27 Apr

Robinson Ministry Update – 27th April 2017

Greetings from a downpour expectant Jos,

The rains have sort of started, we had a great soaking and the ground is starting to sprout grass and there are tiny seedlings everywhere. However we have not had any more rain now for 2 weeks. We have had several days with rumbles of thunder like a hungry belly expecting rain but no actual precipitation. Please pray that they start properly soon or people’s crops that have germinated may die.

Tim and I may miss the next rain in fact as we are both travelling this coming week, although in slightly different directions. I (Ali) am going to Germany for some Ethnologue training (see link for more info on what the Ethnologue is). I will leave on Monday and be back in Jos by Saturday evening, probably highly exhausted. Tim is going to the UK on Tuesday, primarily for the Elim Missions Conference. We are Elim missionaries seconded to Wycliffe/SIL and have really appreciated all the support we have received from the Elim Missions team so decided that it was a high priority for us to make sure that at least one of us made it to the conference. He will be in the UK for less than 2 weeks so he is unlikely to get to see many people. We plan to have a couple of months in the UK next summer (June-July 2018) and hope to see as many of you as possible then!

Robinsons, Barnhoorns and Crabtrees

You may wonder what Dan will be up to in the meantime. He is still in school so he will be staying here with our new upstairs neighbours, the Barnhoorns. We visited them in Canada last summer and now they have returned to Nigeria and recently moved into the upstairs flat. They have 4 kids and Dan often gets described as the 5th Barnhoorn. 🙂 Due to some rather unfortunate and unexpected timing, Dan will have several exams during this coming week while we are both away, please pray that he will get the rest and space that he needs in the midst of it.

For me the last month has been intense with the pressure of getting all the materials ready for the Partnership Development training for our new staff. It has been exciting seeing the finished products arriving however. We now have beautiful brochures for most of our different teams from Linguistics, Literacy and Translation to Ethno Arts, Scripture Engagement and Support Services. Each of our new staff has their own prayer cards for distribution to supporters, there are SIL logo-ed folders and envelopes, not to mention the actual training materials! Still a way to go but finally starting to be able to see that the end might soon be in sight – or is that putting it too strongly?! I am looking forward to getting back to my “normal” job but this has been quite an adventure and definitely outside my comfort zone at times.
Tim is in that crazy phase of the year when he has to deal with budgets for the next financial year as well as all the quarterly reports on how the last lot of money was spent and what impact that team has had. Budgets are always a challenge, especially for those team leaders that are really busy and don’t have the brain power (or, to be honest, inclination) to deal with the numbers and planning involved. It often feels like it would just be so much easier if we didn’t have to worry about all this, if the money needed to do the important work was just there when it was needed and didn’t have to be explained about afterwards. However, planning and accountability are very important to ensure that God’s resources are being used in the best way possible. There is also the factor that those countries that much of the funding comes from have laws that require clear accounting to prove that the money is not being used to fund terrorism. Not something we want to fall foul of!

Please do take some time to pray for us if you can manage it, it makes such a difference! We need your prayers!

Praise
— Opportunities for training and being encouraged
— Great neighbours who are willing to make Dan (at least temporarily) part of their family

Prayer

— Energy and focus and balance and patience and grace and all those other things that we so desperately need in this busy season!
— Safe travels and worthwhile meetings
— Protection and peace for Dan while we are away

24 Feb

Robinson Ministry Update 24th Feb 2017

Greetings from a bright and chilly Jos,

Well, when I say chilly, it is not really getting much below 18C, but relative to the usual temperatures here it feels quite fresh!

It feels like we are in quite a time of change at the moment.
We have Helen Fisher, a new member of staff fresh from the UK, staying with us while she gets acclimatised to life here. It is interesting to see our world through her eyes and remember our own discoveries when we first arrived.

SIL Nigeria has a new HR director, Janice Barnhoorn, and so Tim has stepped back to being only responsible for Finance Office, Facilities team, Project Funding and the Computer department – still plenty to keep him busy!

Our upstairs neighbours, the Sweetings, who first arrived in Nigeria only 3 weeks after we did, are leaving to move back to the US. We took our introductory Hausa language class together and have been firm friends ever since so it really feels like the end of an era to have them leaving.

On the up side, the Barnhoorns are planning to move in upstairs which will give Dan some more age appropriate company (they have four kids, Dan’s age and younger). This is such a massive blessing to us all and we are so grateful to God that he not only takes away but also gives.

This week there have been about 20 people being interviewed for various different positions at SIL Nigeria. The successful candidates will be joining us as new Nigerian Missionary Staff, seeking to raise the financial and prayer support that they need from the Nigerian church. They will need buckets of faith and perseverance so please pray that those interviewing them will have the wisdom of God and not just see them with human eyes.

Through all this change we remain confident that God is our rock, our foundation, our fortress and that if we are rooted into him none of our external circumstances can steal our joy and peace. I type this being well aware that I often allow those “external circumstances” to do just that! Pray for us that we will all remain rooted and established in God!

Lots of prayer requests today, we really need your prayers now as always.
Prayer

  • For peace and joy for the Sweetings as they transition back to the US as their permanent base.
  • For wisdom for the interviewers as they decide who to invite to join our SIL Nigeria team.
  • For our organisational partners here that they would have faith in God their provider.
  • For peace and joy for Helen as she gets used to living and working in a culture that she is not familiar with.
  • That we will remain fully reliant and dependant on God for our peace and joy.
  • Praise

  • God has brought and is continuing to bring new people to join SIL Nigeria!
  • The enjoyment of getting to know Helen and helping her to make sense of life here.
  • The plans for the Barnhoorns to move in upstairs and the blessing that it will be to all of us.
  • God is over all and through all and in all and DOES NOT CHANGE!
  • 29 Jan

    Robinson Ministry update 28th Jan 2017

    Greetings from dusty Jos!
    The Harmattan winds have swept in from the Sahara and we are experiencing the joys of being able to write messages in the dust on the table within hours of wiping it.

    We had a great Christmas with our two Mums. After a few challenges with the issuing of the visas, especially for Tim’s Mum, the travel here went fairly smoothly. On the road between Abuja and Jos they did hit a bit of trouble and their driver had to find another route but they finally arrived in Jos just after midday, tired but happy to be here. It was lovely to be able to introduce them to friends here and have them join in with our Christmas activities. They travelled back to the UK on New Year’s Day and left us with a house that suddenly seemed much more empty and quiet.

    The quiet did not last too long as our good friends the Barnhoorns arrived back from their Canadian furlough on the 2nd of January. This is the family with four kids that we stayed with last summer in Canada. It is great to have them back as we all enjoy hanging out with them. School resumed for Daniel a couple of weeks ago and he was delighted to find that Stephen Barnhoorn is in all the same classes as him!

    We are pretty busy at the moment at the office. SIL Nigeria had an auditor in for a couple of weeks to perform an Internal Control Review. As Tim is responsible for most of the areas that are covered by the review he had to do a fair bit of work with him. Tim also had to drive to Abuja (5 hours give or take) the weekend before last to meet with one of our staff who is passing through Abuja on his way north, but the bonus was that he was able to pick up the auditor from the airport and bring him to Jos. This gave them a great chance to get to know each other a bit before the real work started!

    I have taken on a new short-term role (on top of my normal job) that will run from now until late June or so. A bit of background first . . . we already have a number of Nigerian Missionary Staff (i.e. Nigerians raising financial support from donors, rather than receiving a salary, just like us!) working for SIL Nigeria. We are planning the next set of training for a new group of Nigerian Missionary Staff to join the organisation. I have been asked to fulfil the role of Resource Assistant for this training. This basically means getting all the materials printed, making sure that rooms are set up appropriately, providing administrative support during the training itself, and no doubt several other things that will become clearer as we go along! I am glad to be involved in supporting the training as I strongly believe that the Nigerian Missionary Staff model is vital, however it is going to be a stretch on top of my normal job.

    Thank you for all that you do to support our work here in Nigeria! If you can, please do take 5 minutes or so to pray for these things:

    Praise

    Great Christmas with the Mums
    Barnhoorns return
    Safe travel for Tim to and from Abuja

    Prayer
    Internal Control Review outcomes will be helpful and result in improved processes
    Wisdom and energy to balance the demands of my job at the office and Tim’s and Daniel’s needs at home.
    For Tim as he attends the Sharpening your interpersonal skills workshop next week.

    10 Nov

    Robinson Ministry Update – 10th November 2016

    Greetings from a slightly chillier Jos,
    Okay, so can’t really complain, it is still about 23 degrees C inside the house and warmer outside. The dry harmattan winds have definitely turned our way, sending us a delicate covering of dust for all our furnishings and dropping the humidity to 20%.

    Dan is back at school after his October break. He is coming home with Christmas songs to practice ready for the Christmas concert. Kind of fun (if a little early) to hear jingle bells ringing through the house from his glockenspiel (which I am assured is the only correct name for it, it is definitely NOT a xylophone because it is made of metal).

    I had to spend a week of enforced rest at home after spraining my ankle. I can now walk on it and have returned to the office but it is still quite painful at times so having to be careful.

    Tim and I are starting a Hausa course on Monday that will run every weekday morning for three weeks. It is going to be a monolingual course, taught purely in Hausa with no English. We have been warned that we are not to take notes but simply to listen. I won’t lie, I am feeling a little nervous about it and feeling like if I can’t see the word written down, how will I remember it? However, we are assured that it is a highly successful technique and I hope to just throw myself into it and have fun. Tim is feeling a little more uncertain about it as I am sure you can imagine if you know him well.

    1-learning-to-read-while-listening-to-scriptureOn a rather different topic, mobile phones have revolutionised so much in Africa. I am sat in my living room writing this and I can hear the sound of the New Testament being read in Izere from the kitchen. Our househelp recently bought a new phone and I was able to get her an SD card for it with the Izere Audio New Testament on it. She can now interact with the scriptures in her language despite the fact that she can’t read it. I love hearing her murmurs of understanding and agreement as she listens to it!

    Thank you for being part of the team that God has called to this work! If you can, please take some time to pray for the following:

    Praise
    Improvement in my ankle
    Opportunity to improve our Hausa
    God’s Word getting out there through mobile phones!

    Prayer
    My ankle will continue to heal and I will not try and do too much too quickly!
    We can make the most of the Hausa course
    That more people would have the opportunity to hear God’s word in their language

    02 Jan

    2015 in Nigerian Numbers (and other Bible books).

    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.

    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 . . .

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

    Prayer
    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!

    Praise
    • New beginnings in SIL N1geria
    • Friends who become family

    Prayer
    • 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

    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!

    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!

    Praise

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

    Prayer

    • 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

    30 Sep

    Prayer Update 30th September 2013

    Greetings from Jos!

    STaffConf1We had a great Staff Conference last week, a really good time where the whole of Nigeria Group gets together.  We prayed, we sang, we listened to reports from our partner organisations, we talked about our strategy and reminded ourselves of why we are doing what we are doing!

    One of the people who shared was a student at a local theological college – the Theological College of Northern Nigeria.  There is a Linguistics and Translation Department in the college and a number of our staff are involved with teaching there.  This might seem a bit removed from the coalface as it were, but the student’s testimony really brought it home to me how vital it is.  It is hugely inefficient for an expatriate to come to Nigeria, learn a Nigerian language from scratch and then start to translate the Bible into that language.  Far more efficient and sustainable to train a speaker of that language in Bible translation techniques and support them to do the translation.  This is also more likely to produce a natural sounding translation that the speakers of the language will relate well to.  It was encouraging to hear first-hand from someone who is learning complex linguistic concepts and applying them to help improve the quality of the translation of scripture in his language, ultimately increasing the understanding of God’s Word amongst his people!

    Tim did a great job with the logistics and helped the meetings to run smoothly with good sound.  My presentation went well and I got a few more people enthused about sharing and protecting their valuable work. 

    Dan has been a bit variable recently.  He has struggled with a couple of occasions at school when he has been blamed by other students for things he did not do.  He finds this very hard to deal with calmly and tends to get very upset.  He also has days when he finds it very hard to concentrate on his homework and everything he has to do feels like an impossible task.  On the other hand, most days he is cheerful and gets his homework done (fairly) quickly and without complaint.  We really need wisdom to know how best to help him and encourage him when he is having a bad day.

    STOP PRESS: Between writing and going to press, Tim has engaged with an opportunity to visit a few projects and attend a dedication this weekend. The details are still being worked on, but Tim and our colleague Jono plan to leave on Thursday and return on Monday. There will be a lot of driving between them so please pray for good preparations, and safety as they travel. 

    Praise

    • Encouraging Staff Conference
    • God is raising up gifted Nigerian Bible Translators

    Prayer

    • More students to sign up for the Bible Translation degree program
    • That Daniel would look to the Lord for his strength
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