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

10 Sep

Ministry Update – 9th September 2015

Delightfully damp greetings from Jos,
I know that rain is a blessing as I sit here watching the rain fall this morning. All living things need water (trust me, I have been a Biology teacher, I know these things!). However, sometimes the actual coming down of the rain does not feel like a blessing.
Thought that I am now pondering . . . are there other blessings in our lives that don’t always feel like blessings? That we forget to thank God for as a result? Your fellow musings on a postcard (or by e-mail) gratefully received.

Reading through the last update we sent out, not much seems to have changed. We are still having issues with securing group cash, please do continue to pray for a good resolution for that. I am still wading through my e-mail backlog. Dan is keeping his head above water at school but is struggling a bit with organisation and keeps losing things.

There are two things that I (Ali) was involved in over the last two weeks that I wanted to share with you. One of the things that I do is to maintain a database of all the translation projects in N1geria and all the materials (especially scripture) that have been produced. I nicknamed the database NigeL as it is the Nigerian Languages database and it is a lot easier to say NigeL. 😉

At the end of last week, a friend of mine who works for a partner organisation told me that he was travelling to a state north of Jos to work with a people group called the Polci for a few days. As a result of my work with the database I was able to tell him that there was a language project working on translating the New Testament into a closely related language. When he came back from his trip he told me that the people he was working with said that they also wanted the New Testament in their language and wanted to know how to go about it. In fact one of the people he was working with was so desperate to meet with him that he swam across a fast-flowing swollen river to talk about translating God’s Word into his language!

Another Nigerian friend, a colleague at SIL N1geria, has been working on raising financial and prayer support amongst Nigerians and Nigerian churches. One of his supporters is passionate about getting the Bible in his language (Esan) and wanted to know if anything had been translated yet in his language. After a bit of research I found that some ground work had been done by a partner organisation but nothing was published before the project ground to a halt. This supporter is rapidly mobilising people to get involved with the project so that they can finally get God’s Word in their language.

It is this evidence of hunger for God’s Word among N1gerians that inspires us as we work. Please pray that God’s will is done as these two people groups seek to take the next step towards the scriptures in their languages.

I(Tim) held a meeting with all my operations team a couple of weeks ago and we had a wonderful time together. We spent time exploring who we are, what we do as part of

‘Seeing Nigerian communities have access to scriptures in their language and be using them to transform their communities’

and also spent some time praying together.

Praise
We are blessed with abundant rain!
Many N1gerians are hungry for God’s Word in their language

Prayer
Financial issues to be resolved completely and in a way that honours God
That Dan will find the things that he has lost and will be able to tighten up his organisation!
That the Esan and Polci will be able to make progress towards the scriptures in their languages.

07 May

7th May 2015 – Ministry Update

Greetings from a parched Jos,

IMG_4140Somehow the rainy season still has not started. It is really about a month overdue now. The last rainy season trickled to a stop around 7 months ago and water is now becoming increasingly hard to find. We are blessed to have a well on our compound that, although getting close, has not quite dried up yet. The city seems to have stopped providing water through the pipes and many people are really struggling to find enough water for their families. Please pray that the rains will start this week, they are desperately needed, not just for people now but also for their crops to provide for them for the rest of the year. This seems to be a problem across West Africa, not just in Nigeria. So, here is an opportunity to do that rather unusual thing and pray for rain!

Tim’s meetings in Kenya went well, thank you for praying! They were intense and he has come back with a bit of a backlog of work, but overall it was a positive time. Dan and I did fine, but were very happy to have him back safe and sound.

We are now in the final few weeks of Hillcrest term, school ends for the year on the 21st of May and will not resume until the 6th of August. We are also in our final few weeks of preparation for coming to the UK for the summer! We will leave Nigeria on the 25th of May, a few days after the end of term and plan to be in the UK until the 1st of August.

We hope to meet up with many of you who live in the UK while we are there! Once we have a better idea of where we will be when, we’ll let you know and hopefully you can fit us in! One big need we have for the time we will be in the UK is a car. We really can not afford to hire a car for the whole time but we need to do a lot of travelling around to see you all! If you happen to have a car you could lend us or know someone who might be willing to do so we would be hugely grateful. If you do not have such a thing at your disposal then please could you pray that someone else will! We know how powerful the prayers of God’s people are!

Praise

  • Helpful meetings for Tim in Kenya
  • Safety and peace for Dan and I while Tim was away
  • Tickets booked to come to the UK!
  • Prayer

  • Rain!!! Consistent rain across West Africa starting this week.
  • That Tim could deal with his build up of work and that he will have peace as he deals with it
  • Provision of a car for our time in the UK
  • 27 Apr

    Scripture Listening and Reading Groups

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    23 Apr

    Technology – Moving Ministry Forward

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

    Jonathan and a translation team.

    Jonathan and a translation team.

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

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

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

    19 Apr

    Prayer update – 19th April 2015

    Greetings from a peaceful Nigeria!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    06 Feb

    Prayer update – 6th February 2015

    Greetings from toasty warm Nigeria!
    Well, the cold has gone and been replaced by quite considerable heat. Walking home with Dan after school, only about a ten minute walk, is enough to leave us both gasping for a cold drink. We are hoping to make the most of a day off school that Dan has tomorrow to go to a swimming pool (outdoor and definitely not heated!).

    IMG_9286Talking of school and Dan, he is now in his final year of Primary school (Elementary). His teacher has been increasing the amount of homework recently so that when his class hits Secondary school (Middle school for any Americans out there), it won’t be quite so much of a shock. It does mean that he is often having to finish his homework after our evening meal which does not leave a lot of playing time for him during the week. Please pray that he will adjust well to this new routine and that we will still be able to find time when he can just be a boy!

    I am also experiencing an adjustment related to school. Once again I agreed to teach the Computer Applications course for Grade 9 (Year 10 for any Brits out there!) at Hillcrest. Although I have already taught this course 3 times, this time is completely different! Hillcrest updated their software from Office XP to Office 2013 – a big jump! As a result the old textbooks can’t be used and as buying new textbooks is ridiculously expensive I decided to try and find a new way to teach it. I discovered some brilliant free online tutorials for Word and Excel. Using these in combination with a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) called Schoology, we are making it work. Best of all, the students are enjoying it far more than the old way of doing it!

    A few weeks ago Tim was able to travel to Togo for a great occasion. It was the dedication of the full Bible in Ncham (also sometimes referred to as Bassar), a language spoken in both Togo and Ghana. For more on this – check out Tim’s blog post at HERE/

    The elections are now approaching rapidly and there is a certain amount of tension in the air. The presidential elections look likely to be closely contested and may result in a run-off.
    To be honest with you, one of the things that I am struggling through processing is the uncertainty of what may happen. Will everything go smoothly, will there be trouble, will we have to leave the area or even the country?
    Please pray for peace for Nigeria and mental peace for us, whatever happens.

    Praise
    Jos has remained calm since the start of the New Year
    Tim was able to travel to Togo for the dedication of the Ncham Bible

    Prayer
    Dan will cope well with the new levels of homework he is receiving
    I will be able to balance teaching with the rest of my work and do all of it for God’s glory!
    The whole election process will go smoothly and that we will trust God whatever happens

    04 Feb

    Pray for Nigeria during the election period.

    On the 14th of February 2015 Nigeria will go to the polls to elect a President, a national House of Assembly and a national House of Representatives. On the 28th February they go back to the polls and elect all the State Governors. You may have already noticed in the news that tensions are high and trouble is possible. Pray with us as we enter this period of elections!

    IMG_9853Abuja – Nigerian capital and centre of governance –
    Pray that God would break all strongholds of self, greed and pride in this city so that God’s Kingdom would reign through effective governance. Declare God’s Names in prayer – Yahweh Tsidkenu (The LORD Our Righteousness), El Elyon (Most High God), God of Justice and Judge of the Earth. Raise up the cross of Christ, which puts to shame every principality and power setting itself up against a knowledge of God – and sets an example of mercy and forgiveness and the true way to our Father. Trust God for righteous leadership to be raised up as God raised up Biblical characters like Esther, Nehemiah and Daniel.

    Justice + Righteousness in the Election System + Processes
    Pray for the INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) for effective fulfilment of their duties in this election season. Pray for an equal opportunity for all to vote and for the uprooting of unrighteous practices in the electoral process. “When justice is done it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers” (Prov. 21:15).

    IMG_9927A Right Understanding of Government –
    Pray for the Church to have a right understanding of the government’s role and to be faithful in her prayer labors over the government as is commanded (I Tim. 2:1-4). Pray that critical and judgmental spirits would give way to the Spirit of intercession. Pray that the Gospel of Jesus and His mighty Presence would sweep across governmental buildings in this region tearing down every high place setting itself up against knowledge of God.

    Strategic Governmental Partnerships to further God’s Purpose –
    The history of the modern day Bible translation movement is filled with stories of how God worked in governments in the nations of the earth to fulfill His purpose for the peoples under the authority of those governments. Trust God with us for fresh strategic relationships to be born in this season.

    Security Forces-
    Pray for justice and righteousness to be established in this area of governmental service and that God would strengthen the hearts and hands of the righteous. Pray for open eyes and wisdom as they execute their duties. Pray also for a greater release of timely angelic help over this region during this election season (Psalm 91).

    IMG_9963Election Days!
    Stand with us against every evil plan and scheme to promote and spread violence during these election days. Pray that God would honor the faithful fasting + prayers of His watchmen so that massive peace would be enjoyed throughout the land + God’s Name will be honored. Pray for God’s perfect will to be done as people go to vote from the 36 states of the Federation -Abia, Adamawa, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Bauchi, Bayelsa, Benue, Borno, Cross River, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Gombe, Imo, Jigawa, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Lagos, Nasarawa, Niger, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers, Sokoto, Taraba, Yobe, Zamfara.

    CREDIT: Thanks to Alisha Carr our prayer coordinator for sharing the original material.

    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/

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