12 Jul

Making Matthew Speak Real Safwa

This post and it’s pictures originally appeared at https://bobcreson.com On July 11th 2017.

By guest blogger Steve Pence, Translation Administrator in Mbeya, Tanzania

As we began our trip through the high country of Mbeya Region in southwestern Tanzania, my motorcycle taxi driver looked at me skeptically with the face of a mischievous teenager. In my meager Swahili I told him that I was an old man and very afraid. He laughed and accelerated as I gripped the frame behind my back, willing myself to stay on. I soon realized he was a very skilled driver, fast but surprisingly smooth over the increasingly rough road. At mud holes, he put his boots on the ground and steadied the bike, walking it through. On especially rough downhill stretches we danced along, almost in slow motion.

Ahead of me on the road were my colleagues, Waya and Lawi, each on another motorcycle taxi. They are translating portions of the Bible into their own local language, Safwa. Today I would witness the testing of a draft of Matthew in a Safwa community.

Reaching our destination, we stood under the eaves of a building, trying to escape a steady drizzle. The motorcycle drivers huddled with us. Waya and Lawi took advantage of the opportunity, pulling out their trial texts of the Gospel of Matthew. The texts were printed in a large font and double spaced, with lots of room to write. Peppered across each page were words and phrases highlighted in pink, each of which needed to be investigated to make sure it communicated clearly and accurately.

With almost no introduction, just a few words saying that they were translating the Scriptures, Waya and Lawi began reading the Safwa words aloud. It was as if electricity shot through the air. One moment men quietly waited out a storm on a day that had turned gray and wet and sleepy. The next moment, eyes popped and hands waved as everyone tried to talk at once.

Lawi and Waya both started writing, scratching through words, drawing arrows into margins and making notes. A word they had used for “axe” was unknown here. It was used in another Safwa town at the bottom of the hill, but not up here on the mountain. And up here people don’t use the same word for killing another person as they do for killing a plant or a cow. Here they use a special word for each. Still, nearly everyone nodded in amazement, saying “Yes, this is real Safwa!”

As more people gathered, we were invited down the street and into a room. It was, as Waya called it, “a simple hotel.” We sat on a bench while others sat on empty buckets. The dirt floor was wet. A fire smouldered in the corner beside a collection of big thermos bottles, probably containing tea or hot milk. A single bare bulb dangled unlit from a rafter.

The animated conversation over God’s Word continued without a pause. One teenager excitedly told us he was born again. Another confessed, “I’m not born again. I don’t even go to church now.” But all were glued to the Safwa Scriptures being read and discussed.

In another town that afternoon, Waya approached a roadside checkers game and quickly drew keen interest from the crowd. In this area, isolated on rough mountain roads, few people have yet heard of the Safwa Bible translation project. Waya’s crowd was even amazed that their language could be written at all. So Waya explained the Safwa alphabet as people took seats on culverts scattered about. A donkey joined them, enjoying the tall grass. Waya gave examples of Safwa words that could not be written in Swahili, the national language taught in schools, but could be written in the new Safwa alphabet. People nodded and grinned. A second printout of Safwa Scriptures was passed around.

When it was time to go, one young man stood and said, “Safwa! This is good! I understand it very well. I have been made happy.”

All across the highlands of southwest Tanzania, an area the size of Austria, scenes like these are being replayed as drafted Scripture portions are painstakingly checked in village after village. Eventually, more than three million people speaking thirteen languages will have God’s Word. Each of you has a part in this. Thank you!

27 Apr

Robinson Ministry Update – 27th April 2017

Greetings from a downpour expectant Jos,

The rains have sort of started, we had a great soaking and the ground is starting to sprout grass and there are tiny seedlings everywhere. However we have not had any more rain now for 2 weeks. We have had several days with rumbles of thunder like a hungry belly expecting rain but no actual precipitation. Please pray that they start properly soon or people’s crops that have germinated may die.

Tim and I may miss the next rain in fact as we are both travelling this coming week, although in slightly different directions. I (Ali) am going to Germany for some Ethnologue training (see link for more info on what the Ethnologue is). I will leave on Monday and be back in Jos by Saturday evening, probably highly exhausted. Tim is going to the UK on Tuesday, primarily for the Elim Missions Conference. We are Elim missionaries seconded to Wycliffe/SIL and have really appreciated all the support we have received from the Elim Missions team so decided that it was a high priority for us to make sure that at least one of us made it to the conference. He will be in the UK for less than 2 weeks so he is unlikely to get to see many people. We plan to have a couple of months in the UK next summer (June-July 2018) and hope to see as many of you as possible then!

Robinsons, Barnhoorns and Crabtrees

You may wonder what Dan will be up to in the meantime. He is still in school so he will be staying here with our new upstairs neighbours, the Barnhoorns. We visited them in Canada last summer and now they have returned to Nigeria and recently moved into the upstairs flat. They have 4 kids and Dan often gets described as the 5th Barnhoorn. 🙂 Due to some rather unfortunate and unexpected timing, Dan will have several exams during this coming week while we are both away, please pray that he will get the rest and space that he needs in the midst of it.

For me the last month has been intense with the pressure of getting all the materials ready for the Partnership Development training for our new staff. It has been exciting seeing the finished products arriving however. We now have beautiful brochures for most of our different teams from Linguistics, Literacy and Translation to Ethno Arts, Scripture Engagement and Support Services. Each of our new staff has their own prayer cards for distribution to supporters, there are SIL logo-ed folders and envelopes, not to mention the actual training materials! Still a way to go but finally starting to be able to see that the end might soon be in sight – or is that putting it too strongly?! I am looking forward to getting back to my “normal” job but this has been quite an adventure and definitely outside my comfort zone at times.
Tim is in that crazy phase of the year when he has to deal with budgets for the next financial year as well as all the quarterly reports on how the last lot of money was spent and what impact that team has had. Budgets are always a challenge, especially for those team leaders that are really busy and don’t have the brain power (or, to be honest, inclination) to deal with the numbers and planning involved. It often feels like it would just be so much easier if we didn’t have to worry about all this, if the money needed to do the important work was just there when it was needed and didn’t have to be explained about afterwards. However, planning and accountability are very important to ensure that God’s resources are being used in the best way possible. There is also the factor that those countries that much of the funding comes from have laws that require clear accounting to prove that the money is not being used to fund terrorism. Not something we want to fall foul of!

Please do take some time to pray for us if you can manage it, it makes such a difference! We need your prayers!

Praise
— Opportunities for training and being encouraged
— Great neighbours who are willing to make Dan (at least temporarily) part of their family

Prayer

— Energy and focus and balance and patience and grace and all those other things that we so desperately need in this busy season!
— Safe travels and worthwhile meetings
— Protection and peace for Dan while we are away

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

02 Apr

Impact of Audio Scriptures

After the Dukawa New Testament was completed in early 2016, a recording of the New Testament
and some Old Testament portions was made by the SIL Nigeria Vernacular Media Team. The
Dukawa team continues to get positive outcomes from the 390 Dukawa Audiobibles distributed to
the Dukawa churches. When the team first started distributing Audiobibles, they thought it would
help believers grow in Christ. Surprisingly, many church members realized, after hearing the Scriptures
in their mother tongue, that they did not know what it meant to believe and depend on
Christ.

Grain store in Dukawa land

Grain store in Dukawa land

So far, over 3,800 people have accepted the Lord as a result of listening to the Dukawa
Audiobible. More surprising has been the response of village pastors who have humbly admitted
they did not understand the trade language Hausa Bible. Pastor Amos went so far as to say that
some of what he had been teaching was wrong because he misunderstood the Hausa Bible.
After listening to the Audiobible, one Dukawa man said,

“When I first heard the Audiobible, I felt as
if I was dreaming, but when I heard it 2-3 times, I realized I was not dreaming. Now I can
understand … I am going to be … a Christian.”

Praise God for His work in using His Word in the
Dukawa language to draw more Dukawa people to Himself in truth and understanding!

29 Mar

Robinson Ministry update – 17th March 2017

Greetings from a toasty Jos,

The temperatures are climbing and the humidity is rising. The rains are on their way but probably a month or so away still.
We had a great Spiritual Retreat with the rest of SIL Nigeria last week. Everyone around the office looked rather tired on Monday morning! I usually find that by the end of Retreat I feel spiritually and emotionally refreshed but physically tired. There are always so many people that I want to sit and chat with or there are board and card games going on that I want to play or fun activities planned, so that I find it hard to make it to bed at anything even close to my normal bedtime. To be fair, my normal bed time is about 8.30pm!

James Poole, Tom Crabtree and Julie Rowbory

We had James Poole, the Wycliffe UK Director, come to be our speaker for Retreat. He did a brilliant job of speaking on Romans chapters 5-8 with the overall theme of “Dead to sin and alive to God through Christ.” He gave such a clear, deep gospel message that was really challenging. One of the pictures he elaborated on that has really stayed with me was of sin as a slave driver and us as his slaves. The only way to end that relationship was for us to die. Once the slave has died, the slave driver can yell and crack his whip all he wants but the relationship is ended. We are in that position now if we have accepted Christ – our old selves died with him on the cross and so we no longer have to obey the yells and whip cracks of sin. What a fabulous reality!

There are exciting developments in SIL Nigeria. We have just taken on 13 new members of Nigerian Missionary Staff, all of whom will be raising their own financial and prayer support over the next 6 months or so. They started their orientation last Wednesday and will start their training on support raising on Monday. I am responsible for all the materials they will use during their training and support raising so it has been a hectic month or so and will likely continue hectic for probably another month at least. A lot of the materials have to be created from scratch or at least updated before they can be printed so it is a long process! However, it is so exciting to see more people taking that huge step of faith that God will provide through his people!

Praise

  • Encouraging and enjoyable Spiritual Retreat
  • New missionaries joining the SIL Nigeria family
  • Prayer

  • That we will allow the lessons from Retreat to soak into our lives and make us more like Christ
  • For a deepening trust in God for our new staff
  • 14 Dec

    Robinson Ministry update – 14th Dec 2016

    Almost Christmas Greetings,
    I pray that in the approach to Christmas Day you are able to experience the joy and peace that is so present in the biblical account of Christmas and that the stress and chaos of the modern Christmas is not overwhelming that. One thing I love about being in Nigeria at this time of year is the lack of emphasis on buying presents for everyone and having all the right trimmings. I find it far easier to relax and remember why we are celebrating here than I ever did in England!

    Tim and I both survived the Hausa course and I actually think we both (mostly) enjoyed the experience. One of the ladies on the course was recording each session and then listening to it again at home later. She said one of the things that it highlighted to her was just how much laughter there was during class. It was very stretching, especially for Tim who had a heavy workload for those weeks on top of the course. The monolingual style of teaching was kind of like a long series of overlapping guessing games – what are they saying now? Given the other words that they have used and the actions that they are doing, what must that word mean? But, as advertised, hugely effective, at least for those of us who enjoy guessing games! One of the interesting things that we did was read and act out Bible stories in Hausa – by taking a story that we were all already familiar with, we had a head start on working out what the words meant.
    Now that the course has finished our challenge is to keep putting into practice what we have learnt and to try to keep learning!

    Dan has exams coming up at the end of this week, Thursday, Friday and Monday of next week. Please pray that he will prepare well and be able to focus during the exams. Thankfully he does not dread exams but he has a heavy cold at the moment and is not quite himself.
    In fact we have all been a bit up and down health wise for the last few weeks. I have had a couple of stomach bugs that knocked me out for several days each time and Dan has generously shared his cold with me. My sprained ankle is improving but I still have to walk slowly and can’t walk very far.

    We are looking forward to having a visit from Tim’s mum and my mum over the Christmas period. It will be the first time that Tim’s mum has visited us here so we are trying to think of all the things she might enjoy doing and seeing. Trying to think up things to do has rather reminded me that Jos is not exactly a tourist destination! However we will all enjoy having time together and giving them a taste of our life here.

    If you have time, please take a few minutes to pray for us.

    Praise
    Enjoying our Christmas preparations
    Successful Hausa course

    Prayer
    That we would all have good health, especially while the Mums are here.
    That Dan’s exams would go well
    That Tim and I would be inspired to continue to use the Hausa we have learnt and to add to it.

    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

    10 May

    Robinson Ministry Update – 7th May 2016

    Morning all!
    So I hear that the UK has experiencing unseasonal snow. We, on the other hand, are experiencing quite seasonal heat. The thermometer is staying fairly steady at around 30o C inside our relatively cool house. The rains are still rather stop-and-start and have not settled into their regular daily downpour yet. Once that does start, the temperatures will drop significantly.

    We have been having a bit of an issue with the system sending out these e-mail updates so although I have been writing them, you may not have received one for a few months. To take a look at what you missed, go to http://www.robinsonta.org/category/prayerupdate/

    Tim’s trip to the UK was hectic but fun. He managed to see a lot more people than I had expected given that he was only really there for a week. The wedding was cold but a great celebration. Tim ended up acting as the second Best man (not second-best you understand – at least not in my eyes!) as the Best man had suffered a heart attack in the weeks leading up to the wedding. It was a real pleasure for Tim to be able to support Andy who has supported us for many years!

    The SIL Nigeria Spiritual Retreat was a great blessing to me and Dan. We had a great speaker who spoke on the Walk of Faith. He really challenged me to think about whether I always make decisions and react to situations based on my faith in God or on my faith (or sometimes lack of faith) in myself or others.

    Retreat was also hard for me as my grief at the death of Dan’s godfather (Tim Pickering) and the moving of our closest friends (Hollmans) back to the UK finally caught up with me. As a missionary kid I finetuned the ability to “move on” and pretend I had not really lost anything when people I was close to left. Having to do some un-learning of that now, proving painful but healing.

    Another mixed blessing at Retreat was that Dan lost his ripstick (kind of like a two-wheeled skateboard). He really loves it and rides it at every opportunity (including around the house!). But when it went missing he was able to pray and tell God that if God was taking it away from him for some reason then that was OK with him (but that if possible he would really like it back!). Seeing him trust God and put his faith in God’s will over his own was such an encouragement to me.
    STOP PRESS – The ripstick has been found! Praise God for his generosity to us!

    Thank you for all that you do to support and encourage us, we really appreciate it!

    Praise
    Tim managing to see so much of the family and several friends while in the UK.
    Encouraging and challenging retreat for Dan and Ali.
    Managed to book very reasonable flights to Canada for the summer (with Ethiopian Air!).

    Prayer
    Getting back into routine post Tim’s trip and the Retreat.
    Tim catching up on work and having peace with all the difficult things that need to be dealt with.

    11 Feb

    Robinson Ministry Update – 11th February 2016

    Greetings from a slowly warming Jos,
    We are easing very gradually into hot season. At this point I am looking forward to it because wearing leggings under my skirt every day gets old after a while! Dan does not mind the cold but looks forward to the fact that it is easier to persuade us to take him swimming (only unheated open air pools in Jos) in the hot times.

    RemainingTomatoesWe are almost at the end of our tomato canning extravaganza. So far we have canned 108 pints of spaghetti sauce, 51 pints of salsa and 157 pints of whole, peeled tomatoes. And we still have a large tub of tomatoes to deal with!
    Think we must be overdosing on tomatoes to eat all that in one year? Some of this is for other people who are not currently in the country to make their own. How much would you go through in a year?
    Victoria+PastaSauce

    Last weekend Tim and Dan went on a road-trip to Abuja, taking Jono Barnhoorn (who had been staying with us for a few weeks) to the airport for his flight back to Canada. They had a cunning plan to see the new Star Wars movie while they were there (no cinemas in Jos). Tim checked the schedule, yes, it was showing, and at a time that would work. They got to the cinema only to be informed that the screen due to show it was broken so it was not showing after all. Bitter disappointment as that was probably their last chance to see it in the cinema. Dan perked up with a trip to the swimming pool though! On the way back they were able to give a lift to some other friends of ours, Marcus and Niffer Love with their little boy, Emmanuel.
    KKOnTheRoad
    Tim has survived the first week and a half as Acting Director, thank you for praying for him, please continue to do so. No disasters yet! He will get a week off from the role next week and then he will be back to it again for the week after.
    BananaOnTheRoad
    Dan is looking forward to a day off school on Friday and again on Tuesday of the week after.

    Thank you to those of you who prayed for the LPCF (Language Program Coordination Forum) meetings, I (Ali) got a great response to the list of projects that I produced from our database. Several of our partner organisations expressed appreciation and a desire to continue to collaborate to know what languages each organisation is involved with. Information is not always freely shared here so this is really encouraging!

    Thank you for all your prayers and support.

    Praise
    A mini break for Dan
    Successful, if somewhat disruptive, tomato canning
    Lack of problems so far during Tim’s reign 😉 as Acting Director
    Bible translation organisations in Nigeria showing a desire to work together and share information

    Prayer
    That God will continue to protect SIL Nigeria from major issues with our Director away
    Tim will find rest amid the intensity at work

    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.

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