Archive for the ‘Missionary life’ Category

Behind the Facebook photos: Let’s pray

Friday, August 7th, 2015

How do you pray for your friends involved in cross-cultural work? How much do you know about their day-to-day life? Do you picture friends in cross-cultural ministry floating from one victory to another, constantly feeling the favour of the Lord upon them like the sun on their back?

need-help-1221821-639x579Following on from Monday’s reality check about what everyday life is like for many cross-cultural workers, we want to talk about how we can be effective pray-ers for friends working overseas. Because believe it or not, cross-cultural work is not an endless string of success stories punctuated by encounters with exotic animals, new foods and funny cross-cultural misunderstandings. Cross-cultural workers often try to put the best possible spin on things and may be giving you the impression that everyday life is a bit easier than it really is.


How can I pray?

  • Be specific. Use the specific prayer requests in newsletters, and if they’re not specific enough or recent enough, ask for more details or an update.
  • Use Scripture. Another option is to use Scripture to pray effectively for friends in cross-cultural ministry. A great resource to help you get started is the article God Bless Justin in our prayer pack Focused prayer: Kingdom results.
  • Persist. If you don’t see answers to prayer straight away, keep praying!
  • Pray with others. Finding it hard to remember to pray? Set aside time to pray with others for friends working overseas, or agree with others on a time when you will all pray on your own.

For more about what might be going on behind the Facebook photos, see Monday’s post.

Behind the Facebook photos

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

What kind of pictures do your friends involved in cross-cultural ministry post on Facebook? What kind of things do you hear from them?

Christians in cross-cultural work can feel that need-help-1221821-639x579supporters, friends and sending churches expect them to be ‘conquering heroes’. This means it’s easy for cross-cultural workers to focus on the good stuff when communicating with their supporting team. Generally, it’s not a lie but rather an attempt to stay positive, and to avoid giving anyone the impression that they might be ‘failing’.

In reality, cross-cultural workers face a variety of challenges, starting before plane tickets are even booked. Raising the financial support required to take an unsalaried position with a mission organisation can be tough, especially as here in the UK it’s not very appropriate to talk about money.

Challenges once overseas include old stereotypical favourites like language learning, culture shock, bugs and getting used to new foods. There are many less well known ones too such as disagreements with other missionaries, marital problems or singleness made worse by the pressures of being in another culture, not enjoying the job your supporters are enabling you to do, or the discrepancy between the super-Christian some people think you are and your own perception of how little you’ve actually ‘achieved’. Read a refreshingly honest account of the reality of everyday life of one family in cross-cultural ministry here.

What can I do?

  • Ask. If a friend working overseas writes in a newsletter that they are ‘struggling’, support them by showing concern and asking for more details so you can pray more effectively. If you haven’t had an update or newsletter recently, ask how things are going.
  • Share. Communication with friends working cross-culturally should be a two-way street. If they ask what’s going on with you, it’s because they want to know.
  • Be understanding. Let your friends in cross-cultural ministry know that it’s OK if it’s not going well. They’re doing something amazing for the Kingdom and opposition is completely normal. Let them know you understand that it’s hard.
  • Encourage. A phone or Skype call can be hugely encouraging when things are hard. Also, most cross-cultural workers are very excited to receive anything in the mail. Popular gifts include chocolate, clothes and DVDs – and no one turns their nose up at a card just expressing that you are thinking of them! Ask if it’s safe to send things through the post, what they would like to receive, and, more importantly, how packages going into their country should be labelled.

Stand by for a post this Friday about how you can stand in the gap for your friends in cross-cultural ministry.

Stone or mountain? It’s in the tone

Monday, July 27th, 2015

It will probably come as no surprise that bringing a language from just a spoken form into written form is not an easy task. Also, not all languages are ‘created equal’; some are harder to write than others, and writing tonal languages well, that’s a whole different ball game. Johannes and Sharon, members of Wycliffe Switzerland, share some fascinating insight into the difficulties and complexities of translating the tonal language Mbelime.

‘One of the biggest problems of the Mbelime project remains the question of how to write the language (the spelling and punctuation rules that make up a written language are known as its “orthography”). Mbelime is a tonal language that has three distinct tone levels. This means that the tone level of a word changes its meaning. For example, if the vowel a of the word ditade is pronounced with a high tone, it means “stone”. When a is pronounced with a lower tone, however, it means “mountain”.

When the language was  first written in the 1970s, tone levels were not marked. Accordingly, readers found it difficult to read since they had to first figure out which tonal variation would apply to some of the words so that the text would make sense. Following further linguistic analysis, people started to mark tones. The stone was now written as dītáde, while mountain became dītāde. This rendered the two words distinctive in the orthography, which made the language easier to read. On the other hand, the text was now crowded with accents, which means that people still read very slowly.

Over the years many people, including literacy teachers, have told us how difficult they find it to write Mbelime. At the moment there are only a handful of people who master writing Mbelime correctly, among them Bienvenu and Claire. The three translators also find the current orthography a big challenge. Unfortunately, they feel that the current work pressure is hindering them from coming to grips with this. Bienvenu and Claire are currently reading through the first full draft of the gospel of Luke to correct the orthography. This is a lot of work and they’ll have to thoroughly proofread it twice. The orthography problem is so complex that we need a specialist who is well versed both in the tonology of African languages as well as in questions of orthography design. These people are a truly rare breed. One of them, David Roberts,  recently returned to Togo  and proposed including Mbelime in a comparative study with several other languages, as Mbelime is far from being the only language with this challenge.

Johannes, Bienvenu and Claire prepared the texts needed for the proposed reading experiment, for which we invited the best Mbelime readers. David came to Cobly in mid-June for three days during which he led the experiment (see photo). We recorded 32 people who read two short texts with the tones marked and two texts without the tone accents. They also had twenty minutes to write tones on two texts. In early July Bienvenu and Johannes went to Kara for a week to start analysing the recordings and texts together with the other four language groups that participated in the experiment.

It will be a while before we will be ready to have another orthography reform, but we’re thrilled that another important step towards it is finally happening.’

Keep up to date with the latest Wycliffe UK news by following us on Facebook and Twitter.

You can help the work of Bible translation, either through prayer, giving or going. Find out how you can be involved.

Journey With Us – GOfest 19-21 June 2015

Monday, June 8th, 2015

It’s not long now, in fact 10 days 14 hours, until GOfest starts later this month! These will be an amazing few days of exploring God’s heart for the world, what he is currently doing and how you can be a part of it. To say we’re excited is an understatement! There’s a packed programme of speakers, seminars, worship, exhibition space and youth and children’s programmes with plenty of opportunities for you to engage, reflect and relax.

To get a taster for what it’s like Paul, an IT specialist exploring a sense that God may be calling him to mission, shares his family’s experience of GOfest [14] [last year:]

Coming to GOfest was very helpful for us. There is a real advantage to looking into someone’s eyes when they are talking to you and knowing what feels right

…We had two organisations we wanted to talk to. When I look back at the conversations I had with the people on the WEC* stand I know that God was at the center of it all – he simply anointed those conversations. The first person we spoke to was not at all pushy, just very relaxed. She then introduced us to someone who was in a very similar role to the one I was looking for. We had a great chat but what was truly amazing was that he literally answered all the questions that we needed answering without us needing to ask them! It is times like that, you realise that God has his hand on the situation.

Added to which the whole environment of GOfest was excellent for seeking God’s calling, from the honesty of the speakers to the feeling that you are in a place with people who are in the same position as you – all looking, praying and seeking God’s calling for them. There is a real sense of unity to the festival.

Read the rest of Paul’s story.

This year we have an amazing line up of speakers: James Hudson Taylor IV, Rosalee Velloso-Ewell and Dr Joseph D’Souza to name a few, as well as Pete James who will be returning from last year to lead the main meetings in worship.

GO2015logoSo pack your camping bags, prep your Sat Navs (or cast your finger to the wind), pick up your Bibles and come journey with us from 19-21st June at GOfest 15.

For all the information you need, including how to register, visit We look forward to seeing you there!


The method of writing tone

Monday, April 27th, 2015

Translating the Bible is just one part of what is needed to bring God’s word to a community. Another important aspect is to teach people to be able to easily read what has been written!

Many languages are tonal – the sounds of vowels can be high and low (and sometimes in between).  Making sure that a writing system denotes this clearly is critical for the fluent understanding of the readers.  This is where Tone Orthography Workshops come in. To put it simply, tone orthography is the method of writing tone. These workshops help translators develop accurate writing systems so that people can read the Bible fluently when a translation is finished.

This brilliant video from Cameroon gives you a glimpse into life as a Bible translator and a brief look at what happens in these Tone Orthography workshops.  Have a watch and share with your friends.

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Find out more about the work of Bible Translation and how you can help.

Traversing Translators

Monday, April 13th, 2015

Wycliffe’s goal is to bring Scripture to those without, with a focus on minority language groups. Often this leads to work taking place in remote regions throughout the world. As a result, journeys are not always that straightforward.

In this fascinating story, Geneviève recounts a recent trip she took to visit reindeer herders in north eastern Siberia as part of an anthropological study of the region. What should have been a journey to the herders camp that lasted around three hours, changed drastically when the teams snowmobile broke down over a frozen lake.

Geneviève writes:

‘But we were stuck. In the middle of nowhere. You can’t simply fix a frozen engine while on a frozen arctic lake. There was an all-pervasive frozen mist and we could see nothing in any direction. And the local Chukchi couple told us to walk. I thought they knew we were going to die, and they didn’t want to witness it. And so Zhanna and I started walking, while the local couple stayed with the frozen snowmobile. I wasn’t afraid. I don’t think I was afraid to die. I thought, if this is it, then it’s an interesting choice on God’s part…’

Read Geneviève’s full story

Translators face many challenges and adventures, some of which, can be found on the route to the destination. But the goal is more than worth it and God is faithful to provide.

Being involved in Bible translation can take you to all sorts of places in this diverse world. You can help and support this amazing work of bringing God’s word to people in a language they can understand. Find out how you can be involved.


I Understand This!

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

Moving meaning from one language and culture to another is a technical process. It’s something that translators spend a lot of time on in order to prevent loss of meaning from the original text. The fruits of their labor, however, are more than worth it.

Almost in tears in his enthusiasm, Ezra, a translator working amongst his people, shared with his fellow translators the exciting moment when people who had recently asked for Scripture materials exclaimed, “I understand this!

People in Ezra’s and Nehemiah’s culture are used to not understanding Scripture.

“But when they actually read something in their own language and suddenly have the experience of Jesus or Paul or Moses speaking as it were to them, it’s God’s Word to them in a significantly different way. They are sometimes amazed. “I understand this!” It’s an announcement of something grand. It’s something stupendous. Ezra and Nehemiah live in a non-reading culture. They get excited when someone understands by either reading or hearing.

That’s why we’re doing this job. For starters at least, we’re working for the ones and twos who announce this new thing to anyone who will listen.”

Read the full post on which goes on to share some of the very real challenges they face in translating the Lord’s prayer, here.

Find out how you can help Bible translation: be involved either through prayer, financially or by going.

Biblical Sheep became Chukchi Reindeer

Monday, March 16th, 2015

How do you bring Bible stories to a people group in their own language? For nearly two years Zhanna, a Chukchi woman from the village of Kolymskoye in north-east Siberia, has been working on crafting Bible stories in to her own language. Two translators, Michal and Geneviève, have been assisting her. Now, with 25 stories completed, it’s time to take them to the Chukchi people for some feedback.

Geneviève writes,

“When the villagers saw our helicopter coming they thought there must be some Very Important People on board. Rumour had it that a group of Canadians were coming. In fact there were two Chukchi students, Zhanna and just one Canadian – me…”

In this great article, Geneviève tells us how the initial stages unfolded – from having the drafts checked and improved by two Chukchi ladies to having the stories recorded by a Chukchi language school teacher. Then finally they put down the papers, picked up the recordings and sat down with Chukchi villagers.

“In the process of crafting the stories from the biblical text, we made them more streamlined, made sentences shorter, anticipated questions that Chukchis would ask, made some adaptations to Chukchi culture… And so it was that biblical sheep became Chukchi reindeer. This made the ladies laugh. We wondered whether… But they said they liked it very much. It made the story real to them…

“They had heard about the Bible, but these stories in their very own language brought it all alive!” (Read Geneviève’s story in full on

The next stage of this project involves a consultant who will look over the text. Her task is to ensure that the stories are still true to the Bible, even when retold in different words. Revised stories may be tested in another village trip. Eventually there will be the final, definitive recording which will be circulated around the Chukchi villages and reindeer camps.

It’s encouraging to read about the work that is happening among the Chukchi community, however, there are still over 1,860 languages that are yet to have any Scripture in their own language. Find out how you can be involved in the work of Bible translation.


Celebrating God’s Word

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

Soon a Safwa marching band took the field. Painted turquoise flowers shone fluorescent from their faces.  One man carried a big bass drum—of African cowhide, tied with leather cords—on his chest, his beat resonating with the feet of the dancers.

Translating Scripture is no easy undertaking. It takes years of dedication and the patience of many but the end results, are oh so very rewarding. You see, Bible translation is a mixture of hard work and celebration.

Dedications for Scripture are amazing events to be a part of. Whole communities turn up, driven by a curious desire to participate. These are times of great celebration; and why not, God’s word is finally in their language!

From parades to dancers, Join Steve and Mary Pence as they take us on a journey with this brilliantly detailed description of the celebration that followed the completion of Mark’s Gospel in the Safwa language.

Our growing procession wound through the narrow market streets of Mbalizi, a Sawfa-speaking community near our Mbeya translation office in southwest Tanzania. Merchants and their customers stared at us amidst racks of used shoes, sacks of corn, and stacks of shiny pots… (Read Steve and Mary’s full story here).

But there is still much more work to be done:

For Waya, Mwasonzwe, Andrea, and the Safwa people, there is much to feel good about, much to celebrate. God’s Word has arrived. But it has only begun to arrive. Completion of the New Testament is several years away. Literacy rates must rise. Safwa churches and believers need to learn to use God’s Word in their meetings and their lives. But today, in their dances, in their music, in the words of their leaders, Safwa people are now agreeing together that this work of Bible translation is Safwa work.

You can play your part too. Pray, give or go. Find out how you can be involved, both locally and globally.

No easy answers

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

Bible translation, as well as being an incredibly joyous thing,  is often difficult and challenging, with the people involved carrying a lot of responsibility. Translators have to truly get to the heart of what is really being communicated in Scripture by the writers and then figure out how to best translate it.  This means the message can be communicated successfully in the translation with minimal loss of the original meaning.

In a brilliant article, Sue Arthur gives us a brief look into the world of  being a translator, highlighting some of the challenges and complications that can arise in the process of bringing Scripture to people in their heart language.

Before you can translate something, you have to understand what it means. Understanding the meaning of a verse like this well enough to be able to re-express that meaning in another language will inevitably involve some level of interpretation, because there are always choices to be made.

There are generally no easy answers when it comes to translation, just hard work and lots of decisions… Yet often in the midst of the research, the brain storming, the testing and the checking, God uses the whole process of translation to speak through his word.

Read Sue’s full article Salted by Fire which describes the process they encountered while translating Mark 9:49 ‘Everyone will be salted with fire.’ (NIV). Eddie and Sue Arthur lived and worked for twelve years in Ivory Coast where they were part of the team translating the Scriptures for the Kouya people. Sue is now based in the UK but continues to support translation work in Madagascar. Check out Eddie and Sue’s blog at Kouyanet.

Support the work of Bible translating by finding out how you can get involved. Are you up for the challenge?