Jo Clifford recording a Nyiha choir in Tanzania

My friends call me gadget girl. They know they can make me happy by taking me to the closest IT and media shop! I love recording, I love editing, I love creating media and I get to do it full time!

So what does a media person have to do with Bible translation? Let me tell you some stories from my years in Tanzania:

Checking a translation

There is a Kisi language team who have translated their first book, namely Jonah. I was spontaneously asked to do a single voice recording of the book of Jonah in the Kisi language. The team will test the translation in the community and want an audio version to take along with them so people can listen to it at the market place and give their thoughts on the translation.

Not everyone can read

Martha and Mery enjoying the Gospel of
Mark in Temi

People need to hear and be able to access the word of God in a language that they can understand. Martha, the older lady on the left of the picture, enjoyed reading the Gospel of Mark in Temi and trying to create questions for a women’s Bible study. Mery, watching her, can’t read, but she was amazing at remembering the text when it was read out to her. She was also good at coming up with questions for the Bible study. We are talking with the Temi language team as to when we can produce an audio version of the Gospel of Mark, so that those who can’t read or who struggle to read can still access the word of God.

JESUS film scripting workshop

A couple of years ago, in partnership with The JESUS Film Project, I helped coordinate a translation workshop for seven languages that we work with. At the beginning of the workshop the teams were taught about how to translate a script, making sure the translation fits with the mouth movements on the film and what to do when it doesn’t!

The teams continued to work on the translation of the script throughout the workshop. They were all so excited that people would be able to see ‘Jesus’ speaking their language! After several checks, The JESUS Film Project sent some recording teams to record the film script in the seven languages. Through this partnership the JESUS film was translated and dubbed and produced in seven languages in one and half years.

The reach of radio

God never lets any of our experiences go to waste. Before I joined Wycliffe I worked for Trans World Radio. They taught me how produce radio programmes and run a studio.

One day in November I was busy editing some audio files in my office when Bukuku, one of my colleagues, knocked on my door to introduce some guests. The guests were two members of staff from a local radio station in Mbeya. They had heard that we produced radio programmes and would we be interested in broadcasting with them?

This is not a Christian station, so I was quite surprised as our programme content is mainly mother tongue Scripture. They offered to broadcast three programmes a week for a good price. I wanted to make sure that they really wanted to broadcast our programmes so I sent two sample programmes to the manager. Within the hour he called me very excitedly as the programmes that I sent were in his mother tongue! We had a contract for a year to broadcast mother tongue Scripture in all the languages of Mbeya on a radio station that reaches three million people!

Mentoring and Training

Gift Ngogo

Recently I wrote in my newsletter: ‘... the books of Ruth and Jonah are being recorded in the Manda and Kisi languages. “How is this possible, when you are not in Tanzania, Jo?” – I hear you ask. Well, my former colleague Gift Ngogo, who is now self employed, running his own studio, has agreed to help out. I had been training him to take over my role, but then he had to leave our organisation for family reasons. I am thankful that it is possible to employ him on a project by project basis, to help us continue with the work of making the word of God available to people in multiple media formats.’

Be adaptable!

I was able to travel with a colleague to the Pangwa area. I was there to record a choir singing in the local language. I had originally been told there would be one choir to record. When we got to the first village, however, there were three choirs waiting! One choir was so excited that they had prepared 12 songs, so we spent all day recording. They were so grateful for us coming that they provided all the meals during our stay. My colleague and I also each received a handmade basket and a chicken!

We continued to travel through the language area. In each village we came to, word had somehow spread that choir recordings would happen (though no one had told me!). Even though sometimes I didn’t have all my equipment with me, thankfully I found that I could do a good recording with a small mic that I can attach to my laptop.

So why media?

Zakayo Swallo, one of Jo’s colleagues, working on the JESUS film

I see media as a tool that serves all aspects of Bible translation: Whether it is creating the audio of a recently translated Scripture text, so that it can be checked by those who can’t read as well as those who can. Whether it is getting Scripture out there through radio programmes, websites, the JESUS film, Scripture apps, WhatsApp, audio players so that people can interact with God’s word. Whether it is creating a small literacy video to teach people to read their language so that they can eventually read Scripture for themselves. Or whether it is recording Christian songs in traditional music style to help the local church grow.

Media plays a key part in making it possible for people to engage with Scripture in languages they understand well. Media is a part of our lives, whether we like it or not. Let us use it to bless others.

Jo Clifford

‘One of the big needs we have is media people – recordists, app builders, digital engagement specialists, animators, graphic designers etc,’ says Jo. ‘There are currently at least 30 open positions available around the world for someone interested in this type of work.’

Discover how you could get involved.

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