21 May

Robinson Ministry Update – 21st May 2016

Obolo man reading his Bible for the first time.

rain1Greetings from a soggy but greening Jos. The rains have come in earnest with a pretty good soaking almost every day. The cooler temperatures are nice and even being caught outside in a massive storm can be kind of fun (provided there is the prospect of warm, dry clothes and a mug of hot chocolate at the end of it)! We also had a hailstorm this last week with hailstones almost the size of golfballs, the biggest I have seen in Jos so far.

The last couple of weeks have been busy but productive for Tim and I. Tim has had a lot of work to do on the budgets for next year. The system is quite complex and he needs input from a lot of people. This year the system is also changing so a lot of new tangles to work out. It might sound like a mundane job that is very far from missionary work but the reality is that our mission can not continue without a clear and effective system of funding. Unless someone is willing and able to work on that, nothing else can happen!

I have also been working on something these last few weeks that might appear mundane on the surface but is actually essential to ensuring our work continues to be available to the language communities in Nigeria. I have been training SIL Nigeria staff on the basics of Intellectual Property including copyright, licencing and SIL’s policy on how to handle this in our work. For those who are curious, Intellectual Property is any “creation of the mind” that has “tangible form”, this can cover anything from an audio recording of a translation of Luke’s gospel to materials for a literacy workshop. Much of our work falls under this definition so we really need to know how to handle it! If we don’t handle it well then the language communities we are serving may lose access to the materials, including scripture, that they need.

rain2Dan is almost done with school for the year. He has less than a week to go with end of semester exams starting tomorrow. He is coping very well with the pressure and the exams don’t seem to phase him at all (I keep telling myself that that really is a good thing!). He will have just over a month of break here and then we will all travel to Canada for a real holiday! We plan to be in Canada for just over 3 weeks and then we will head back to Nigeria and into a new school year.

Praise
The Budgets are coming together despite various challenges
Successful training of SIL Nigeria staff on Intellectual Property
Dan heading into exams with a positive attitude

Prayer
The Budget process will be completed successfully
I will be able to manage my time well between Dan and work once term ends

28 Feb

I now realize that I misunderstood

Bob Creson the Director of Wycliffe USA posted about the Dukawa project where David Heath works. David and Carleen Heath are part of the team we are supporting here in Nigeria.

dukawa

Studying the Bible in a language you’re not very familiar with complicates understanding and could compromise the message. The Dukawa people of Nigeria tried to use the Scriptures in the “trade” language,* Hausa. But though Hausa was the language of the marketplace, it wasn’t the language of their home or their heart. Now God’s Word is being translated into their own Dukawa language, and many are surprised to find out what it really means.One man, a pastor for eight years, said, “I have recently compared my understanding of the Hausa Bible with the Dukawa translation, and I now realize that I misunderstood what the Hausa Bible was saying almost all of the time.”

As pastors and lay people alike understand the Good News for the first time, many are turning their hearts and minds over to Christ – 340 in October 2015 alone. Churches are multiplying. When translation advisers David and Carleen Heath first went to Nigeria in 1995, they only knew of two churches with Dukawa pastors and a majority of Dukawa worshipers. There may have been more, but not many. Today there are over 200.

Read More from the original post here.

*A trade language is a language used to facilitate commerce or trade; it allows people to communicate with each other when they don’t share any other language.

02 Jan

2015 in Nigerian Numbers (and other Bible books).

Bible Translation is all about resourcing the local church with scripture that people in their community can truly understand, engage with and be transformed by. We can’t count converts or restorations, but we do hear story after story of lives changed. We know that the more people who have access to translated scripture; the more lives are changed by it. In 2015 the following groups having worked tirelessly over many years received translated scripture.

Portions:
Tarok Old Testament books – 300 thousand speakers
Nyankpa Gospel according to Mark – 70 thousand speakers
Duya Acts of the Apostles – 78 thousand speakers

New Testaments:
Tula New Testament – 30 thousand speakers
Tyap New Testament – 130 thousand speakers

Between Tyap and Tula who both received their new testaments, 160 thousand speakers were able to understand the Christmas story possibly for the very first time this year — pretty cool. It really opens the doors for evangelism, discipleship, church planting and dozens of other ministries with the church here.

Obolo man reading his Bible for the first time.

Obolo man reading his Bible for the first time.

Bibles:
Hausa Common Language Bible – 18 million speakers

The Hausa Common Language is the people’s Hausa, the language that they really speak and understand well. In fact Hausa is a language spoken, usually fluently, by an additional 15 million Nigerians who are not actually Hausas. This means that this translation has the potential to impact 33 million people! The original Hausa translation was like trying to read and understand the King James, okay to a point, but not always the most accessible and useable. Any version of scripture you can really understand easily is far more likely to be used and far more likely to change lives.

09 Oct

Ministry update – 9th October 2015

Good morning from what may well be one of our last damp days of the season.

The weather is changing. We are reaching the end of rainy season and are experiencing some big wind storms. They can be quite exhilarating but also potentially a little dangerous. When I was little, growing up in the north of Ghana, we had a really wild wind storm, and it took the roof off our house! Thankfully this time we have escaped anything beyond a few small branches coming down.

Change is often turbulent and can be messy, it can be exciting and at the same time tiring. It can remove dead wood and bring potential for fresh growth.

Tom&IanWe are in the middle of considerable change at work. We have a new Director for SIL N1geria, Tom Crabtree (on the left in the picture). He and his wife are godly, prayerful, wise people, not to mention good friends of ours 🙂 and we are looking forward to a new era. Our previous Director, Ian Hollman, did an amazing job and really knit together a diverse group of people with one passion – to see God’s Word being used and understood by people from every language group in Nigeria. He is now focusing on his job as an Africa Area Director and he and his family will still be based in Nigeria for the time being. We are very happy about this as our families are close and we would miss them terribly if they left Nigeria.

With this charge of Director has come some change to the structure and set up of our group. Tim has been responsible for the Finance, Facilities Management and IT teams for a while and Tom asked Tim to add the Human Resources team to his responsibilities. He is looking forward working with a new group of people, many of whom he has worked with on projects before. It will be a learning curve but we thanks God for His timing and His provision and His peace throughout these changes!

Still on the subject of change, our next door neighbours (Kostrevas) are leaving Nigeria next month. One of the many blessings of our life here is that we get to share our lives with people from all over the world. And we really do share our lives, we become family to each other because usually our blood families are not nearby. However, this blessing also brings a challenge because people come and go. We sometimes have to say “Goodbye” to parts of our adopted family with no expectation of ever seeing them again, at least until Jesus returns!

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

Prayer
• That we will cling to God in the midst of the changes and always seek His will
• Wisdom and strength for Tom, the new Director, and for Tim with his new team
• Peace and joy even as we say “Goodbye” to family

31 Jul

Ministry update – 31st July 2015

Greetings from our last few days in the UK.

Tomorrow our iceberg sets sail for home (if you have no idea why I am talking about icebergs, take a look at our previous update). It has been great to see so many people who are integral parts of our iceberg and I hope that we have been able to be part of your icebergs too. We are floating high and really looking forward to getting back to N1geria, looking forward to seeing friends and colleagues again, looking forward to getting stuck back into work, and to be honest, looking forward to sleeping in our own beds again!CLQsKT0W8AATwTC

I has been a bit of a whirlwind and we are tired, but sharing about God’s work in N1geria and our small part in it has had the slightly unexpected side-effect of re-enthusing us! It has helped us to lift our heads and remember the big picture and see more clearly how our little corner fits in.

Praise
A good, re-envisioning time in the UK with a remarkably good balance of times of rest and times of busyness
Looking forward to heading home to Nigeria

Prayer
Safe travels flying to Abuja and then by road to Jos
For a good settling in time and not to much work to do on the house

11 Jul

4 bed in 4 nights – Ministry Update – 10th June 2015

Greetings from Thame / Gateshead!
So far in our whistle-stop tour of the UK we have been to:
Thame, Saunderton, Princes Risborough, Chinnor, Altringham (Manchester), Soulby (Cumbria), Lancaster, High Wycombe, Polegate, Eastbourne, Iden Green, Maidstone, London, Rugby, Corsham, Bristol, Malvern, Worcester Stroud, Weston-super-Mare AND Gloucester.
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I think our record so far is four different beds in four nights. Thankfully God has been very gracious and our schedule really has not felt too hectic. We have had great times hanging out with old friends, renewing friendships (Richard – here is your mention), making new friends, living with family.

Still to come (at time of writing) we have:
Lincoln, Preston, Gateshead, Newcastle, Sunderland, Horley, Redhill, Reigate, Henley, and probably some others that I have forgotten!

Someone at one of the churches we visited asked a really interesting question that made me stop and think. She asked “Why is it important for you to remain connected with people in the UK?”
We are putting a lot of energy and time into visiting as many people and churches as we can while we are in the UK and being asked this question helped me to really think through why. Firstly, of course it is great to catch up with all y’all (as some of our American friends would say). But it actually goes a lot deeper than that.
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I have this picture in my head of an iceberg. Weird, you might say, I thought you were based in N1geria, not the Antarctic? Bear with me. Tim and Dan and I are the tip of the iceberg, the bit that sticks up out of the water, that sticks into N1geria. That tip of the iceberg can’t stay above the water, can’t stay in N1geria, unless there is a whole lot more of the iceberg sitting below the surface. We need a vast team of people, praying for us, supporting us financially and generally being there for us in order for our family to be above the water in N1geria. This means that every single one of you who prays for us, who supports us, are just as much a part of the iceberg as we are, just as much a part of what God is doing through Bible translation in N1geria. So next time you are tempted to think that your life is boring, or that nothing you are doing is impacting the world, remember the iceberg!
If you don’t really feel like you are part of the iceberg yet and would like to join our iceberg, please do drop us a line, we would love to have you on board (or should that be on ice?)!
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We have just heard that there has been another twin bombing in Jos on Sunday night. Please pray for peace and unity in our home city. Pray for those who have lost friends and family that they will turn to their loving heavenly Father for comfort.

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!

26 Jan

Ncham Bible Dedication, Bassar, Togo.

11-IMG_3629In 1998 I took the plunge and went on my first short-term missions trip. It was a little unusual in the big realm of short term trips, as it was to a Bible translation project in Togo, West Africa, a Francophone country. I didn’t speak a whole lot of French and having grown up in Wycliffe, I was sure I already ‘got’ the need for Bible translation. However, all the circumstances and gifts to make it happen were clearly leading me to go on the trip. I could write a TON more about that trip but I’ll have to save that for another day.

54-IMG_3937On the 14th January 2015, 16.5 years later, I started my journey back to that very same village. Before you think ‘ooo dramatic’, I had been back already, leading multiple other short term teams to the same project. It had, however, been 4.5 years since I last visited.

I left our home in Jos and drove to the capital, Abuja, picking Gareth Mort up in a town along the way. Gareth was my team leader from 1998, and is now my colleague here in Nigeria. The next day we flew direct to Lome where we successfully negotiated the Ebola check and the general health check (but only by God’s grace, due to Gareth’s missing Yellow Fever certificate!). We applied for and were granted visas in the airport in Lome.

The bus getting loaded up.

The bus getting loaded up.

On Friday we were due to catch a nice coach up country, but there were no seats left. So we took ‘public’, aka a mini-bus with 4 people squished onto every three seats and more luggage on top of the bus than capacity inside. I was thankful for Gareth’s thinness! We weren’t so thankful for the bus stopping every 10 miles looking for more passengers. It took nearly 10 hours to get to Sokode, not even the town we were finally destined for. We arrived in Bassar late, in the dark, to a very warm welcome from Samuel’s family. In 1998, Samuel had only just joined the translation team, he was young and unmarried. We were blessed that he spoke English, both then and now!
Samuel and his family

Samuel and his family

Saturday at 07:20 Gareth and I left the house and wandered into town. We were hoping to come across the parades headed to the football stadium where the Dedication was to be held. We saw what we thought was probably one of the 3 parades, but they were headed in the wrong direction, so we carried on to the stadium.

One of the brass band parades

One of the brass band parades

It was fantastic to see banners and greet some people, slightly odd to be ignored by most of the other white faces – it wasn’t like they could miss us!

The dedication itself was marvellous. There were LOADS of people. There were some very high profile folks out there too. The national director of AOG, the chief, the Prefet, the representative of the local government, pastors, preachers, most of the Catholic diocese, the church association committee (ACEB), SIL, Wycliffe, Bible Society, 2 brass bands and people of literally ALL ages came out to join the celebration.

The chairman of ACEB

The chairman of ACEB

Now I do probably suffer from a bit of attention deficit disorder, I doubted I could sit still for 6 hours and listen to speeches in 2 different languages neither of which I spoke. So I tried to find out what people were saying and I took to live tweeting the event. You can go to http://twitter.com/hashtag/nchambible and see the event as it unfolded. You could tell when people appreciated what was said by the enormous cheer that was let out.

The most enormous cheer certainly came when Sheila Crunden was giving her speech.

Sheila giving her speech

Sheila giving her speech

Sheila is a Brit who arrived in Bassar, Togo in 1969 and was very involved in translating the New Testament with a whole string of people including Monica Cox who was also in attendance at the dedication. These two remarkable ladies, now in their mid seventies and eighties, had returned specially for the Dedication but still trekked to church and to visit houses. During one dinner we shared with them, they engaged in a healthy discussion about how to mark tones in translation. Monica, who worked on literacy, and Sheila who worked on the translation entered what seems to me to be an age-old debate about marking them all or only marking some of them. I admit I didn’t follow all the technicalities, but it was fun!

46-IMG_3887After about 3 hours of speeches the Bibles were finally revealed and prayed over and paraded around the stadium and then distribution begun. It started with an offer for the “big” ie important people to buy the very first copy for a lot of money. Then the price reduced bit by bit and eventually swarms of people came to buy. It was funny, even knowing this was going to happen, 39-IMG_3804
the boxes were being held on the edge of the stadium and the seller kept running out at his table! It was wonderful to see so many people desperate to get their hands on the Bible in their own language.

You can see more pictures at my Facebook album, or high res collection here on Flickr.

We attended church with Samuel the next morning and it was brilliant seeing so many people clutching their new Bibles. It was sad that so many people were struggling to actually read it fluently – it reinforced to me the need to be doing literacy as soon as is possible in our projects.44-IMG_3842 There was a couple who were married 3 weeks before and were brought to the front of the church and introduced (it seems that is customary in this church) and when they came they were clutching a copy of the new Bible. The groom, despite not being a native Ncham speaker, received huge applause as he tried to read a couple of verses. People DO love hearing and having God’s word in their own language!

33-IMG_3760 Monday we relaxed, although actually I think Gareth worked on one of his projects from Nigeria. Then on Tuesday we started the long journey home in reverse. We did get to travel in the nice coach this time, though we also had to fly Lome to Lagos to Abuja, the last leg of which was delayed a couple of hours. But we got home safe and glad to have made the trip and been part of the dedication. The people in Bassar and particularly Samuel and his family have been part of my life for nearly 17 years. They will always have a place in my heart, my email inbox and my Whatsapp.

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/

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.  

 

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