Archive for August, 2009

I made it through another consultant seminar!  It began a week from yesterday and ended yesterday.  Since I’m the Chief Language Consultant, I’m responsible for setting up the whole event.  Thankfully, I can leave issues of meals, housing, transportation, etc., with others, but I have to make sure that the daily schedule is well planned with productive activity.  Sometimes we have visiting speakers come in, but this year (and last) our speakers were in-house.  These seminars can be successful only if the other consultants come alongside me to help provide material for the sessions.  And that’s what happens each year.  This is my second year leading the seminar (third year attending), and I’m thankful to the Lord for helping us having another good one.

Around 10-12 people came from out of town, some officially with BI but most all have done work or are doing work for BI.  Counting only those who were from my department (others were welcome to join, especially those from Projects Management), we had around 20 each day. 

My prayer was especially that the Lord would strengthen us as a team.  We can be extremely good at the technical aspects of our work, but if we are not working well as a team, we won’t be able to accomplish much for the Lord.  I believe the Lord gave us many times of rich fellowship with Him and with each other.  I’m greatly encouraged by how the Lord answered our prayers.

Of course, I also desired that the Lord would give us wisdom as we seek to strengthen our ministry, especially those areas where we have weaknesses.  Though I didn’t necessarily know the solutions to these issues ahead of time (and I don’t think most of us did), it was neat to see how the Lord allowed our sessions together to bring us to very satisfying solutions.  Now, we just need to figure out how to implement the solutions!  And I need to figure out how to balance leading this group with still trying to raise 50% more of support!  I’m going to focus most of my attention over the next two weeks on deputation activities.  I leave for Pennsylvania on Sept. 12.

Just to give you an idea of what we discussed…  We presented an almost complete form of our Translation Philosophy.  Not that we never knew what our philosophy was before this time, but we didn’t have it written out in a full form.  We also presented linguistics (orthography, morphology, phonology) issues that we have run into and how to overcome them.  We discussed ways of developing ourselves and our translators so that we can do better work.  We hope that as we provide further training for our translators that we will also recruit future consultants by giving them this training.  I had the privilege during the seminar of honoring Dr. Henry Osborn, the first to occupy my position.  He served the Lord faithfully for 46 years, working with around 50 different languages.  I don’t think I have the same abilities that he does, but I hope to serve the Lord for many years as faithfully as he did.

Now I have to begin thinking about next year’s seminar.  Ugh!  I think I’ll take a little break before I do that!

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When I was preparing to join Bibles International in the summer of 2007, I began reading William Carey, by S. Pearce Carey, the great grandson of Carey.  I highly recommend this book, both for the inspiration that it gives from Carey’s life and for the fine presentation of that life.  The book notes that Carey helped produce God’s Word, or portions thereof, in 35 languages.  The book ends by saying,

“And Carey knew that, though the living messenger was important to preach the Word, the Book itself, in the mother tongue of the people, was a permanent missionary, and also essential to the people of God ‘for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness’, that they might be entire, and wholly equipped for ‘all good works.'”

Clearly, the Lord used Carey to impact many through his arduous labors in translation, as well as his passionate preaching ministry.  He was greatly used in the work of missions.  In fact, his An Enquiry Into the Obligations of Christians to Use Means for the Conversion of the Heathen, published in 1792, marks the beginning of the modern mission movement.  He began something in the 18th century that continue to grow and bring glory to God today.

But, the rest of the story is that Carey’s translation work was not always of the highest quality.  Even Carey, his biographer, notes that only 7 of his translations had no successors.  But he also notes that Carey desired for his translations to be revised and superseded.  The honest truth is that his work may have been superseded sooner than he anticipated. 

One key fact to note is that Carey was not the primary translator for most of his 35 projects.  After being the primary translator for Bengali, Sanskrit, Marathi, and Hindi, he began a different technique for the translation into Oriya.  Indian assistants would do the translation under his supervision.  Of course, Carey’s supervisory task was very involved.  As he edited and revised the draft, he would sometimes learn the language well enough to write a grammar.  He also produced dictionaries for some of the languages.

With this in mind, I can point out the fact that the translations that stood the test of time were not the ones where he was the primary translator.  For these latter ones, they were supplanted within around 15-18 years of being published.  The ones that had Indian translators endured longer.

What was the cause for the weaknesses?  Clearly, Carey was a very gifted linguist in many respects.  However, it seems that he did not have a deep appreciation for the subtle distinctions that each language possesses, William Smalley notes in Translation as Mission (49).  And though he did teach himself the biblical languages, he never had a classical education in which he could really learn how to interpret them.  Smalley also notes that Carey’s translations were too literal.  Though this may have been the case, I would prefer to confirm this with someone other than Smalley, who is definitely too sympathetic with dynamic equivalence.  Smalley also wrongly praises those who borrow vocabulary from pagan elements in the target culture. 

Carey’s translations had their weaknesses, but all translations have weaknesses.  Maybe his had more than some that are produced today, but they were probably actually better than others.  The complications of the Bible translation ministry keep us from arrogantly demeaning Carey for his work.  He was a great man who accomplished a great work for the Lord.  If I had only half of his language abilities, I could do much for God’s glory.  And hopefully, I can learn from his mistakes and not repeat them.  That’s one reason why Bibles International uses mother-tongue translators.  And that’s also why we stress getting a solid education in the biblical languages.


The next few weeks are going to be quite busy for me.  We have the annual BI meeting the first three days for next week and then the annual consultant seminar beginning on Friday.  I’m in charge of the latter for the second time.  Please pray for profitable meetings!

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I haven’t made my blog a high priority ever since I got back from Togo.  Sorry about that!  I’ll try to get back into the groove of posting at least weekly updates. 

Here’s a more complete report of my recent trip.  I just sent this material out to my monthly supporters, but I thought others might find it interesting too.   You can also read my updated information on the “Translator’s Page” and the other pages.   The letter begins…

The Lord graciously answered your prayers regarding my preparation, my ability to help the project, my facility with French, safety, and health. He enabled me to prepare for the content checking of Titus, Philemon, 1 and 2 Peter, and Jude. But the Lord helped the checking to go so well that we also finished Galatians—and that happened despite the loss of almost two days because my luggage arrived a day late! (Transportation complications compounded the delay, turning one day late into a loss of two days.) 

I marveled at how well the workshop sessions went. Since I am a new consultant and was consulting for the first time  by myself, I was concerned that the translator would not respect my suggestions. On the contrary, he received them very well and put forth an earnest effort to work with the co-translator on finding a solution that would meet my expectations. I am also amazed at how often the solution they found was exactly what I was looking for. I was greatly encouraged by the gracious spirit that the translator and co-translator demonstrated toward one another, even when the discussions got intense. Respect, cooperation, kindness, and joy permeated the atmosphere. We had edifying times as we discussed some of the content we were checking and as we had devotions together. I taught them from 1 John and Proverbs 2. It was a joy for me to share with them various things that the Lord has taught me through the years.

I wish you could meet the translator and co-translator.  The translator is a dynamic, energetic, and intelligent man who was saved out of a life of animism and demon possession. He received his Bible training through the individual mentoring of a missionary and is now the head of the Baptist churches in his association. He also has other key leadership positions. The co-translator is a sweet, gifted lady with a servant’s heart. She came to know the Lord by reading the Bible portions in the correspondence courses her husband was taking. She taught herself how to read Kabiyé and loves working with the translation because she can study the Word of God in greater depth. The Lord transformed her from a quick-tempered lady into a submissive, gentle-natured pastor’s wife.

I didn’t have the opportunity to preach in any churches, but I did have three solid opportunities to witness to Damas, César, and another man. I was greatly encouraged by the careful exposition of Scriptures by the preacher whose church I attended while I was there. His training is limited, but God’s grace upon him is abundant. I enjoyed seeing his people following along in their Scriptures and taking notes. Some day, they will be able to do so in a NT in their own language. This may even happen by the end of next year!

These Scriptures are already having an impact through the portions that are being used. The translator told of two Presbyterian catechism teachers who expressed great interest in obtaining the completed NT. A member in the translator’s church told of his desire to learn how to read his language, after hearing 1 John read in Kabiyé. He knows French well, but nothing opens his understanding as well as his heart language. Missionaries from another fundamental agency are also excited about the new translation. Even the highest pastor of the Pentecostal churches wants to use our translation. Many are not satisfied with the two translations produced by other agencies. They want a NT that doesn’t leave anything out, alter the content, borrow vocabulary from traditional religions, or use dynamic equivalence.

Praise God for what He is doing in Togo! Thank you so much for your faithful prayers and support!

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