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Archive for November, 2012

Below are the praises that I have enumerated from my trip to Africa. Many were praying, so I want to share how God answered those prayers. You may also want to check out my “Translator’s Page” for “A Short History and Overview of SIL and Wycliffe Bible Translators.”

This trip included a Sara Madjingaye OT workshop in Balimba, Chad, and a Dendi OT workshop in Guéné, Bénin. We ended up doing 7.5 days for the former and 9 days for the latter. Here’s how the Lord answered prayer:

  1. He kept me safe in my travels. I flew over 7,000 miles and drove hundreds of miles by car. We had some close calls in Chad, even witnessing some accidents involving cars and motorcyles, but the Lord protected us from all danger. Though there were poisonous snakes in Bénin, I didn’t even see a single one. Instead, I saw camels, a jackal, a civet, two duikers, a patas monkey, and a chameleon.
  2. He gave me a real spirit of contentment in both places, a spirit that I didn’t have in the past two trips to Africa. I thank the Lord for how well my hosts took care of me.
  3. He enabled me to finish all workshop preparations. It required spending  a number of hours in the Paris hotel during my long layover as well as working an hour or so each evening during the two workshops. I finished all workshop prep on the text the Thurs evening of the last week of the trip. I was doing quality check preps the Saturday morning before the half day Sat workshop on the last day in Bénin. I praise the Lord for giving me the physical and mental stamina to keep up with that rigorous pace.
  4. He helped me to complete all the material that we wanted to complete in each project, finishing early in both. Finishing early for the Dendi project meant we had time to get oriented on the quality checks. We wanted to begin the quality checks but were unable because of some computer problems.
  5. He gave us a wonderful spirit of cooperation in both workshops. There was some concern about how the Chad workshop would go, since there have recently been some disruptive issues among the Sara Madjingaye churches and since there was concern about how the translators’ spirits would be. The Lord helped us to get along extremely well.
  6. He helped me to deepen some important relationships. I got to know Glenn better on the 2007 trip, the Hedges on the 2010 trip, and Susan on this trip. I feel I really understand her situation well now. I’m also thankful for the opp to get to know the Ovenells and Beckleys. Communicating directly with them helped me find out about their desires for trial editions and about their need for more workshops.
  7. He gave me some good witnessing and ministry opportunities. I didn’t have many witnessing opportunities, but I was able to minister the Word to Christians on various occasions. I didn’t preach on Sundays in either place (only one Sunday in each place; on the other Sundays I was traveling). But I led devotions each morning in both workshops.
  8. He helped me accomplish a goal that I hadn’t even set for the trip—assessing the need for a revision of the Zarma Bible. We finished the Zarma Bible in 1990, so it’s been 22 years. Because I was delayed in Niger because of late luggage, I was able to have conversations about the Zarma Bible. We set up a meeting for my last Sunday in Africa, so I could meet with three Zarma pastors. Though I was extremely tired during that meeting and almost brain-dead, I accomplished the main goal of concluding that the Zarma Bible definitely needs to be revised.
  9. He encouraged me with how God is using our translations, especially on the second half of the trip.
    1. I learned that our Zarma Bible is being well-used among the Zarma people in Niger. They like our Bible so much that they wouldn’t support another organization’s suggestion to do a new translation rather than just revising it, but they do want us to revise it.
    2. I found out that the Bénin government is paying 3 Bible school students to teach literacy in the villages. They are using our Dendi NT to do so!
    3. I saw how dependent the Dendi people are upon having the Scriptures in Dendi. I couldn’t carry on conversations with the Dendi believers in French, because few knew it well enough. Even young adults struggled in French.
    4. I was told how the Dendi Bible school students use our Zarma Bible in their school, but how that though the two languages are related, the students still long to have the OT in Dendi. We are working toward producing a trial edition of 10 OT books for Jan 2014, when a new batch of students (around 15) will begin their studies.
    5. I learned that there are 10 churches with a total of around 300 believers in this language group that is considered the most unreached people group in Bénin. The language group has around 30,000 speakers. Bénin has been pinpointed by the Muslims to become a stronghold for Islam. Many have converted to Islam, though most still practice their animism. But God is also working as well. The missionaries have produced much literature in Dendi to help reach them: Firm Foundations, doctrinal syllabi for the Bible school, two gospel tracts, New Life in Christ discipleship curriculum, around 20 Bible school course syllabi, and other materials.
    6. I found out that the Gurma (Gourmanchéma) people, a group of people who came from Burkina Faso, also like our Dendi NT, even though they have their own Bible. Most Gurma in Bénin speak Dendi now.
    7. I was reminded of the effect that the Jesus Film in Songhai had upon the Songhai people in Mali. When it was just in French, it was hard to hear the film, because the people would quickly lose interest, since they couldn’t understand it well. You had to sit in the front two rows to hear. But when it was shown with a Songhai audio track, you could hear a pin drop, even though there were around 700-800 present. They showed their intense interest by their reactions, being surprised at the catch of fish, laughing when something humorous was stated, etc. Various people made comments to the missionary as they were going out, including one who said, “I thought Jesus was a white guy, but He knows Songhai, so He’s one of us.

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I didn’t have very good internet access while I was in Africa, so I decided not to try to update my blog. I usually had only 1 hour each evening to do emails, so I focused on the most urgent matters. If you are friends with me on Facebook, you were able to see some of my short updates as I traveled.

My trip didn’t quite go as I had planned it, but the Lord helped me to accomplish all my main goals, and I even accomplished some that I hadn’t planned. One additional goal was being able to meet with some Zarma pastors in Niger on Sunday night. Since I was delayed in Niger when I flew in two weeks ago, the Lord led me to have some conversations about the Zarma Bible that we finished in 1990. The missionary informed me that the Zarma pastors and believers are greatly desiring a revision. We normally plan on updating our Bibles after 10 years of its production, but we hadn’t been able to get around to this revision. When I met with the pastors Sunday night, I found out that the Bible truly is in need of revision. Not only has the language changed in 22 years, but some of the content was not correctly translated the first time.

This revision project probably won’t get started for a few years, since our consultants are already quite maxed out and not actually able to meet the minimum needs for each project. Over the next two years, then, we will continue correspondence with the national pastors that I met. Communication is key to the success of this project, so we’ll see how the next few years go. There is no missionary personnel we can depend upon, since there are so few there in Niger and they are already maxed out with other responsibilities. So, we’ll need to take some time to test whether or not the national pastors can truly keep in good communication. They are also quite busy themselves with many responsibilities.

Another unplanned part of my trip was an extra three days in Paris, since I accidentally missed my flight that first Saturday night. During those three days I was able to do some more touring of Paris, and I also spent a number of hours doing more workshop preparation. I still had much prep work to do of the two workshops, especially the one in Benin, so I was thankful for the extra time. I was planning on taking some time between the two workshops to do that prep, but because I was delayed getting to Chad, I also adjusted my travel plans, thus causing me to lose that prep time between the two workshops. In the end I had to do preparations almost every night of my time in Africa. It was tiring to do intense workshop consultation all day long and then to come “home” to do workshop prep in the evening, but the Lord gave much grace and strength.

It’s encouraging to see how the Lord stretches me beyond my abilities on each trip and then provides the necessary grace to get everything accomplished. It’s also humbling to see how dependent I am upon Him each time, but that’s right where I need to be. I was particularly struck by my need for His grace when I met with the Zarma pastors, because my French is fairly limited and my brain was quite worn out by the end of the four weeks of workshop. Praise God for His faithfulness and for condescending to use me in spite of my limitations.

The Lord gave me the privilege of working with some choice servants of His on this trip, both translators and missionaries. The missionaries were gracious hosts, and the translators were quite easy to work with. There were some concerns with how things would go with the team in Chad, since one of the translators has proven to be difficult to work with on various occasions with multiple consultants and since the language group I worked with is going through some “political” difficulties. So, I was amazed when I found the entire team extremely easy to work with. Because of this we actually finished all of our work half a day early. Praise the Lord!

Most workshops that I have been a part of in the past start out slowly but pick up pace after the first few days. Such was not the case for the workshop in Benin. I began to wonder if we would be able to cover the 7 remaining chapters of 1 Samuel and the entirety of 2 Samuel. But by the Wed of the second week, we were really cruising. We actually finished all the material by 1:40 pm on Friday. That gave me half a day to prepare for the final day of the workshop on Saturday. That morning I wanted to orient the translation team to the process of preparing 10 books of the OT for a trial edition. We were able to do that, though we did run into a roadblock soon into the morning. That meant we weren’t able to get ahead on trial edition preparations, but it’s all the Lord’s hand.

I didn’t get to preach at either location, though I did lead devotionals each day with the workshop group. Since I was free on Sundays (because of my travel schedule, I had only two Sundays to be in church), I had the opportunity to see our NT translations “in action.” The Sunday in Benin was particularly encouraging, because the church I attended was making much use of their Dendi NT. The pastor preaches expositionally, and he makes the public reading of the Scriptures a part of worship. The Dendi people are so greatly needing the Bible in their own language. I could hardly carry on conversations in French with the people, and no one was present to help me understand what the pastor (one of our translators) was saying. The Bible school has around 16 students, and they are currently using the Dendi NT and the Zarma OT (a related, but different, language). They want the OT trial edition by Jan. 2014 so they can understand better what they are studying. The influx of Islam into the region makes getting the OT finished all the more important. Benin and Mali are being targeted by the Muslims as places where they hope to really entrench Islam into the culture, and we have projects in both countries. Pray for God’s blessing on our work!

I praise the Lord for giving me a contentment with being in Africa to a level that I didn’t enjoy in the past. Though I had to take cool showers almost every day while in Africa (sometimes having to do a “bucket shower”), had limited electricity at times and limited internet access, and experienced all the other inconveniences of life in Africa (bugs, unusual animal noises at night, Muslim call to prayer at 5:30 am, very hot days, etc.), I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I wasn’t longing to return to the US as much as I did in the past. God answered your prayers!

This 4-week trip to Africa was one of my longest, but the longest will come in January when I’ll spend two months in 4 different countries. Now, if I can just use my time wisely between now and then to prepare for that while also getting caught up on the many other tasks that are awaiting me!

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