12 Jul

Making Matthew Speak Real Safwa

This post and it’s pictures originally appeared at https://bobcreson.com On July 11th 2017.

By guest blogger Steve Pence, Translation Administrator in Mbeya, Tanzania

As we began our trip through the high country of Mbeya Region in southwestern Tanzania, my motorcycle taxi driver looked at me skeptically with the face of a mischievous teenager. In my meager Swahili I told him that I was an old man and very afraid. He laughed and accelerated as I gripped the frame behind my back, willing myself to stay on. I soon realized he was a very skilled driver, fast but surprisingly smooth over the increasingly rough road. At mud holes, he put his boots on the ground and steadied the bike, walking it through. On especially rough downhill stretches we danced along, almost in slow motion.

Ahead of me on the road were my colleagues, Waya and Lawi, each on another motorcycle taxi. They are translating portions of the Bible into their own local language, Safwa. Today I would witness the testing of a draft of Matthew in a Safwa community.

Reaching our destination, we stood under the eaves of a building, trying to escape a steady drizzle. The motorcycle drivers huddled with us. Waya and Lawi took advantage of the opportunity, pulling out their trial texts of the Gospel of Matthew. The texts were printed in a large font and double spaced, with lots of room to write. Peppered across each page were words and phrases highlighted in pink, each of which needed to be investigated to make sure it communicated clearly and accurately.

With almost no introduction, just a few words saying that they were translating the Scriptures, Waya and Lawi began reading the Safwa words aloud. It was as if electricity shot through the air. One moment men quietly waited out a storm on a day that had turned gray and wet and sleepy. The next moment, eyes popped and hands waved as everyone tried to talk at once.

Lawi and Waya both started writing, scratching through words, drawing arrows into margins and making notes. A word they had used for “axe” was unknown here. It was used in another Safwa town at the bottom of the hill, but not up here on the mountain. And up here people don’t use the same word for killing another person as they do for killing a plant or a cow. Here they use a special word for each. Still, nearly everyone nodded in amazement, saying “Yes, this is real Safwa!”

As more people gathered, we were invited down the street and into a room. It was, as Waya called it, “a simple hotel.” We sat on a bench while others sat on empty buckets. The dirt floor was wet. A fire smouldered in the corner beside a collection of big thermos bottles, probably containing tea or hot milk. A single bare bulb dangled unlit from a rafter.

The animated conversation over God’s Word continued without a pause. One teenager excitedly told us he was born again. Another confessed, “I’m not born again. I don’t even go to church now.” But all were glued to the Safwa Scriptures being read and discussed.

In another town that afternoon, Waya approached a roadside checkers game and quickly drew keen interest from the crowd. In this area, isolated on rough mountain roads, few people have yet heard of the Safwa Bible translation project. Waya’s crowd was even amazed that their language could be written at all. So Waya explained the Safwa alphabet as people took seats on culverts scattered about. A donkey joined them, enjoying the tall grass. Waya gave examples of Safwa words that could not be written in Swahili, the national language taught in schools, but could be written in the new Safwa alphabet. People nodded and grinned. A second printout of Safwa Scriptures was passed around.

When it was time to go, one young man stood and said, “Safwa! This is good! I understand it very well. I have been made happy.”

All across the highlands of southwest Tanzania, an area the size of Austria, scenes like these are being replayed as drafted Scripture portions are painstakingly checked in village after village. Eventually, more than three million people speaking thirteen languages will have God’s Word. Each of you has a part in this. Thank you!

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

23 Apr

The month when the mangoes ripen

I first met my Friend Samuel over in Togo back in ’98 when i was part of a short term team visiting his town adn language project. In Jan 2015 I have the privilege of heading back to Togo to attend the dedication of the Ntcham Bible. Samuel wrote this following in a recent newsletter:

The month of April in the Bassar language is called ‘the month when the mangoes ripen’. There are mangoes everywhere in the villages and on the farms. It is like manna from heaven for many people, because for the next three months food will be in short supply. Many families will face food shortages until August, when beans will be harvested. This is because they still believe that their deceased relatives need lavish funerals in order to be accepted in the after-life. They will have used up most of their sorghum and millet harvest celebrating these funerals with their extended families. We thank God that Christianity, and especially reading the Bible in the Bassar language, is opening the eyes of many people to the truth about God, and they are abandoning such practices.

It is great to see the Bassar community transformed but God’s word!

The Ntcham Bible is avalibe in multiple forms online.
http://worldbibles.org/language_detail/eng/bud/Ntcham

As a podcast in Itunes 🙂

http://globalrecordings.net/en/language/2256

02 Apr

Impact of Audio Scriptures

After the Dukawa New Testament was completed in early 2016, a recording of the New Testament
and some Old Testament portions was made by the SIL Nigeria Vernacular Media Team. The
Dukawa team continues to get positive outcomes from the 390 Dukawa Audiobibles distributed to
the Dukawa churches. When the team first started distributing Audiobibles, they thought it would
help believers grow in Christ. Surprisingly, many church members realized, after hearing the Scriptures
in their mother tongue, that they did not know what it meant to believe and depend on
Christ.

Grain store in Dukawa land

Grain store in Dukawa land

So far, over 3,800 people have accepted the Lord as a result of listening to the Dukawa
Audiobible. More surprising has been the response of village pastors who have humbly admitted
they did not understand the trade language Hausa Bible. Pastor Amos went so far as to say that
some of what he had been teaching was wrong because he misunderstood the Hausa Bible.
After listening to the Audiobible, one Dukawa man said,

“When I first heard the Audiobible, I felt as
if I was dreaming, but when I heard it 2-3 times, I realized I was not dreaming. Now I can
understand … I am going to be … a Christian.”

Praise God for His work in using His Word in the
Dukawa language to draw more Dukawa people to Himself in truth and understanding!

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!
  • 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.

    27 Apr

    Scripture Listening and Reading Groups

    This is a collection of stories that was shared with our group back in November. I re-read and got re-excited about the things that are gong on!

    In Nigeria, our vision is “Seeing Nigerian communities have access to Scriptures in their own languages and be using them to transform their communities.” Through Scripture Listening and Reading Groups (SLRGs), this is exactly what we are seeing God do in the various language communities of Nigeria. The structure of the SLRG is simply listening to Scripture in the Mother Tongue, followed by discussion, and marked by prayer at the beginning and end. We teach people how to facilitate their groups through five discussion questions:

    1. Can someone retell in their own words what they understood from the Scriptures we have just listened to?
    2. What struck you particularly from what you heard? (e.g. something you liked, or were surprised by.)
    3. What did you learn about God or Jesus from what we heard?
    4. What is God saying to the people in what we heard?
    5. What do you think God is saying to us today in what we heard? What should we do in response?

    Training has taken place in five language communities with about 170 people trained to lead discussion groups. Six people have been trained as trainers. Here are some of the impacts we have seen from this initiative:

    SLRG11. Literacy: In Mwaghavul, the participants follow along in their Mwaghavul Bibles as they listen to the recording. One man was literate only in Hausa and English, but he learned to read in Mwaghavul through the SLRG training. Now when he attends any gathering in church, he is the one people call on to read the Scriptures in Mwaghavul because not many have that skill yet.

    2. Answered Prayers & Increased Faith: One elder, Isaac, meets regularly with the youth in a Mwaghavul community, facilitating a Scripture Listening and Reading Group. The youth were so excited about what they were learning that one of them prayed, “God, may you protect this man, make him to live long so he can continue to teach us your Word in our language.” A short time later, the man was in a collision with a truck carrying firewood. Surprisingly, it was the truck that got damaged instead of the small car Isaac was driving. The elder testifies to God’s protection in answer to prayer and is passionate about continuing his ministry with the youth.

    3. Real Understanding of Scripture: One woman in a listening group realized what the word of God really says. She explains, “I am seeing for the first time that before, we were not actually following God, we were only following men of God to understand. Because of our mother tongue audio scripture, now I’m hearing from God myself.”

    4. Evangelism: In one of the SLRGs, a woman in the group believed the facilitator when he affirmed, “If you have problems in your homes, God will use you to solve these problems.” She started praying that God would bring back her husband, who had left her many years before. Two months later, he came back. As he knelt and asked her to forgive him, she forgave him and led him to Christ.

    SLRG25. Increased Interest in Mother-Tongue Scripture Products: During the SLRG training in Kuteb land the participants got very excited. Seeing the power of using Scripture recordings in this way they asked, “When are we going to get these on SD cards, CDs, and mobile phones? We want to invite our people from all over to a launching of our Audio Scriptures so that everyone can have this!”

    6. Increased Demand for Translation: A man from the Obanliku language group attended a Church Leaders Scripture Summit. There is currently no published Scripture in his language. After listening to a presentation by the Scripture Engagement team on SLRGs, he asked with excitement, “How can we get the Scriptures in our own language?” SLRGs are sparking excitement among language groups where work is still needed!

    23 Apr

    Technology – Moving Ministry Forward

    I mostly love the impact that technology is having on our ministry and work. YES computers go wrong and cause huge headaches at times, but every now and then something happens that restore my .. umm ‘faith’ in the tech.

    Jonathan and a translation team.

    Jonathan and a translation team.

    Here is a note that my colleague Jonathan sent me about what he has been up to.

    Waci language development has been slow because there has not been much linguistic analysis done on the language. As a result, translators have always struggled to write their language consistently.
    Bruce is a linguist who resides in Canada, but has recently started to work with the Waci language to unravel its secrets! For three days, two Waci translators came to Jos to meet with Bruce. We met over Skype for the 3 days. Bruce directed the conversation to ask questions related to his research. Once he was comfortable that he understood the words, we would record them. When Bruce asked for a word, Baba Peter would recite the word twice and hum it twice. They would then move on to the next word.
    Once the words had been collected into a recording, I would drop the 200MB file into a folder on the network, and Bruce would upload it to his computer using a syncing program.

    It was a headache to figure out the uploading of such a big file. It had to be done overnight in Nigeria so as not to use ALL the bandwidth during the day. It slowed the process down for Bruce and the team. Several people were involved in finding the solution, but how amazing that Bruce who was unable to visit Nigeria at the time, WAS able to help the Waci team in such a significant way!

    19 Apr

    Prayer update – 19th April 2015

    Greetings from a peaceful Nigeria!

    We are thankful that we serve a powerful God who is alive and active in the world today. The presidential elections here in Nigeria were conducted peacefully (for the most part) and most importantly, concluded without major controversy. I think the biggest contributor to this was the fact that, even before all the votes from all the states were in, the current President (Goodluck Jonathan) called his opposition
    Buhari - Nigeria's President Elect. (Muhammadu Buhari) and congratulated him on his victory. As one of my Nigerian friends put it, “This means that if anyone causes trouble now, they are doing it on their own behalf and not on Jonathan’s behalf so no one will listen to them.”. All this may not seem like that big of a deal, but you have to bear in mind that this is the first time that a sitting Nigerian President has been defeated in an election!

    The State Governor elections were held on Saturday 11th April and again all went smoothly. The representative for the party that is normally considered a dead cert for our state (Plateau) did not win, but there was plenty of celebrating and everyone I have spoken to so far seems delighted with the outcome!

    We had a great Spiritual Retreat with the rest of our group. There was good spiritual input and food for thought, time for contemplation and time for building our relationships with others (i.e. sitting around chatting or playing sport 😉 ). Dan’s highlight of retreat was the Skit Night in which the Brits of the group tend to feature quite highly. In fact Dan managed to end up involved in 4 of the skits, much to his delight! Thank you for praying about our concerns of people arriving at different times and just the whole uncertainty over elections during retreat – God really answered your prayers in a big way!

    On Easter Sunday we hosted a big lunch for the three families on our compound and ended up adding another family of six to the gathering less than 2 hours before we sat down to eat! As always Tim masterminded it brilliantly and pulled off another epic (as Dan would say) success. We interspersed the courses with some surprisingly thoughtful video clips where Lego characters acted out the Easter story. Easter Lunch Easter Lunch[/caption]There were some interesting discussions with the kids including an insight from one of them that maybe the darkness when Jesus was dying was because he is the light of the world.

    Tim is on his way to Nairobi for 2 weeks of meetings, please pray that they will be encouraging and that all those involved will be able to keep their focus on our common goal of language communities having God’s Word in a form that they can really understand.

    Praise
    Massive praise for the peaceful presidential elections
    Huge praise for a refreshing and re-envisioning Spiritual Retreat
    That we serve a living, loving God!

    Prayer
    Productive and inspiring meetings for Tim
    Protection and peace for Dan and I (Ali) while Tim is away

    07 Oct

    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.

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