Archive for the ‘Missionary life’ Category

Remembering the ordinary

Friday, March 11th, 2016 by Jo Johnson

For a number of years we lived in Africa. Once, a friend said to me that it was important we visit the UK often because the longer we were away the higher she put us on a pedestal. Face to face she remembered that we were just ordinary people with hopes and fears, successes and failures.

Medium_DSC_1856Today I want to remind you, as you pray for missionaries you know, that they need prayer for everyday aspects of life as well as the big stuff. Recently as I have read prayer letters from colleagues around the world it has struck me how much the everyday things really matter.

One family serving overseas shared their joy at the eviction of an unwelcome houseguest:

‘One of the scenes in the classic movie The Wizard of Oz shows a gaggle of munchkins celebrating as they sing about the demise of the Wicked Witch. We had a similar scene in our house on Monday when we discovered we had successfully captured our (previously) resident rat. Of course, we did not have quite as many munchkins in attendance, and the joyful song was about a rat instead of a witch, but the essence of the moment was the same. Nearly every morning for the past month or so we would awaken to find its most recent depredation (gnawing or pooing or both), but not anymore! We used peanut butter for bait and rat glue (we are not making this up) to apprehend the not-so-little vermin (8 in/20 cm from nose to butt, plus the tail).’

Why not rejoice with them?

In another newsletter the teenage son of one missionary couple expressed the struggles he was facing as the only Christian in his class.

Do you know other Christian teenagers facing those types of challenges?

Another family shared that the school their children attend is spread over five sites. On each of the sites the headteacher is leaving at the end of the academic year.

How would you feel if the whole leadership team at your child’s school was changing?

So when you pray for cross-cultural workers, by all means pray for their work and the spiritual impact of what they do but also remember to pray for them in the everyday challenges they face:

  • Ask God to bless them with a good living situation which is not infested with rats, bats, insects or other unwelcome guests; that your missionary friends may have a secure and clean environment in which to live.
  • Challenges that their children face. These are often much the same as the challenges that children and young people in the UK face: friendship issues and peer pressure to name just a couple. Use your imagination and pray that above all they would grow in their relationship with Jesus.
  • For good solutions to education needs, church and community involvement. I can guarantee that cross-cultural workers want to live ordinary lives in an extraordinary context.

Get some other ideas to help you pray for missionaries.

Where faith comes by hearing: making audio Scriptures in Tanzania

Monday, January 25th, 2016 by Nick

The majority of people in the world belong to oral cultures. For them, faith literally comes by hearing. With this in mind, one of the tools we use to share Scripture with these communities is audio recordings of Bible stories! So how does Scripture go from words on paper to audio?

Jo Clifford shares a great step-by-step account of one of the many trips she takes to record Scripture, this time to Mpanda in Tanzania. From invitation to hanging blankets over wooden frames, this is a brilliant window into the world of Scripture audio recording:

‘I regularly receive requests from various language projects to do audio recordings of Scripture. A couple of months before a trip I need to prepare the script of the audio recording – taking the Scripture text and dividing it up into the different characters (narrator, Ruth, Boaz, Jonah etc). Then copies of the parts are given to the different people who have agreed to read for us, so they have time to practice. I discuss with those hosting the recording work what location might be best. The preference is for somewhere quiet, with power if possible (otherwise a generator is necessary to run the equipment). I also ask if there are blankets available for soundproofing the studio structure as well as some wood to make the frame. I bring the rest of my recording equipment.

When I am recording I rely on others to help me. I explain the recording process to the person who has come to read the part. Before we start recording I always get people’s consent to use their voice.

JoC recording3

Jo at work

I usually ask for at least one translator of the language being recorded to be present to follow the reading and make sure words are read correctly. I have the text so I can generally follow along, but I don’t know the languages and some languages incorporate tone to express meaning.

Before a reader begins, I often paint a picture of the context to help them think about what they are reading. To get the most realistic recording, I often ask if there is special way of saying something in their culture which signals for instance an attitude of prayer or of showing fear or celebration.

At the time of recording I will do a rough edit of each clip. The same evening I will go through all that has been recorded that day and edit each clip, taking out breaths, clicks from lips smacking together and any extra space between phrases and sentences.

JoC recording2

Editing audio recordings

[Then] I will start to put all the clips together to make each chapter and will add the sound effects.  I will play it to the translators who speak the language to check all the text is correct, that they like the sound effects and that I haven’t edited something out by mistake!

When the translators are happy with the audio, then I can produce the MP3 tracks which can be made into CDs, or be put onto a mobile phone, uploaded onto the language website and put onto the language Scripture app.’

Interested in finding out more about the work of Wycliffe and how you can be involved? Come along to one of our one day events First Steps!

The beauty of everyday service

Friday, January 22nd, 2016 by Camilla

Generally on a Monday, we post a story of something like a Scripture dedication, a Bible translation breakthrough, or dramatic life changes brought about by a newly published Bible. But these stories wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for everyday service, which is something cross-cultural workers do, just like you.

Washing upBy everyday service, I mean getting up and going to work even when you don’t feel like it. Pushing on when you feel like your supporters have forgotten about you. Choosing to honour God in small things. Serving your family by doing the laundry, tackling another pile of dishes you won’t get credit for, or enduring yet another viewing of Frozen. These things may not be as highly prized as discovering a local word that will unlock the Bible for a people group, developing groundbreaking software that will make the Bible accessible to the Deaf, or leading someone to Christ on their deathbed. But none of the big stories – in remote locations or at home – would happen without everyday service.

Everyday service isn’t something we talk about a lot in most Christian circles – we’re better at focusing on milestones and dramatic conversion stories. But everyday service is the drip, drip, drip that helps us reach the goal. The small, regular investments that accumulate and ultimately yield big results.

We want to encourage you in your everyday service, whatever that looks like for you, and ask you to celebrate our everyday service with us!

  • Praise God that Christians around the world are faithfully doing their everyday service and standing together to honour God and make Jesus known to people everywhere – whether they are in Tewkesbury or Timbuktu.
  • Pray for Wycliffe workers or friends at home who are finding everyday service a struggle, asking God for strength and fresh inspiration.
  • Ask God how you can encourage a friend in their everyday service – it might be as simple as going out for coffee together or telling them that you prayed for them today.

Wrapping up Scripture translation? Bring in the translation consultants!

Monday, January 18th, 2016 by Nick

What does a translation consultant do? Bible translation is currently active in around 2000 languages, however, before Scripture is pressed and printed, a translation consultant comes in.

Following on from last Monday’s post, Why does Bible translation take so long?, today we’ll be taking a look into exactly what a translation consultant undertakes, thanks to a brilliant blog post by Eddie Arthur and his wife Sue (herself a translation consultant).

‘There are two essential aspects to a translation; firstly that people can understand it and secondly that it means the same thing as the original.’ – Eddie Arthur

Once all the hard work of an initial translation has been completed it’s up to a consultant to ensure it meets the two criteria mentioned above. It’s their job to sign the translation off and give the go-ahead when it’s ready to be published.

What makes a consultant? Well, you need to be familiar with the original text and have experience in translation. Once a consultant has been deployed to a project, they review the entire translation, holding fast to the importance of accuracy. In her role, Sue has been checking that the meaning aligns with the original Greek and studying back-translations (you can find out more on back-translation by having a read of another of our blog posts Belt and Braces).

Constant communication needs to be maintained with the translation team, face to face and through mediums such as Skype. Along with the team, someone external is also brought in who is less familiar with the translation text.

There is also testing, or village testing, which is where the text is read to native speakers of the target language who do not know the original passage and then asking questions about it.

This is all really very thorough. Again, why do this? Eddie writes:

‘Very simply, because God’s word is important. We need to know that people can understand what the text says and we need to know that the text is an accurate representation of what Paul wrote. It is worth taking time to get this right. In general, testing, consulting and revising the text takes longer than the initial draft of a translation.’

Eddie’s post What Does A Translation Consultant Do? gives great insight into his and Sue’s experience of what it means to be a translation consultant.

Curious to know more? Come along to one of our introductory courses later this year! Find out more about First Steps – a day to explore the world of Bible translation.

Pray for South Sudan!

Friday, January 15th, 2016 by Camilla

South Sudan needs our prayers now more than ever.

The country is facing a humanitarian crisis. Political conflict has led to displacement, violence and massive food shortages. South Sudan remains one of the least developed countries in the world, and a lack of formal infrastructure, including roads, makes it difficult to transport food and supplies. Almost 800 000 people have fled, but the majority of citizens are trapped in the country. Almost four million people are at risk of starvation. Read more on the general situation at

Despite this, Wycliffe and SIL* are currently working in nine full time translation projects and six more languages are in the early stages of Bible translation. Five New Testaments with Old Testament portions are due to be typeset in the next 12 to 18 months. Alongside this, Wycliffe and SIL are supporting linguistic, literacy and Scripture use work with these communities.

Most staff and project members in South Sudan are based in the capital, Juba – about 17 expats and 40 South Sudanese. As the country lacks infrastructure, security challenges mean this is an easier way of working. But the obvious disadvantage is that most translators live apart from their families.

Wycliffe and SIL staff are mostly affected with regard to general security and petrol shortages (petrol shortages can mean difficulties in local, everyday transport as well as affecting long-distance travel for translation workshops, etc). Road travel has also become more difficult because of decreased security. Staff have been subject to three armed attempted SIL compound break-ins between Sept-Nov (one fairly successful), various disturbances in the night (shooting in the neigbourhoods, etc), and near misses in terms of road security, but each member of staff has been kept safe so far. We praise the Lord for that and that they can continue to be there. Right now the peace process between the government and the opposition group is progressing and looks hopeful – but there are a number of other rebel groups not included in that.

Pray for South Sudan:

  • Praise God that the translation teams have been kept safe and ask for God’s continued protection over each member of each team.
  • Pray for deep repentance amongst different groups for wrongs done to each other and church and other leaders with courage to work and speak for the good of the whole country.
  • Pray for the Scripture due to be printed over the next 12-18 months, for God’s protection and blessing for those translation teams especially.

*SIL is Wycliffe’s primary partner organisation.

Kasem Scripture launch

Monday, January 4th, 2016 by Nick

This is a very special story of two Wycliffe members, Philip and Judy Hewer, who spent time working with the Kasem language group and who recently had the joy of being able to join in and celebrate the completion of the Kasem Bible along with colleagues and old friends.

Back in 1962 when Wycliffe first started work in Africa, the Kasem language group was one of the first language groups to receive a Wycliffe team. With around 366,000 speakers, Kasem is a language that is spoken in both Burkina Faso and Ghana and November 15 saw the long awaited completion of the Kasem Bible!

Photo by Otabil ArthurPhilip and Judy joined the Kasem project 10 years after its start, settling in Paga, a Kasena* village on the northern border of Ghana. After getting to grips with local language and culture, they facilitated translation of the New Testament, as well as preparing literacy materials and training volunteer teachers for adult classes. The Kasem New Testament was published as early as 1988!

Though they have been back in the UK for many years now, this November Philip and Judy returned to Ghana to celebrate the launch of the whole Bible in Kasem. On the day, people pressed forward to buy a Bible in their own mother tongue and once they had their hands on one, many were so deeply engrossed that they paid little attention to further proceedings.

Representatives of supporters from the UK were also able to travel to Ghana to join in these celebrations. Tony came to represent Philip and Judy’s original sending church in Maidstone, who have faithfully supported their work with the Kasena by means of a monthly gift for 43 years! So many people and churches in Ghana, in the UK and around the world have been part of bringing the Bible to the Kasena people in the language of their hearts.

Now they may respond to God’s message in a way appropriate to their own culture without the need for interpretation by outsiders.

Kumasi 018 Presby music group ota (2)   Kumasi 068 a Bible at last ota (2)   Kumasi 083 Bible reader 4 ota (2)

For further information on the Kasem, including sound samples of the language(!), visit

Interested in supporting the work of Bible translation? Find out more on how you can Go, Give or Pray.

*Kasena is the adjective form of Kasem

Photos by Otabil Arthur

The sweetness of Scripture

Monday, December 14th, 2015 by Nick

Can you remember suddenly understanding something significant for the first time…? I mean, really understanding it. That light bulb moment. When all of a sudden, a flood of revelation fell on the matter, and it suddenly made sense!

I would imagine you were feeling pretty excited and joyful at the time. Well, this is probably somewhat like the experiences of the Nigerian Gworog language community when they first heard Scripture in their heart language. When they could finally understand it..and started chuckling!

Here’s a brilliant account of this moment from Marinne Weststrate, a literacy and education coordinator involved in Scripture use, of her experience in a church service with the Gworog in central Nigeria. A service much different to the norm. For the very first time, they heard Scripture in their heart language. Marinne shares this personal reflection from her time serving the Gworog people.

Gworog Cultural Festival 2015

Gworog Cultural Festival 2015

‘It is a Sunday morning in Kagoro and I decide to attend a Hausa* speaking church. Once inside, very quickly I am surrounded by elderly Gworog women that smile when I greet them in Gworog.

The service starts and the prayers, songs and announcements that follow are in Hausa. But that changes as soon as the guest speaker for today is invited to preach; he does not know Hausa, and therefore preaches in English. However, one of the Gworog Bible translators had come along and reads the passage from Philippians in Gworog. Everybody listens attentively and from behind me I hear chuckles from the women…the translator finishes the reading. The sermon starts and again, as soon as the translator starts his interpretation into Gworog I hear the chuckles again; and not just only from the women behind me but everywhere in church I hear chuckles and whispering. Then the chuckles stop but the attention continues till the end of the sermon. “Hearing the Word in Gworog is so sweet!” exclaims one of the women after the service.

And indeed hearing the Word in our heart language is sweet because the Word is sweet: “They (the ordinances) are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey from the comb.” (Ps 19:10 NIV)’

*Hausa is one of the majority languages in Nigeria.

A rocky road

Monday, October 26th, 2015 by Nick

The Christian life has never been guaranteed to be an easy one. Jesus said: ‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’ (John 16:33 NIV).

This is the story of Sakias, a translator in Papua New Guinea, involved in pivotal work, but affected by family tragedy and frustration which almost led to him completely leaving translation projects, twice. However, God wasn’t ready to let this man give up, and through the work Sakias was involved with, many people’s lives have been affected.

‘My life hasn’t been easy,” Sakias shared, “But I believe God is there with us, despite it all…He showed us the road we were supposed to walk, and now I couldn’t leave it… I am with the Lord, and I’ll die with Him.’

Read Sakias’s story: Bush Road, on the fantastic PNG Experience website.

Find out how you can support the work of Bible translation. Pray, Give or Go.

Back to school

Friday, September 25th, 2015 by Camilla

All over the UK, kids have just started a new term. What about missionary kids? People are often curious about schooling when families are planning to work overseas, especially if the destination is remote. Surely schooling is bound to be an issue in many of the locations Wycliffe workers go?

Students discuss class work at Rain Forest International School in Yaoundé Cameroon.

Students discuss class work at Rain Forest International School in Yaoundé Cameroon.

Working in missions doesn’t mean sacrificing children’s education. No matter where a family involved in cross-cultural missions is based, you can bet their kids’ education is a priority. Parents want their kids to grow up to be successful and have an impact on the world. And there are more options for schooling than you would think:

  1. Homeschooling — This is a great option for many, especially those based in remote villages. Homeschooling offers great flexibility, and can be tailored to the individual to a much greater degree than other options.
  2. Local schools — Some missionary kids go to school in the community they live in, with local children, which can work really well. They get the cultural experience as well as a formal education, though it is at the host country’s pace and not that of their passport country.
  3. Boarding schools — Not all parents want to send their kids to a big city for schooling, but depending on the situation (like parents living in a remote village and kids needing to learn more than their parents are able to teach them), boarding school might be an attractive option.
  4. International schools — Sometimes an international school for expat children offers kids the education they need, especially if they’re planning on going to university in their passport country (like the UK, Australia, the US, etc.). Sometimes good international schools are available locally; other times students might need to travel for their education. Take a look at what international school is like through the eyes of Alan and Amanda in this video.

Would you stand in the gap for children of cross-cultural workers; especially for their education as they start the new school year?

  • Pray for inspiration for teachers and homeschooling parents concerning curriculum, teaching style and adapting schooling to individual children.
  • Pray for good friendships; that God would provide like-minded, encouraging friends for missionary kids, wherever they are.
  • Ask God to help children to be lights for him in their environments.

This prayer post is adapted from a story on Wycliffe US’s website by Melissa Paredes.

Chocolate chip prayers

Friday, September 11th, 2015 by Camilla

Let’s get creative! Today we invite you to join us in baking chocolate chip cookies, and turning each step into a prayer for Wycliffe members overseas.

Rachel Allen’s double chocolate chip cookies

Makes 20 large cookies

225g (8oz) butter, softenedbowl-bright2

325g (111⁄2oz) caster sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

225g (8oz) plain flour

75g (3oz) cocoa powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1⁄4 tsp salt

175g (6oz) dark chocolate (55–70% cocoa solids), chopped into small pieces, or dark chocolate chips

  • Preheat the oven to 180C (350F), gas mark 4. Line three baking trays with baking paper. Place the butter in a large bowl and beat until soft.
  • Add the sugar, and as you cream the two together, pray for unity and harmony among expat workers and nationals.
  • Crack in one egg at a time, beating between each addition. As you crack the eggs, remember those working overseas who feel broken in spirit – that God would heal their hearts and bind up their wounds.
  • Then add the vanilla extract, asking God for joy to permeate the heart of every Wycliffe worker like the vanilla flavours these cookies. As you add the flour, pray for strength – for Wycliffe workers to be healthy in mind, body and spirit.
  • Sifting in the cocoa powder, pray for happy marriages, and contentment for singles. As you add the bicarbonate of soda and salt, pray for missionaries to set aside time for daily devotions and have their minds renewed by the word of God, so they can be salt and light where they are.
  • Finally, the chocolate chips: pray for more prayer support and financial support where this is needed. Just like the chocolate chips are essential to these cookies, prayer and financial support is essential to everything Wycliffe does.
  • With wet hands, form the dough into 20 balls each the size of a golf ball (or use two soup spoons to scoop up and shape the same amount of dough). As you shape them, pray for missionaries to have a spirit of humility and ask God for wisdom. Cookie dough is great, but it won’t turn into cookies without the heat from the oven. In the same way, our abilities don’t mean much unless God is behind our work and inspires everything we do. Arrange the balls of dough on the prepared baking sheets, placing 6–7 on each sheet and leaving space for the cookies to spread.
  • Bake for 10–14 minutes or until the cookies look slightly cracked on top. (With three baking sheets, you will need to cook them in three batches, or two batches in a fan oven.) As your delicious morsels are baking, ask for God’s protection from all the attacks of the evil one, fresh energy in the face of opposition, and for God to accomplish his will through the hard times missionaries often face. Take the cookies out of the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. As the cookies cool, pray that Wycliffe workers would cast all their cares on the Lord and rest in his peace.
  • Take the cookies off the baking sheets using a palette knife or metal fish slice and place on
 a wire rack to cool down completely. While they’re cooling, ask God to bless missionaries’ communication with supporters, helping them to be honest, and receive the encouragement they need – whether it’s kind words from a supporter, a hug from a friend on the ground, or cookies baked with love.

The cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to four days.

For more prayer ideas for friends overseas, try our prayer pack Focused prayer: kingdom results.