Archive for October, 2010

By Bob Creson

Imagine boarding a plane in Dallas, Texas, you travel for several days by plane, board a truck and journey into lush green mountains on a deeply rutted, often muddy road.  The road ends, and you start hiking over landslides made slippery from the rain.  Eventually you will come to a small village nestled into a mountain valley where the local language people speak is Yawa.

In the past, the people in this village have worshiped in the ‘official’ language of the country, not the language of their heart, Yawa.  But things are changing because soon the New Testament will be sent to the printers.

The availability of Scripture has had a huge impact on the way people worship, including an improved understanding of the message of the Gospel.  Today, if you ask if anyone preaches from the Yawa Scriptures published over the last 20 years you’ll hear things like, “Elder Sefnat does all the time.”  When you find Sefnat he will show you two small worn books protected by brown paper covers—Yawa translations of John’s writings, Acts, and nine epistles. Tucked into the pages are little slips of paper with dated sermon notes, references to Scripture passages in those two little books, and unpublished verses that mother tongue translator Andowa has handwritten for him.

Continuing your walk through the village, stop by a thatched-roof home and ask if anyone there reads from the Scriptures in Yawa. Everyone will point to a bearded old man called Grandfather Bertasar. “He read to us this morning,” they’ll say. “He told us how to apply it to our lives, too.”

Walk on and you’ll come to the village church. Take a deep breath because you’re about to encounter an amazing scene!  In this very remote village, where there is neither electricity nor phone service, translator Andowa sits at a laptop computer. A dozen people cluster closely around him, listening as he reads aloud a Bible passage in Yawa. The volunteer reviewers enthusiastically discuss it, looking for ways to improve awkward or unclear sentences. When they‘re satisfied with the way it sounds, Andowa revises it on his computer. Then, since his specially-designed software has a send/receive function, he logs onto the internet and “syncs” his draft.

Now, get ready for a huge surprise!  Halfway around the world in Arlington, Texas, Wycliffe translator, Linda Jones, will get up tomorrow morning, sync up her computer, and read the draft that Andowa has revised. She’ll check to make sure the meaning hasn’t been altered and send back suggestions for the next round of discussion.

This is how the final revisions are being made to the Yawa New Testament. It’s all possible because a new geostationary satellite began circling the equator in early 2009. Just two weeks after it went into service, IT specialists from Wycliffe brought a computer and a small satellite device to the village, showed Andowa how to connect to the satellite, and taught him to use OurWord—the special software for mother tongue translators created by Wycliffe translator, John Wimbish.

Andowa and Linda have been working together long-distance for 17 years now, ever since Linda and her husband, Larry, had to move away so Larry could take on various leadership roles in Bible translation.  In the beginning, Scripture drafts went back and forth by mail and in hand-carried packets. Linda and Larry made trips to the village. Andowa made trips out of the village. Always God helped them find a way forward but they thought they had reached the end of the road when it came to the final revision process.  “We did not see how we could finish the final revisions without greater community involvement,” says Linda. “It just looked impossible. I could not go there for any length of time, and they could not come here.”

And then came the satellite—and IT specialists who knew how to take advantage of the satellite!

Soon the Yawa people will begin preparing for the dedication set for June 2011.  Elder Sefnat, Grandfather Bertasar, and translator Andowa are waiting.  Dozens of reviewers and their relatives are waiting.  The Scriptures are reaching yet another group of people, isolated, but not forgotten by the God who loves them all.  He has conquered space and distance.

Because of these advances in technology and the ability to communicate over great distances, Bible translators are taking advantage of this progress leveraging them for the benefit of those still waiting for Scripture in their own language.  And, because of the commitment of national colleagues like Andowa, all of this rolls up into the greatest acceleration of the pace of Bible translation ever witnessed by the church.

If you’d like to learn more about the Last Languages Campaign of Wycliffe Bible Translators and the unique opportunity given to us in this generation to start the remaining Bible translation needs, you can visit www.lastlanguagescampaign.com.

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Ndeshi, Tembo team spokesman, shares what his team learned during the Bantu Discourse Workshops.

by Roger Van Otterloo

We recently finished conducting the last of a series of three Bantu Discourse Workshops in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. This 15-month series taught four different Congolese translation teams how to apply discourse principles, with the goal of translating the book of Matthew during the course.

At the end of the last workshop, we were able to hear a brief progress report from each translation team. For me, the highlight was hearing from Ndeshi, the Tembo translation team spokesman, about his team’s incredible progress.

Not only were they able to finish the translation of Matthew, which they had started earlier, but they also completed drafts of Mark, John, Revelation, and 1 and 2 Corinthians—and they’re now working on Ephesians! The consultants checking the Tembo team’s translation tell us it is clear and vibrant.

How did the team manage this amazing pace and still maintain quality? With some help from the computer translation adaptation program Adapt It.
With Adapt It, the Tembo team plugs in the Bantu-Swahili Front Translation, which incorporates all the Bantu discourse principles used for the Kifuliiru Scriptures, a translation we worked on for 16 years. By using this process, the Tembo team hopes to have the entire New Testament finished in two years! It will probably take a bit longer than that, but certainly not as long as it took us to produce the Kifuliiru New Testament!
Adapt It not only allows teams to work with amazing speed, but it also greatly increases the chances that the material they produce will accurately reflect the discourse principles of their language. Restructuring a text to reflect natural discourse principles is not just the hardest part of translation—it’s also the biggest part, and is the major factor that allows the original meaning of the Scriptures to come across clearly. In the Bantu-Swahili Front Translation, the bulk of restructuring is already done, saving the team much time.

Computer technology and discourse studies are making a huge difference in the pace of Bible translation. The dream of accelerated Bible translation is being realized!

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Lausanne 2010, Cape Town is now a reference point not only for the 4000+ participants representing nearly 200 countries, but for many others as well who will look back on what was produced to guide the Lausanne Movement into the days, weeks and years ahead. It was the largest and most diverse gathering of believers since Lausanne II in Manila in 1989. All of us focused on the same thing: world evangelism and what we should do in the 21st Century.

On the opening night, Doug Birdsall, the Chairman of the Lausanne Movement, read a letter from Dr. Billy Graham that set the stage for the rest of the week. In that letter, Dr. Graham challenged participants to figure out what to do in the 21st Century to complete world evangelism. Doug finished his opening remarks by saying that our goal should be “zero.” He said that when we meet again, if we meet again, we should have a goal of zero unreached people groups, and zero Bible translation needs.

Doug also reminded us the first night that 200 participants from China were barred at the last minute, many of whom were already at the airport going through immigration, from participating. We were disadvantaged not to have these brothers and sisters in our midst.

As people of the ‘Word’ at Wycliffe Bible Translators, I was pleased to see the theme of Celebrating the Bible, and Eradicating Bible Poverty woven throughout the first plenary session each day. Starting with a short video clip each morning prior to studying the book of Ephesians, the Scriptures were presented as foundational to the accomplishment of the Great Commission.

T.V. Thomas, a member of the Wycliffe Canada Board of Directors, who was also a participant at Lausanne ’89 in Manila, told a group of Wycliffe leaders one evening, “Bible translation was nowhere to be found at Lausanne II…it’s everywhere at Lausanne 2010!” Read more about “Three Major Priorities in Eradicating Bible Poverty.”

One morning plenary session was called, “Bringing the Gospel to the Least Reached People Groups and Cities.“ The least reach portion was facilitated by Paul Eshleman, Vice President of Networks and Partnerships for Campus Crusade for Christ International. His emphasis was on providing a translation of Scriptures and that this is foremost in the minds of those focused on church planting. Listen or read more.

You can read more about the Scripture in Mission at Lausanne III if you’re interested.

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The 2010-2011 Wycliffe Bible Translators Gift Catalog is here, and it’s filled with opportunities to give the gift of eternal hope this Christmas.

Check out this brief video message from Bob Creson, President of Wycliffe USA, and then take a moment to look over the gift catalog and pray about your involvement. Any gift you choose to give will help provide men, women, and children with God’s Word in their heart language—part of the great harvest God is reaping worldwide.

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Video message from Bob Creson, President of Wycliffe USA

Visit www.wycliffecatalog.org for more information.

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Lausanne Movement

The Lausanne Movement began when Billy Graham, realized the need to “unite all evangelicals in the common task of the total evangelization of the world.”

The First Lausanne Congress in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974 was the “widest-ranging meeting of Christians ever held”, according to Time Magazine. With over 2,700 participants from over 150 countries, the diversity of this gathering was a testament to God’s work throughout the nations. One of the most notable results of this congress was Ralph Winter’s plenary address, in which he introduced the term “unreached people groups.” People hailed this as ‘one of the milestone events in missiology’.

Wycliffe Bible Translators has the same DNA as Dr. Winter: reaching the unreached peoples of the earth with the Good News of the Gospel in a language and form they understand and relate to best. Dr. Winter was proud to be an honorary member of Wycliffe Bible Translators and is quoted as saying, “Cameron Townsend [the founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators] is comparable to William Carey and Hudson Taylor. Like them, Townsend saw that there were still unreached frontiers, and for almost a half a century he waved the flag for the by-passed and overlooked tribal peoples of the world…Wycliffe Bible Translators is dedicated to reaching these frontiers.” (USCWM)

Another memorable part of the congress was the drafting of the Lausanne Covenant headed by John Stott. This covenant was a public declaration of the evangelical theology and set the stage for future partnerships within the global church.The Lausanne Covenant, signed by Billy Graham and hundreds of other believers at this event in 1974, still serves as the basis for unity and global evangelization.

The second major congress, Lausanne II in Manila, Philippines (July, 1989) boasted 3,000 participants from 170 countries. With the congress’ increasing diversity came the promise of new initiatives and substantial alliances between its participants. This congress created another landmark document called The Manila Manifesto, which elaborated on the Lausanne Covenant.

Now the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization will start next Sunday evening in Cape Town, South Africa. This up-coming event has been described as one of the most diverse meetings in the world missions movement every held. I’m told that over two-thirds of the 4500 delegates will be from the Church of the South and the East. Delegates will help determine the global church’s next action steps in efforts to further the Kingdom of God.

I’ve heard some describe these Lausanne congresses as just as important as some of the early church conferences that set the tone and direction for the Church for years to come. I’ll leave that evaluation to others, and God, in the course of the days, weeks and years to come. It is true that the Lausanne movement, including these periodic conferences, has become a reference point for missions and the Church that God can use to ‘drive’ things in a certain direction.

Sharing the gospel of Christ with the unreached world still remains a daunting task but together, those of us attending hope and pray we find contemporary and culturally-appropriate ways to defend the gospel and answer
the call to active global evangelization, including the completion of the task of Bible Translation.

As I speak to audiences about the current progress of worldwide Bible translation the thing that catches most people by surprise is that we are so close to the point where every community will have some access to Scripture. When did that happen? Most thought that was a distant future. Wycliffe USA is drawing attention to this though little known fact our Last Languages Campaign.

As we think about the remaining unreached people groups and their need to hear the Good News, let’s pray for the role of Bible translation in this effort called he Lausanne Movement. I believe Dr. Winter was right when he said, “…the Bible itself is now clearly out of control in many parts of the world…Wycliffe Bible Translators are right: once people get the Bible in their own language you can readily expect what in most cases will be explosive growth of faith movements to Christ.” Missions Frontiers Magazine

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