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One more month at home

My wife and I are thankful for the safety the Lord gave us during our recent trip to IN and IL. We ended up logging around 800 miles on the trip. We were quite worn out after we got back and needed some extra sleep to recover, but we are glad we went. We got to see pastors from two of our supporting churches, and we spent Sunday morning worshiping with a third, and spending a good part of the afternoon with the pastor and a few others. We also got a ton of free items from Widow’s Jar Ministries, mostly for our growing boy. We are so thankful for that ministry, because they help us save hundreds of dollars. And we need those hundreds too, because we are looking for a second vehicle that will more adequately handle our needs as a family on furlough trips. We hope to get one before our upcoming trip that begins on March 23.

Being at home for an extended period of time has allowed me to get into a regular routine. I’ve been able to spend more time studying Russian, and I’ve been able to keep up with emails better. I only got to 2 of the 64 non-time-sensitive emails so far, but I have hopes that I can deal with more next week. I have difficulty getting the time-sensitive ones below 10 (currently at 14), but as long as I can keep them to a manageable amount, I can work on other things. Soon, I’ll need to prepare sermons and devotionals for our upcoming trip. The original plan was to visit 7 supporting churches in PA and WV, but then it expanded to 9. But now we’re up to 13. It’s going to be a two months packed with ministry opportunities!

I just finished the quarterly report of my department (text production) for the 4th quarter of 2017 (including some activities from January). I noticed that we did 31 translation workshops and 6 literacy/linguistics workshops. That’s a very busy quarter! That also meant that I had to read all the reports for those workshops (not all have been submitted). No wonder I had 100 time-sensitive emails at one time!

As one of my responsibilities as the head consultant, I have to read the latest issue of The Bible Translator. In one article, the author discussed the challenges in translating into Kkmer, the primary language of Cambodia. He explains that there are 16 different second-person pronouns, identifying differences in age, gender, and social status. Greek has only two such pronouns, and they distinguish between singular and plural. Imagine the difficulties, then, that a Khmer translator has when trying to determine which of the 16 pronouns to use for the 2 Greek pronouns. This is particularly challenging when you consider Jesus, the Son of God, who had divine social status, but yet also lived within the realm of human society with its family relationships, government relationships, etc. The author discussed three case studies in John: Jesus and his mother (John 2:4), Jesus and Pilate (John 18:33-36), and Jesus and his apostles (John 15:15). These are the types of things that no commentary gives us guidance on, so we translators are left to work through the issues on our own. Thankfully, though, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us and committed team members to work together with.

 

This weekend my family will take a few days off to spend time together, visit my sister and her family, and stock up on baby clothes for our growing-into-a-giant boy. We look forward to some time away! We’ll also get to make contact with three supporting churches: Bible Baptist in Wakarusa, IN; Calvary Baptist in Geneva, IL; and Colonial Hills Baptist in Indianapolis, IN. It’s going to be a packed weekend, but hopefully fun and refreshing–and safe!

The Pente research trip keeps getting pushed back, since we are waiting for documents to be processed for the main coordinator with whom we are traveling. So, that’s given me the opportunity to spend almost 3 full months at home (minus the upcoming weekend trip). What a welcomed time to get into a normal routine and actually get caught up on emails and other tasks! At one point earlier this year, I had close to 100 time-sensitive emails in my inbox, but now I’m down to around 10. Maybe I can actually get to the 64 non-time-sensitive emails that have been waiting for me for a while, some going all the way back to 2010.

It’s also given us the chance to take care of various medical requirements that BMM asks us to do in order to get missionary clearance. It may not be until mid-May that we get these things done, but we are slowly making progress.

I’ve also used this time to try to finalize BI’s constitution, which should be ratified sometime in March, and to establish my department’s budget for the coming fiscal year, that starts on April 1. I think I’m getting spoiled, because I normally have to keep up with all these things while preparing for a workshop and then traveling to do that workshop. In early 2019, I’ll be wishing my year started as 2018, but instead it looks like I’ll be traveling to India and Haiti in the first two months. I guess I can’t have this privilege of being home multiple months in a row too often, or I’ll actually see grass growing under my feet. God gives grace for every season of life!

I wonder if anyone’s ever heard of a two-year Bible reading plan–i.e., reading through the whole Bible in two years. I haven’t heard of it, but I think I am creating it as I go. My wife and I decided to start reading through the Bible together last year, by doing 1 chapter in the OT and 1 chapter in the NT each day (the previous year, we started in Genesis, but we missed the NT too much to want to do that again). We got through the whole NT last year, so we started into the Psalms, while plowing through the rest of the OT for the other daily chapter. We finished the Psalms sometime in January, so now we are reading back through the NT. I’m actually reading through the NT in Greek this year–for the first time! I know, I should be ashamed that I as a translation consultant haven’t done that yet. But the reality is that I hadn’t taken the time to figure out how to do it easily, until I discovered that I could just bookmark as I go in the electronic text on Kindle. My big obstacle was figuring out where to mark my stopping point, without putting marks in my Greek text. I finally discovered the answer this year!

So, we should finish the OT sometime later this year, and we’ll hopefully finish our second read-through of the NT. It will end up being a 2-year Bible reading plan.

But you may ask, Doesn’t every good Christian read through the whole Bible in one year? Many, of course, don’t, but it is often what is promoted and encouraged (some are encouraging reading through the whole Bible in 90 days, while others encourage reading through the whole Bible in a year with two read-throughs of the NT). While I like the idea of getting an overview of the entire Bible in one year, I found that in the time I’ve allotted to do Bible reading, I just can’t stop and meditate very much if I have to read 3-4 chapters per day. So, reading 1 chapter in the OT (with the first few verses being in Hebrew) and 1 chapter in the NT (or for this year, reading as many verses out of the Greek NT as I can) each day is much more doable. I can actually take the time to think about what I’m reading, and even look at some of the notes in my study Bible.

Maybe someday I’ll formalize this 2-year plan and market it!

On a personal note, Oksana and I are enjoying almost three full months in a row of being at home. Even in spite of having to do all the snow clearing myself, we are thankful to be in one place for a long period of time for a change! Speaking of snow clearing, I finally sold off my wimpy Toro single-stage snowblower. On Sunday I finally got fed up with it not doing its job, so I sold it on Tuesday. It took me 45 minutes to clear a driveway that’s 20×60. I was actually pushing the snow half the time instead of letting the snowblower throw it, because it couldn’t handle the amount or weight of the snow. Lord willing, I’ll be the happy owner of a two-stage lightly used snowblower this evening.

We are Commissioned!

We are thankful for the encouraging commissioning service on January 21 at our home church, Grand Valley Baptist. Though I was commissioned as a single man in 2011, it was important that we be commissioned as a married couple. In addition to needing to fulfill a BMM requirement, we wanted to do it so that we could be solidified in our partnership with our home church. We are so thankful for their ministry to us, and we hope the time was both a blessing and informative for them.

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We were blessed to enjoy the ministries of Dave Ferguson (BMM Vice President), Gary Walton (interim BI director), and Glenn Kerr (BI translation consultant) that morning. God challenged and encouraged us through these men, as well as the words of Pastor Dan and the music ministry. The two main messages tied into each other quite well: we are His workmanship to glorify Him and to spread the knowledge of His glory around the world.

We are thankful to be at full support and to be able to focus full-time now on our ministry. Of course, we will need to keep up with our supporters, but we consider that a privilege and opportunity–both to be with churches and to be together on the road. We look forward to 2 months of reporting in the late spring. (You can find out where we’ll be on the “Where are We?” page.)

We are also rejoicing in how God answered prayer concerning the BI constitution. We had our final meeting as a constitution committee last Thursday, before we allow the BI Ministry Team to view the “nearly final” version. I actually wondered if we would be able to resolve some complicated issues during last week’s meeting, so I was quite pleasantly surprised when all roadblocks were so easily and clearly taken out of the way. Praise God! On Monday I shared the new version with the team, and by late February we’ll hopefully answer any questions and be ready to ratify it. We thank God for how He has answered so many prayers for so many years.

 

2017 in Review

I’ve gotten in the habit of reviewing the past year at the beginning of a new year in order to remember God’s powerful working in my life. I did that in my devotional journal, and I want to share some of those highlights here.

  • The biggest highlight of last year was that my wife and I became parents of a cute little boy named Eliyas, born on May 19. Considering that we lost our first child after a month or so of pregnancy, the delivery of a healthy child was especially sweet to us. What joy he’s brought into our lives!

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  • This year I traveled less domestically and more internationally: Eurasia (2x), Ukraine (2x), India (2x), Myanmar, Bangladesh, Singapore, Canada, and Chad.
  • Eliyas’ first international trip was to Quebec in June-July, but his first international trip that required a passport was to Eurasia and Ukraine in Nov-Dec.
  • In Jan-Feb we went to Eurasia for a Metanoia NT workshop and then to Ukraine.
  • In March we visited supporting churches. I lost my voice in IN, so Oksana had to help me more at a missions conference in MD. I got my voice back just in time to go to Myanmar and Singapore.
  • In late March I was in Myanmar for the Asia Consultant Seminar, and I spent two weekends in Singapore, while going to India between the two weekends. I really wanted Oksana to join me for the trip, but it was too close to the delivery date.
  • The rest of April and May was spent getting ready for Eliyas. I led a Haitian Creole OT workshop at the office during the time of his birth.
  • In late June and throughout July we went to Quebec and then down to ME and MD.
  • In August I flew to WV for a Bible Faculty Summit, and then upon returning back home, we had our annual BI events: consultant seminar and retreat.
  • In September we were supposed to go to Charleston, SC, for a meeting, but Hurricane Irma prevented that, so we had a free weekend. We ended up treating my mom to a birthday trip to Shipshewana, IN.
  • In late September I flew to India, and I got to tour the Taj Mahal. Later I flew to Bangladesh to visit a supporting church, and then back to India.
  • In early October I had one of the happiest moments of my life–the dedication of the Inner Seraji NT. What a blessed event to be part of! They received the New Testament for the first time in their language!
  • Later a group of us spent a few days strategizing about how to get more projects and personnel in Asia.
  • In mid-October I got some Paratext training, which would be very useful for the training I would lead in December.
  • In early November we flew as a family for the first time, to Eurasia. After two weeks there we headed to Ukraine, so Eliyas could meet his family and our friends for the first time. He was dedicated there on Nov. 19.
  • After two weeks there I flew by myself to Chad, Africa, where I trained 5 translation teams on computers and Paratext.
  • Some major BI events during the year: a co-worker’s grand-daughter died and their parents didn’t seek medical help to prevent the death, sparking all sorts of legal battles; another co-worker died in August; and I headed up the committee to write a constitution for BI (still ongoing).
  • We started the year at 83% and finished the year at 100%. Praise God!
  • I spoke 41 times in 22 different churches in 7 countries. Only 6 were deputation meetings, and 8 were first-time opportunities.
  • I had a new year’s resolution to read 12 books, but I ended up reading 14:
    • Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, Paul David Tripp
    • Running the Rift, Naomi Benaron
    • Shepherding a Child’s Heart, Tedd Tripp
    • The Bible Translator, vol. 67.3
    • The Bible Translator, vol. 68.1
    • The Bible Translator, vol. 68.2
    • Fundamentalism and American Culture, George Marsden
    • Your Family God’s Way, Wayne Mack
    • Fidelity, Douglas Wilson
    • Fatal Illusions, Adam Blumer
    • Tenth Plague, Adam Blumer
    • Men of the Word, Nathan Busenitz, ed
    • New Heart, New Spirit, New Song, Doug Bachorik
    • Les Pers√©cutions au Tchad, Takia Nissi Yondo
  • I also resolved to memorize 12 verses, and I was able to do 13.
  • Another resolution was to witness to 12 people, and God led me to 13.

Praise God for all that He did in my life in 2017! I’m thankful for a sweet, godly, beautiful wife, and a cute, energetic son. God has been so gracious!

2017.12.28 Prayer Card (2)

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You are invited to the Commissioning Service of Troy & Oksana Manning on January 21, 2018. They will be commissioned as a couple into the Bible Translation ministry with Bibles International, the Bible Society of Baptist Mid-Missions.

The service will be at Grand Valley Baptist Church at 9:30 AM. Lunch will follow the Sunday School hour after the service.

Please RSVP to gvbclake@juno.com if you will be able to attend.

(Why the commissioning service now? I began my ministry with Bibles International in 2007 and was commissioned by Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in SC, my former home church, in 2011. But since I got married in 2015 and transferred my church membership to Grand Valley Baptist Church, we need to get commissioned by that church and as a couple.)

To Chad and back

My assignment in early December was to introduce our Chad translators to computers and show them how to use Paratext, a powerful Bible translation program developed by two other Bible societies. We were finally bringing these translators into the 21st century! Why didn’t we do it sooner? Two main reasons: 1) they didn’t have any electricity in their villages, 2) we didn’t have a translation software with a French interface to give them. The first problem was solved by the advent of solar power, and the second problem was solved when Paratext, which now has a French interface, began to be distributed for free. Thus, these translators, who had been using simple electronic keyboards, could now gain access to powerful resources that would improve the quality of their work and reduce the time needed to complete the translation (one of our NT’s has taken 4 years to get it ready for printing, but many of the errors being caught in this last stage could be identified automatically by Paratext).

As I prepared for this assignment, I grew to understand how little the translators knew about computers. I have been exposed to them and have been using them since the 90’s (or even before), but they probably haven’t seen them too much in their lives, nor have they hardly ever used them. I remember working with one team in 2013, using a new computer that our supporting church in Singapore, had provided. The translator moved the mouse as if it were stuck in molasses–very slowly. How could I not only introduce them to computers but also teach them how to use Paratext in only two weeks? And how would I be able to do so in French?

I quickly realized I needed to keep a database of computer terms in French. I ended up collecting 177 terms! In addition, I knew I needed to write a manual so that the translators could refer back to it after I left Chad. At first, I thought I could find something that had already been developed. A co-worker trained translators in Central African Republic, so I thought her material would fit my need. But as I reviewed it, I realized it wasn’t basic enough, and it didn’t fit my style of teaching. Also, it wasn’t as comprehensive as I wanted it to be. I asked a Paratext expert in another organization, who trained a group of us at BI in Paratext in September, and he sent over a set of manuals all translated into French. But as I reviewed that material, I realized it fit their organization’s translation process, but not ours. So, the conclusion was that I needed to write my own manual! That presented quite a burden for me!

But at that point I felt like I hardly knew Paratext well. I had been using it with two different projects, but I was only using the basic tools. Thankfully, a co-worker gave us some training in August, and then in God’s wonderful providence, He connected us to an expert, who lives basically just down the street from BI. We gathered 9-10 of us at the office so he could give us two days of advanced training. I still didn’t know some of the basic tools, but at least I was no longer intimidated by the program. By God’s grace, I put together a 40-page manual in French, with everything checked by a native French speaker (who so wonderfully made himself available to help me throughout the writing process). I also wrote 10 pages of material about basic computer skills. Thank God, He helped my prep time in Ukraine to be quite productive! I was ready to go to Chad!

I arrived in Chad on Nov 30, but Dec 1 was their independence day holiday. The complication there was that I had to register my arrival at the police station, but they were closed that Friday because of the holiday. We tried on Saturday but to no avail. I just had to be content with spending the weekend at the capital, and with the training starting one day late. I actually welcomed the opportunity to rest and to get a little more work done. When I talked on the phone to a co-worker (Anna Beth Wivell), who would help me with the training, it became apparent that I needed to write more material to add to the manual. She had experienced some serious challenges with a team, who had already started using Paratext, so I realized I needed to write material to help the other teams avoid the same challenges (thank God that one team went through these things first and not all 5 teams together!). So, I wrote 5 more pages, and got those checked by my friend in France. I sent it down to Anna Beth, and she got the manuals printed on Monday.

While in the capital that weekend, I got to meet three key individuals, so clearly God had other reasons to keep me up there. I met a language assessment specialist, who can help us find new projects. At church Sunday, I met a linguistics professor, and after church a group of us got to know a medical doctor who has a heart to revive the Tumag situation (this group has stalled in their OT translation work). I also got to preach to almost 700 people at that church, which has three of my former students from my Cameroon days as pastors. I’m also thankful that I got to see a fourth student too, and the son of a fifth student helped me greatly by taking me around to restaurants on his motorcycle (and loaned me his router for my stay in Chad).

We finally got to head south on the bus at 10:30 am on Monday. It was an arduous 16-hour bus ride. The bus is actually pretty comfortable, but spending that many hours bouncing down a deteriorating paved road while listening to Arabic music is not too much fun. Plus, they make only very brief stops, so we end up being hungry most of the trip (not common for Americans but quite common for Chadians).

I got a few hours of sleep that night, and then started into the training at 10 am the next morning. God gave strength to get through the whole day even without taking a nap, but that evening a sickness started setting in. I had very little appetite. By the next day¬† diarrhea started. I’m not sure if it was the food we ate at the church on Sunday, or what we had at the roadside cafe on Monday, or what I ate with the translators on Tuesday. But something got me! But thankfully, though it made me feel pretty miserable, it didn’t keep me from teaching each day. And since I had already done the prep work before the training, I could just focus on resting each evening (but also preparing a devotional each night for the next day).

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There were 5 teams present–the team’s typist and a the main translator. The BI Chad administrator was also there to learn. The typist, as I said above, was familiar with the electronic keyboard they have been using, so that was helpful. But they weren’t using the French keyboard or the Chadian keyboard (which require special key mappings to go with the English keyboard on the computers). I wish the keyboard was in French! I also wish a co-worker had put the French version of Windows and other software on the computers. Somehow he misunderstood the situation in Chad, so on 4 of the computers, there was only English interfaces and programs. That was an unavoidable complexity that added to the challenge! (Sometime next year, they’ll get French programs to fix this problem.)

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I’m thankful that the translators were ready with great interest! They were eager to enter into the 21st century! They showed no signs of frustration or despair, but they were quite slow in learning the tasks. There were 3 of us (Anna Beth and a translator who’s already been using Paratext) who would have to help each team step by step as I taught new tasks. But it seems that they were picking up on the training–I hope! And we finished in 8 days! They were quite thankful to be able to go home one day early, and I was glad to have one day to write my reports and to get caught up on work before my vacation started on the following Monday.

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The translators are rarely able to gather into one room like that (the last time was in 2012 when they got additional translator training), so I hope the two weeks was an encouraging time for them. I tried to encourage them through the devotions each morning.

While I was there, the Lord also helped me through some administrative challenges involving sensitive personnel issues. I met with the administrative council of BI’s Chad affiliate the Saturday during my stay there, and we successfully worked through 4 challenging issues: redirecting one candidate for translation consultant toward literacy coordinator (a more urgent need), redirecting our considerations away from another man who is not qualified for the literacy coordinator position, thinking through complex issues regarding a second candidate for translation consultant, and charting out end goals for bringing our 5 OT projects to completion. Oh, and I may have found a good solution to our literacy needs in Central African Republic.

What a productive trip I had, even in spite of the sickness! Thankfully, the sickness went away by the second Tuesday, thanks to the help of a fellow missionary and her antibiotics. Praise God for strength, wisdom, and grace throughout the trip!

Back in Ukraine, my wife had her struggles with Eliyas, who doesn’t know how to sleep through the night. Plus, she couldn’t rely on others to help, since they had to work most days. So, she was almost totally occupied with baby duties–but since he brings her (and me) so much joy, she wasn’t struggling terribly. She shared some of her joys with me through texting, and once we were even able to talk on the phone through Skype. But otherwise, we had to limit our communication, since Internet in Chad is so expensive. But I got to see pictures of him, including his sitting on his own for the first time.

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