26 Jul

Until all have heard

I wrote a blog post for the Elim Missions website about some of the impact of Bible Translation. bibl1

On the 24th May there was a great celebration on an island in the far south of Nigeria where the Obolo Bible was being dedicated! This was the result of over 30 years of hard work by a dedicated team of Obolo translators and committed support from the local churches and supporting agencies.

To read more about it head over to http://www.elimmissions.co.uk/

14 Jul

Great things in Ga’anda!

We work with a ton of amazing people here in Nigeria.  Translating the Bible isn't the only thing we do, we try to help people learn to engage with it and use it in their daily lives.   One of our teams host Scripture Songwriting workshops to help encourage churches to be using the langauges that God gave them, to praise Him. 

Mr Sunday Timawus, Coordinator of Ga’anda Bible Translation project and Area Coordinator for the surrounding languages, reports on changes that have taken place amongst the Ga’anda people since the Scripture Songwriting workshop that took place in January of 2013:

artspic1`One of the things that attracts people in our area is songs, more than reading the Scripture actually.

`I’ve seen the testimony of the people in our village. Most of the people who don’t come to church say, `Now you are doing something!’ After the workshop we had a lot of revival in our church. Most of the time we see the elderly men and women staying at home since the services were not in the language,  but since the workshop there’s been kind of a breakthrough in our place and language. Now, most of what’s happening is in the language so they can understand it and they have rededicated their lives to God. Now they are saying, `When can we have another workshop?’

27 May

Aramaic? Hebrew? What language DID Jesus speak?

I read an interesting article on the BBC today about which language Jesus spoke.

http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-27587230

Follow me for a minute (remembering I am neither a Biblical scholar nor a linguist!)…..

The evidence suggests he spoke Aramaic or Hebrew and probably understood some Greek.  I live and work in a place where people regularly use 2, 3 or even 4 different languages.  It seems perfectly normal here to do so, yet each person seems to have 1 language that they understand best.  We refer to this language as their mother tongue or heart language.  

The New Testament was written in Ancient Greek so no matter what conclusion is drawn on the language Jesus spoke, it seems that Jesus words were translated when the Bible was first written down.  God seems very pro translation to me!   

I think God's desire to reach out to humanity is demonstrated in Revelation 7:9 "After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands"

Every language represented – it doesn't matter how big or how small that language group is and we have both here in Nigeria, they will be represented!  Brilliant.  

 

30 Jan

From imagination to creation.

There are a whole lot of languages in Nigeria – 512 or thereabouts – and only a handful of those have Bibles. Some have New Testaments and there is plenty of work in progress.

Every now and again, there is a real sense of excitement in our office at the prospect of a dedication. From the moment someone imagined translating the scripture into that language, to the moment a person opens up that book for the first time… In between those moments, there are years and years of work, thousands of combined man-hours by people often on multiple continents. They’ve all been part of the process to get that New Testament or Bible printed.

I was lucky enough to attend one such celebration last year and Wycliffe USA has just written a brilliant piece on the last part of the process.

Peter,* a member of the Fulani translation team in Nigeria, couldn’t understand why Heidi Rosendall wanted him and the other team members to sign her copy of the new Fulani New Testament. After all, they aren’t famous.

But to Heidi, those signatures are more precious than any celebrity’s. They represent the literal blood, sweat, and tears that Peter and others have sacrificed so that the Fulani could have God’s Word in their own language.

As a typesetter living in Jos, Nigeria, Heidi works with local translation teams from several language groups, putting their finished translations into printable formats—or, as she puts it, “making Bibles beautiful.”   (read the rest here)

Heidi’s office is about 4 doors down from mine. There is a constant stream of people going there, trying to get past the final hurdle, each with amazing stories of overcoming obstacles and confusion in order to see lives changed through the translated Word of God.

26 Oct

Does Bible translation make a difference?

I went on an EPIC road trip the other week: 850 total miles! About 24 of those were spent driving/waiting for the road block boys to let us go through. We managed to visit a couple of folks in Niger state, north western Nigeria, who are are helping to run projects in that neck of the woods.  

While I was in one of those locations I met a man who made my heart jump for joy. He loves his language. He wants others to love his language. He understands the Bible best in his language and wants to help others do the same.

I shot a wee video of him sharing what he is up to. He has some amazing testimonies to share!

 

View on Youtube

14 Jun

Scripture in use encourages people.

Bibles on the way to people.Sometimes I wonder about how much use the Bible get once they are translated.  I don't think it is enough to simply have them available i do believe we need to be advocating for their use from a very early stage of a project.  It is always encouraging when we hear that people ARE using them, the story below was written by a colleague of mine – VERY encouraging! 

 

Last weekend, our church's mission committee had an outreach to their daughter church in the Afizere village of Rizek. On the Sat, we said we would be giving out several Izere NTs (some in print – usually sold for N200/£0.80 each), some on CD (N160 /£0.60) and some on 1Gb micro SD-cards for use in handsets or laptops (N500/£2.00 incl. a micro SD card adaptor), all of which were easy to get hold of at short notice. (We would have given out copies of the Jesus film on VCD too (N200 /£0.80) if I had been able to get hold of more copies from the Great Commission HQ). We showed the Jesus film in Izere on the Sat evening, which went down very well. They even watched most of it twice, since the first disc we tried got stuck towards the end, and we had no way of fast forwarding the second copy!

Then on the Sun, after the morning service, we gave out the printed NTs and asked them to try and follow the text as we played the audio version over the church's PA system. Even though most, if not all, of these people had never tried to read Izere before, all but one managed to follow the printed versions perfectly as the text was played. Afterwards they each received their own NT on CD or micro SD-card (their choice) together with the printed version, so that they could continue reading and listening at home.

This is one of the few times I can remember that I have seen young people in Nigeria actually queuing up to get MT materials in their language. Most of them wanted the micro SD-card, but we didn't have enough to go round. However, outside the church I noticed that a small group of them had already started Bluetooth-ing it to each other. Whether they were interested in it just for 'status' or 'cool-ness value' among their friends, I don't know, but I'm hoping they will actually listen to it from time to time!

It makes me think that an audio copy of the NT should be given out or sold with every printed copy – certainly in cultures which are primarily oral. Otherwise, I fear that most NTs stay will tucked away on a shelf gathering dust somewhere. Of course, this is no replacement for literacy classes, but it certainly gets people off to a great start, and for very little cost in terms of time and money. It would be great if they decided to have half and hour's MT reading/listening group like this before every Sunday service. It might even help the pastor learn some of the language, as he isn't a MT Izere speaker himself.

Our mission committee hadn't thought of using materials in the MT before on their outreaches – they had always used either Hausa or English – but after seeing the impact it made in this church, they didn't need any more convincing that this was the best approach.

 

16 Mar

Why does Bible Translation take so long?

There are many many reasons that Bible Translation takes a long time. A good translation will be accurate and easy to understand. It can take a long time to bring a Bible translation to this very finely negotiated balance. The most 'understandable' phrase isn't always the most 'accurate'. Sometimes lengthy discussions and extensive testing is required just to get one word right.

The story below is from our Wycliffe collegue in the USA who travels to Nigeria to work with Bible Translation projects. 

 

As the Mbe* translation team in Nigeria was translating the Gospel of Luke, they came to chapter 2, verse 7, where Luke describes the first moments of Jesus’ earthly life: “She [Mary] gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.”

The translators took time to ponder how to translate some of the words, but not “manger.” They immediately used the word “ókpáng.”

“What’s an ókpáng?” asked their consultant, John Watters. “Tell me what it looks like.”  One of the translators drew a picture on the whiteboard. It was essentially a cradle hung by ropes so that the newborn could be laid in it and swung.

“Read the Translator’s Notes again,” John suggested. “What do the notes say about the manger?” (“Translator’s Notes” is a series of commentaries in non-technical English that are especially helpful for Bible translators for whom English is a second language.)

The Mbe translators read the notes and saw that “manger” referred to an animal feeding trough. Joseph and Mary apparently stayed near the animals, since there was no room for them in the part of the house where people usually stayed, and so Jesus’ first bed was an animal feeding trough.

Even as the Mbe team read the notes, they objected. “We have always used the word ókpáng. We have used it for years, and that’s what we should use.”

John pointed out to them that it wasn’t just a matter of tradition. God expects us to find the words that express the original meaning as accurately as possible. Furthermore, this word tells us something profound about God. “When He came to live among us and bring salvation to us, He came in the lowliest way possible. He did not come and sleep in a nice ókpáng like every Mbe mother wants for her newborn. Instead, He showed us his unbelievable humility,” John told them. “So we need to find your best word for an animal feeding trough.”

Suddenly the one who had argued most loudly for the traditional term offered, “We feed our animals out of an old worn-out basket that is not usable anymore except to feed the animals. We call it ‘ɛ́dzábrí.’”

“Then try that term,” said John. “Put it in your rough draft and test it with Mbe speakers.”

The next weekend they read the story of Jesus’ birth to all kinds of church groups and individuals in Mbe villages. Often people asked about the word for manger. They understood what ɛ́dzábrí meant, but they weren’t sure it was the right choice. “We always say they laid Jesus in an ókpáng,” they said.

Each time they were asked, the translation team explained the reason they had chosen the new term. Jesus really did lie in a place where they fed animals. In this way, He demonstrated the humility that would characterize His years on earth.

As the Mbe people listened, they were visibly moved. Picturing the newborn Baby lying in the animals’ feeding basket, they recognized in a new way that Jesus was willing to do whatever it took to reach them. As an adult, He would humble Himself by washing the disciples’ feet and then by dying on the cross. And this humility started right from birth, when He was born to a young peasant woman under questionable social conditions and laid in an animal feeding trough.

No word in Scripture is too unimportant to translate carefully and accurately. Even the word for a baby’s bed—accurately translated—can show people the lengths to which God will go to reach them, to reach us.

And no language community is too unimportant to merit the Scriptures in the language they best understand. John says, “Translation in the heart language respects the people who speak it, and through the process it frees them to have a relationship with God in their own words and terms.” 

There is nothing God wants to say to a language community that He cannot say in their own language. The translated Word frees people to respond to the God who humbled Himself for them, and it frees them to worship the exalted God in the language that best expresses their joy and adoration. One day every knee will bow and every tongue—speaking every language—will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

09 Mar

The Risk of Sovereignty

There has been plenty of Nigeria in the news of late and some of the incidents have provoked me to really, frankly… Well, how can I put it? I feel like I’ve had a kick up my complacent backside about why I am here, doing what I do.

Recently I was involved in some conversations that led to some friends looking at moving out here to join our ministry. BRILLIANT! Then I saw this post on facebook. At first, it made me giggle. 

loves her son, last night's take was "so there are no earthquakes, tsunamis or tornadoes in Nigeria" (me – not that I am aware), "so we just have to be careful about diseases and getting shot, that's good"…

It reminded me that everywhere has it’s up and downs. So I replied, twice.

 HAHAHAHA brill. no tornados or tsunamis — not liable to earthquakes.. all good!

 actually getting shot isn't too high a risk either!

Sometimes it just appears like a high risk, because that is all the information we are reading about. Someone else posted a comment in the same conversation

Malaria, mugging, kidnapping, rape and killings of white people are very high, in my stats, so why would you put ur lifes at risk?

My jovial thought about a 7 year old’s mind at work was brought to a resounding sudden halt. I decided that I could give an answer to that, but firstly was it my place to answer?

Then I remembered that of course it was. I am in said country that is being questioned. Maybe I could share my experience and help out.  So after a couple of drafts (yes maybe I should have got someone to proof read it for me!) this is how I responded.

GREAT question! I’m not sure the reality of where we are living is accurately reflected in the news and by other sources – Malaria is a problem everywhere, but mugging and kidnappings, rape and killing of Ex-pats is none- existent in Jos. Yes such things have happen elsewhere in the country and there is a risk attached to living and working here.   Personally for us, God hasn't called us to a safe life.  He has called us to minister in this country of HUGE need.  We believe our lives belong to God and when we pray, 'God let your will be done' we are re-asserting his sovereignty over our lives.  If harm came to us  yes it would devastate some people it would probably affect our ministry here (maybe for the better) – BUT that doesn't change God's status of sovereign. And besides we'd be in Glory with him 🙂  We live with the risk because the people here causing the trouble are exactly the ones who need to know God for themselves, i also appreciate that everyone has different levels of acceptable risk, living out here isn't for everyone and that is okay, because God can use you where you are!  People are in need everywhere.  Hope that TINY insight helps – if not, sorry for wasting your time reading this comment.

As I pondered it even further I realise more and more that my life is not my own and maybe it has taken getting my butt out to risky Nigeria for me to truly give it up.

I’m an aspie (Asperger's). It means there is a control freak in me and it rears its head worse when I am tired or hungry or under stress. But I survive because I maintain control – and so to give up that control is a REALLY super hard, super scary and super tiring. If I give up the control it only works if I completely trust the person I am giving it up to. Gaining that trust is hard. Re-gaining after it has been broken is even harder.

I have learnt that God is trust worthy. His sovereignty isn’t something I can really test, though. God can’t earn that status – it is simple fact of life. God is sovereign.

I got some more info from the original poster and I started pondering some more and eventually replied in a message.

I don’t know what it is like trying to relate to family who aren’t Christian, I can only imagine how ridiculously difficult it must be. I wasn’t trying to stir the water, just give an honest answer to her question. God’s sovereignty is a concept that non-believe (actually many believes for that matter) don’t’ grasp. It is a work his is doing in me at the moment! To live is Christ, but to die is gain – that hard to walk balance between effectiveness and risk.

Since coming to Nigeria I have become more and more aware of 2 things.
1 – The cost of missions goes FAR beyond my comfort level. It is also a cost/potential cost to other people. I have lived far too long ignorant of the cost my decision to be involved in mission is to other people.
2 – I cannot live any longer ashamed of the gospel, not my part in getting it to people who don’t have it. A great verse that has really come out fresh of late 1 Cor 1:18 “The cross is foolishness for those who don’t believe”. They are never going to understand why we do what we do where we do it. They are going to consider it foolishness. That is tough – on them and the result I guess is that they are tough on us.
But damn it, 300 languages without a single word of scripture, I have to do all I can in the time I have here – who knows how long that may be!

 

Right now I am re-ignited about why we are here doing what we do. I’ve been complacent about it. Maybe our lifestyle is too easy-going that I’m not being kept on my knees. But I have never been more convinced than I am now of the need for God’s word to be available – in a language that people can understand.

The only way to build trust is to get to know someone. The way to get to know God is in his word. If people can’t understand his word, they’ll never get to know him any better. How will they ever trust him and rely on him and be prepared to lay their lives down for him?   

Our family is here living with those risks – the instability, the crappy power and everything else – to help make that a reality for the millions of Nigerians in the 300+ languages that don’t currently have any scripture. 

26 Sep

Trip to Ghana in 05

I was checking out some old files on the hard drive and stumbled across this piece I wrote after my Trip to Ghana with a team in 2005.  It’s funny, 7 years later reading about the struggles, it all seems so familiar!  This was also the summer we won the Olympics and there were bombings on the underground system in London, both of which happened while in Ghana.

 

1WYnet Co-ordinator

2 Trainee leaders

4 Student missionaries

1 Team

1 God

1 Word

 

 

 

3 Days of training

1 12 Seater minibus

#84 British Airways to Accra

1 15 seater minibus

1 Team

1 God

1 Word

 

 

 

6 Days in sanko where

4 Projects are run 2-gether in all things

½ the normal time required 2 get those projects done.

1 Team visiting

1 team working

1 God

1 Word

 

 

 

2 Taxis 90 minutes late

2 Trotros 2 changes to make

280 minutes on the road1 large mountain to climb.

2500 ft up

1 guesthouse

1 new project to get started

1 Divine Munumkum

10 days

8 villages to visit

1 Team

1 God

1Word

 

 

 

 

0 Curtains

0 Flushing Loos

0 Taps

0 fridge

0 aircon units

0 TV

0 radio

0 babies to tickle

0 reception on my phone.

1 dead paramount chief

1 case of malaria

3 days of treatment

0 malaria

4 dodgy stomachs 2 many mouth ulcers

500 litres of water drunk

0 enthusiasm

1Word

1 God

almost 1 team

 

 

8 Villages visited

1 message from divine

“This is your project not mine, I want to help you get your language written down and eventually translate the scriptures”

7 white people causing a stir

1 message from Divine

“These friends have come from the uk to help you with your project.  To Pray, To visit and maybe help in others ways that none of us understand yet”

8 Enthusiastic Villages

7 enthusiastic white people

1 very enthusiastic divine

1 humongous send off

1 paramount chief stand in for the send off

1 New project started

1 team

1 God

1 Word

27, 000 people a set closer to getting that word in a language that speaks to their heart.

 

 

 

27 Nov

Living water

I’m in abuja helping out with the Hillcrest choir tour (We live opposite the choir leader Mrs Rasche – besides it is my youth work fix for a while!) The kids just did a great job singing glory to God.

The pastor preached in church this morning about the women at the well, under the title “the man I met”.

I was struck by these verses.
John 4:10-11
10 Jesus replied, “If you only knew the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water.”
11 “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water?

the well is very deep – metaphorically she is correct abut the well of our Lord and saviour, but I have learnt far more about wells since living in Nigeria. This well where the woman was sat is famous because ti never ran out, it never ran our because it was so deep that even if the water tael dropped, you could still get water. But deep wells come at a price. They are hard to dig. The cost a lot to create. They require more effort to get the the out – there was not pump at this well! She was joking Jesus because she knew all these things (as did Jesus right!). and at that point where she thought she had the upper hand, Jesus made his move and challenged her in a way that no one else could. I understand more now about how central to life wells are. I have witnessed them as that central meeting point. We have had our share of water supply problems – who eve drinks this water will thirst again – SOOO true. We are in dry season, and there is talk that our well will dry up because there wasn’t enough rain this year.

God’s living water will never run out. Even though I am a missionary in Nigeria, I do wonder how well am I doing at trusting God to supply all our needs. Some may look at us in wonder the fact we left up the Uk, Ali left her job, moved away from everything we knew, but still I wonder – do I trust God for that living water every day? Does the well run dry in my life, because I am trying to get from the wrong well?

The choice the woman feed wasn’t about water or no water. Her well had never run dry in the history of the well. The choice was really between temporary and eternal.

The person offering you something can indicate the quality of the offer. When Jesus makes us an offer it is a guarantee based on who he is. The Supply is continuous – unlike our power, and sometimes our water! His promise, his power to supply is unending, unchangeable, unbreakable, untappable, incorruptible and perfect for our needs.

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