Archive for November, 2013

I would say that I hit the ground running when September rolled around, but it seems like I’ve been off the ground almost more than I’ve been on the ground since then. I did a Chad-Niger-Benin trip in September and early October. The rest of October was filled with a trip to Texas for a conference, a trip to South Carolina for another conference, and then a trip to PNG for a translation checking workshop. I just returned on Monday but will be heading out a week from tomorrow for a translation checking workshop in Haiti. Needless to say, I’ll be very thankful when Christmas arrives as I’ll be taking a very needed break from a very hectic schedule.

The Lord answered so many prayers during my time in PNG. I was concerned about preparations for this trip, because I knew I had only a few days between trips to get ready for it. I became even more concerned when the translators didn’t submit the texts for me to study. I wanted to teach them the linguistics of their language, but it wasn’t until I was heading there that it finally became clear how I could prepare. So in the planes and in a busy expo lobby in Singapore, I worked through two grammar write-ups of Tok Pisin to assemble linguistics notes about that language. I concentrated primarily on issues that I thought would be pertinent to the task of translating. The translators were very appreciative of this linguistic perspective. Though I didn’t intend this, I also found that this preparation helped me follow better the translation discussions in the workshop. Normally I just have to sit patiently and wait as the the translators talk in their language and try to figure out how better to word the material. But this time, I could follow right along with them and even gave my own suggestions on how to translate the material. It made the workshop so much more enjoyable!

It was also a great joy to teach these men, who were such eager learners. I had to review many of the translation principles and methods that I taught in February, because they had forgotten or misunderstood them. I guess it’s a matter of it being theory in February but now it’s reality in November. I also thoroughly enjoyed overviewing the Gospels and Acts during our devotion time, to bless their hearts and to prepare them for translating these books in the upcoming months.

The Lord blessed greatly our checking of Mark 1, 1 John 1:1-2:12, 3 John, and Philippians. I wondered how we could improve upon the poor translation of Mark 1:4 by the other two Tok Pisin versions, but we did. I wondered if Tok Pisin had the linguistic resources to translate the noun chain of “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,” and I happily found out that it does. Various ones have questioned whether or not we can do a better translation than what has already been done, because this “Pidgin English”, which is actually a creole, is very limited in its vocabulary and linguistic structures. But after doing this workshop with them, I am confident that Tok Pisin is capable of saying what needs to be said! It may have taken a half hour to do a single verse, but eventually the Lord led us to good solutions. In some cases, I asked the men to take the work home to think about it overnight. Then each man presented their translation. It was interesting to see that each did a different translation, sometimes quite different, confirming once again that Tok Pisin has many ways of saying basically the same thing.

We finished the first chapter of Philippians during the first week, so the Lord gave me the idea to have do a historic thing the following Sunday–read from our translation in a church for the first time in history! We printed the text on both sides on half sheets of paper and then the head consultant read the first 11 verses. What a joy it was to be part of the distribution of that text and then to hear the people’s positive responses as they received our translation!


A significant event connected with this workshop was the mudslide that occurred about 2 hours away on the Sunday that I arrived. What made this mudslide significant for us was that it kept two translators from coming to to the workshop when they wanted. Both finally arrived, though they were delayed by about 2 days each. Here’s the story of the slide as well as one of the translator’s still-muddy shoes the day after he arrived.

Pastor John Danny lives by Mt. Hagan, and it normally takes around 3 hours to arrive in Goroka. But there was a mudslide almost 2 hours outside Goroka. Because people were buried alive in the mud (the current count is 9), they wouldn’t allow anyone to walk across the mudslide to the other side (to get a bus on the other side). John found a pastor friend whose house he could sleep in for Sunday night. On Monday he saw that the mudslide was still impassable, so he and the group he was with tried to take another road. But he soon found out that the locals had blocked that road, demanding money for passage. They tried another road and found the same situation. And so on for any road they tried. So, they went back to the main road. The locals still forbid to allow people to pass because of the dead bodies in the mud, so John had to stay a second night with his pastor friend. While John was waiting to pass, the Bible school student he was with encouraged him to return home. John’s wife also said he should just go back. But John was determined to keep going! By Tuesday he and the others decided that they would walk across the mudslide even though the locals were still forbidding it. Some were throwing sticks and stones at those who walked across, but John kept walking (and wasn’t hit by anything). Some locals also stole stuff from the people walking across, but once again John was kept safe from that. During much of these days of waiting to cross, it was pouring down rain. In spite of the rain, the angry locals, and the multiple failed attempts, John kept pressing on, arriving in Goroka on Tuesday evening, wearing clothes and shoes caked in mud. The mudslide problems linger on as the locals are demanding 6 million kina (over $200,000) from the government, as if they are responsible for the disaster.



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