28 Oct

Robinson Ministry Update – 27th October 2017

Greetings from Jos!

Well, it has been an interesting month what with a combination of an SIL Nigeria Church Leaders’ Open Day, a couple of trips to the Koro area for Tim, Financial Year End processes, illness, Strategy meetings and a 10 day visit from 7 overseas visitors including one staying in our house with us.  Not to mention Nigerian Independence Day and Dan’s mid-semester break.

Now that I look back I wonder how we fitted it all in!

A few highlights:

Around 150 Church Leaders came to the SIL Nigeria Open Day!  This means that the message of the potential for life transformation through the Bible in people’s heart language is getting out there into the Nigerian church.

Tim Visited 4 langue projects with a fellow SIL Colleague and spent time looking at how the projects are working and how we can adjust some things to work better.   They talked about 5 topics in each place:  Ownership, Partnership, Relationship, Stewardship and Impact. (more pictures) These visits coincided with the dedication of several books in the Nyankpa language. (more pictures) 

A team of 7 people came to visit us and assess and advise on better ways to get the right man-power that is desperately needed in Nigeria to tackle the huge number of remaining translation needs that we have. One of the team, Noel Harrison, a friend of Tim’s family, stayed with us. It was great to get to know him much better and to have the privilege to introduce him to a bit of Nigeria. It was in fact his first time in Africa although he is very well travelled in other parts of the world.  

Tim also got to take the visiting team to visit 2 language projects in the Koro area.  (more pictures) It is always exciting when you can connect those who work in vital administrative roles with the people they are ultimately serving. Sometimes their roles seem very removed from the “cutting edge” but without them there could be no “cutting edge”.

A couple of challenges:

I was down with some sort of stomach virus for about a week, Dan has had a 24 hour vomiting bug and Tim also had a period of being under the weather (sidenote – where on earth does that saying originate from?!).

Financial Year End has been on going with a lot of changes having to be made at the last minute to the set up of the budgets for the new financial year. This has meant Tim pulling several late nighters.

Praise

  • Please thank God for all the things he has enabled us to do this month!
  • For solutions to the not terribly smooth parts of Year End!

Prayer

  • That all things we have been involved with will bear good fruit and ultimately result in more Nigerians with lives changed as a result of better access to God’s transforming word.
  • That we would remain physically and spiritually healthy as we continue to serve. 
15 Oct

It Pierces the Heart

Joyful reactions by villagers to hearing Jeremiah and Habakkuk in their language for the first time in a Christian-minority language group.

In March 2017 about two dozen believers from a language group where Christians are a tiny minority came together to review the translation of Jeremiah and Habakkuk: that is, to do a read-through, make comments and give advice on the draft. It was their first time to encounter this material in their own language, rather than in Hausa, the trade language. Habakkuk is a short three-chapter book; Jeremiah clocks in at 52 chapters. The reviewers were spellbound by Jeremiah.

“It pierces the heart.”

“I feel like I’ve never read this book before.”

“That’s because we’ve never heard it in our language before,”said a retired evangelist soberly.

“You never get tired of hearing it,” said an old white-bearded elder, a wide grin spreading across his face.

“All those years I spent in Bible school,” said a pastor meditatively,

“and yet it’s as if I’ve never read this!”

Later, as everyone was sitting around chatting in the evening, one man commented,
“This book we’ve read puts me in awe of God.”
On the last day, one young man said, “When I’ve read the Bible in Hausa, I’ve never
enjoyed it so much as I have these days reading it in my own language. Now that I’ve
had this experience, I’m really going to pray for the translation team as they
continue this important work.”

Having Scripture in our own language is something many take for granted, and it’s
hard to realize how gripping mother-tongue Scriptures is for someone who has only
ever encountered the Word through the dark glasses of a second language. If you
have the Bible in your own language, thank God for it and pray for those language
groups in Nigeria who are still waiting, that soon they too would have the truth of
the Gospel in a language that pierces their hearts.

Adapted by: Beverly Harrar
Original Author: Rachelle Wenger

26 Sep

Robinson Ministry Update – 26th September 2017

Greetings from a warming Jos,

The rains are dying down and the temperature is rising. This is one of my favourite times of year because the all-invasive damp is starting to retreat and yet everything is still lush and green.  Dan and I spent some time at our local (outdoor) swimming pool on Saturday and the temperature was just perfect!

Tim has made it safely back from Niger State where he was visiting several projects.  The roads were terrible and the drive long and arduous but they stayed safe and apart from a small incident with a ditch, the car survived well!  We don’t take safe travel for granted here, we heard of two people just last week who were killed in accidents on the road. After his trip, Tim took a week off work and spent some of it in Abuja (where he had to drop off the visitors that travelled with him to Niger State).  He had fun being able to actually go to the cinema and just have some time with no responsibilities.  He is now back at work and deep into Financial Year End sorting out.

Dan got his progress report from school and has done really well in all his subjects, including an A in his difficult Algebra class. He is still discovering how his role as a Class Officer works, they have run a Bake Sale at school and are now planning a Pancake breakfast for the community. I keep finding myself looking at him and wondering when he got all tall and lanky, he has very nearly overtaken me in height but I think I am still just about holding my own!  Dan is struggling a bit with managing his time wisely in the evenings.  He is getting a fair bit of homework and I am trying to leave him to do it when he chooses, with minimal reminders. Dan however, would much rather be reading a book!

I have been working on gathering up to date information from all our partners in Nigeria about the translation projects that they are involved with so that we can all get a better picture of who is doing what. There is one group of eight languages (Azelle, Bogghom, Chakfem, Pyam, Boi, Ywom, Montol and Sanga), all from Plateau State (where we live) that have just completed Luke’s gospel in their languages. None of these languages had even been written down before they started and now they will be able to read or listen to the story of Jesus in their language! As most of the language speakers will be unable to read it, at least at first, the gospel will be published both as a physical book and as an audio recording.  Pray that this small portion of God’s Word will awaken a thirst for more.

Thank you for praying for us and for God’s work here in Nigeria!

Praise

  • Safe travel for Tim and the team to and from Niger State
  • Tim able to take some time off
  • Dan thriving at school
  • Luke’s gospel ready to publish in 8 more languages!

Prayer

  • Real rejuvenation for Tim
  • The 8 language communities receiving God’s Word in their language for the first time would be deeply impacted by it
  • Dan able to have more self-control in how he manages his time
01 Sep

Robinson Ministry update – 1st September 2017

Dear lovely people,

Greetings from thundery Jos. The rainy season is taking out its fury on us at approaching the end of its reign (or maybe rain?). We are having plenty of thunder storms with strong winds and incredibly loud cracks of thunder. Parts of the country are suffering with serious flooding and more loss of life than has been seen in the floods in Texas but also considerably less coverage in the news. Being on a high plateau, we have not had issues with flooding however.

Sometimes it can feel like we are all working so hard but the progress in getting accessible Bibles to those who need them is so slow. Other times it feels like there is a feast of Bibles arriving.  Over the last two weeks, newly published New Testaments in three Nigerian languages landed on my desk. Now obviously my desk doesn’t need them but what this really means is that containers full of New Testaments have arrived in Jos and they are now on their way to the three language communities that need them. Please pray for the Kuteb, the Hyam and the Mwaghavul as they celebrate the arrival of their scriptures. Pray for lives to be impacted and more people to be brought into the amazing kingdom of God through His word in their language.

Tim is heading over to Niger State this weekend.  It is 5 hours drive to Abuja on Saturday and He will meet the visitors off the plane and then head north on a 10 hour drive with them to the areas where the languages are spoken.  Tim and the visitors will be working on implementing a new way of planning, funding and implementing five Bible translation projects that we work with in that area. The roads they will be travelling on are apparently not all in a good condition and it is likely to be a  tiring journey. Please pray that they will make it safely and with energy to spare for the discussions ahead.  Tim will then take a week off to recuperate after the intensity of the last few months.

I (Ali) have recovered most of my equilibrium following missing taking my thyroxine for 5 days last month. I had a couple of days of feeling pretty much wiped out and unable to leave the house but I feel mostly back to normal now. I will get a blood test done in a couple of weeks’ time to see how it is looking.

Dan has been elected as a class officer for the coming year. This is the first year that his class has had these positions and he was not sure whether to run for election (oh yes, that is what they call it!) or not.  In the end he picked the position that sounded like the least responsibility, Store Assistant Manager. Not entirely clear on what that will entail but he was thrilled, and rather surprised, to win.

Thank you once again for your support of God’s work here in Nigeria, please continue to pray for us!

Praise

  • More people getting access to God’s word to them in their language
  • Quick recovery from missed meds for Ali
  • Dan being encouraged by being chosen as a class officer.

Prayer

  • Safe travel for Tim and the visitors up into Niger State
  • Successful meetings and discussions so that the projects there can move forward.
  • Those suffering with the flooding in Nigeria and the rest of Africa.
31 Jul

Robinson Ministry Update – 28th July 2017

Jos has turned a luscious green which is beautifully restful after 6 months of brown dustiness. For me the sense of restfulness is added to by the fact that Dan has finished school for the year and so I am on a reduced work schedule. Tim is still working hard however. In fact he is working even harder than usual at the moment as he is currently the Acting Director for SIL Nigeria due to our Director (Tom Crabtree) being in the US for the summer. This means that all the tricky situations land on his desk to deal with. Please pray that God will sustain him and give him strength and wisdom in this challenging time!

I have finished with all the preparations for our Nigerian Missionary Staff’s (NMS) Discipleship Ministry Partner Development training, also known as the Blitz due to its intensity! It has been a crazy few months but so fabulous to finally see all the materials come together and be put to good use.

Both Tim and I had successful trips in May. My travel to Germany was smooth and the time felt like a real break. We did work hard but the saying “a change is as good as a rest” definitely applied. It was great to meet people who are working across Africa and Eurasia and swapping stories. Several of the people there I had communicated with before by e-mail but it was the first time I had met them in person. The interface that we were being trained on is a brilliant new way for us to provide updates to the Ethnologue. On the way back to Nigeria I managed to have a few hours exploring Frankfurt with a newly made friend (a Hungarian based in Cameroon) who had been my roommate during the training.
Tim’s time in the UK was rather more intense. He was attending the Elim Missions Conference and then the Elim Leaders Summit. Both involved long days but also great interactions with other Elim missionaries. He managed to squeeze in a few days with family on either end and arrived back in Nigeria feeling encouraged.

Dan’s exams went well. Thankfully he does not seem to get stressed by exams and usually does well. His biggest challenge is taking his time and writing neatly enough that his teachers can read his answers. He is now enjoying a lovely long summer break. Having the Barnhoorns upstairs has definitely improved the quality of his summer with plenty of willing participants for board games and Lego building and just generally messing about with sticks!

Thank you so much to all of you who are supporting us and making our work possible. If you have a few minutes to pray for us, we would really appreciate it!

Praise:
— A time of rest for Ali after an intense few months working on preparations for our Nigerian Missionary Staff’s partnership training.
— Dan came through his exams with flying colours and is now enjoying his break. (Back to school on August 9th).

Prayer:
— Wisdom and peace for Tim as he handles the challenges of being SIL Nigeria’s Acting Director. (The real director is back August 8th)
— That Tim can find opportunities for rest as well.

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

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
  • 24 Feb

    Robinson Ministry Update 24th Feb 2017

    Greetings from a bright and chilly Jos,

    Well, when I say chilly, it is not really getting much below 18C, but relative to the usual temperatures here it feels quite fresh!

    It feels like we are in quite a time of change at the moment.
    We have Helen Fisher, a new member of staff fresh from the UK, staying with us while she gets acclimatised to life here. It is interesting to see our world through her eyes and remember our own discoveries when we first arrived.

    SIL Nigeria has a new HR director, Janice Barnhoorn, and so Tim has stepped back to being only responsible for Finance Office, Facilities team, Project Funding and the Computer department – still plenty to keep him busy!

    Our upstairs neighbours, the Sweetings, who first arrived in Nigeria only 3 weeks after we did, are leaving to move back to the US. We took our introductory Hausa language class together and have been firm friends ever since so it really feels like the end of an era to have them leaving.

    On the up side, the Barnhoorns are planning to move in upstairs which will give Dan some more age appropriate company (they have four kids, Dan’s age and younger). This is such a massive blessing to us all and we are so grateful to God that he not only takes away but also gives.

    This week there have been about 20 people being interviewed for various different positions at SIL Nigeria. The successful candidates will be joining us as new Nigerian Missionary Staff, seeking to raise the financial and prayer support that they need from the Nigerian church. They will need buckets of faith and perseverance so please pray that those interviewing them will have the wisdom of God and not just see them with human eyes.

    Through all this change we remain confident that God is our rock, our foundation, our fortress and that if we are rooted into him none of our external circumstances can steal our joy and peace. I type this being well aware that I often allow those “external circumstances” to do just that! Pray for us that we will all remain rooted and established in God!

    Lots of prayer requests today, we really need your prayers now as always.
    Prayer

  • For peace and joy for the Sweetings as they transition back to the US as their permanent base.
  • For wisdom for the interviewers as they decide who to invite to join our SIL Nigeria team.
  • For our organisational partners here that they would have faith in God their provider.
  • For peace and joy for Helen as she gets used to living and working in a culture that she is not familiar with.
  • That we will remain fully reliant and dependant on God for our peace and joy.
  • Praise

  • God has brought and is continuing to bring new people to join SIL Nigeria!
  • The enjoyment of getting to know Helen and helping her to make sense of life here.
  • The plans for the Barnhoorns to move in upstairs and the blessing that it will be to all of us.
  • God is over all and through all and in all and DOES NOT CHANGE!
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