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

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/

16 Jun

Week of prayer for Nigeria

Christian Solidarity Worldwide have declared a week o prayer for Nigeria. 

http://www.csw.org.uk/prayfornigeria – a TON of great resources on here.  

From thier website: 

Prayers to inspire you…

Anglican Archbishop of Jos, Benjamin Kwashi, has asked us to use this special prayer for Nigeria:

Almighty and everlasting God,

We praise and glorify You for the creation of the world.

We thank You for Nigeria and her people; have mercy on all her people, especially the youth, women and children; forgive her sin and cover her shame; deliver and free Nigeria from violence, corruption and evil, deliver her from the sponsors of abduction, destruction and persecutions, bring speedily the days of peace and restoration.

Help Nigerians to build a nation strong, generous and prosperous, we pray in the name of Jesus.

Amen.

 

Each day I'll post on my twitter and my facebook a theme and a verse for inspiriing those prayers.  

For the next 7 days, please join us in praying for this mighty nation.  

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.  

 

30 Jan

From imagination to creation.

There are a whole lot of languages in Nigeria – 512 or thereabouts – and only a handful of those have Bibles. Some have New Testaments and there is plenty of work in progress.

Every now and again, there is a real sense of excitement in our office at the prospect of a dedication. From the moment someone imagined translating the scripture into that language, to the moment a person opens up that book for the first time… In between those moments, there are years and years of work, thousands of combined man-hours by people often on multiple continents. They’ve all been part of the process to get that New Testament or Bible printed.

I was lucky enough to attend one such celebration last year and Wycliffe USA has just written a brilliant piece on the last part of the process.

Peter,* a member of the Fulani translation team in Nigeria, couldn’t understand why Heidi Rosendall wanted him and the other team members to sign her copy of the new Fulani New Testament. After all, they aren’t famous.

But to Heidi, those signatures are more precious than any celebrity’s. They represent the literal blood, sweat, and tears that Peter and others have sacrificed so that the Fulani could have God’s Word in their own language.

As a typesetter living in Jos, Nigeria, Heidi works with local translation teams from several language groups, putting their finished translations into printable formats—or, as she puts it, “making Bibles beautiful.”   (read the rest here)

Heidi’s office is about 4 doors down from mine. There is a constant stream of people going there, trying to get past the final hurdle, each with amazing stories of overcoming obstacles and confusion in order to see lives changed through the translated Word of God.

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?

16 Mar

Why does Bible Translation take so long?

There are many many reasons that Bible Translation takes a long time. A good translation will be accurate and easy to understand. It can take a long time to bring a Bible translation to this very finely negotiated balance. The most 'understandable' phrase isn't always the most 'accurate'. Sometimes lengthy discussions and extensive testing is required just to get one word right.

The story below is from our Wycliffe collegue in the USA who travels to Nigeria to work with Bible Translation projects. 

 

As the Mbe* translation team in Nigeria was translating the Gospel of Luke, they came to chapter 2, verse 7, where Luke describes the first moments of Jesus’ earthly life: “She [Mary] gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.”

The translators took time to ponder how to translate some of the words, but not “manger.” They immediately used the word “ókpáng.”

“What’s an ókpáng?” asked their consultant, John Watters. “Tell me what it looks like.”  One of the translators drew a picture on the whiteboard. It was essentially a cradle hung by ropes so that the newborn could be laid in it and swung.

“Read the Translator’s Notes again,” John suggested. “What do the notes say about the manger?” (“Translator’s Notes” is a series of commentaries in non-technical English that are especially helpful for Bible translators for whom English is a second language.)

The Mbe translators read the notes and saw that “manger” referred to an animal feeding trough. Joseph and Mary apparently stayed near the animals, since there was no room for them in the part of the house where people usually stayed, and so Jesus’ first bed was an animal feeding trough.

Even as the Mbe team read the notes, they objected. “We have always used the word ókpáng. We have used it for years, and that’s what we should use.”

John pointed out to them that it wasn’t just a matter of tradition. God expects us to find the words that express the original meaning as accurately as possible. Furthermore, this word tells us something profound about God. “When He came to live among us and bring salvation to us, He came in the lowliest way possible. He did not come and sleep in a nice ókpáng like every Mbe mother wants for her newborn. Instead, He showed us his unbelievable humility,” John told them. “So we need to find your best word for an animal feeding trough.”

Suddenly the one who had argued most loudly for the traditional term offered, “We feed our animals out of an old worn-out basket that is not usable anymore except to feed the animals. We call it ‘ɛ́dzábrí.’”

“Then try that term,” said John. “Put it in your rough draft and test it with Mbe speakers.”

The next weekend they read the story of Jesus’ birth to all kinds of church groups and individuals in Mbe villages. Often people asked about the word for manger. They understood what ɛ́dzábrí meant, but they weren’t sure it was the right choice. “We always say they laid Jesus in an ókpáng,” they said.

Each time they were asked, the translation team explained the reason they had chosen the new term. Jesus really did lie in a place where they fed animals. In this way, He demonstrated the humility that would characterize His years on earth.

As the Mbe people listened, they were visibly moved. Picturing the newborn Baby lying in the animals’ feeding basket, they recognized in a new way that Jesus was willing to do whatever it took to reach them. As an adult, He would humble Himself by washing the disciples’ feet and then by dying on the cross. And this humility started right from birth, when He was born to a young peasant woman under questionable social conditions and laid in an animal feeding trough.

No word in Scripture is too unimportant to translate carefully and accurately. Even the word for a baby’s bed—accurately translated—can show people the lengths to which God will go to reach them, to reach us.

And no language community is too unimportant to merit the Scriptures in the language they best understand. John says, “Translation in the heart language respects the people who speak it, and through the process it frees them to have a relationship with God in their own words and terms.” 

There is nothing God wants to say to a language community that He cannot say in their own language. The translated Word frees people to respond to the God who humbled Himself for them, and it frees them to worship the exalted God in the language that best expresses their joy and adoration. One day every knee will bow and every tongue—speaking every language—will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

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