Archive for February, 2012

Twenty-one years ago, a Bibleless Peoples Prayer Project (BPPP) partner began praying for a Muslim group in West Africa. For three years she prayed, with no obvious results.

Finally, in 1993, a man named Dalmar* accepted Christ through the testimony of a local believer.

After that, it was another fourteen years of silence. Although Dalmar continued to follow Christ, no one else in his community seemed interested.

Although he was alone in his faith, Dalmar didn’t give up. Instead, he helped a missionary couple with linguistic research, and then went to seminary for training. There, he met his wife, and in 2005, they started working on a Bible translation so others in his community could more clearly understand the message about Jesus. Through their testimony, Dalmar’s cousin accepted Christ.

Dalmar and his wife first translated the books of Ruth and Genesis. Normally, translators begin with one of the Gospels, but since Dalmar’s people were Muslim, it was more powerful to start from a chronological perspective.

“The story of (Genesis) sweeps away some misconceptions the Muslim people have about Christian faith,” Dalmar explains. “For instance, common Muslim people are taught since their childhood that Christians do not believe in God. But when the Muslim people read the book of Genesis… they realize that Christians do believe in God and that their God is the Creator of the World.”

Recently, Dalmar was thrilled to distribute a complete translation of Genesis around his community. Many of his neighbors eagerly started reading the stories to each other. One man was so happy that he put the copy on his head, under his turban, in order to keep it close to his mind.

“Our people loved the booklets you gave them,” said one man. “They talk about wonderful stories. What is most impressing is that these stories are written in our own language and they talk about God…. Very often, people sit together and read these stories.”

Recently, nearly one hundred families, including Dalmar’s, were suffering from hunger after a drought killed their animals. But God supplied the funds for Dalmar to purchase food and animals for these families. Afterwards, a man who used to persecute Dalmar for his faith in Christ, said, “Now I have come to realize that you (Christians) are the children of God’s kingdom. You have the eternal life.”

This act also touched Dalmar’s brother deeply. He was so moved that Christians were helping his people that he decided to accept Christ.

Twenty-one years after that first BPPP partner began praying, Dalmar’s neighbors are finally reading the Scriptures—words that are introducing them to their Savior. Currently more than twelve thousand people are part of BPPP, and similar prayers are being answered all over the world. By praying for Bibleless communities like Dalmar’s, you can play a key role in the work of Bible translation.

*For security reasons, Dalmar is a pseudonym.

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Rebecca Michael Mngodo is a member of parliament in Tanzania. One day Rebecca was in a gas station in Dodoma, the capital of Tanzania, when she noticed a vehicle with the name “SIL” (SIL is Wycliffe’s major implementation partner) on it. The name ignited a 30-year-old memory.

Before she was a member of parliament, and before she had a successful career in TV production, she and her future husband were students at the University of Moscow in Russia, supported by scholarships from the government of Tanzania. While they were at the university, they met Cameron Townsend, founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL International.

Townsend and his wife, Elaine, were visiting Moscow at the invitation of the faculty of the university’s language studies department, though Russia was still a communist country. The two couples became friends and ultimately Townsend raised money for Rebecca to go to England for an intensive 6-weeks course in Bible Translation taught at Wycliffe UK. He recognized Rebecca’s love of the Lord and giftedness in languages (She eventually received her master’s degree in languages). He also understood the need for Bible translation in Tanzania, a land where at least 129 languages are spoken.

“Rebecca, translate the Bible,” he said. She never forgot it.

So when she came to Dodoma for a session of parliament and saw “SIL” on the Land Cruiser in the gas station, she had to find out more. She talked to the vehicle’s driver and learned that indeed SIL was at work in her country. Townsend’s words resonated once more in her heart: “Rebecca, translate the Bible.”

Responding to the tug on her heart, she visited the SIL office and offered to help accelerate Bible translation in her country. She is in a unique position to help because she is not only a member of parliament, but also a member of the parliamentary committee that relates to the government ministry SIL would like to work with.

Townsend met Rebecca while he was seeking to advance Bible translation in Russia. He wasn’t focused on Tanzania, and he didn’t know that God was preparing Rebecca for this special role. But God did. In the same way, we don’t know what God plans to do through the relationships we are building today—but God does! He may be preparing whole groups of Rebeccas to partner in Bible translation in the future.

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By Nate Gordon

Nate Gordon, a missionary pilot in Papua, Indonesia, tells stories like this one on his blog http://offthepath.wanderprone.com

I watched the heavy, wet clouds carefully as I approached the mountains and landed the plane just before the rain started. Andi, the local pastor, came out to greet me as we huddled under the Pilatus Porter’s wing in a futile effort to stay dry.

We soon decided we’d be better off waiting out the rain in one of the grass-roofed honais built by the Ketengban people. So we ran inside and joined several men around a clay fire pit.

The Ketengban are very generous, and I soon had a steaming hot sweet potato in my hands, plucked out of the coals. When I finished my breakfast, I leaned back against the ax-hewn planks that formed the walls of the honai and enjoyed the company. I noticed a subgroup of young men holding their own conversation in their native Ketengban language, so I asked Andi what they were saying.

“They’re just carrying on about how amazing it is that they have a real pilot in their hut,” Andi said.

Here we go again with the hero worship bit, I thought to myself.

“Listen up guys,” I said in Indonesian, which they also understood. “How many nails did you use to build this honai?”

They looked down and sheepishly said, “None.” In this little mountain village, the use of modern materials is a sign of status, wealth, and that you’re a forward thinker. To them, I was pointedly calling attention to how backward and primitive they were.

“Look around you. We’re sitting on this beautiful woven rattan floor suspended three feet off the ground where the critters can’t get to us. It’s pouring rain outside, and we’re completely dry. The fire is keeping us toasty warm—and cooking breakfast for us. And you did all this without a single nail? I could never build something like this.

“How long can you guys survive in the jungle?” I continued. They gave blank stares and started to laugh nervously. They couldn’t figure out why I would ask such a question.

“Indefinitely, right?”

They didn’t answer, but their faces said, “Yeah, of course.”

“Put me in the jungle by myself and in two weeks I’m dead.” They all started laughing again—surely I was joking. There’s no way someone as smart as a pilot could be that incompetent. “No, really, I can’t hunt. And even if I did catch something, how would I cook it? I can’t make fire without matches. How do you guys do it?”

One man jumped up and ran out into the rain. He was back in no time and demonstrated how to make a fire using sticks, leaves, moss, and grass in a matter of minutes. It takes me half an hour using a match, lighter, and kerosene.

“Do you see what I’m talking about?” I asked. “You’ve mastered the challenges of your environment. I’ve also mastered the challenges of my environment which include things like computers and airplanes, but I’m no different than you. You’re made in the image of the living God, which means you carry His creativity in your souls—and you apply it to solving problems like how to build a wooden home without nails, and fire without a lighter.

“You carry dignity because you reflect the creativity of your Creator.”

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A Wycliffe missionary shares an unexpected outcome from his trip into a war-ravaged village. Due to the sensitive nature of this translation project, we cannot disclose the location or the missionary’s name.

As we circled the grass airstrip, I was anxious that we were going to disappoint the people waiting to greet us. These dear people had been living in a war zone for many years. For the past eighteen months their town had been occupied by government troops while being simultaneously under siege by the rebel forces. They had lost three successive crops to the fighting forces, and hunger was their main diet. There had been no medical supplies in the town for several years. Even normal commerce had ceased, and peoples’ clothing was literally wearing out. It would be very understandable for the welcoming party to expect us to be flying in food, medicines, or clothing.

Seven years earlier we had three translation teams and a group of literacy trainers and specialists living there. But with the escalation of the war, all our staff had left for other towns and countries. In the intervening seven years, the Bible translations had continued with displaced refugee communities from those three languages. Portions of Scripture had been completed and published. Scripture songs were composed by the refugee communities and had been published in song books. There were alphabet books, primers, and story books in all three languages.

One of the translators and I had hatched a plan to make the first visit to the town in seven years. Since it was still technically a war zone, we would hire a single-engine charter plane, fly along the border to the closest point to the town, and then make a brief low-altitude flight across the border. There the pilot would land, drop us off, and then return for us three days later.

As the translator and I put together the load of goods we would take with us, we were limited to a total cargo weight of less than two hundred pounds. We wanted to take the Scripture portions, the songbooks, and the reading materials with us, but two small footlockers of those filled our entire cargo allowance. We knew people were hungry, sick, and naked. Did we dare to not take food, medicines, and clothing? Finally we decided that while others might bring in those goods, only we could bring in the newly published sections of God’s Word.

So there we were circling the airstrip, and I was worried about letting our friends down by not bringing things for their physical needs. As we disembarked from the plane, the welcoming party came forward, shook our hands, and greeted us effusively. Then they asked us, “Did you bring us Bibles?”

I have often reflected on that moment. If I were hungry and ill and naked, would I seek my physical needs more than my spiritual needs? The war had stripped our friends of all their worldly possessions, but somehow they managed to keep their priorities straight.

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Love Your Language

Unesco Poster

Today, February 21, is Unesco’s International Mother Language Day—a celebration of linguistic diversity and richness of the nearly seven thousand languages spoken around the world.

International Mother Language Day has been celebrated since a UN resolution in 1999, but the history goes back much further. In 1949, Urdu was declared the national language in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan). Bangla (Bengali) speakers, eager to maintain their own linguistic identity, protested. Mother Language Day’s date comes from the crisis point reached on February 21,1952, when students involved in a protest were killed by police. Their deaths are remembered in Bangladesh on this day every year.

Bengali is now one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. But many languages communities, whose languages are not used as widely, still suffer discrimination and oppression. International Mother Language Day calls for respect for all languages:

“Mother languages, along with linguistic diversity, matter for the identity of individuals. As sources of creativity and vehicles for cultural expression, they are also important for the health of societies…. Mother language instruction is a powerful way to fight discrimination.” —Unesco Director-General speaking last year.

2012 Theme: Mother-Tongue Education

Picture from Unesco

This year’s theme is mother-tongue education. Most people can’t learn to read and write in a language they don’t know. When education isn’t available first in their mother tongue before a secondary language, children—usually those speaking minority languages—have trouble advancing in literacy and other education.

People’s heart languages are central to culture, community, education, and identity. Wycliffe’s work seeks to promote the use and love of people’s own language, whether through Bible translation, literacy work, mother-tongue education programs, or encouraging use of the Scriptures in the mother tongue.

We want to celebrate mother languages in practical ways. Find out how you could join Wycliffe in supporting minority languages around the world.

Sign up to pray for a minority language that is still waiting for a Bible translation project to be started.

(This was originally posted on Wycliffe UK’s blog site.)

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[vimeo http://vimeo.com/36970309  w=540&h=304]

Spend a day in the life of storying consultant Elizabeth Wilson as she helps South Asian Christians translate Bible stories into their own languages.

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By Alisha,* Edited by Angela Nelson

I am precious to Him?

Annie* woke in a cold sweat. Her dream had felt so real!

The devil had captured her and she had run to the homes of other believers, but no one would help her. Then a man dressed in white started beckoning to her, and she went to him, thinking it was Jesus. Instead he grabbed her and removed his mask, revealing himself to be the devil.

Annie woke up convinced that Satan was trying to steal her out of God’s hands, so she called us to ask if she could come over to pray with us.

Annie and I have had conversations about the power of the Word of God and about the importance of knowing the truth in our spiritual battles. But she had never really seen practically what that looked like.

I had her read John chapter 10 out loud. Here Jesus says that no one the Father has given Him will be lost and no one can take them from His hand. As Annie read, her eyes opened wider, and tears started pouring down her face.

“Really? Satan can never take me from God’s hand?” she said.

Annie worried that God would get tired of her pleas for help, so I showed her Romans 8.

“I can go confidently to God, over and over and over?” she asked. “Nothing—absolutely nothing—can separate me from Him?”

She also told me she was afraid that no one really loved her, and that no one could, so we went to Isaiah 43:1–4, which talks about God’s love for His people.

Her response was the same: “I am precious to Him?”

I could have just told Annie these things. She would have listened because she loves and respects us, but my words wouldn’t have changed her. In fact, I’ve told her many of those things before, but she has a hard time believing me.

There’s just something about the Word of God itself, and until that moment, Annie did not truly understand the importance of reading and studying God’s Word.

We sent her home with the Scriptures in Russian (her language of education), and we also gave her a copy of Luke and Acts in her mother tongue—Dagchi.* At first she didn’t know what it was, and she said, “I can’t read this.” I told her to try again, since the alphabet is similar to Russian.

When she finally started to understand, she got so excited she started bouncing up and down in her chair.

“It’s my language! It’s the Scriptures in my language!” she said, over and over. “I can’t wait to share this with my mom and read it to her!”

We also gave Annie MP3 recordings of Luke and Acts. These have been especially encouraging to her mother, who doesn’t know the national language well enough to read and study Scripture.

One day, we pray that Annie and her people will know the power of the whole Bible in their own language. It’s why we’re here.

*The author’s last name and location have been left out for security reasons. Annie and Dagchi are pseudonyms.

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