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Archive for May, 2012

Overwhelmed by Truth

By Dwayne Janke

Choking with emotion, José Alberto takes off his hat and buries his face in it as he weeps. It becomes a make-shift handkerchief to absorb his tears.

José is recalling one of the darkest periods of his life as a pastor among the Central Mam people of Guatemala. It was a time when his little congregation in the village of Tuijala dismissed him as their pastor—for preaching the truth.

In 2004, José learned how to read and write Mam, which allowed him to preach directly from the New Testament in his mother tongue. His wife Fabiana helps tell the story.

“All I can say is before we knew how to read and write, we often preached from the Bible according to our understanding,” she says. “Being able to read and write, we understood that what we were sometimes preaching was not correct. For example, we’ve learned that… a person who [deliberately and routinely] plans to sin is not a Christian and hasn’t changed, although there are lots of times that we do things and then we realize that it is wrong. And God forgives that when we repent.”

As José preached with clarity for the first time in Mam, his flock felt overwhelmed by the new teaching. They got so angry they expelled him.

“Many, many, many times we prayed in the house,” adds Fabiana, speaking of those dark days. Her comment brings her husband to tears.

When José collects himself, he picks up the story. “The group got mad and kept me away from preaching for three years,” he says.

But as a local literacy ministry opened the Mam Scriptures to more people, José’s former congregation realized their error.

“After three years, they came down to my house and they asked for forgiveness for having prohibited me from preaching. They said, ‘We were wrong. You don’t preach like some other pastors, but you tell the truth.’”

José was reinstated as pastor, and currently ministers to a house church of seventy. He is also a literacy teacher to his people, knowing first-hand how it has impacted him personally.

“Before my mind was closed, and now my mind is opened,” he says of the change that literacy helped bring about. “It’s like opening up a road for me. I continue to go down that same road, and it gets wider. I understand more and more. I read the Bible two hours every morning, and two hours in the afternoon, and two hours at night.

“The result is that I’m at peace. I’m content,” he concludes. “In my life, everything’s changed. Nothing is the same. I’m a totally different person now.”

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By Elyse Patten

Photo by Heather Pubols: http://ow.ly/b3u2M

In a remote village church in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pastor Gaspard speaks to his congregation beneath the handmade thatched roof of their church building, updating them on the progress of the translation of the Bible into their language—Mono. Many years ago the Mono language community selected Pastor Gaspard and his wife Marie to study theology, linguistics, and translation principles to bring God’s Word into their language. The community took action after foreign translators, who did some helpful linguistic analysis, were forced to leave the project because of the outbreak of war in the area. In fact, no foreigners from Wycliffe had visited this village, Bili, for over a decade, and when a journalistic team took the long and treacherous journey there last month, they were greeted with an overwhelming welcome. Take a look at the photographer’s blog for more on her journey to Bili, and the Mono Bible translation project.

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We Serve a Multilingual God

Scripture brings hope to a minority language group in the Philippines

By Dustin Moody, Wycliffe USA marketing strategist

I’ve served with Wycliffe Bible Translators for several years, and had always heard that witnessing a Scripture celebration firsthand in the field was a special event. Now it was my chance to find out.

First Baptist Church of Orlando partnered with Wycliffe to help sponsor a New Testament translation for the Northern Subanen speakers of the southern Philippines. I was honored to be a part of the team traveling with them to bring the story back to the United States.

We arrived in Bulawan—a capitol of sorts for the eighty-five thousand Northern Subanen speakers—for the celebration. This is where translators have dedicated the past eleven years to developing the New Testament translation. We were welcomed as royalty, though we felt like we were the least worthy to be among colleagues who had committed their lives, families, and livelihoods for the singular purpose of bringing God’s word to those still waiting.

I remain struck by one particular scene even months after the trip. We were seated, waiting for the ceremony to begin, when a group of local pastors and community leaders took their assigned places standing at the front of the open air pavilion. As the choir began to sing, a group of young girls began dancing their way toward them, led by one carrying the Northern Subanen New Testament. Slowly and deliberately, they approached the men—many of whom were old enough to be their grandfathers— bowed in reverence, and presented the Scripture to this group of leaders.

As I watched one of the pastors weep, I wondered what this day must mean to him. How can you lead a congregation without God’s Word to deepen their discipleship? What is it like to read God’s Word in your language for the first time? It’s an experience that English speakers today will never have, but on that day we were united by the knowledge that God loves us enough to speak both our languages.

There are 175 languages in the Philippines today. Many people speak English and even more speak Filipino, the national language. But outside of the metropolitan areas, local minority languages still exist despite a push by some to assimilate to a language of wider communication.

These local language speakers have been discouraged from using their heart languages in schools, refused for jobs, and faced endless discrimination. Now, thanks to projects by Wycliffe, the Translators Association of the Philippines , SIL International, and organizations like them, there is a fight to save minority languages in the Philippines.

Wycliffe believes that God intends to speak to everyone in the language and form they understand best, just as the Scriptures have been translated from Greek and Hebrew to English, and now to more than four thousand languages worldwide. As exciting as that is, there are still over two thousand languages without one verse of Scripture.

I’ve had access to the Bible all my life. There are more than five hundred English versions in circulation today. But what have I done with them?

Today 350 million people around the world still haven’t experienced what we saw in Bulawan that day. It’s time to change that.

Click here to learn more and watch a video about First Baptist Church of Orlando’s involvement in Bible translation for the Northern Subanen language group.

Dustin Moody is a marketing strategist for Wycliffe USA in Orlando, Florida, and has traveled to the Philippines and the Democratic Republic of Congo to report on the work of Bible translation.

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Come Race to 2025 with Wycliffe!

The Race to 2025 is a two-day event that bridges the adrenalin of adventure sport and Jesus’ extreme challenge to His Church—to make disciples of all nations. During the race, your team of four will compete against other teams in physical challenges and simulated missionary life scenarios—including basic linguistics training and a remote “hidden village” encounter. 

The race format is inspired by the intense language survey trips that Wycliffe linguists take in beautiful remote regions worldwide. Prior to the race weekend, teams commit to raise a minimum of $2,000 per team ($500 per racer). This money goes to support Bible translation projects around the world. Cool prizes are awarded to those who raise the most money and to the fastest team across the finish line.

Each night, missionaries will engage your hearts and minds with stories of serving God by helping to unlock the fascinating world of language and linguistics.

Sound like fun?

Upcoming Race Dates and Locations

Race to 2025 US: Michigan, Sept. 14–16, 2012

Race to 2025 US: Montana, Oct. 12–14, 2012

Race to 2025 Canada: Nordegg (Advanced Challenge), Aug. 31–Sept. 2, 2012

Race to 2025 Canada: Nordegg (Classic Challenge), Sept. 7–9, 2012

 More details at http://www.wycliffenextgen.com/page/race-to-2025-1

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By Angela Nelson

Marty Lange teaches people how to bring translated Scripture to life in their heart language by sharing it through culturally relevant methods like radio programs, audio dramas, videos, and flannelgraph presentations.

In Peru, for example, people who speak Huallaga Quechua enjoy radio programs in their heart language. School, however, is conducted in Spanish, and although many try to learn to read in Spanish, most prefer to use the first language they learned to speak. This makes radio programs in the Quechua language very popular.

For years, Marty hoped one of his pupils would create a radio program that would teach the Gospel to children, but no one seemed to take the idea seriously.

Finally, a girl named Diana expressed interest. Marty was thrilled! He knew that reaching children would also impact adults. So he taught Diana the fundamentals of a radio program, and she went on to start a radio show for kids—one that soon became the most popular program in Peru’s Huallaga Quechua language.

Just as Marty had explained, Diana crafted the show around her audience. She knew that the children from the countryside were fascinated with hummingbirds, so she came up with a format using a hummingbird—called “jirish” in the Huallaga Quechua language.

Jirish, the hummingbird, would start out by saying something like, “I’ve just been out looking around, and I was thinking about that song that we learned last week. Can we sing that song together?”

“Sure, Jirish!” Diana would reply.

And together they would sing a Sunday school song together.

“Oh, I love it when you tell me Bible stories,” Jirish would say. “Can you please read me a story from the Bible today?”

And Diana would say, “Oh sure.”

“Well, what does that mean?” the hummingbird would ask, after Diana had finished reading.

Diana would explain the story, and they’d go over a Scripture verse for the week. Then she’d ask, “Jirish, have you heard any riddles lately?”

The Quechua people love riddles.

“Oh, I’ve got a great one!” Jirish would reply. “What enters by one and exits by three?”

“Your body going through a shirt!”

And so went the program, with a new Scripture lesson and theme each week.

Within two months almost every Huallaga Quechua child was listening to the program. When adults turned on their radios to listen to their favorite programs, kids would change the station to Jirish, often angering their parents.

But it wasn’t long before the parents were hooked on Jirish, too.

Everyone was listening to the program and learning about Scripture, and they were loving it.

By itself this was a huge success, but soon another unexpected blessing happened.

Years before, SIL linguists had created a literacy primer in Huallaga Quechua to teach people how to read, but because Quechua is primarily an oral culture, it didn’t stir much interest and the books weren’t selling.

Ironically enough, the primer had been titled Jirish.

Now that the radio program was so popular, the primers finally started selling because people thought they must be connected to the program. Pretty soon adults and children alike started learning to read, using the primers and the skills they learned in Spanish. Eventually the primers sold out.

“Is that a bad problem?” Marty asks, excited about what he had witnessed God do. “No, that’s a good problem. And so, non-print media brings people to the written Word.”

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By Katie Kuykendall

In a remote village in West Africa, Cameroonian translators have been working diligently to translate the New Testament into their heart language.  They’re ready for a Wycliffe translation consultant to review their work for accuracy. But the consultant is in Texas and hasn’t been able to contact the team for the past eighteen months.

One day a team from Wycliffe Associates (WA) arrives with a pack of equipment called a Translation Acceleration Kit. Inside is a laptop computer, battery, solar panel, and a satellite communication terminal. The satellite allows the translators to access the Internet in some of the most remote locations on earth. Now, with the press of a button, the translators can talk to their consultant daily.

Translation teams like this one in Cameroon are multiplying globally in response to Wycliffe’s Vision 2025, and many are in areas with little or no technical infrastructure.

“It’s like magic!”

That’s the reaction WA President Bruce Smith says he’s heard while helping to install the kits. He’s witnessed relief and joy on people’s faces as they experience the freedom to connect globally for the first time.

“They’ve lived in isolation their entire lives and communication has always been a problem,” Bruce said. “So the ability to communicate in three minutes with somebody all the way on the other side of the world is magic.”

It was just last year that Wycliffe Associates began partnering with The Seed Company to get the translation kits into the hands of these teams. The WA team is involved in every step of the process, from researching the technology and testing the equipment to installing them in the village. And they’re covering their own cost for travel. WA installed seventy-two kits last year, thanks to donors who funded them at $3,500 each.

Now the translation process is accelerating like never before. With this technology, it will take an estimated 20 to 25 percent less time to complete a New Testament translation. That means teams that used to spend eight to ten years on the New Testament can do the same work in six to eight years.

“That’s an amazing acceleration for a very minimal investment,” Bruce said.

The WA team is excited to continue its contribution to the Last Languages Campaign by installing between fifty and one hundred kits next year alone.

“We’re committed to the process of speeding God’s Word into people’s hearts,” he said.

For more information or to get involved in providing technology for translators in Bibleless communities, visit wycliffeassociates.org.

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By Amy Millward

“This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.” –Hebrews 6:19a (NLT)

Hands Raised - VotingOne by one, the twenty-two letters of the Matsigenka (also known as Machiguenga) alphabet were projected on the wall for all to see. Pausing at each letter, a representative from the Ministry of Education asked participants: “Should this letter be included in the Matsigenka alphabet? Raise your hand if you are in favor of this letter being included in the Matsigenka alphabet.”

Twenty-two times, a crowded room full of Matsigenka speakers shouted, “Yes!” with their hands stretched high into the air. Some couldn’t resist raising both hands. And each time, the representative added one more letter to a growing list.

For the past fifty years, those twenty-two letters have been used to create readers, math books, health and hygiene materials, Scriptures, and dictionaries in Matsigenka. Finally, at this historic and emotional event, they would be officially recognized as the standard for writing the Matsigenka language.

It’s been a long time coming. Wycliffe translators Wayne and Betty Snell moved to Machi-land in the 1950s and began painstakingly translating the Bible and other materials into Matsigenka. Betty, who attended the September 2009 Conference for the Standardization of the Matsigenka Alphabet shares, “As the final ‘Y’ was added, memories filled my mind even as tears filled my eyes. Suddenly, I was back on the Timpia River in 1952… In our house, the Coleman gas lantern hummed along overhead as Wayne and I sat at an old kitchen table and chipped away at the data gathered that day—data that would help shape and validate a unique alphabet for the Matsigenka language.”

After the slideshow of letters, person after person waited patiently to sign the formal document that would carry their decision to the Ministry of Education in Lima. To Betty, “it was sort of like watching people exercise the right to vote for the first time.”

Hands Raised - SigningAs each person approached the table, they wrote their full name, occupation, district and region of residence, personal identification number, and signature. The representative from the Ministry of Education then pressed their index finger on an ink pad and placed their fingerprint on the appropriate line to identify each signature as valid. The document was now finished, setting an official standard for all Matsigenka writing.

Dressed in traditional garb to celebrate their cultural heritage, many younger Matsigenka speakers wanted to know how the alphabet was designed, and what it was like back then.

Even as they move forward with the development of their language, many yearn for a connection to their past. Created so long ago, their alphabet is a vital piece of Matsigenka history—one that, now, won’t be lost.

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