38 years in the making

July 28th, 2016 by Camilla

We are celebrating: another New Testament has reached completion and is being launched this weekend in Papua New Guinea!

We are celebrating because we believe that the word of God is truth and now the Urat speaking community will be able to connect with God through the New Testament in their own language. Urat is one of over 800 languages in Papua New Guinea, spoken by 6800 people in the north of the country. The journey towards a Urat New Testament has been a long one.

Urat1Efforts began in 1978 under SIL* translators Nate and Jude Baker. In 1984 they passed the baton on to Robert and Dawn Barnes, who continued the program for about 11 years until they had to return home for medical reasons. Hilkka Arminen became involved with the Urat New Testament in 2001 assisting BTA (Papua New Guinea Bible Translation Association) translators David Belyeme and Enoch Mundum.

After all that work, the day has finally arrived. The Urat New Testament is now a reality.

Pray with us for:Urat2

  • Last minute transportation logistics. The New Testaments have arrived in Wewak, six hours from the Urat area, and now need to be transported out to the village in time for the launch on 30th July.
  • Rain! Water tanks are emptying and an event like a Scripture launch uses lots of water.
  • David Belyeme, one of the BTA translators, who is very stressed with ensuring the dedication team are satisfied with the planning, preparations and schedule for the big day.
  • A sense of God’s peace to preside on the day, that he would be glorified and his word to the Urat people would go forth.

Want to pray more for Bible translations that have been a long time coming? Try our prayer goody bags, packed with information and inspiration to help you pray for more projects like this one.

*Our primary partner organisation

Getting a pig’s breakfast right

July 25th, 2016 by Camilla

According to most English Bibles, when the prodigal son was at his lowest ebb, he wanted to fill himself with what the pigs were eating, ie ‘pods’ or ‘bean pods’ (Luke 15:16). A more correct translation would actually be ‘carob pods’.

Rowbory pig's breakfast pictureThe thing is, specifying ‘carob pods’ rather than ‘pods’ in an English Bible probably wouldn’t help us much. Even if we’ve encountered carob as a chocolate substitute in a health food shop, we probably wouldn’t be able to picture a carob pod without the help of Google Images. But what about in, say, West Africa, where carob-type pods are much more well-known?

If Bible translators were to translate the Bible into a West-African language using only an English Bible, this new translation might also end up using a generic term such as ‘pods’. Thankfully, the work of Bible translation is a little more involved than that. David Rowbory and other translators working on the Ashe translation in Nigeria were using Paratext software, which is specially designed to help produce top-notch Bible translations. A dictionary there included a picture of the ‘pods’, which Ashe speakers immediately identified as the carob pod.

This is a great example of why we use original Greek and Hebrew combined with good dictionaries and other reference resources to help us join the dots when translating. Rather than copying the vague English term, or using further explanation, eg ‘pods used for pig-feed’, Luke 15 of the Ashe translation uses a word that not only reflects the original text better, but also brings the story much closer to an Ashe speaker’s everyday experience.

So how much does this really matter? Would the difference between ‘pods’ and ‘carob pods’ mean the difference between someone connecting with the word of God and dismissing it? Probably not. Perhaps this level of difference doesn’t really matter in the telling of a story.

But on our journey of letting the Bible renew our minds and bring us closer to God, anything that appears more foreign than it should be risks distancing the story from us and diluting its impact. Foreign stuff sticks out and is a distraction – while familiar terms, where they can be used, make a story feel closer to home and more relevant.

This story is adapted from a post on Wycliffe members David and Julie Rowbory’s blog.

New Words for Life out now!

July 25th, 2016 by Camilla

Our magazine Words for Life comes out three times a year, with exciting stories of what God is doing through Bible translation around the world. This edition is a bit different – this time we’ve chosen to focus on one specific project and one specific member. Read on to find out more!

This issue delves into:

  • WFL cover aut 16the Ifè project of Togo and Benin – from humble beginnings to a New Testament dedication and continued progress today
  • Mary Gardner, her sudden passing into glory and the amazing part she played in the Ifè language project
  • our new multimedia prayer goody bags to inspire you and help you to pray for Bible translation on your own or with a group

And not least: our latest prayer calendar with one prayer item for each day until the end of November!

Words for Life is free and is available both online and as a hard copy. If you want the next edition to land in your email inbox or to arrive in the post, just let us know!

Preparing for launch

July 21st, 2016 by Jo Johnson

At the end of July, the Centre for Linguistics, Translation and Literacy at Redcliffe College starts its new year of training, beginning with its Language and Culture Acquisition (LACA) course. LACA is the first course for those who have recently joined Wycliffe and are members in training.

ARTThis six-week course provides a good starting place for those who are expecting to live and work in a community whose language and culture they need to learn. The aim is to give course participants skills and tools to equip them to learn any language and culture, especially where formal language teaching is not available and students will be forging their own path in a completely new environment.

The team at CLTL are excited to be welcoming 16 students from the UK, Europe and New Zealand and are thankful for a full team of teachers and supporting staff to run the course. The college moved to the grounds of Gloucester Cathedral at the beginning of 2016. This has been a very positive move but is a very different environment, so will mean adjustments for staff who are used to past venues.

Please pray:

  • for safe travel for the students and their families and that those travelling from outside the UK can quickly transition into life in the UK
  • for a strong, caring and supportive community among the students and staff from day one
  • for the teaching team as they travel to Gloucester from around the world and have to quickly adjust to a different work environment
  • for students to be willing to step out of their comfort zones as they learn about new cultures and practice new and unfamiliar sounds in front of each other
  • that God will use the course to equip students for the next step in their journey

Find it challenging to know how to pray for Wycliffe workers? Use our resource God bless Justin to help you.

Did you know that we have fresh prayer requests on our Twitter prayer feed daily. Find us @wycliffeuk_pray.

Stopping a snowball in its tracks

July 18th, 2016 by Camilla

When a language dies out, a culture generally dies with it. It’s feared the ancient Nanai language of Russia might be on its way out, as younger generations seem to use it less and less.

But translators believe oral Bible stories may help save Nanai souls and perhaps their entire culture.

As a Wycliffe team of translators began meeting Nanai people in remote villages along the Amur River, some conversations took them by surprise.

church in far east russiaOne Nanai woman was curious about Christianity. ‘Do you read the Bible?’ asked Anton Barashenkov, who works for Wycliffe. ‘Did you try to read the Bible in your language?’

‘Yes, I tried,’ she said. ‘I have this book.’ She showed him a translation of Luke’s gospel – the only portion of Scripture available in Nanai. Next, Anton thought he’d hear the woman say that God’s word came alive for her as she read it in her heart language.

Not this time.

‘In my own language I couldn’t understand anything,’ she told him. ‘Our language usually is not used in written form. If we had something in audio format, or some video, I could hear it and I could use it with pleasure. But we don’t have it.’

Therein lies the reason Wycliffe Russia is working to translate oral Bible stories into a disappearing language. The Nanai people, especially older generations, have their own cultural identity. Their ancient language is spoken only in a few homes, or for cultural display. Just a handful can still read or write it.

The Wycliffe team has been talking with older Nanai people and listening to their stories and family traditions. The work of translating helps Nanai storytellers craft accurate Bible stories to share with their people.

The intent is to help create a bridge for the Nanai elders, so receiving Christ as Saviour doesn’t have to mean rejecting their culture and assimilating into someone else’s.

So why spend time and resources to help preserve a language if the next generation isn’t overly concerned about losing it? Anton has heard a common answer from the elder Nanai people.

‘They understand that their language and culture is dying,’ he says. ‘If their language does not exist, their culture also cannot exist. They’re at a checkpoint in time when they could completely forget their language and culture or they could raise it back,’ he says. ‘What if, he asks, no one around the throne of God is worshipping in the Nanai tongue?’

‘That would be a pity,’ he says.

This story originally appeared on our partner The Seed Company’s blog. You can read the original here.

Want to pray more for Bible translation? Use our Frontline Prayer modules to help you, your small group or your church pray for Bible translation around the world.

Urgent prayer for South Sudan

July 12th, 2016 by Jo Johnson

A crisis situation has developed in South Sudan just as the nation passes the fifth anniversary of its formation. As the South Sudanese should be celebrating, serious violence has broken out. We are praying – will you join us?

Please pray for the SIL* team, Bible translators and staff in Juba, South Sudan. Over the weekend there has been serious fighting between forces loyal to the President, Salva Kiir, and forces loyal to the First Vice President, Riek Machar.

Currently it is unsafe for anyone to move around Juba and the airport is closed. This means our staff are not able to leave. They have been advised to remain in lock-down and the situation is being closely monitored. Plans are being made for a possible evacuation when the situation allows.

One member of staff sent this request:

‘We cherish your prayers for us in trusting God for each day and his help for many civilians who are on the run from the fighting and with little to sustain them. Please also pray that the South Sudan leaders might be able to find a way of peace.

Please also pray:

  • for protection and provision for all staff
  • for wisdom for those who are making decisions about evacuation and security measures
  • that other underlying tensions will not provoke further violence but rather that peace will quickly be restored

To help you keep on praying over the next few days, check out BBC News for up-to-date news reports.

*Wycliffe’s primary partner

Behind the scenes

July 11th, 2016 by Camilla

‘I don’t think I have a lot of skills that would make me a good traditional missionary; my contribution lies in technical behind-the-scenes work, so it’s really satisfying knowing that my day-to-day work facilitates Bible translation in a very real, very tangible way.’

In last Thursday’s prayer post, we asked you to celebrate with us that we’ve got so many new members, and pray with us for more volunteers as well as members. Jo also wrote that we’re not just looking for ‘traditional missionary types’ – God loves diversity and the pool of people who serve overseas is no exception!

Check out this video from one non-traditional missionary serving with Wycliffe.

Click here if the video is not visible.

Want to know more about how you could get involved? Check out our roles page!

Volunteer to make a difference

July 7th, 2016 by Jo Johnson

If you read Standing in the Gap regularly you will know that one of our strategic prayer goals for this year is for more workers. In our blog post More workers we focused on the need for more members, but not all the gaps need to be filled by someone working full-time or giving a long term commitment.

We are so excited that record numbers of people are applying to join us as members! However, we also need volunteers to serve both in the UK and overseas.

Fishing Benin 6It’s easy to feel that to be involved in Bible translation you need to have a very specific linguistic skill set. However we need people with all sorts of strengths: accountants, IT experts, administrators, and teachers to name just a few.

As we look to God to expand our ability to partner with churches and support projects both financially and in prayer we also need to increase our capacity to steward our resources well and we need volunteers to help us do that.

Remember, volunteers can play a significant role. At the moment one of the most urgent needs that we know of is for a qualified accountant to go and support Bible translation in Papua New Guinea. This role could be filled by a volunteer, and would provide much needed relief by filling a long-standing but crucial vacancy.

As you have been praying for more workers, will you also ask God to send us more volunteers?

  • Praise God that we are seeing many people joining as members.
  • Please pray that God will enable us to work more efficiently and effectively by providing volunteers to fill some of the gaps.
  • Please ask God to provide an accountant to go to Papua New Guinea and work with the team there.

Find out more about how to pray for our strategic goals.

Contact us if you are interested in volunteering!

Why not encourage a small group you are part of to pray for Bible translation? Use one of our prayer goody bags and check out Focused prayer: Kingdom results for some creative ideas.

Progress in Polynesia

July 4th, 2016 by Camilla

Tikopia is a Polynesian language spoken by 3500 people in the Solomon Islands. Tikopia speakers have been waiting for the word of God in their language for a long time.

Things got started in 1984, when some Tikopians attended a Bible translation workshop organised by the Bible Society. Nico and Pam Daams, who were already working in the Solomon Islands with another Polynesian language group, helped to get the project started. By 1990 most of the Tikopia New Testament had been drafted, but when it came to testing the translation, the project stalled, and nothing more would happen for several years.

In 2005, a translation committee was set up to translate the rest of the NT, and in 2013 Fr Walter Tamasia, a young Tikopian priest, was appointed as translation coordinator for the Tikopia project.

In 2015, the Gospel of Luke was recorded in Tikopia, and it became clear that the original draft translation would require some corrections (it was now 30 years old).

Later that year, Chief Nathan, a member of the team, wrote to Nico that he had spent time testing the translation in the large Tikopian settlement of Nukukaisi on the neighboring island of Makira. Nathan and a group of 25 reviewers worked hard together to correct and improve the original translation of the Gospel of Luke.

The next meeting with the Nukukaisi reviewers is now planned for this September, and the plan is for Nico and Nathan to spend a week there. Nathan is also planning to make a similar trip to Nukufero, another Tikopian settlement in the Solomon Islands. After many efforts to get the reviewing of this New Testament started and get the project moving again, it is finally happening!

This blog post is adapted from a story on the Isles of the Sea website. You can read the original version and more about the Isles of the Sea project here.

Hope in a hard context

June 30th, 2016 by Jo Johnson

Jackie originally worked as a literacy specialist. Now as director for the work in South Sudan she doesn’t have much time to focus on literacy work but she is able to support literacy work with one people group, the Keliko. She recently let us know some exciting developments that are happening with this project in a nation that until recently was ravaged by conflict.

Jackie and her husband Wes
Jackie and her husband Wes

‘The Keliko are in the last stages of their New Testament translation but since the beginning of their project around 2000 they have also been doing literacy work both with primary schools and through churches. One of the men who has been involved from the beginning and leads the work in the home area is called Elisa Ayan Cosmas. He gives part of his time to literacy work and the rest of the time he farms with his family in order to support himself.

The school system is now facing many challenges because the government has virtually seized up, but since 2011 Elisa and another team member have run a literacy and Scripture use workshop for different kinds of church leaders (pastors, women’s groups, and other lay leaders). Each year they helped build the skills of the same group of people, helping them to be better readers, spellers and writers of Keliko and to use different methods for Scripture engagement, Bible study, dramas etc.

Elisa teaching a big book
Elisa teaching a big book

Last December Elisa gave this same group some introductory teacher’s training which covered how to teach the ABC book and use big book Bible stories. Now most of this group have either added a literacy component to their Sunday school class or added adult literacy classes during the week (but using these easy reading Bible stories).’

Join us in praising God for each person who is now able to read Keliko and therefore have access to the word of God in their heart language! Please pray:

  • for these church leaders as they minister to their people in different ways.
  • that they might be encouraged by the refresher training they are about to receive.

Watch Obura Bible Reprint by The PNG Experience to find out the difference literacy made to a community in Papua New Guinea.

Follow us on Twitter @wycliffeuk_pray for daily prayer requests and more inspiration to pray for Bible translation.