Archive for May, 2012

Culmination!

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

It was the last day of Wycliffe’s 2012 international gathering in Thailand. For seven days, five hundred leaders of Bible translation organisations from over sixty five countries had met together to pray, to discuss and to seek God’s will for the future. As the conference closed, the chair called for a time of prayer and suggested that people should stand up and pray in their mother tongue. One by one, people stood up in the huge conference hall to pray. There were prayers in English, in Spanish and then a young West African stood up to pray…

    Dide -Lagɔɔ. -Jejitapε, -mι na ‘paa fuo, -mι na ‘paa yuo…

woman prayingI buried my face in my hands and sobbed my heart out.

The young man was Didier and he was praying in Kouya.

Didier, whom we first met in his home village of Gouabafla while he was at school, who joined the Kouya translation team in Abidjan and who committed his life to the Lord while working on John’s Gospel, is now the director of a linguistics and translation organisation in Ivory Coast. Didier is now an honoured and respected leader in the international Bible translation movement.

Kouya is a language which people who live within thirty miles of Kouya-land have never heard of. This tiny, little-known language from the Ivorian rain forest was being used to worship the Lord alongside all of the famous languages of the world. I’ve often told the story of the old Kouya man who rejoiced when he saw Kouya written down, saying that now Kouya took its place alongside English, French and German because those languages had paper, and now Kouya had paper, too. As Didier prayed, we saw that principle lived out in practice. A little bit of Revelation 7 taking place before our eyes.

Eddie and Sue ArthurScholars generally highlight two key impacts of Bible translation: God reveals himself to people through his word and draws them to himself; and minority languages and people groups gain dignity and self worth as vehicles of the Good News. There in that conference hall in Thailand, we saw those two principles worked out in a few simple words as the Kouya people and language took their place on the world stage.

Sue and I were both involved in running that final conference session, so we weren’t sitting together, but when the meeting ended we met in the middle of the room and oblivious to everyone else (including the photographer) we wept for joy at what God had done and for the privilege of seeing him at work.

Adapted from Culmination! (a recent blog post on Eddie Arthur’s blog, Kouya Chronicle) for wycliffe.net. Photos by Mark Ewell and Elyse Patten.

Eddie Arthur currently serves as Wycliffe Bible Translators’ UK director.

Pentecost Sunday

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

Churches across the globe celebrate Pentecost Sunday today. This video from engageworship.org retells the story of the thousands who stood in utter amazement in the streets of Jerusalem, hearing the message of God in their own language.

Today, over 300 million people are waiting to hear God’s word in their own language for the first time. As translation work goes on in minority language communities worldwide, more and more people gain access to the life-changing message of God’s love. They too receive it in utter amazement. Help others hear God’s word for the first time.

Giving a goat for God’s word

Saturday, May 26th, 2012

Many of the language communities are marginalised economically as well as spiritually: some might not have national recognition or access to an equal education. But that doesn’t stop the celebrations when God’s word comes:

We weren’t sure what to expect. The Kabwa language group [in Tanzania] is the smallest of the nine groups the Mara Cluster Project* is working on Bible translation with. And they are also one of the poorest. So, in planning for a Scripture dedication event, we were worried that they would struggle to accomplish the full Tanzanian-style celebration that they were hoping for.

At the very first planning meeting for the dedication event people quickly began pledging goats and cash with enthusiasm. The deep passion for their language was so visible on that day, you couldn’t miss it. It was apparent that, if any people group is going to embrace mother-tongue Scripture, Kabwa is likely going to be one of them.

Kabwa people gathered in the small village of Kirumi and dedicated some special green books, the Gospel of Luke in Kabwa. The entire day was full of joy, and it was a thrill to watch the small crowd of people at the beginning of the day grow to become enough to pack the little Anglican church.

Unfortunately, we were only able to bring a limited supply of Luke books on that day. A few minutes after the box was opened during the ceremony, flashes of green could be seen around the church building. The books were sold out within minutes!

You can read more about the Mara Cluster Project and Bible translation in Uganda and Tanzania at thetask.net, the source of this account. Help start celebrations around the world by supporting the work of Bible translation. Give God’s Story.

*A cluster project is a Bible translation project that serves more than one language. The languages are generally geographically or linguistically related.

Word Alive: news from ‘across the pond’

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as in many other countries where the battle against Aids is being fought with limited success, Scripture is fighting effectively to educate people about the pandemic. A Scripture-based story book, Kande’s Story, is being translated into local languages and is changing understandings and attitudes towards HIV/Aids.

In the latest Word Alive magazine from our partners Wycliffe Canada, Doug Lockhart and Alan Hood meet some of the Congolese using this weapon against HIV/Aids. The magazine is also filled with news of other strategic programmes too, like the work in the Tanna island of Vanuatu.

The manuscript of the New Testament is currently being printed and the Southwest Tanna will soon have God’s word in a form they can understand. Wycliffe Canada director, Rob Eyre, tells us about the quirks encountered as the translation reached this stage:

…Ken and Mendy Nehrbass are Bible translation consultants on an island in Vanuatu, in the middle of the South Pacific. Ken once tried to explain to me the difficulty of translating into the Southwest Tanna language:

Translated Genesis 2-4 yesterday. You’d think that the difficulty would be that there are so many ways to say something – how do you narrow it down? But every chapter of the Bible presents the opposite problem for a language like SW Tanna: there’s no way to say it! Like [in Gen. 4:15], ‘if anyone kills Cain, he will be avenged seven times’. [In SW Tanna, there is] no word for ‘avenge’, no number above 5, and no way to say ‘x number of times’.

…How did Ken and Mendy end up solving their dilemma?

Well, you’d have to have a look at the magazine to find that out!

For other stories about Bible translation from a more British perspective, take a look at our home-grown magazine, Words for Life.

William Tyndale: a pioneer’s life

Monday, May 21st, 2012

William Tyndale was an extraordinary pioneer. His Bible translation, although never finished, was the first of the modern English translations, the first English translation to be done directly from the Hebrew and Greek, the first to take advantage of the new printing technology.

Perhaps these pioneering steps don’t seem so remarkable today, in the age of computers, space travel and MRIs. Consider for a minute the context of Tyndale’s life.

After Wycliffe’s fourteenth century translation had been completed and gained immense popularity, the translation of vernacular Bibles – Bibles translated in a way ordinary people could understand – was banned as heretical. Almost all English Bibles were burnt. In 1519, while Tyndale was at Cambridge University, Foxe records the deaths of seven people, burnt for teaching their children the Lord’s Prayer in English.

When challenged by a clergyman in this context, Tyndale said he was determined that ‘If God spares my life, ere many years, I will teach the boy that driveth the plough to know more of God’s laws than thou dost.’ And he probably did.

The beginning of the Gospel of John. Photo by Kevin Rawlings.

In 1524, Tyndale left England for Wittenburg and began this translation of the New Testament. The following year, the first attempt to publish was halted, but it was completed in 1626, first in Worms and later in Antwerp. The copies were smuggled into Scotland and England. Soon they were banned: warnings were issued to booksellers not to consider selling them and many copies were publically burnt. Although Tyndale had expected furore, he was shocked: the first edition contained only translation, without commentary or notes against which to protest. They were burning the word of God.

In January 1529, Tyndale was publically declared to be a heretic. It was in the same year that he revised the New Testament and started the Old. Nothing would deter him from his aim, and his single, persistent plea was that the king would permit the translation. He did not.

On this day in 1535, a young man called Henry Phillips, whom Tyndale had taken into his trust, betrayed Tyndale as they were walking through the streets of Antwerp. Tyndale was imprisoned, tried, strangled at the stake and his body burnt. With his last recorded words, he asked God to open the King of England’s eyes.

Within four years of that cry, the same king encouraged the publication of four English translations. All, like many translations since, were based on Tyndale’s work. Even the monumental King James Version is estimated to be between 75 and 85% Tyndale’s. It has been said that Tyndale ‘is the mainly unrecognised translator of the most influential book in the world. Although the Authorised King James Version is ostensibly the production of a learned committee of churchmen, it is mostly cribbed from Tyndale.’ (Joan Bridgeman)

When we sing of Jehovah, we use Tyndale’s word. When we say that 1 Corinthians 13 is ‘the love chapter’, we use Tyndale’s word. The same is true when we speak of…

  • Passover
  • Scapegoats
  • Fighting the good fight
  • It came to pass
  • Let there be light
  • The twinkling of an eye
  • Or salt of the earth.

Many of the world’s ploughmen don’t have access to God’s word. More than 350 million people speak languages into which translation is yet to begin. Pioneer Bible translation.

Get involved

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

Wycliffe Bible Translators work with partners around the world who are passionate to see people read and understand God’s word in the language that is clearest for them. The Seed Company, one of these partners, is focusing on the urgency of getting God’s word to all people, and are passionate about seeing the work start everywhere it’s needed in this generation.

In this video, they explain not just why they’re so passionate, but how churches are getting involved in seeing God’s word reach people through the Bible, through Bible stories, through translation into sign languages, through ‘The Jesus Film’.

What can you do to be involved? The list is endless: hold a fund-raising tea party, play a game, pray with us through our prayer diary, teach in another country for a year, provide hospitality to folks in this country, give someone a copy of our magazine, tell someone that you love the Bible so much that you want to give it to someone else. Get involved and give the Story everybody needs.

‘He speaks my language! He’s my God!’

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Wycliffe’s language work often supports the work of other organisations, enabling them to produce materials which can reach language communities with the good news of Jesus. One partner organisation we work closely with is The Jesus Film Project, telling the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection through the medium of film.

The film is dubbed into minority languages as the Gospel of Luke is translated into each new language, and as audio scriptures are recorded. It is distributed via DVD, or through the web, or by teams taking it directly to rural areas and projecting it in the open air  using generator-powered equipment.

The Jesus Film has now been translated into more than 1,140 languages, with new languages being added every month. This allows God’s word to speak to people in more than 200 countries in languages they know and understand.

From time to time, we have the privilege of hearing stories about how this translated word has made it into the hearts of individuals, transforming families with the truth of God’s love to every people group. Here is one such story of how The Jesus Film touched a young man and his family, as retold by Elizabeth Schenkel.

Find out more about The Jesus Film Project, and Scripture use with Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Survival of the weakest

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

A recent BBC article reported on a study linking biodiversity and the diversity of languages. It also pointed out that for both languages and species, the risk of extinction is increasing. It got Mark (in Tanzania working with Wycliffe) thinking…

One response is say that languages, and to a lesser extent plants and animals, only have value in the degree to which they are useful to us, and so there is little reason to mourn their loss. In fact, in the case of languages, the reduction in diversity can actually make the task of communication easier, so the loss of languages may even be welcomed.

But I would suggest that a pragmatic view that only sees species and languages as having value based on their usefulness to us doesn’t do justice to God’s creativity and his instruction to humanity to be good stewards of his creation. Plants and animals are valuable simply because God created them, and because he said they were good. Similarly, languages are valuable because they are also part of God’s diverse creation, and are spoken by people who are of great worth.

In God’s kingdom every person has value and is to be treated with love and respect. Whereas it can be tempting for us to measure the value of something based merely on what it can do or produce, or its financial worth, the way of Jesus is to leave everything in order to search for the the lost son, the lost sheep and the lost coin. In a world that preaches survival of the fittest, the life and death of Jesus shows a different way, where everything is given up in order to enable the thriving of the weakest.

In this light I believe a Christian response is to come alongside communities whose languages are threatened by extinction and offer our help in preserving and developing these languages, thereby allowing often struggling communities to thrive, affirming their identity, self-worth and their place in God’s world…

 

On a recent trip to the Pimbwe language area (photos) we were reminded of God’s creativity expressed both biologically and linguistically. Our prayer is that just as the national park we drove through on the way causes us to rejoice in God’s creation by preserving and celebrating some of these incredible animals, so our work alongside communities like the Pimbwe may allow them and others to praise God in and through their unique languages.

You can read more from Mark on his blog.

The a-b-cs of voting

Monday, May 14th, 2012

In the fifties, Betty and Wayne arrived in Peru, to work among the Matsigenka people. Before there could be any thought of translating the Bible, beginning literacy classes, or encouraging the use of mother-tongue Scriptures, they needed an alphabet to use.

At a gathering more than 50 years later, the people voted on the 22-letter system they developed:

‘One by one, the twenty-two letters of the Matsigenka alphabet were projected on the wall for all to see. Pausing at each letter, a representative from the Ministry of Education asked participants: “Should this letter be included in the Matsigenka alphabet? Raise your hand if you are in favor of this letter being included in the Matsigenka alphabet.”

‘Twenty-two times, a crowded room full of Matsigenka speakers shouted, “Yes!” with their hands stretched high into the air. Some couldn’t resist raising both hands. And each time, the representative added one more letter to a growing list.

‘For the past fifty years, those twenty-two letters have been used to create readers, math books, health and hygiene materials, Scriptures, and dictionaries in Matsigenka. Finally, at this historic and emotional event, they would be officially recognised as the standard for writing the Matsigenka language.’

Visit the Wycliffe USA blog for more about the vote and Betty’s reaction.

The foundation built by Wycliffe workers enables not only Bible translation, but also alphabet development, literacy, dictionary development, the production of health materials and Scripture use. Get involved.

Bible translation and social impact

Friday, May 11th, 2012

In 2010, Dave Pearson, who works as a language development advocate, wrote a brilliant article on the impact of language development on a community. In it he says,

Wycliffe’s language development work produces transformed lives through the translated word and through translated development information. People grow better crops and live better lives. They care for their environment and they care for their neighbours. They learn about justification by faith and oral rehydration solution. Wycliffe’s work brings both spiritual and material blessing. Read more here.

Of course, they don’t ‘grow better crops’ because they’ve read the instructions given in Leviticus, nor have the instructions for using oral rehydration solution been added to the Ten Commandments. Instead, as tools to communicate are developed in their language, so other information can be shared.

Government messages, that used to be broadcast in the national language, can be translated into the local language. Health advice provided by non-government organisations can be communicated so that all in the local community can understand the importance of clean drinking water.

This short video from our Wycliffe partners in the US show how Bible translation work comes alongside all sorts of other holistic work.

Changing lives can start with Bible translation. What can I do?