Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

God loves you with all his bowels

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

Jeremiah 31 tells us that God’s heart longs for his people. Or, at least, most English translations do. Many also have a little footnote that tells us the Hebrew says that God longs from his bowels.

If the translators had opted for ‘bowels’, this message may not have been good news to many English speakers.  Communicating good news requires some knowledge of the culture.

Photo via Wycliffe Global Alliance

Timothy* works in South East Asia, where there is a large Buddhist population. He says that John 3:16 (‘whoever believes in him… shall have eternal life‘) is a verse that communicates the gospel most clearly to many English speakers -  but it doesn’t communicate good news to Buddhists.

“Buddhists believe that we are all trapped in a cycle of reincarnation — one life after another, each full of suffering. Thus, Buddhists feel like they already have eternal life, and their big goal is to escape the eternal life and all the suffering that goes along with it.”

Richard Gretsky explains…

Because of that, a verse that has meant so much to so many people is a potentially dreadful proposition to people coming from a Buddhist worldview. This, of course, doesn’t mean that John 3:16 shouldn’t be translated for Buddhists. They, like all of us, need to understand that eternal life is good and that life can exist without suffering. But it does highlight that we should know which verses speak the best to people of different cultures.

With that in mind, there is another verse, also in the book of John, which does speak deeply to Buddhists…

Read on to find out what verse Timothy picks as a clear, good news verse for Buddhists.

Wycliffe believes that the Bible – God’s message to humanity – has something life-changing to say to everyone, and want everyone to have access to God’s word in a language they understand. If you do too, there are lots of ways you can be involved in Bible translation.

* name changed to protect identity

* Names have been changed to protect identities

Stronger than the spirits?

Monday, July 14th, 2014

When the Årsjö’s first arrived to work with the Ama people, there were no Christians. That fact didn’t change for the first six years they worked there. In the seventh, the first person – one of the men working with them on the translation – chose to believe in Jesus.

The Ninigo Islands, Papua New Guinea

The Ninigo Islands, Papua New Guinea

As the message spread and more people started to follow Jesus, there was one big issue that needed addressing: spirits.

Sören and Britten Årsjö looked in amazement at the young woman lying on their porch, as Albert, one of Ama translators, pleaded with them. “Please, you must do something!”

In traditional Papua New Guinean beliefs, the practice of sorcery and fear of the spirits govern daily life. In Ama, the word, popuwa, meant “evil spirit;” there was no such thing as a “good spirit.” A cursed person was doomed to die within three days—and if he or she told anyone, death would be immediate.

So, when Albert’s cousin courageously told him she’d been cursed, he acted immediately. They all gathered around the girl and began praying fervently, as well as administered antibiotics to help counteract any potential infection caused by the custom of inserting bone fragments into the sorcery victim’s body. They waited and prayed and waited, the whole village watching. Would she die? Or would this God be more powerful than sorcery and spirits?

Find out what happened to the girl and to the Ama community on Catherine’s blog.

We believe God can transform lives and communities, and sharing his word is a fantastic way to introduce people to him. Agree? We’re looking for people to support Bible translation through prayer, giving, advocating in churches and going to serve.

Not by bread alone

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

The region of South Sudan where the Murle people live is one where many people have been displaced by the internal violence. Murle cattle herders, though, have continued to move their herds from place to place, finding sustenance. It’s not only the cows that need to be fed, though…

blog-cowThis post first appeared on Wycliffe USA’s blog. Read the original here.

Recently a group of SIL* literacy workers went to the Murle area to train teachers to conduct literacy classes in cattle camps. The new teachers lived and moved with the group, conducting classes when people had fewer chores or activities.

Two SIL workers and a man who had been on the Murle New Testament translation team conducted teacher training sessions for thirteen Murle men. Many of the attendees had their New Testament copies, which they used and read fluently during morning devotions. They also shared songs and sang prayers in their own musical style. In addition to teaching literacy, some of the Murle men wanted to share the Gospel in the cattle camps. The staff demonstrated and practiced different teaching methods with the men and had them write short stories.

One morning during devotions, a Murle man named Marko glanced longingly at the Murle New Testament that lay on a table. He asked the staff where he could get a copy. “They are out of print,” one of the literacy workers replied. “Do you not have one?”

“I had one,” Marko answered. “But I lost it when we were running from the fighting.”

The literacy team gave Marko their resource copy and marveled at how much this book was like sustenance to him, perhaps even more so than the physical food he needed to live.

*SIL International is one of Wycliffe’s primary partners

The Murle New Testament is going to be reprinted soon. There’s even talk of an Old Testament translation. If you want to share about the need for the Bible to be translated in people’s mother languages, you can get involved with the work Wycliffe does in lots of ways. Explore some here.

What makes me me? These answers might surprise you

Monday, June 30th, 2014

What makes me who I am? The answer to that question is bound up in where I live, what I do, what I wear, what I eat and, yes, what language I speak. It even affects how I feel about myself.

Wycliffe member Matt has been asking this question too. He tells us how people answered this question at a discussion he was at, and what that has to do with working with minority communities:

At one of our community of practice events last year we asked participants that very question: What makes you part of your ethnolinguistic group? These were some of the responses:

And so what? Why does this matter? Well, what would happen if those factors were suddenly no longer around? What if you couldn’t live in a certain place, eat a certain food, wear certain clothes, speak a certain language? Would you still feel connected to others who have similar features? Would you still be you?

These are the kinds of questions many marginalised communities around the world are having to face right now. Key elements that make up who they are, are being challenged, looked down upon, outlawed and even destroyed. Their traditional ways of celebrating, their traditional foods, the language they speak, and often the very land they live on is changing and they must decide how to respond.

At its heart, this is what we are working to support. To help communities who have been looked down upon and devalued, to define their own identity and to be proud of it.

Go to Matt and Liz’s blog to read the whole post. If you’re passionate about what they are doing, you can join this work by supporting them.

Find out more about how Wycliffe works with marginalised communities.

10 ways you know you’re a missionary kid

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

“God is a missionary God, Jesus is a missionary Messiah, and the Spirit is a missionary Spirit. Missions is the family business.” (Leonard Sweet)

Jeannette Gerth and the four Gerth children

It’s common that when a couple are called to mission work overseas, they take their children with them. So common, in fact, that there is even a term for these children: ‘Missionary Kids’. It leads to an unusual upbringing, on that the Gerths (serving in Tanzania) have seen with their own children:

Here are the top 10 ways you know you’re a missionary kid (or at least a Gerth missionary kid living in Tanzania)…

  1. You can greet people in at least three languages
  2. At your friend’s birthday party you’re the only person from your home country
  3. You don’t feel safe sleeping at night unless you’re under a mosquito net
  4. Every time you get sick you assume you have malaria
  5. You lost your baby teeth on two continents

Read on on the Gerth’s blog for the other five key features of missionary kids, in their experience.

Serving God overseas is an obedient response for a whole family, not just for individuals. If you’re passionate about seeing God’s word reach everyone, have a look at how you and your family could join the family business.

What language did Jesus speak?

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

Many of the challenges of Bible translation, in English and in other languages, come down to the fact that it’s not just languages that are different. Cultures are too. Wycliffe’s UK director Eddie has been pondering this lately, after being asked about Jesus and languages.

It isn’t often that I get called in to referee an argument between the Pope and the Israeli Prime Minister, but last week, I was interviewed by our local radio station about what language Jesus spoke. In what was a pleasant chat, I gave the generally accepted answer, that he probably spoke a number of languages; Aramaic in every day situations, Hebrew in religious contexts and perhaps some Greek or Latin.

However, what I really wanted to say was that Jesus did not speak English!

Whatever those Sunday school posters might indicate, Jesus was not a blue-eyed, Englishman. He was a first century Jew and his life and teachings are rooted in the history of his nation. Right down to which languages he spoke in particular situations. If we try to take Jesus out of his historical, linguistic and cultural setting we will fail to fully understand his teaching or the significance of his life, death and resurrection.

But – and this is amazing – Jesus does speak English!

Because the Gospels have been translated, we can read and hear Jesus’ words in contemporary English. This is so much a part of our lives that we don’t fully appreciate the strange wonder of it. The two-thousand year old story, rooted in Jewish life and culture, can be read and understood in modern English and in thousands of other languages for that matter. Though Jesus was a Rabbi, who lived in a particular context, his message is for all peoples in all times. It’s a simple fact, but a wonderful one.

Through Bible translation, Wycliffe and partners are trying to share that message with all peoples around the world. You can be involved by giving, praying, considering an job with Wycliffe or sharing the need with your community.

This post has been edited. The original appeared on Eddie’s blog; read it here.

When sorrows like sea billows roll

Monday, June 16th, 2014

If you regularly sing with other Christians, you probably have a favourite hymn or song. You’ll know it because its the one song that you always sing with audible abandon, which brings you to your knees or leaves you in floods of tears. Mine (confession time!) is ‘It is well with my soul’. If you didn’t love it before, I think that this story of a Papua New Guinean community singing it in celebration will bring it close to your heart.

Emotions ran strong as the choir sang “Masina, Masina…” at the Mussau hymnal dedication. Masina means “Thank you,” “that’s great” and is even used as a greeting in the Mussau language. But as the choir sang, it meant only one thing: “It is well, it is well, it is well with my soul.”

On this day, these precious words had special meaning to the Mussau people. In February, John and Marjo Brownie were travelling from Mussau to Emirau Island with Leslie their co-translator and three others when the boat hit an unusually rough wave, immediately capsizing their small craft. The boat sank in seconds, setting all six adrift. John and Leslie became separated from Marjo, the boat captain and the other two men. They all drifted with the current but miraculously came ashore on Emirau’s western shore, John and Leslie arriving just before dark. If they had missed the island, the next land would have been Nauru, over 600 miles away. When the boat capsized, John’s computer and all the recent translation work went overboard.

The day before the hymnbook dedication, John and Marjo visited Emirau Island for the first time since the boating accident. They were tearfully greeted by the Emirau people who presented the Brownies with some of their belongings that had washed ashore, several days after the accident. When John opened a case that contained the computer with all the recent translation work, everyone cheered! Many people around the world had been praying that this work would be recovered.

Hundreds of people came the next day to the hymnbook dedication… As they listened to the choir sing Masina, it was hard not be filled with grateful emotions. Many amazing things had happened that not only preserved everyone’s lives but also saved the Words of Life that had been lost at sea. Now these wonderful words were being sung in the heart language of the people.

Those tears of joy when we sing to God come because we can sing from our hearts to God’s heart in our own language. But millions still sing to God in someone else’s language, because church isn’t done in theirs. It’s one of the many beautiful changes that Bible translation can bring. Support Bible translation.

The story and the photograph are from Tim Scott, posting about Bible translation in Papua New Guinea at Read the full story.

Part-time translation

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Many translators who are working on God’s word in their own language work part-time. Why, with so much to do and such an important work, would Bible translators choose to spend time away from translation?

In this video (from Wycliffe USA‘s summer campaign) translators and a translation advisor explain why they come to do translation for five months a year, and return to work in their communities – farming, building houses and canoes, business – for the rest of the year. They show that the time with their families and communities is vital work for their Bible translations.

‘I leave good work and come to do God’s work.’ A Papua New Guinean translator

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In these communities, the reputation of the translator and the translation are tied closely together, just like our words to neighbours about Jesus is affected if we kept them up all night with loud music or helped to take their bins out.

Supporting Wycliffe can help provide for these hard-working translators and their families, and frees up time for them to serve their communities. Give towards Bible translation.

John Calvin and Bible translation

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Today is the 450th anniversary of the death of John Calvin. The name has become synonymous with Reformation and theology. Given that context, and the significant impact he had on the church, it’s no surprise he had a part to play in Bible translation.

Calvin, second from the left, with William Farel, Theodore Beza, John Knox on Reformation Wall in Geneva.

Although not a Bible translator himself, Calvin had close connections to Bible translators. It was a relative, Pierre Robert Olivétan, who first encouraged him to study the Scriptures when he had changed his mind about becoming a priest. The same Olivétan was the first person to translate the whole Bible intro French from Greek and Hebrew. When it was published in 1535, Calvin wrote the foreword, saying that having the Bible available in the vernacular would allow all believers to know what God has said.

John Calvin, Bible in hand.

When he and other reformers, including John Knox, were established in Geneva, they encouraged the British expatriates there to do a complete Bible translation into English too, what would become the Geneva Bible. One of the key workers on the team was William Whittington, Calvin’s brother-in-law. The Geneva Bible went on to be incredibly popular, even after the publication of the Authorised Version, and was the translation used by Cromwell and Shakespeare.

Why was it that Calvin – busy as he must have been writing his many Institutes – cared about Bible translation, when he knew Hebrew, Greek and Latin himself? In his magnum opus, he said:

For as the aged, or those whose sight is defective, when any book, however fair, is set before them, though they perceive that there is something written, are scarcely able to make out two consecutive words, but, when aided by glasses, begin to read distinctly, so Scripture, gathering together the impressions of Deity, which, till then, lay confused in our minds, dissipates the darkness, and shows us the true God clearly.

If it’s in a language you don’t understand, the Bible stays indistinct and unreadable, as if you’d forgotten your glasses. In your language – a language you really understand – the Bible shows us the true God clearly. Find out what you can do in Bible translation.

God’s word reveals our need of forgiveness

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

Our partners down under – Wycliffe Australia – have just released their latest magazine Wycliffe Today. Head over to their website to flick through and see some of the projects they are supporting for the 60th anniversary, read about Lynnette Oates, a Wycliffe pioneer, and get a glimpse into the impact of literacy in the Solomon Islands.

Particularly moving in this edition is the artwork reflecting on the need for Jesus’ forgiveness in Australia, a society still in need of restoration. It’s a message we can all take to heart at Easter, as we look to the cross:

Ripple Effect of Forgiveness by Rachel Kendini, Mavis Jumbiri and Safina Stewart ( Published in Wycliffe Australia's Wycliffe Today magazine.

Ripple Effect of Forgiveness by Rachel Kendini, Mavis Jumbiri and Safina Stewart
( Published in Wycliffe Australia’s Wycliffe Today magazine.

“Virtually every society impacted by Bible Translation needs forgiveness for past wrongs inflicted on them by other cultures. Justice is needed. Repentance is needed. Forgiveness is needed. As Bible translators our joy is in knowing that as people gain access to God’s revealed Word in their own Heart Language they will find it easier to understand and experience the liberating reality of forgiveness available through Jesus’ sacrificial death on Calvary’s cross.

“This Easter, will you join with us at Wycliffe in reaffirming our commitment to keep on doing all it takes to bring Jesus’ message of forgiveness and reconciliation to language groups still without the Scriptures.”

Give, go or pray to support Bible translation this Easter. And don’t forget to have a look at Wycliffe Today!