getting done.  One of those being to write to you!  So today I am making a bigger than usual effort to get this written so you can have some idea of what we are up to at the moment.  As a result of the long silence it is a bit of a mammoth one, sorry!

Dan is on holiday and has been since near the end of May.  He had a great summer scholars program for the mornings of June put on by one of the local schools.  It made it possible for me to keep up with a fair bit of my work and gave Dan a bit of structured time each day.  The biggest upside for Dan was that some of his friends that are home-schooled attended the program so he got to spend lots of quality time with them.

Tim is very busy in his now not-quite-so-new role of Operations Director for Nigeria Group.  One of his triumphs has been working with the Finance Department (one of the Departments that reports to him) to help them get their systems fine-tuned and more efficient so that they can get reports out to people on time.  Over the last three months they have gone from reports being two months late to being right on time!

A few weeks ago I had a great opportunity to gather some more information about a few of the 500 or so Nigerian languages.  One of our partner organisations, the Nigeria Bible Translation Trust, runs workshops for language teams on a regular basis.  Nigerian translators from all over Nigeria gather in Jos for training and to work with Translation Consultants to check the scripture they have translated so far.  This particular workshop was for 26 language teams who were all working on the New Testament in their particular language.  I was able to meet with 12 of those teams over the course of a day to gather a bit more information about those languages.  One of the exciting things to see was how passionate they were about their languages, how much they valued them and wanted to make sure that others knew all about them and most of all how much they wanted to see their people have scripture they could really understand. 
One of the more amusing moments came when one of the teams decided that really they needed to give me a name in their language.  When I asked him how my name would translate into English he cheerfully said "Potato" but went on to assure me that it is a very popular name for girls in his area!

Looking forward, I have been invited to attend a workshop in Kenya from the 7th to the 12th of August.  This has all come together quite suddenly and as a result we are scrambling to get my flights and my Nigerian re-entry visa in time.  The workshop will be training so that I can help with a really exciting initiative called the Digital Bible Library.  The whole Bible has been translated into 18 different Nigerian languages but some may be out of print or hard to get hold of.  Ideally we want these scriptures to be available online for free.  The Digital Bible Library will be a storage place for these digital versions of the different translations that can then be made available through various websites like You Version.  Of course this goes well beyond Nigerian languages, the aim is that all translated scriptures will be able to be released online. 

I will be able to explain it and rave about it some more when I get back from the workshop so look out for that!

Praise
Some down time for Ali and Dan
Ali being able to attend the Digital Bible Library workshop
Progress Tim has been able to make with the Finance Dept

Prayer
Safe travel to Nairobi for Ali
Energy and balance for Tim while Ali is away

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