16 Feb

Robinson Ministry update – 16th February 2018

Morning all!

Well, the days are hotting up here. Cold season is coming to an end and we are entering the hottest months of the year. Thankfully here in Jos our altitude keeps the heat from becoming too unbearable but we do still tend to get more tired than usual.

I have had a busy few weeks with a lot of work needing to be done to get the Nigeria entries for next edition of the Ethnologue for Africa ready. The Ethnologue lists all the known languages of the world with a bit of information about each one like the number of speakers, exactly where it is spoken, whether it has any dialects etc. There is an online version here that you can explore. See if you can find out how many languages are spoken in Nigeria!

We also had our annual tomato canning extravaganza a few weeks ago when we buy bushels of tomatoes and onions and green peppers and make enough salsa and pasta sauce and canned whole tomatoes to last us the year!

PC: Jonathan Barnhoorn

PC: Jonathan Barnhoorn

Tim spent the day out in the Koro area (between here and Abuja) last week in order to meet with one of the language committees from the language projects in that area. He has been working with them and the project advisor to help the community really take ownership of the translation work in their language. If they truly own the work then they will truly own the scriptures that are produced and really value them.

“Is it a success” can be a challenging question to answer at times.  In a couple of weeks (25th Feb) Tim and Michael Harrar our colleague will be travelling out to Niger State to meet with several other language project teams to trial a project assessment tool.   They will be away for about a week this time as it is quite a bit further away so please pray for safe travels for them. 

Dan just got the results of a practice SAT (the American variety that apparently is quite different to the British one!) that he sat before Christmas. He did very well, coming in the top 2% of all those who took the test across the world. He starts High School next year and we are starting to try and work out what sort of choices he will need to make in order to have the option of going to university in the UK with what will be an American High School diploma.

I have been struggling with low energy for about a week now as a result of forgetting to take my thyroxine for ten days. I feel like I am finally starting to come out of the brain fog and bone weariness and looking forward to getting back up to normal strength!

Praise

  • Tim being able to use his skills to help language communities really engage with and take ownership of the scripture translation in their language.
  • I was able to make a lot of updates and improve the information about Nigerian languages for the forthcoming edition of the Ethnologue.
  • Dan getting great results in his practice SAT.

Prayer

  • Safe travel for Tim as he goes to Niger State from the 25th Feb to the 4th March.
  • For me to get back to full energy.
  • That we will all continue to trust God and know his peace.
25 Jan

Scripture Reading Listening Groups having an Impact

There is loads of exciting things going on in Nigeria!

Scripture Reading Listening Groups  (SLRG) are helping many oral communities access their translations.

SLRGs: Bible Study for Non-Readers from benandren on Vimeo.

11 Jan

Robinson ministry update – 11th Jan 2018

Happy New Year!

I love the fact that, here in Nigeria, the first time you see a person in the new year, you greet them with “Happy New Year!” It could be June, but if it is the first time you see them that year then “Happy New Year!” So, although 2018 may be starting to feel less than shiny new to you by now, we greet you with a Happy New Year!

We had a busy but surprisingly restful Christmas break. I say surprisingly because looking into it I was concerned by the very low number of days that were not already filled up. I like time to chill out at home without too much planned and there was a noticeable lack of those sort of days! However, God is good and he gave us rest in other ways this Christmas.

We were able to take a short trip to a game reserve about 3 hours drive north-east of Jos with several other families. There is a hot spring there which feeds a beautiful river with a white sandy bottom that stays at a beautiful 31C. We spent most of our time there in the water, relaxing, swimming, snorkelling, chatting. We then had a fairly quiet New Year back in Jos with a New Year’s Eve BBQ (something that would have been distinctly chilly in the UK!).

After New Year we spent about 4 days at a retreat centre in Miango, about half an hour’s drive from Jos for the SIM retreat. SIM is another big mission here in Nigeria and they had asked Tim if he would come and lead the worship for them during their retreat. I helped by doing projection (of words and presentations) and leading a small group. Dan helped by swelling the number of teenagers! Despite having ‘jobs’ to do there we were also able to rest and enjoy hanging out with other missionaries. Tim however took the whole recreation side of things a little too seriously and managed to pick up a bad ankle injury during their annual adults vs youth football match. He is now hobbling around with a brightly coloured ankle. Thankfully one of the SIM missionaries is a physiotherapist and she offered to do a home visit to see Tim in exchange for a good meal. As good meals are not too hard to come by in our house we were very grateful for this offer!

There was another, much more serious, medical issue that we were involved with over the break. An American friend of ours gave birth (in the early hours of New Year’s Day) to a baby girl who quickly developed breathing difficulties and ended up having to have a medical evacuation a few days after she was born. She and her parents are now in South Africa and she is doing so much better. Although the situation was so hard and scary, we were able to see God’s provision time and time again though it. We have a Nurse who recently joined SIL Nigeria, when we have not had one for years previously. He was able to be a massive help in so many ways. The baby needed a passport in order to be able to be evacuated and at one point (when she was on 24 hour oxygen) we thought that she was going to need to be driven to Abuja (the capital, about 5 hours drive from Jos) in order to be issued with one. However the embassy ended up issuing it without requiring this and they even sent representatives to Jos with the passport. We had the impression that only the mum would be able to travel with the baby in the evacuation but in the end the plane was able to take both parents as well as the baby. It is such an encouragement when we can see God’s hand even in the midst of hard times!

CLICK THIS LINK For an exciting story about God using translated scripture to reach people.

We are starting to make plans for our furlough in the UK this summer (June-July 2018). It might seem a little early but we want to see as many of you as possible and that requires serious co-ordination! Thankfully that is one of Tim’s strengths!

Thank you so much for all your prayers for us, we are deeply grateful! If you are able, please take some time to pray for these things:

Praise

  • Rest over a busy Christmas break
  • God’s hand through the baby’s medical evacuation

Prayer

  • That God will continue to heal the baby and bring peace to her parents
  • A good transition back into school and work routine
  • Plans for furlough to take shape in God’s way and time
10 Jan

Does having scripture in one’s heart language really help?

Does having scripture in one’s heart language really help? This is a story of the miraculous work of God, the hard work of men and women and a courageous act by one believer.   Sani (not his real name) has been assisting with some translation workshops over the past year here in West Africa. He is a former Muslim, in fact his father is a former Imam, coming from a people group that is predominantly Muslim.

A few weeks ago, Sani received a phone call from an unknown number. The caller said that he and his four friends were aware of Sani’s work among the Muslim people group they belonged to and that they all shared the same heart language. They wanted Sani to come and meet with them and tell them about Jesus. It wasn’t long into the conversation that as it became apparent that these five may belong to a militant group. Sani began to wonder if this was a trap. He declined to meet because of the risk. The caller phoned again the next day, begging Sani to meet. To help persuade Sani, he related an account of their recent experiences. The five admitted they were leaders of a group that was militant. In fact, they were leading their group of 2500 through the bush to a neighbouring state to launch an attack when they were blocked by a vision of a man in brilliant white whose feet were on the ground and his head in the sky. All five leaders and many of the larger group saw this vision and they wisely retreated. Not to be deterred, they wondered if they had stumbled upon a “holy” trail and decided to proceed by a different way the next day. Again, they were confronted by the same vision. This happened five separate times.

Upon returning to camp, the five leaders took their prayer rugs and separated themselves from the camp and each other to pray and reflect. While sitting alone, a man in white approached the caller,  greeted him and sat down next to him. The visitor began to share all that had recently happened, what was going on in the caller’s head and shared from the scriptures. This baffled the man and finally he said, ‘Who are you and how do you know these things?” The visitor had been sitting with his hands tucked under his arms. He pulled out his hands and displayed them palm forward showing holes in each and proclaimed, “I am Jesus, I have come that you might have salvation and bring salvation to others.” The militant leader fell to his knees and accepted Jesus as his Lord and saviour. The visitor walked away and disappeared into the bush. The newly converted leader got up and ran to the closest of the other four leaders to tell him what had happened but discovered that the other leader had just experienced the same visit. Soon they discovered that all five had the same visit at the same time.

They quickly discussed what they should do next which is when they remembered hearing about Sani, a man that talked about Jesus in their own language. Upon hearing this story and some amount of prayer and discussion with his wife, it was decided that Sani should respond to the invitation regardless of the risk. He drove some ways out of town where he met the caller who then took him by motor bike to their camp. Arriving late at night, he retired to a restless sleep. At daybreak, Sani entered the camp to find 2500 militants assembled and waiting to hear him speak. Even though he is a preacher, something prompted Sani to simply read the scripture. Fortunately, the New Testament had been completed and dedicated six years earlier which meant that Sani could read God’s word to them in their heart language! He read from the book of James. After reading four chapters, he gave an invitation to accept Jesus and all 2500 responded! God’s word is powerful especially when it is in your heart language!

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!

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