Archive for August, 2012

The route to Sentani, Papua, from Kathmandu, Nepal should take about seven days.

By Angela Nelson

Last September, Wycliffe suffered a tragic loss when pilot Paul Westlund and two passengers died in an airplane accident in Papua, Indonesia.

The plane lost in the crash was one of three that was used to ferry translators, supplies, Bibles, and other passengers throughout the mountainous terrain of Papua. And while Paul himself could never be replaced, the team had to search for a replacement airplane to carry-on the important work.

Today we’re praising God for providing not just one, but two planes to add to the fleet in Papua. After a great deal of time and effort, the team purchased a lightly used Pilatus PC-6 Porter from Switzerland with insurance funds from the accident. The second Pilatus PC-6 Porter was purchased from an airline in Nepal, using generous donations.

This morning pilots Nate Gordon and Brad McFarlane were scheduled to leave Kathmandu, Nepal, in a white Porter with green and gold stripes. It’s the beginning of a seven-day journey to ferry the little plane nearly 5,000 nautical miles to Sentani, Papua.

Not far behind them is the second Porter, also on its way to Sentani. It left Switzerland August 21, being ferried by Swiss pilot Daniel Eicher.These short-field aircraft are crucial to Bible translation work in Papua. A few weeks ago, Nate wrote about a day he flew the Ketengban Old Testament translation team in one of the other planes:

“As I thought about that flight, bringing the entire OT team out to Sentani for a couple weeks of checking their drafts with their translation consultant, I was struck by how tenuous this whole thing is. Suspended 10,000 feet up in an empty sky, a single engine pulling a pair of wings over a seemingly endless stretch of impenetrable rain forest…it was easy to feel incredibly vulnerable. All our eggs in a fragile aluminum basket.

“This endeavor of reaching the remotest parts of the earth with the Good News of Jesus feels just like that most of the time: ridiculously fragile. The only way this work will ever succeed is if God undergirds it, protects it, and prospers it. But it is His work and it will bear fruit.”

Please pray for the pilots as they ferry the planes this week! Visit Nate’s blog for updates on the flight.

Pilots Nate and Brad with the Pilatus PC-6 Porter from Kathmandu, Nepal

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By Angela Nelson

Several Wycliffe families have been blessed to have the financial support of friends and family doubled through employee matching-gift programs. Take Annie,* for instance. She had been financially supporting her brother in Southeast Asia for over twenty years. A few years ago, she and her husband each enrolled in their employers’ matching-gift programs, and qualified. Both of their employers then started matching a certain amount of Annie and her husband’s charitable giving to the charities they specify. Now, Annie’s brother receives more support, and Annie wishes she would have taken advantage of this program all along!

The Blake* family, serving Bible translation work in Papua New Guinea (PNG), also made use of this often-overlooked resource. They had financial supporters who worked for Boeing and Microsoft, both of which have matching-gift programs. After the paperwork was filed, both Boeing and Microsoft sent in gifts to match the amount their employees had given the Blakes. The Blakes were able to use the additional money toward plane tickets and living expenses—two things that are not cheap in PNG!

Over fifteen thousand US companies will match their employee contributions to charitable organizations like Wycliffe and its primary strategic partner, SIL. If you or your spouse work for one of these companies, there could be several thousand dollars available for you to direct to an organization of your choice.

Some companies also match volunteer hours or gifts from spouses, retirees, and board members. To see if your employer will match your donation, please contact your company’s HR department or matching-gift coordinator. If your company does not have a matching-gifts program, you may want to ask them to start one.

If you have questions, send an e-mail to matching_gifts@wycliffe.org or call 407-852-3899.

*Anne and the Blakes’ stories are real, but their names have been changed to protect their identity.

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by Beth Wicks

“If we are to understand the Word of God, God needs to translate Himself into our language, so that His Words can speak deeply to each person,” Elvis Guenekean reflects. “It’s the translation of the Word of God into my language that is at the base of my own faith.”

Elvis was once an atheist, an eager student of humanistic philosophy, and firmly set against Christian faith.

“When my wife would return home from prayer meetings, I would mock her, asking her a series of philosophical questions,” he remembers. “I aimed to persuade her that God didn’t exist and that her faith was useless.”

His remarks would often make her cry, but she was never dissuaded from praying for him.

After completing his studies and training as a teacher, Elvis’ further academic plans were blocked by a lack of finances. In answer to his wife’s prayers, this roadblock became a turning point in his life. He decided to look for opportunities to use his skills to benefit the local community. He even approached the pastor of a local church and offered to start literacy classes for the large number of people in the church who could not read or write.

The pastor encouraged him to instead enroll in a translation training course under the direction of Christians with experience in translation. It was being offered to members of the community so that they could begin to translate the Bible into Gbeya, Elvis’ own mother tongue, which is spoken by more than two hundred thousand people in the Bossangoa region of Central African Republic.

“I had no idea at the time that this was God’s plan for me,” Elvis said.

At first Elvis saw translation as just a challenging intellectual exercise. But as he sought the meaning of each passage of Scripture, and grappled with the best way to express it in Gbeya, he began to discover the God of the Bible.

“As I became immersed in the Word of God, I began to understand the incredible love and grace which He freely gives each one of us,” Elvis recalls. “I couldn’t even imagine why God would want a relationship with me. My deep intimacy with God is one of the most amazing things I take from this ministry.”

Soon Elvis went from being one of the translators on the Gbeya translation team to being the coordinator for translation and literacy projects in the whole Bossangoa region.

“Ever since I accepted Jesus as my Savior,” he said, “my entire life has been such an adventure in faith.”

It has now been over a decade since Elvis first got involved in Bible translation, and today he oversees the translation and literacy projects for the whole country. Elvis’ family and church are supportive of his work. Even in childhood, his father had encouraged him to be a wholehearted servant of God.

“God chose [Elvis] to work for him, studying the Bible,” said Michel Samedi, Elvis’ older brother. “My prayer is that his work will be a sweet-smelling sacrifice to God.”

Photo by Zeke Du Plessis

Beth Wicks is a writer for YWAM AfriCom, a network of communicators that serve YWAM in Africa. Learn more about them on their web site: www.ywamafricom.org. This story was written for the Wycliffe News Network of the Wycliffe Global Alliance.

Read a longer version of this story

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Pray Bigger Prayers

What if we prayed for entire languages to be translated, even when it seems overwhelming? What if we prayed for hearts to be transformed, even when it seems unlikely?

What if we prayed for every language to have access to God’s Word by 2025, even when it seems impossible?

What if we prayed bigger prayers?

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Solomon Islands: Part 3

By Rachel Wolverton, Wycliffe USA marketing strategist

(Rachel visited Wycliffe’s work in the Solomon Islands in early July. This blog series gives a glimpse into Bible translation efforts in that part of the world.)

Read Part 1: Not Just a Fly on the Wall
Read Part 2: It’s a Full-Time Job

Girls from the Solomon Islands

As fireworks to celebrate the opening of the Festival of Pacific Arts* rang out on a beautiful evening in the Solomon Islands in early July 2012, many were reminded of a fateful night in 2000 when they heard similar sounds. But on that night, twelve years ago, they weren’t the sounds of celebration. Instead, the sounds of gunfire marked the beginning of what many in the Solomons call “the Tension.”

It began when ethnic conflict developed between some of the indigenous people of two neighboring islands, and the capital city of Honiara became the battlegrounds for the coup. A near civil war broke out.

Wycliffe and its partners had been at work on Bible translation in the Solomons under the name Solomon Islands Translation Advisory Group (SITAG). At the time of this conflict, all SITAG staff, along with all other expatriates** in the Solomon Islands, were required to hastily leave the country for safety.

More than seventy languages are spoken in the Solomon Islands

Not knowing if and when expatriates could return to the country, key local leaders who had been working with SITAG on translation work into their own languages, realized something that concerned them. Without the SITAG staff, translation work would come to a screeching halt, meaning that Solomon Islanders speaking many of the more than seventy languages in the country may never have the opportunity to read the Bible in their own language. They did not want to let that happen.

And so out of this great conflict came the Solomon Islands Bible Translation and Literacy Partnership (SIBTLP), an organization of Solomon Islanders working on Bible translation and literacy. This new organization provided support for the islanders that had been working with SITAG on translations, with the hope that over time, capacity would be built so work would always be able to continue regardless of economic or political climate.

SITAG expatriate staff were eventually allowed back into the country, and the two organizations now work side by side to accomplish the task of Bible translation in the Solomons. Joshua Lui Zoti provides leadership to SIBTLP and helps build church partnerships across the islands for the organization while also working on the Bible translation for his mother tongue, Simbo.

Joshua has held a variety of jobs over the years, ranging from a member of Parliament to a police officer. Much like other Solomon Islanders, he has lived through wars, tsunamis, and loss of his home. Now Joshua often has to travel away from his family (and travel in the Solomons is no easy task!) to visit churches across the country. And yet he would say that his job as a Bible translator and leader for SIBTLP is the hardest and most important job he’s held. He, like those who founded SIBTLP almost twelve years ago, believes that Bible translation is worth it all so that his people can clearly understand God’s Word one day.

Rachel and Nick Wolverton with Joshua Lui Zoti, national coordinator for SIBTLP

*The Festival of Pacific Arts was started in 1972 to promote traditional art forms in the region. This year’s festival was held in Honiara, Solomon Islands, making it the biggest tourism event ever to be held in the Solomons. Participants representing twenty-seven countries celebrated unique aspects of their culture during the two-week festival through performing arts, literature, and other exhibits. SIL (Wycliffe’s primary strategic partner) was asked to participate this year for the first time by hosting a “Languages of the Pacific” display and daily linguistic activities. Wycliffe Australia and Wycliffe New Zealand hosted Bible storytelling workshops before and during the event.


** a person temporarily or permanently residing in a country and culture other than that of their upbringing

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Solomon Islands: Part 2

By Rachel Wolverton, Wycliffe USA marketing strategist

(Rachel visited Wycliffe’s work in the Solomon Islands in early July. This blog series gives a glimpse into Bible translation efforts in that part of the world.)

Read Part 1: Not Just a Fly on the Wall

Debbie and Greg Conwell with a girl from the Solomon Islands

No two days in Debbie Conwell’s job are ever the same. The island culture of the Solomons probably plays into that, but so does the variety of hats that she wears. As the coordinator of training and review for SIBTLP (Solomon Islands Bible Translation and Literacy Partnership), she trains translators from the Solomon Islands and reviews their first drafts to help ensure they are true to the original text.

Some days Debbie is helping to plan and execute two-week translation training programs on how to translate specific portions of Scripture like the Minor Prophets or the Gospels. Other days, she might be part of a team planning a literacy workshop. I can still remember the excitement in her eyes as she showed me Sunday school materials about Elijah and Elisha that the attendees of a recent workshop collaborated to write and then translate into various local languages. In one workshop, they more than doubled the Sunday school materials in the whole country!

These workshops used to happen about twice a year, but the number of people working on translation has steadily increased, and the need for training is growing so fast that they are now considering having fourteen a year.

As time consuming and important as the training aspect of Debbie’s job is, she is also one of a team of people reviewing the local translators’ work. For instance, when a translator on a project that Debbie is involved in finishes the book of Romans, someone on the team translates it back into English and sends it to Debbie to perform the first of many checks this book will go through before being produced in the final New Testament. She checks to see that the book was translated accurate to the original text while remaining natural and clear. And she currently does this for nine languages, a number that is expected to continue to grow. Other team members are performing similar checks in various languages throughout the Solomons.

There are over seventy languages in the Solomon Islands.

Not surprisingly, Debbie and others working on translation in the Solomons desperately need more people to join their team to help with tasks like planning and leading workshops or performing reviews and checks.

These two roles say nothing of the other jobs that Debbie performs, not the least of which is willingly hosting visitors like she did for us in early July. She and her husband dropped their important tasks (like the nine books of the Bible awaiting review in her inbox) and selflessly prepared us meals and afternoon tea—with biscuits and delicious fresh tropical fruit—helped us with our laundry, and gave us rides to town.

Debbie and her husband didn’t join Wycliffe until they were in their late forties, leaving stable jobs in Australia to follow God on a new journey. I was able to see the ways that God perfectly gifted Debbie for the job she has now, and how He gave her such a deep passion to see Solomon Islanders reading the Bible in their languages and involved in the work from start to finish. It doesn’t matter to Debbie that her boss is a man from the village of Gizo, because she feels it’s their work anyways, and she’s just there to be a help and support in any way possible.

Debbie and Greg wave goodbye after a visit to the village of Poro

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Solomon Islands

Solomon Islands: Part 1

By Rachel Wolverton, Wycliffe USA marketing strategist

(Rachel visited Wycliffe’s work in the Solomon Islands in early July. This blog series gives a glimpse into Bible translation efforts in that part of the world.)

My whole life I’ve watched friends and family give to charities, churches, and non-profit organizations. I’ve seen them wrestle through decisions of where to give and how much, hoping that their gifts will be a blessing to those on the receiving end. My husband and I have had these same conversations in our home. Sometimes we feel that the best way to bless others is to give quietly, staying under the radar.

But my recent trip to the Solomon Islands taught me differently.

My husband and I accompanied a family who has given generously to Bible translation there. They wanted to learn more about Wycliffe’s work in that part of the world, to put visuals to the people and language groups they are praying for daily, and to give their kids a greater understanding of the world. They would have preferred to simply observe as a fly on the wall and not burden anyone. Perhaps in America, things can work that way.

Not so in the Solomon Islands.

Our group with people from the village of Poro

We were all received with fanfare. The people in the village of Poro that we visited had rarely seen white-skinned faces, and definitely not in groups of eight at a time. We were greeted with a welcome unlike anything I’ve ever seen and were followed by an entourage of people attempting to communicate in broken English (which is more than we were able to do in their language, Gao). There was dancing, songs, gifts, and more.

We’d been told that Solomon Islanders love speeches, and on our last night, Joshua, the national coordinator for SIBTLP (Solomon Islands Bible Translation and Literacy Partnership), made a speech to those of us who were visiting.

He expressed to Nate, the father of the family, sincere words of thanks for giving generously so that people speaking more than seventy languages in the Solomons could read the Bible in their own language. That was the part I was expecting. But then Joshua thanked the family for coming to visit them, for taking the time to get to know people in Poro village. He also thanked them for coming as a family. Solomon Islanders are relational, and they value little else in life as much as they value relationships, especially those of the family. For this family to have given money without visiting would have made little impact. But because the family gave their time and offered friendship to Solomon Islanders, they showed that they cared for them and were committed to Bible translation. The last thing Joshua shared was the most touching: “We view you as partners in this work.”

Village members singing as a part of an evening program

In that, I realized that the fanfare, the entourage, and everything we all would have opted out of if given the chance were the islanders’ way of building relationship with us. It was their way of expressing that they viewed this family as a part of the team, not just unknown faces giving money anonymously to people they know nothing about.

In the United States, we might have felt that a visit of that magnitude was burdensome, but not for these people. It was even more meaningful than any monetary gift could have been.

My opinion of generosity has been rocked. I want to think of ways to give, not only money (which is still very necessary), but also my time in ways I haven’t before, like building relationships. Maybe it’s as simple as actually reading the updates I get about work I’ve supported so I can know how to pray, or writing letters of encouragement to those involved. We often talk about holistic ministry, but in the Solomons, I was taught something new. I was taught lessons about holistic giving.

Waving goodbye

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