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

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!

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/

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!

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.  

 

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

03 Aug

Newish Beginnings

IMG_9286Newish number 1 -) These past few weeks have been hectic.  We came back form Nigeria for a scheduled 2 month break in June – and we had to jump headlong into fundraising.

It isn't our favourite activity, but when you find yourself £700 short of your ministry every month, you don't have much choice. You have to get on with it.

Almost all missionaries around the world (no matter what ministry they are involved in or who they are sent with) don't get paid a salary and have to raise support. It is one of those things that binds us missionaries together — along with Jesus, and sharing Jesus to people, and playing our part in growing God's kingdom… Sometimes I wonder if loathing fundraising doesn't bring us closer together sometimes, too!  

Anyway, we have chatted over coffee, dinner, coffee, lunch, and more coffee (which is okay, we LOVE coffee). We have shared and preached, laughed and cried, asked and prayed and prayed some more, then asked some more, then got miffed at God, not prayed then realized that telling God I'm miffed at him is in fact praying – and seen God continue his faithfulness regardless.

We haven't completely hit the target, but we are close enough, and there are enough things in place that we have been signed off to return to Nigeria.

It is not possible to properly express our gratitude to all the people and churches that are giving sacrificially so that we can serve God in Nigeria. We truly appreciate both your prayers and your pounds – we would honestly not be able to do what we do without you.  

Newish number 2 -) Before we first left for Nigeria 2 years ago, we started working on becoming part of our church denomination's mission structure.

I have thought long and hard how best to describe it, but basically, as of this week, we are signed up as Elim missionaries working in partnership with Wycliffe. We'll still be involved in all the same things we were before, but with the extra bonus of being backed by our denomination. We are in the VERY early stages of this partnership and we are looking forward to seeing what God does in this stage of our ministry. 

Newish number 3 -) I have uploaded a few pics of our time in the UK  

Newish number 4 -) Do you like our new website design?

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. 

05 Jan

Kidnapping update

Following my post yesterday, I have had this update from our director in Nigeria:

Mr Stephen the kidnapped translator of the Tarok project and this situation do not have any direct link to Nigeria Group and our work. The project is an NBTT* affiliated project. It is very unlikely that the kidnapping has any intentional link with Bible translation as the translator was primarily working as a civil servant with the government and had links to the banking sector. Any specific details in the blog article are vague and unconfirmed as far as we are concerned. As someone involved in the Bible Translation movement, however, we would of course encourage folks to pray for his safe release.

Please do continue to pray for his release!

*NBTT is the Nigerian Bible Translation Trust, one of the other organisations doing Bible translation in Nigeria that we partner with.

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