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!
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!
- 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.
- 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.
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!
— 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).
— 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.
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!
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!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!
— Opportunities for training and being encouraged
— Great neighbours who are willing to make Dan (at least temporarily) part of their family
— 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
I first met my Friend Samuel over in Togo back in ’98 when i was part of a short term team visiting his town adn language project. In Jan 2015 I have the privilege of heading back to Togo to attend the dedication of the Ntcham Bible. Samuel wrote this following in a recent newsletter:
The month of April in the Bassar language is called ‘the month when the mangoes ripen’. There are mangoes everywhere in the villages and on the farms. It is like manna from heaven for many people, because for the next three months food will be in short supply. Many families will face food shortages until August, when beans will be harvested. This is because they still believe that their deceased relatives need lavish funerals in order to be accepted in the after-life. They will have used up most of their sorghum and millet harvest celebrating these funerals with their extended families. We thank God that Christianity, and especially reading the Bible in the Bassar language, is opening the eyes of many people to the truth about God, and they are abandoning such practices.
It is great to see the Bassar community transformed but God’s word!
The Ntcham Bible is avalibe in multiple forms online.
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!
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!
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.
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!
We 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 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!
Encouraging staff conference
Fun times for Dan
Healing for my ankle