Archive for January, 2011

Wycliffe USA Partner Honored

Russ Randle

Last July, we posted a blog about Russ Randle, a D.C. lawyer who has been a major donor for the Dinka Cam Old Testament translation in Sudan. In light of this month’s historic referendum vote, Russ Randle was awarded the first-ever President’s Medallion from the Episcopal Church House of Deputies for his fourteen-year commitment to Sudan.

Not only has Russ been involved in the Dinka translation, but he’s also provided pro bono legal services for Sudanese churches, played an instrumental part in establishing a health clinic, and donated funds for the construction of a church building.

“There are places in this world where even if you know how to read, you can’t read the Bible,” said Dr. Bonnie Anderson, the president of the House of Deputies. “Thanks to Deputy Randle, there is one less place like that.”

Read more here.

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We are curious. What’s it like working in your world?

We are seeking those of you with video cameras to create a vignette. What’s a vignette? A vignette typically means something small. So we are asking you to create a small video clip, without music, featuring Wycliffe’s work in your part of the world (using your best judgment and branch approval if working in a sensitive area).

Vimeo has created a tutorial to help get you started. You can access the video vimeo school here.

It’s called a 5×5 and we’ve created a Vimeo group entitled: Wycliffe USA 5  Vignettes. Just click or copy and paste: http://vimeo.com/groups/wycliffeusa5x5

It’s easy:

Five short videos.

Five seconds each.

Show us what it’s like in your world. Here’s an example from our world:

And remember that Vimeo gives detailed instructions here: http://vimeo.com/blog:368.

Once you’ve created your video then upload it to the Wycliffe USA 5 Vignettes Group. http://vimeo.com/groups/wycliffeusa5x5

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by Megan Sutton

Ed note: Megan Sutton is a Spanish, math, and English language teacher at Rain Forest International School in Cameroon.  She is part of the Global Service Program, a pilot for Wycliffe Bible Translators that is designed to get members to short-term field assignments more quickly than the traditional program.  She is based in Yaoundé for two years, and hopes to train for a role in linguistics or literacy after she finishes her teaching assignment. You can read more from Megan on her blog.

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Dr. John Bendor-Samuel, former Executive Director of SIL International and Wycliffe International, died January 6, 2011, at the age of eighty-one. His passing was the result of injuries from a traffic accident near High Wycombe, United Kingdom.


John and his brother, David, were largely responsible for the establishment of Wycliffe Bible Translators in the UK. For many years John combined his overseas service with his role as director of the SIL training school in Britain.

Early on, John and his wife, Pam, served as linguist/translators in Peru and Brazil. Then in 1962 the couple launched their work in West Africa, paving the way for SIL to begin language development and Bible translation work there. John was responsible for encouraging Bible translation in many countries across Africa, including Ghana, Nigeria, Togo, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, and Ethiopia.

John served in numerous administrative positions in SIL, Wycliffe International, and Wycliffe UK, and was widely respected both as a statesman in the world mission movement and as an expert in West African linguistics. At the time of his death, he was engaged in research into the history of Bible translation in Africa.


To send condolences to the Bendor-Samuel family, e-mail your message to Christine Waring at pa-ed_uk@wycliffe.org

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Mother tongue translator kidnapped

Nigeria (MNN)Wycliffe Bible Translators reports that the translator/coordinator of the Tarok translation project in Nigeria was kidnapped in Jos on December 16.

The Seed Company says roughly 70 percent of the Tarok people are Christians.* The New Testament and the “JESUS” film are already available in their heart language.

However, Tarok believers are eager for more background material. The Old Testament can provide a foundation to better understand Christ’s teachings in their New Testament. A team was formed, and the project got underway.

Excitement grew as people began to understand how much their culture would benefit from both an oral and a written form of the Bible. As a result, a partner organization will record an audio version of the New Testament and put it on digital players to foster listening groups around the mother-tongue Scriptures.

As the Old Testament is completed, the whole Bible will be produced in both printed and audio formats, to support people’s spiritual growth.

The kidnapping is a crushing blow for the team. Please pray for the coordinator’s safe release. Ask God to minister to him during his captivity.

Pray, too, for his family and for the Tarok translation team. As a result of this incident, the team was forced to cancel a translation-checking session scheduled for this month.

* The Tarok translation is a project of The Seed Company.

Editor’s note: Here is how you can pray for the national translator in Nigeria: http://wycliffeprayer.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/translator-kidnapped-in-nigeria/

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by Daniel Peckham

Bible translator Mando explains how technology has enabled him to make faster progress on the Jiru Bible translation project in his mother tongue. By using a satellite internet connection and netbook equipped with special OurWord translation software, he is able to work faster and collaborate with colleagues on the other side of the world, despite living in a remote village in Southeast Asia.

This is a video I put together from my trip to Southeast Asia with The Seed Company theseedcompany.org/ . I helped set up a satellite internet connection and netbook in a remote village, and trained Mando (the main translator) how to use it. The netbook was set up with the excellent OurWord translation software developed by John Wimbish, who was also along on this trip.

I captured this footage in between the rest of the IT work, and recorded the background music one day when they eagerly shared some of their favorite songs with ukulele accompaniment.

Geeky Details: Shot with a Canon 5D Mark II, Sennheiser MKE 400 Shotgun Mic, 50 f/1.4, 24-105 f/4 IS, 70-200 f/2.8 IS, 16-35 f/2.8, and Velbon carbon fiber tripod. Background music recorded using an Olympus DS-30 digital audio recorder.

Editor’s note: Daniel Peckham is a guest contributor and freelance multimedia journalist for The Wycliffe Seed Company.

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Satellite technology being used from rural Uganda (photo by Wycliffe USA)


by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

(RNS) Janine Winkler loves reading books to her 2-year-old grandson Judah, but instead of sitting on her lap at her home in Michigan, he’s usually half a world away in Nigeria, where his father works for Wycliffe Bible Translators.

What connects them is Skype, the free online telephone and video service, that has made expensive phone calls and lengthy periods of no contact a distant memory for many missionaries abroad and their families back home.

“I’ve told people that I think God waited to send them until … the technology got to where it was,” said Winkler, who never had a camera on her computer or used Skype before her son left the country. “I couldn’t imagine just waiting to get letters from them.”

Missionaries say the new technology can bridge the thousands of miles between home and the mission field, often for free and in real time.

In a recent survey of more than 800 of its missionaries, Wycliffe found that about one-third use e-mail daily to communicate with family and friends back home. More than half said the Internet connections have made it possible for them to stay in the field longer.

Wycliffe President and CEO Bob Creson recalls the days when he was a missionary in Cameroon in the 1980s, when a staff of 200 would sign up to use the one landline to call home on weekends. Now texting, Facebook and Twitter are available to his employees.

“The world really has flattened out so that people in these very, very remote areas have contact,” he said.

Aid workers and missionaries from other organizations also report improved ability to work abroad and stay in touch with family.

“It certainly does allow there to be instant and constant communication, where before the ability to communicate with family was limited and expensive,” said Wendy Norvelle, a spokeswoman for the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Mission Board.

Jim, who has served as a Southern Baptist missionary in Asia for 15 years, says technological advances have allowed him and his wife to keep in better touch with their children, who returned to the U.S. as adults. When his granddaughter recently started walking, his son in Virginia alerted him that it was time to get on Skype.

“Actually, she walked very poorly because she was distracted by Grandma and Grandpa talking to her,” said Jim, who couldn’t be identified by last name because he “serves in a place where there are government gatekeepers in religious matters,” the missions agency said.

Bwalya Melu served in Zimbabwe as interim national director for the Christian aid organization World Vision for most of 2009. Video communication proved difficult, but he was able to send text messages to his teenage sons after their football games.

“That was important to them,” he said. “They wanted me to know … how the game went, if they lost and how they felt.”

Despite technology’s benefits, some experts say there’s a downside, especially with young missionaries.

“I know of several cases where young missionaries have been asked to spend much less time online, especially in the first year,” said Todd Johnson, director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

“They’re supposed to be doing language learning and being out among the people and they’re spending like 50, 60 hours online” a week.

Norvelle said there is “supervision and accountability” for Southern Baptist missionaries, but said there are no specific rules on the number of hours that can be spent online.

Missionaries find the technology can be available one moment and inaccessible the next.

Chad Phillips, who manages the missionary kids program for the Assemblies of God, said the capability of technology varies greatly, from unlimited reach in Europe to Internet access in some parts of Africa that is “sparse and not user-friendly.”

When it is available, he said the technology — including phone services like Vonage — has been particularly helpful when missionary kids leave a foreign country to head to the U.S. for college.

“No longer are Mom and Dad separated as they were 10 years ago, but now the parents can be much more involved while their kids are at college,” he said.

Blogs, Facebook and videoconferencing are key for connecting everyone from aging parents back home to growing families overseas, missionaries say.

Chris Winkler alerted his parents back in Michigan that a second grandchild was on the way by having Judah wear a shirt with the words “Big Brother” as they talked on Skype. Other friends found out when he and his wife posted an ultrasound image on their blog.

“It really closes the gap and makes it seem like Nigeria really isn’t that far away,” said Chris Winkler, whose immediate family has returned stateside until their second child is born.

Winkler’s Wycliffe colleague, Heather Pubols, works in Muizenberg, South Africa, and blogs to her family about how she and her husband Jeff spend holidays.

“Having access to video Skype has opened some new opportunities, even as simple as showing friends and family a new haircut,” she wrote in an e-mail message responding to questions about her experience.

Both Pubols and Winkler acknowledge that the technology helps, but can’t replace the in-person touch of a faraway relative.

“A virtual hug isn’t nearly the same as a real hug,” Winkler said. “Being able to have Judah sit on his grandparent’s lap and listen to the book isn’t nearly the same as having them reading the book over Skype.”

Editor’s Note: The following story was used with permission by RNS. Adelle M. Banks joined the Religion News Service staff in 1995 after working for more than 10 years at daily newspapers in the upstate New York communities of Binghamton and Syracuse, The Providence Journal, and the Orlando Sentinel.

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