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.

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
31 May

The second wife

The hope was that after the ethno arts workshop, we would have a couple of days break and then start recording songs and stories onto mp3 players and sd cards and the like. Since the Canadian team unable to come, we took the decision to postpone the recording but still to run the arts workshop. Lots of people came to get involved, so it was very exciting.

While at the arts workshop, an interesting situation came up. One of the ladies present is the second wife of a man. As a result, she is allowed to attend church and make an offering, but she is unable to be part of the choir, or attend other events, or be part of church life in any other way. There was quite a discussion about her participation in the arts workshop. She has an excellent voice and loves to sing, and was very excited about the idea of writing songs. However, not everyone was happy with her participation. In fact, an elder drew the line at her being involved in the recording. Apparently, it would jeopardise the ability to distribute the recording because people won't listen to it if she is involved.

I was mystified, maybe even a bit pissed off about it. How dare they judge a lady for that! How dare they decide who is and isn't worthy of worshipping God! How dare they decide who can and cannot come to a church programme!

And what of the man? He has the two wives! What sort of church are they when they say 'no' to someone? God is love, and I believe Jesus wants to hear her songs – to glorify him.

The problems:

  1. Talk about pot and kettle!
  2. The Bible does have guidelines and standards, but who are they for? What would I do if a gay or a lesbian wanted to join my church band? I know it is not the same thing, but multiple wives is a cultural problem. It is banned by law in England ad so we don't have to deal with it. The UK is about to allow same sex marriage. How are we going to deal with that?

We're struggling to differentiate between culture, theology, law, preference and interpretation of all the above!

What would you do?

  • Allow attendance but not recording?
  • Say no to it all?
  • Allow participation in everything?

It is very easy to judge through our own cultural filters – different isn't wrong simply because it is different, but it might be wrong when measured up against the Bible.

Time to read up on the apologetics of multiple wives.

28 May

Literacy workshop highlights the need for Bible Translation

Despite the Canadian team having to cancel their trip, we concluded that it would still be good to engage with the project communities and go ahead with plans to run the Literacy workshop. After talking about the first day’s activities I asked Christy to write up one specific incident.

Yesterday we wrote a group story.  The theme was “Fighting” and the audience was “Children.”  We wanted to help children to know that fighting is not good.  As we wrote, there was much discussion and debating as to how to best write our sentences into a cohesive story.  20 opinionated men all writing one story, a new kind of challenge.  Finally we were getting to the end of our paper allotment, and the purpose was not coming out clearly.  Abu was still fighting with his friend Ali.  So, I gave an ending that we might move on. “Abu, though he always was losing in fights, turned and surprisingly knocked Ali down!  Then he felt bad because he remembered how it felt to be beaten, and he helped Ali up.  Abu never fought again.”  The room was in an uproar and I didn’t understand why!  Everyone talking at once.  Then one man spoke up and said, “No, it is not good, Abu would have been proud because he finally was strong enough!” “Yes, but when one knows their own power, they don’t feel a need to prove it anymore!  Only a weak man fights to show he is not weak,” I matter-of-factly stated my cultural opinion. Another man chimed in, “Here in Nigeria, we would never feel bad about knocking someone down. Nor would we go so far as helping them up again!” 

“That is why we must write, people,” I said, more convinced than ever, “Jesus said, “if someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also” should our culture overcome the words of Jesus?  That is why we want people to learn to read this Book.”

As we were talking about it, once again I realised just how deep-seated some of the ‘normal’ cultural thinking is here that is counter to biblical teaching. I know, I know. Talk about pot and kettle, right? But I long to see these people have the Bible in a language and form they can understand so that God’s love can penetrate every aspect of lives here. 

Now I shall go read some scripture about my judgemental attitude…. 

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. 

11 Nov

Wycliffe’s day of prayer

So today 11-11-11 is wycliffe’s annual day of prayer, all the people working all over the world, in one way or another will take some time out to pray for our ministry. I am responsible for the prayer morning here in Nigeria, (part of my special projects for the director job) and so I want to invite you to be part of it! These are the things were going to be praying for Nigeria as a country – put together by one of the Nigerian chaps in our office.

PRAYER FOR THE COUNTRY NIGERIA

PRAISES

1. Unity in diversity

2. Emergence of new strategies to tackling peace challenges

3. Church growth

4. There is hope for the country Nigeria

REQUEST

1. Peace, Unity and Progress to truly take roots in the hearts of Nigerians.

2. Corruption to reduce drastically to the minimum level in a mysterious way.

3. That the LORD will transform our Leaders or give us new leaders who are selfless in there service to the nation.

4. That the Nigerian church will truly be light in the world and not be influenced negatively by the world.

5. That the Nigerian church and communities catch the vision of Bible Translation and also take ownership of it.

6. That the Nigerian church will be more committed to Evangelizing and Discipleship of Children and Youths.

7. Pray that the church and Ministries will catch the vision and practice Integral Missions

22 Oct

Are we a nation of liars?

2 weeks ago we started our Hausa course. Hausa is one of the major languages in Nigeria (out of 520) and it is the one spoken in the north where we are. I am not a big fan of language learning but I am getting on with it okay for now. There are 5 of us in the class, none of whom are linguists, none of whom are thriving in the environment, but we are doing it to honour our Nigerian hosts and enable us to greet properly – it is very important here.

The first thing we learnt is about greetings. There is none of this hi bye business, but there is a long series of greetings. The bold is a loose translation, don’t over analyse it – it doesn’t work believe me!

T: sannu. hi
A: yauwa sannu. hi to you too!
T: yaya gida. how is your household
A: lafia. fine
T: yaya maigida how is your husband
A: lafia lau. very fine
T: yaya aiki. how is your work
A: mun gode Allah. we thank God
T: yaya giyada. how is your tiredness
A: ba giyada. there is no tiredness

Etc etc. and so it goes on

T: Sai an jima. see you tomorrow
A: to yauwa sai an jima. yup see ya

It doesn’t matter how anybody is or if you are tired or if work is bad, you always answer in the positive. It occurred to me that we Brits often do the same thing.

T:Hi! How are you
A: Fine thanks and you?
T:Fine
A: Great cya.

Sometimes I get sick of the falseness.
Sometimes I’m glad to hide behind it.
Maybe we aren’t so different from the Nigerians.

20111022-123324.jpg

15 Sep

Village visit

20110915-183211.jpgLast week I had the privilege of tagging along on a trip to see some friends out in a village location. The trip was kind of billed as a thing to help me understand more about what goes on here so that I can do a better job of setting up itineraries for people who are visiting. I guess that is part of the special projects for the director bit of my job.
So much of the trip was great. Great to get to know the people that I was travelling with better. Great to visit friends where they live and work from instead of waiting for them to come to the city. Great to see a bit more of Nigeria. Great to realise how blessed we are with our home set up. Great to realise that jos is actually temperate! You can see a few pics on my Facebook page

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