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.)
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.
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.