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Archive for July, 2010

Avery Willis

Table 71 at The Cove, Nov 2009. Avery Willis, front, 2nd from left

Avery T. Willis, former International Field Director for the International Mission Board, one of the founding members of Table 71, and Executive Director of the International Orality Network, died early this morning. His son, Randy, describes the event as “graduating to glory.” Avery would have liked that description.

An avid user of Twitter, his last ‘tweet’ yesterday was, “Home from hospital. Tired from transport from hospital, visiting with family and friends. It is so good to be home.” My guess is that he knew in his heart that he was closer to “home” than his cheerful spirit let on. Now he is home.

Avery’s life verse was Psalm 71:17-18, “Since my youth, O God, you have taught me and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation and your might to all who are to come.”

Avery finished well…a great example for those of us who are following behind him.

Please pray for Avery’s wife, Shirley, along with his extended family. While the family is asking for a celebration of his life, transitions like this are always hard. He will be greatly missed by his colleagues, including me, in Wycliffe USA.

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Mara Cluster team members in Tanzania work on the book of Mark

Wycliffe USA’s president and CEO Bob Creson often says, “Wycliffe and our partners are involved in the greatest acceleration of the pace of Bible translation that the church has ever witnessed.” There are several reasons for this acceleration, and the role of Information Technology (IT) is a key factor as we move towards the goal of reaching the last languages by the year 2025.

However, it is also important to note the other key factors contributing to this acceleration. As the article linked below mentions, historically, a translator from the west would go into a village and then learn the local language and spend a lifetime working in that one language to complete an entire, or maybe only a portion of the Bible.

While expats continue to make significant contributions in the Bible translation movements around  the world, the high demand role linguistically is that of translation consultant. The consultant serves national or indigenous translators who already know and understand the language. Translation teams often work in clusters or groups of similar languages which also speeds the process. And as you noticed in the picture above, they are using software, computers and mobile devices to translate and check their work.

Wycliffe USA values the partnership of organizations like EC Group and over 100 other partners around the globe working together to reach those still waiting for God’s Word in their own language. Creson also often states that, “We still need translators; we still need literacy specialists. But we [also] still need people who can become involved in administration. We need teachers. We still need a few pilots every year. We need IT specialists. We have opportunities for people across the board, with various skills, who can participate in this greatest acceleration.” To find out how you can become involved please visit www.wycliffe.org.

You may view the article on Christian Computing Magazine by clicking on this sentence.

If you are an IT professional, consider joining our group on LinkedIn.

Find out more about joining our IT team.

We need 250 IT team members. Search our openings here.

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Drafts and Checks

Most people who read my personal blog — where this blog was originally posted– with any regularity know that I serve in an executive leadership role with Wycliffe Bible Translators USA. I’m not a linguist or a pilot or a literacy specialist or a Scripture engagement consultant. I am a graphic designer/teacher/rock collector and am evolving into all sorts of roles I never imagined either filling or enjoying so much.

I’ve grown over time in my understanding of the process of Bible translation — the work that is at the heart of “what” we do in Wycliffe. There are all sorts of other things that go on around this work — aspects which are critical and valuable. I’m talking now about that very narrow thing that happens after an orthography (alphabet) is developed and grammar has begun to be decoded. The translation of the Word of God into a language.

We begin at the very beginning. (It’s a very good place to start.)

First draft

The first draft is a preliminary, tentative translation, for testing and improving.

This used to be the longest part of the process for many reasons. This process seems to go faster when mother tongue translators are involved. In some cases, computer technology can be used to accelerate this process even more. The point is, the first step in the translation process is the first draft.

Successive drafts

After that, several successive drafts are produced as improvements and revisions are made. How does this happen? As the drafts are checked, appropriate changes are made. There are all sorts of checks.

I find the list below fascinating. Daunting, even. I also find it delightfully confirming that Wycliffe and our partners hold the Word of God in a place of highest respect and subsequently handle the Word in appropriate ways. We also have a great respect for the languages into which God’s Word is being translated — we want it to communicate naturally as well as accurately.

Checking the drafts

  • Reviewer Check: a read-through of the translation by other speakers of the indigenous language to get their corrections and suggested improvements
  • Consultant Check: an adviser with special skills, such as expertise in the original Hebrew or Greek, and/or broader background and experience, reviews the draft
    (The consultant discusses the translation verse-by-verse with the translators, shares how problem passages have been handled by others, and advises on general aspects of the text. )
  • Exegetical Check: compares the indigenous language translation draft with the original Greek or Hebrew text, ensuring accuracy and faithfulness in the translation.
  • Consistency Check: reviews the translation of key biblical terms, important theological concepts, Bible names, and parallel passages throughout the entire text and evaluates rationale for any variations
  • Format and Style Check: reviews the preface, introductions to the books, glossary and footnotes
    (Spelling, punctuation, verse and chapter numbers, paragraphing, maps, pictures and captions are also checked in this process.)
  • Proofreading: checking of the entire manuscript, including all the details listed under format and style, above, is a long, intense and tedious job
  • Oral read-through: reading of the entire manuscript to determine whether anything sounds wrong or is missing
    (This is often done by a group of native speakers.)

There comes a point in the process when the translators and others on the team who participate in this process realize that they are finished. They have a manuscript ready for publication. That, of course, has additional steps and processes — like any publication of any manuscript.

Also note that as Scripture is translated it is often distributed in chunks. Maybe the first published Scripture will be portions from Luke at Christmas time or the book of Jonah. While draft and check  process occurs with each publication, it also happens holistically when a New Testament or full Bible is published.

Amazing process.

When there are people who do not have access to God’s Word in the language they understand best and when those same people are thereby limited in their  understanding of God’s love and plan for them — thwarted in their ability to comprehend His invitation to a relationship with Himself through His Son — getting the Word to them as quickly as possible feels like a most important thing. The “urgency” to move quickly must coexist with the “urgency” that the Word they are given is accurate — that it correctly expresses God’s message of Hope and Life and Redemption.

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Running The Race

By Amy Millward

At 92, Orville Rogers runs about 12 miles most weeks. He’s run 38,000 miles in the last 41 years. He competes regularly, and he’s even set two U.S. records in the 90-94 age group as well as two world records. He’s not slowing down anytime soon—and he doesn’t think Wycliffe Bible Translators Last Languages Campaign should, either.

“It’s been 2,000 years since we got the command to ‘go into all the world,’ and we’ve not been aggressive enough in the past,” Orville says. “I’m gratified that now we are. Bible translation is essential to reaching the people groups who don’t have God’s Word. Hundreds of organizations out there are doing evangelistic work, but they’re not pointed toward the people groups who don’t have the Bible. And it’s just not fair that there should be over 500 million people in the world who don’t have one word of the Bible in their own language.” (more…)

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by Jessica Whitmore

SUDAN – When Russ Randle accepted the invitation of now-Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul of the Episcopal Church of Sudan to travel to Sudan and “come and see,” rather than give money to help his ministry, he wasn’t prepared for the great need he would “see.”

Ayel Deng
Dinka translator Ayel Deng at work

“When I arrived in Sudan for the first time in January 1998, I met one of the translators in the airport and found myself discussing the difficulties of Bible translation into his native language,” said Russ.  “I had naively thought that all such translation was done.  I was struck by the great faith of the people undergoing Old Testament privations of exile, famine, epidemic and genocide without the comforting words of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and the Psalms, which might have given more meaning to their great suffering.”  Russ has since been to Sudan three times and has found his place in financially supporting the Dinka Cam Old Testament translation project in Sudan.

Russ is a member of the Episcopal Church USA as well as a member of the American Friends of the Episcopal Church of Sudan (AFRECS).  That organization formed in 2005 as “a network of individuals, churches, dioceses, and other organizations that seeks to focus attention on the needs and priorities of the Episcopal Church of Sudan (ECS) and enable American friends to assist the ECS in meeting the needs of the Sudanese people.”

This past June, AFRECS held its fifth annual conference in Virginia.  Russ, along with Tom and Terri, who work with Wycliffe out of ECS’s Translation and Literacy Department, and Cynthia, who has served as a translation consultant in Sudan since 1992, spoke to fellow AFRECS members in a workshop focusing on Bible translation in Sudan. It was during this workshop that they hoped to share their heart for the country of Sudan and the work that goes into translating the Bible.

“I love books, and I have since I learned to read.  The chance to share God’s book with two million people is very exciting.” said Russ, who also serves on the Board of Directors for AFRECS.

That excitement goes beyond sharing the scriptures, to include teaching others how to read through literacy programs as well as bringing peace to a war-torn country.

“Bible translation is critical to getting the full story of salvation into people’s hands and in their ears and hearts in their native language,” Russ added.  “As a matter of faith, I believe people will be more ardent for peace if they have the full complement of God’s word, as miraculously occurred in South Africa when apartheid was overturned without degenerating into a general race or civil war. Bible translation and literacy also go hand-in-hand.  If people can read, they can better protect their rights, better protect their families and health and earn a better living, whether at farming or some other occupation.  All those things help build peace.”

Cynthia, who is a professor of Biblical Hebrew and linguistics, also sees how Bible translation and peace coincide. She shares that “peace and stability come through people acting properly through knowledge of the Bible, which promotes reconciliation and ways for people to deal with former enemies and trauma. That leads to peace.”

The overall process of Bible translation, including literacy programs to teach the specific community to learn its written language, can take up to 15 years.  Each translation can also be quite expensive as a New Testament translation costs approximately $50,000 per year.  Currently, eleven separately funded projects are in progress.

“We take for granted that we have scriptures in English,” said Terri, who emphasized the ways others can become involved in the translation process, which include financial donations and prayer support.

Russ would like to see the basis of support within the Episcopal churches and other denominations to start with prayer and blossom from there.

“I’d like to see other dioceses help support translation projects and make such translation a focus of concerted, long-term prayer for all their parishes until the translation project is finished, which can be a project for a decade or longer.  Americans, including those of us in the church, too often react to fads and sometimes seem to have the attention span of a hummingbird.  Our Sudanese colleagues need friends who will be friends for the duration; we will learn a lot about God’s grace and power if we make that kind of commitment.  Once prayer comes, resources follow.  As one of the translators once said, ‘If I have a choice between your prayers and your money, I will take your prayers’,” said Russ.

Terri also emphasized the need for personnel to help with the translation process. This includes expatriates, who can serve for two years or more to provide training to those working on the translation projects, as well as Sudanese, who have left their home country and received training elsewhere.

“The greatest need is for people fluent in their native language and literate in English to return to help give their own people one of God’s greatest gifts: the full news of salvation in their own language as occurred on Pentecost.  This work is very hard but of enormous importance to millions of people, many yet unborn.  Those doing this work are heroes in my book, and their names are written in God’s book.  Those born in Sudan who have moved to the United States may be called to return to Sudan to help bring this great gift to reality,” Russ concluded.

Jessica Whitmore is a freelance writer based in Pennsylvania who writes on human interest and financial topics. This story was originally written for the Wycliffe News Network.

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