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I recently participated in an Open House at our Atlantic Centre near Amherst, Nova Scotia. As we all sat by a campfire afterwards, I spoke with Sharon, a Jamaican lady who is a longtime friend of Wycliffe. She told me she resonated with my points about the power of the mother tongue. She said even the Hawaiian Pidgin New Testament (Da Jesus Book) spoke to her deeper in her soul than English. “It hits me right here,” she said, pointing at her heart.

I asked her if she had seen the Patois New Testament, which was completed last year. “There’s a New Testament in my language?!! Where can I get a copy?” she exclaimed. “I want to send one to my family in Jamaica.” As multicultural as Canada is, I didn’t expect to hear stories about the impact of the mother tongue, right here in Canada. But why shouldn’t I? After all, last week my counterpart in Wycliffe UK attended the launch of the Jamaican New Testament in London. Eddie Arthur’s blog post about that experience is worth reading.

He notes that a lot of people have been questioning whether the Patois is a legitimate language. “The thing that really struck me was that without exception, every speaker at the event felt a need to defend the production of the New Testament in Jamaican.” The Hawaiian Pidgin received similar criticism. After all, to English-as-a-first-language speakers, both seem like sometimes-humourous variations of English. For instance, John 3:16:

“Is jus cause God did love de whole a wi why him sen him ONE Son fi come dead fi wi, so dat all a de people dem who believe seh Him real woan dead but wi live fieva.” (Jamaican)

“God wen get so plenny love an aloha fo da peopo inside da world, dat he wen send me, his one an ony Boy, so dat everybody dat trus me no get cut off from God, but get da real kine life dat stay to da max foeva.” (Hawaiian Pidgin)

If we can understand it when we read it, it can’t be another language, can it? For me, Sharon slammed the door on that line of thought. The Scriptures don’t speak to her the same way in her second language.

Arthur concludes,

…the story of the Jamaican language is the story of all minority languages. Whether you are in the West Indies, West Africa or East Asia, there is always an educated elite insisting that minority languages should be suppressed in favour of English, French, Arabic, Chinese or what-have-you.

So let’s celebrate with the minority today. Jamaicans are equals with us. God speaks their language.

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A long journey

In May, I had the privilege of going to Asia for the first time. I attended Wycliffe’s global conference along with 500 people from 67 nations — a picture of the breadth of the global Bible translation movement. We saw some excellent examples of servant leadership, spiritual authority and unity among a very diverse and divergent collection of opinionated leaders. The highlights for me were the opportunity to meet with 21 Canadian leaders who attended, and the opportunity to play hookey.

Yes, you read that right. I had a chance to get away from the meetings twice to visit with two language projects, one of which is in its twentieth year. In a small urban house, we met a young American named Amber and a remarkable mother-tongue translation couple who have been the one constant on this project. The following is their story.

In the early ’90s, Duang Tip found himself assisting a Bible translation project. While it wasn’t his heart language, it was a more widely-used dialect with similarities to his own. His expatriate mentor noted his ability and suggested he translate the New Testament into his own related language, spoken by about 20,000+ people just in Thailand. Duang Tip knew enough about the translation process to count the cost. He prayed for three months before committing to the challenge.

Duang Tip and Dawk KaewThe project never seemed to go smoothly. For years, the team struggled as each stage in the work took longer than it should. An attempt was made at one point to speed the work with a larger team, but that just added to personal tensions. Finally their language program coordinator made the difficult decision to slim the team down to four. As Amber and her Thai husband Upai worked alongside Duang Tip and Dawk Kaew, the project began to pick up steam. At this date Luke, Acts, Philemon, Titus, 1 & 2 Timothy are completed. Seven books are awaiting consultant checking.  Six books are going through the Team Checking and Community Checking stages. In short, the end of the New Testament project is finally within sight.

So, what’s next? Retirement? Duang Tip can’t imagine that. His people need the Old Testament.

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[Reprinted from wycliffeusa.wordpress.com]

By Roy Eyre, president of Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada

Those of us who are not directly involved in translating the Bible will never completely understand or appreciate the linguistic challenges our translators face day by day.

That includes me.

I am giving my professional life to the Bible translation cause. But I am an administrator, not a linguist. As a result, I approach the challenge of translation from a unique vantage point. I look at this topic as a father—and pastor of my own family. I look at it as an elder—concerned with right doctrine. And I look at it as someone who cares deeply for God’s Word—wanting everyone around the world to be able to have access to it in their own language.

Still, I can share some general insights on the matter.

One fundamental truth about translation is that there are no two languages that have an exact cross-over of vocabulary. Most Christians in North America have heard in church at one point or another that our English word, “love,” in our Bibles doesn’t capture the meaning behind the four Greek words in Scripture: agápe, éros, philía, and storgē. Take a moment to consider the implications of using éros instead of philía in a translation. Sexual connotations would certainly be a stumbling block when “brotherly love” was intended.

English is a handy language in its use of generic words like “love.” However, many languages have far more specific words. I remember a previous Word Alive story that explained that there are more than twenty different Inuit words that English attempts to encapsulate in the word “snow.”

But other languages have a more limited vocabulary. Wycliffe’s Ken and Mendy Nehrbass are Bible translation consultants on an island in Vanuatu, in the middle of the South Pacific. Ken once tried to convey to me the difficulty of translation into the Southwest Tanna language:

“Translated Genesis 2–4 yesterday. You’d think that the difficulty with translating would be that there are so many ways to say something—how do you narrow it down? But every chapter of the Bible presents the opposite problem for a language like SW Tanna: there’s no way to say it! Like [in Gen. 4:15], “if anyone kills Cain, he will be avenged seven times.” ([In SW Tanna, there is] no word for ‘avenge,’ no number above five, and no way to say ‘x number of times.’)”

Our translators face a difficult and complex task daily. Even the “simple” verses can trip them up. We in English-speaking countries—home to 85 percent of all Bible resources—have a difficult time visualizing the challenges. So let’s pray for translators like the Nehrbasses, working in isolated locations and struggling at times with a few other consultants to find the best solutions in each unique language.

How did Ken and Mendy end up solving their dilemma? They leaned upon their biblical, translation, and linguistics training; Wycliffe’s translation practices based on more than a half century of experience; insights into the local language and culture from the Southwest Tanna people; and, no doubt, much prayer.

Recognizing that conveying the meaning of God’s Words is an ultimate goal, they chose the following:

Nɨkam. Tukmə yermamə kɨrik rhopni ik, tukrɨrəh narpɨnien ehuə rapita narpɨnien yame nakawəh.

In English, this translation conveys the idea that if someone killed Cain, he’d receive a larger punishment than the punishment he meted out to Cain.

The manuscript of the New Testament is currently being printed, and the Southwest Tanna will soon have God’s Word in a form they can understand.

I may never know everything that translators, like Ken and Mendy, face. But I do know this: Wycliffe Canada is just as committed in 2012 to accurate, clear, and natural translation for every remaining language as we were sixty years ago when our personnel first started serving in this amazing and life-changing work.

—Roy’s post originally appeared in Wycliffe Canada’s Word Alive magazine. Read the rest of this issue on their website at http://www.wycliffe.ca/wordalive/#/2

—Read or watch more on Ken and Mendy Nehrbass’s work in Vanuatu at http://www.cbn.com/700club/guests/bios/Nehrbass_112707.aspx and http://www.nehrbass.info/

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I’m not a Bible translator, though I’ve often thought I’d be a pretty good one. My wife Becky would be a great translator. After all, she studied Chemical Engineering; she’s an analyst and problem solver. As a graphic designer, I’m a problem solver as well. Wouldn’t Bible translation be an ideal vocation for us? Twice we’ve asked ourselves that question and taken the time to research and talk to God about His calling on us. Yet he has never opened that door to us.

Instead, we’ve learned to live vicariously, finding joy and satisfaction in the success of others. As a family serving Bible translation from North America but wanting to have a global impact, my wife and I have made a deep investment in the Southwest Tanna language project in Vanuatu, a chain of islands in the South Pacific. Since it began about twelve years ago, we have donated and prayed for this project and tried to care for our friends Ken and Mendy Nehrbass, an American couple consulting on the project. I also had the privilege of applying my graphic skills to design the cover for the first scriptures ever printed in that language.

My favourite Christmas gift in 2010 came in a small envelope from Vanuatu. I pulled out a Christmas card signed by eleven people, the Southwest Tanna translation team. It included a short bio and photo of each member. There we were introduced to incredible people like Jakob Willie, Tom Makua and Chief Jenry Nasey – those who have invested their time, blood, sweat and tears into seeing God’s Word in their own language.

They celebrated and dedicated their New Testament on May 31.

   

My favourite shot is of Chief Jenry, one of the translators, holding one of the first copies off the truck. He said that he is so overwhelmed to hold God’s Word in his hands — all the hard work can finally reach the hands of those in his language. He said his heart was so filled with peace and joy and excitement that his tears fell down his cheeks.

You won’t see me in these pictures, because my body remained 10,000 km away from Vanuatu that day. Instead of being there in person, I spent the day with a number of young people on their way to membership in Wycliffe Canada. Those men and women represent the future. Who knows how many translation projects and literacy programs they will start? I think I made the right choice… I think.

Nevertheless, I have a personal goal this year to attend a ceremony that launches a New Testament, completed with help by a Canadian translator. So I didn’t make it to this one, but I have in my hands a copy of the Buamu New Testament, hot off the press, with a dedication service in Burkina Faso scheduled for October that I plan to attend.

I love my job. Being part of an organization that impacts people all over the world, most of whom I’ll never see, gives me a lot of joy and satisfaction. And who knows? Maybe my next job will be Bible translation.

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He set his face

[Republished from thebackrowleader.com]

A few weeks ago, a little phrase from Luke 9:51 (ESV) jumped out at me, and I’ve been reflecting on it this Easter week:

When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.

Jesus set his face, resolutely determined to go to Jerusalem. Of course, this was no vacation trip he was planning. He spoke often to his disciples in those days about how the Son of Man was going to be lifted up, the shepherd was going to be struck down and the Son of Man betrayed into the hands of sinners. He fully knew the pain and sacrifice that was going to be required of him; he’d known it since he came to earth. But as the moment grew closer, both his anxiety and his courage grew. Later, in the Garden of Gethsemane, the moment close at hand, Matthew described Jesus as anguished and distressed, his soul crushed with grief to the point of death.

In that moment, I see the distinct humanness of Jesus. As Hebrews says, he was tempted in all ways as we are. Can’t you relate to a moment like that? Perhaps not to the same degree, but a time when you absolutely dreaded what you were going to have to do? As the moment grows close, your steps get heavy, your breathing laboured as if you’re carrying a huge weight. At some point, you face a moment of decision. Will you shrink from your responsibility or set your face and move forward?

I remember the first time I needed to speak in public. I was a grade 4 student in Atlanta, and we were in the middle of a mock election. As campaign chair for a candidate, I had to give a speech to a group of students. I dreaded that thought. If I absolutely had to, I resolved to only do it in front of people I knew. Instead, I was selected to speak to a group of students in another class. I remember waiting in a little room between the classrooms, balling because I didn’t want to do it and looking desperately for someone else to appeal to. Embarrassed by my tears. Wanting to quit. Finally I screwed up my courage and summoned enough resolve to do it. It seems funny now, given the role I’m in today, but I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had run away from that decision point.

I’ve never faced a situation bad enough to create a physiological reaction like sweating blood, but in some small way, I can relate to Jesus’ Gethsemane moment. It’s worth looking at how he approached it.

First, he begged God for a way out, three times. I don’t think it’s wrong to ask if there can be some other way. The point is that Jesus didn’t go in the direction of defiance and refusal. When I face a difficult decision or task, I find incredible strength in sharing it with God, even if my prayers are repetitive or lack words.

Second, he sought companionship. Though he knew they would soon abandon him, he brought his closest friends along to pray with him. Like the disciples, our friends may not be able to relate to our crisis, but even having them near is some level of comfort. I often think of Job’s friends in moments like that. To their huge credit, they got together and sat with him during his misery. Seven days they sat in silence. The only mistake they made was in opening their mouths.

Then Jesus surrendered to a greater authority. He knew he’d been heard, and he gave himself up to the greater plan. Having made his decision, he didn’t shrink or pull back from it; he turned to face it. I love the way he collected himself, pulled his disciples to their feet and faced his betrayer. “The time has come,” he said. No longer did he have any doubt about what he needed to do. He found tremendous courage once he got up from his knees.

Isaiah described this “Good Friday” hundreds of years before that moment (Isaiah 50:5-7 NLT):

The Sovereign Lord has spoken to me,
and I have listened.
I have not rebelled or turned away.
I offered my back to those who beat me
and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard.
I did not hide my face
from mockery and spitting.

Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
I will not be disgraced.
Therefore, I have set my face like a stone,
determined to do his will.
And I know that I will not be put to shame.

That’s my Saviour, Redeemer, Rescuer and Passover Lamb! And that’s my model for leadership.

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Southwest Tannese man reading MarkFrom time to time, we’ve updated you on a project we personally support and pray for, the translation for the Southwest Tanna people in Vanuatu in the South Pacific. Our friends Ken and Mendy Nehrbass have been working there for almost twelve years. They’re beginning to typeset the entire New Testament today. Here’s a snapshot of some key events in the last eight months, in their words.

Dec 12:

Whole draft of New Testament complete! Chief Jenri and Ken finished drafting Romans 16 last month, which means we’ve completed the drafting of the whole New Testament! Jenri was so thrilled when that last verse in Romans was finished that he roamed around the village for the next hour hooting and hollering, “Whoooo! The Bible is in our language! Woooo!” With only 2 more books to consultant check, it won’t be long before we’re getting ready for typesetting and printing the New Testament (a lengthy and detailed process). It looks like the day that the New Testament will be printed in the SW Tanna language is closer than we ever imagined – it’s just around the corner!

May 18:The Southwest Tanna translation team completing their draft

“Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him– to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.” -Romans 16: 25-27. So fitting for the last verses of the New Testament to be checked! THE TRANSLATION IS FINISHED! now to get the New Testament ready to go to the printers…

Mendy holds the New Testament manuscriptJun 6:

That thick manuscript is the whole New Testament in the SW Tanna language! We’re doing a final proofread today.

Aug 1:

Speaking of the finish line, we’re starting the process of readying the SW Tanna New Testament for printing (typesetting)TODAY. This is a meticulous editing process where we check all the headings, chapter numbers, we make sure the pictures are in the right places with the correct captions and that the page numbers and other formatting things have come out correctly.

In 2006, I had the privilege of designing the cover of the Gospel of Mak, the first scriptures ever published in Southwest Tanna. As I finalized my design, I put together a mock-up from the pdf file Ken sent me. I can’t read the language, but I know layout and pagination. I could tell the page numbers were wrong. Then I noticed that two of the pages were repeated, meaning two pages of  Mark were missing. A quick email to Vanuatu, and Ken was able to correct the problem before printing any of the booklets.

2007 promotion for Bibleless Peoples Prayer ProjectSo, with a sense of knowledge of the complexities of typesetting, we’re praying for Ken and Mendy today. And with a sense of ownership, we’re more than a little excited today.

Whoooooooo!

[You can live vicariously, too, joining a Bible translation project from here. Find out more about the Bibleless Peoples Prayer Project.]

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cell phoneI remember walking into church as a kid, always armed with a Bible in hand. How could you go to church without bringing a Bible? And by “Bible,” I mean treeware. There was a whole industry to support it: Bible covers, bookmarks, cover embossing and engraving, Bible cover embossing and engraving. Today, my Bible looks quite different. When I pull out my phone in church (on silent, of course), I’m not checking my messages. I’m following along with my pastor, switching versions on the fly and pulling up notes, maps and images on the passage at hand.

Bible apps for iPhoneI’m very excited about a new partnership to get the Bible into digital platforms in every language and distribute it worldwide through technology. In case you haven’t noticed, cell phones have allowed people in third world countries to skip an entire generation of technology. They skipped the telephone line and jumped straight to cell. In fact, you can get better coverage in most countries in Africa than you can in rural parts of the United States. I read recently that nomads in Africa no longer pick places to stop for the night based purely on where water is available. Instead, they look for wi-fi hotspots.

The Every Tribe Every Nation partnership is working primarily through YouVersion and Bible.is. YouVersion is by far the most popular Bible application on the iPhone. But it has a key limitation when it comes to oral societies: you have to read the Bible. Bible.isThat’s where Faith Comes by Hearing’s Bible.is excels. You can push play and hear the Bible while you follow along. What a great way to learn how to read!

Both of these organizations love Wycliffe because we don’t copyright our translations. Imagine getting access Scriptures in 800+ languages from one source! That’s what we offer.

Stay tuned. This distribution method opens all kinds of possibilities, especially in places where possession of a Bible is a punishable offense. You can also read more in Wycliffe Canada’s WordAlive magazine.

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