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.

31 Oct

Robinson Ministry update – 31st October 2016

Greetings from a beautifully warm and sunny Jos,
I am swiftly coming to the conclusion that Jos is at its most pleasant in October. The rain has stopped but there is still plenty of greenery around. The skies are clear blue but the sun is not too hot. The air is drying so no more mould or mango worms but the dust of harmattan has not yet kicked in. Perfect!

We had our annual staff conference a couple of weeks ago. All SIL Nigeria staff in the country gathered in Jos to worship together, discuss strategy, hear what others are up to, etc.
One highlight was hearing stories of how God was impacting Nigeria through the different domains. The linguistics domain shared how the careful analysis of sentence structure (discourse analysis) in one language had enabled the translators to spot and correct hundreds of errors in the draft translation of Luke’s gospel. This included a passage (Luke 14) where the draft translation had the Pharisees (rather than Jesus) healing a man. Very important to know who is doing what to whom in the scriptures!
We also had a seminar on recognising and having grace for our different cultural back grounds. Our staff are made up of Nigerians (from many different parts of Nigeria), Americans, Brits, Dutch, Canadians, Irish as well as people who have lived all over the world and absorbed many different cultures. This diversity is wonderful but can also be a big challenge to understanding one another and working well together!
mail-attachmentWe also had some fun together, with a seven legged race! Which Dan (who was on break from school) and my team won, despite our apparent disorder in the picture!
One final special highlight for me was having an Irish member of staff, whose husband was leading worship on the final day, explain to us some of the deeper significance behind the words in the song “Be thou my vision” which was originally written in Irish. I have always loved that song and her explanation enabled us all to sing it with more passion because of our deeper understanding. This also reminded me of how much more important it is that people understand the scriptures deeply if they are going to respond to God whole-heartedly, which is just not possible in a language they don’t know deeply.

dan-costumeDan had his annual middle school party last weekend and had fun putting together a costume to go as the Hero of his choice – King Peter of Narnia. He won the prize for best book character costume. Having an artist living next door definitely helped, many thanks Michael Harrar!

And finally . . .
I managed to sprain my ankle quite badly on Saturday evening on some uneven ground in the dark. At the moment I am subjecting it to a strict RICE (Rest Ice Compression Elevation) regime and praying that I will be able to bear weight on it soon.

Thank you as always for your prayers and support!

Praise
Encouraging staff conference
Fun times for Dan

Prayer
Healing for my ankle

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 Apr

Firm Foundations

I am not a runner. It may seem that I do a lot of running, but I don’t love running. I do it more out of necessity, to keep the happy hormones flowing, to reduce the spare tyre from around my waist, and mostly, because well, I like eating. I run because I eat. Over the past few years I have learnt a lot about running, what to do and what not to do, how to avoid injuries and how a cold beer is a great source of much needed chromium. One thing has remained especially true all this time, if you are running, your feet need to be landing on a firm foundation in order for you to retain any forward momentum. This was hammered home the other day when I was chased by possibly rabid dogs. Dogs here aren’t pets, they are guard dogs, occasionally they will come out of a house or compound to make sure you keep on going past and not in. On this occasion, they kept coming at me. First I thought I’ll speed up, make sure they know I am just going past. I growled and hissed a bit and the first 2 ran off. But then they came back with 4 friends and were eyeing up my heels. They were getting much closer than I was happy with. Being bitten by a dog is something I was DESPERATE to avoid. So as one got closer (close your ears all you dog lovers out there) I had to kick him in the head. He scuppered off and took his friends with him. Phew, I thought, I’m not going to be bitten today. Then, next thing I know, I have hit the ground with my knees and not my feet. Yes, I tripped up. WHY did this happen I asked myself. Well, basically, I was completely distracted by the threat of the dogs coming at me. I looked at the dog as I kicked him and in so doing I took my eyes off where my feet were going to land. IMG_0680I was running fast, missed the firm ground, hit a bit of muddy sand, tripped up and fell over. Adrenaline pumping, I jumped up, saw ANOTHER dog coming at me and ran harder to get around the corner. The end result was a pounding heart, blood mixed with mud and the desire to puke, all because my feet didn’t hit a firm foundation.

As I was thinking about this later in the day and it hit home that this incident was as much about my spiritual life as my ‘running’ life. We need to take our steps based on a solid foundation. It isn’t okay, nor is it a great plan to just simply head out there and see what happens, pick up whatever mud hits us on the way. Our spirituality needs to be based on something solid, a firm foundation. God’s word, the Bible, Scripture, however you prefer to refer to it, IS that solid foundation. It is easy to get distracted from it when trouble is biting at your heels, it is easy in my life to look at the times when I have been grounded in the Word, but dipping in and out on special occasions – the results were the spiritual equivalent of bloody knees.

We are privileged in English to have so so many different versions of the Bible. It is possible I believe, to find one that you are able to read and understand well enough, that by the power of the Holy Spirit, the content can change you. For millions of people around the world and Nigeria, they are yet to have that version of any scripture at all, they have no foundation to base their life on.

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.

24 Nov

High or low – it is all about Tone.

20150609_092858I love hearing stories from around the world illustrating the importance of having a good understanding of a language and culture before launching into translation.

One thing our linguistics experts try to work on is a language’s tonal structure. What this means is that the tone used when saying a word can completely change the meaning.

One of my colleagues shared this story recently.

“One missionary translator in East Africa had never accurately analysed the tonal differences in a local language and accordingly in the communion service, he seriously mispronounced the statement, “This cup of blessing do we bless”. What the people heard was “This cup of poison do we bless”, because the words for blessing and poison differed only in tonal patterns. But the congregation did not realise that this was a mistake in pronunciation. They themselves had a custom of drinking a poison cup in the case of trial by ordeal when someone died under mysterious circumstances. Accordingly, the people assumed that each Sunday believers drank a poison cup and in this way showed that they were innocent.” In writing, it would be crucial to mark such a tonal difference, otherwise major misunderstandings would ensue.

Isn’t that amazing – the difference HOW you say the word can make! Our teams do multiple drafts and checks to make sure the final product is both accurate and understandable.

09 Oct

Ministry update – 9th October 2015

Good morning from what may well be one of our last damp days of the season.

The weather is changing. We are reaching the end of rainy season and are experiencing some big wind storms. They can be quite exhilarating but also potentially a little dangerous. When I was little, growing up in the north of Ghana, we had a really wild wind storm, and it took the roof off our house! Thankfully this time we have escaped anything beyond a few small branches coming down.

Change is often turbulent and can be messy, it can be exciting and at the same time tiring. It can remove dead wood and bring potential for fresh growth.

Tom&IanWe are in the middle of considerable change at work. We have a new Director for SIL N1geria, Tom Crabtree (on the left in the picture). He and his wife are godly, prayerful, wise people, not to mention good friends of ours 🙂 and we are looking forward to a new era. Our previous Director, Ian Hollman, did an amazing job and really knit together a diverse group of people with one passion – to see God’s Word being used and understood by people from every language group in Nigeria. He is now focusing on his job as an Africa Area Director and he and his family will still be based in Nigeria for the time being. We are very happy about this as our families are close and we would miss them terribly if they left Nigeria.

With this charge of Director has come some change to the structure and set up of our group. Tim has been responsible for the Finance, Facilities Management and IT teams for a while and Tom asked Tim to add the Human Resources team to his responsibilities. He is looking forward working with a new group of people, many of whom he has worked with on projects before. It will be a learning curve but we thanks God for His timing and His provision and His peace throughout these changes!

Still on the subject of change, our next door neighbours (Kostrevas) are leaving Nigeria next month. One of the many blessings of our life here is that we get to share our lives with people from all over the world. And we really do share our lives, we become family to each other because usually our blood families are not nearby. However, this blessing also brings a challenge because people come and go. We sometimes have to say “Goodbye” to parts of our adopted family with no expectation of ever seeing them again, at least until Jesus returns!

Praise
• New beginnings in SIL N1geria
• Friends who become family

Prayer
• That we will cling to God in the midst of the changes and always seek His will
• Wisdom and strength for Tom, the new Director, and for Tim with his new team
• Peace and joy even as we say “Goodbye” to family

10 Sep

Ministry Update – 9th September 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and also spent some time praying together.

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

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

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