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Archive for August, 2017

Do you have an MDiv, a heart for missions, and a desire to be involved in Bible translation, but don’t have the technical training in biblical languages or linguistics? Scripture Use may be your way to join us and get involved! Most people think that they can only get involved in Bible translation if they are experts in Greek, Hebrew, and linguistics. Of course, that’s never been true since there are always other roles to fulfill in this ministry (accounting, fund raising, composition editing, project coordination, software development, etc.).

But Scripture Use opens up an opportunity for seminary-trained individuals to get involved at a strategic, front-line level without having to know the subject areas typically associated with Bible translation work. We want our translations not just to be completed, but also effectively used, and Scripture Use ensures that this happens (as much as is humanly possible). This requires addressing the 15 issues I listed in my previous post as well as many other issues. Often, there are spiritual issues to consider, but sometimes it’s just a matter of sociolinguistics (I say “just” because it’s within the realm of something we can affect).

You can show the nationals how beautiful the Bible sounds in their language as you teach them how to read it well in public. You can help them produce songs in their language based on the translations. You can give them direction on how to do dramatic productions that can illustrate Scripture truths. You can show church leaders the tremendous impact the vernacular Scriptures can have as they preach from it. You can help them develop materials and strategies to preach from them. You can provide background materials to illuminate the Scriptures. You can model how relevant the Scriptures are to daily life. You can show orally oriented people the value of becoming literate and fluent in reading. All these are activities you can engage in if you help BI with Scripture Use activities.

Until God sends us people to help, we will do what we can. Here are some activities I told our consultants they can engage in now:

  1. Pray for God to provide a SU Dept manager! (Let me know if you can think of some good candidates for Admin to consider.)
  2. Print out the texts you are working with to try out at churches or with individuals in the evenings or on the weekends.
  3. Engage in SU activities during weekend ministry. (Maybe you can do Bible storying where orality is high.)
  4. Invite church leaders to visit the workshop to observe and participate.
  5. Invite UNS’s (uninitiated native speakers) to the workshop to get their feedback.
  6. Ask the translators or literacy workers to share testimonies of how the translation is impacting them. They can do this at the workshop, or better, they can do it at a church service when you are present. (Please record these testimonies if at all possible, and then submit them to us.)
  7. Ask the translators, literacy workers, or other native speakers their attitude about their language, their use of their language in various life domains, their awareness of the relevance of Scripture to daily life, etc.
  8. Ask many questions about the use of Trial Editions to make sure our translation work is truly being well accepted and used.
  9. Stress to the translator and literacy workers that our goal is not simply getting the translation done; we want people to use the Scriptures effectively.
  10. Use the translation during your devotions at the workshop.
  11. Consider spending a few extra days with the language group to pursue SU possibilities (you should check with us first, though, if this would involve extra expense for BI).
  12. Consider the other suggestions that Taber gave in her article (on translation consulting).
  13. Make sure the language group knows how to access the translation in digital form.
  14. If you are an expat missionary who has to visit churches for support raising, make sure they understand that most contexts in which we work are not ones in which there are monolingual churches. Instead, they are multi-linguistic, meaning that our task is quite complicated as we try to help them connect better with the Scriptures.

Please pray for God to send us SU personnel and that He would bless our SU activities!

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As I noted in a recent post, we just hosted our annual Consultant Seminar, and this year our special speaker focused on Scripture Engagement (SE), also called Scripture Use (SU). BI has actually been engaged in SU activities since our inception, because at the heart of our mission is a desire to make sure our translations are effectively used by the language groups for whom we are working. We have gained an increasing awareness of the complexities of SU as we have attended conferences and taken courses on the subject. I have notes on the issue that go back to 2007, my first year at BI. But it wasn’t until 2015 that we put together a plan to establish a new SU department at BI. We were keenly aware of the need for full-time BI members to devote their attention to SU issues. However, even with that heightened awareness of the need, I still didn’t grasp the urgency of the need until after I did the reading for the SU sessions at our seminar and then after the discussions at the seminar. Now I am praying even more earnestly that God would provide someone to help with SU activities at BI!

How serious is the need? Well, we don’t actually know since we don’t have any SU personnel who can do the analysis for us. We are thankful that we always partner with solid, Bible-using churches, so we are reasonably certain that they are promoting and using our translations. However, I’m not sure if our situation is much better than SIL’s. Our special speaker shared with us a study completed in April 2017 concerning SIL’s 200+ NT projects in Papua New Guinea. They were only able to get data on 162 of their projects, and here’s what they found:

  • Good SU: 30% (48 languages)
  • Fair SU: 31% (51 languages)
  • Low SU: 39% (63 languages)

That means that only 1/3 of their projects are achieving the success they desire. Not encouraging! Is that thee case with our languages as well? Well, we know that our translations target conservative churches, and often that type of church is in the minority, so it could be that our statistics are not much better because of those factors. However, what is the use of Scripture within those churches? We don’t have accurate statistics, since we don’t have any SU personnel. Again, we have local partners (other missionaries and national churches) who continue the work after we leave, so we are reasonably certain that most of our translations are being used to some extent. But we don’t know the situations with any precision.

Why is this such a complicated issue? I’ve always been aware of the spiritual battle we are engaged in. That’s actually why SU in the USA is actually not as good as it should be. Most people in our conservative churches just don’t read the Bible very much! The American Bible Society did a survey of the “State of the Bible” in 2017, powered by Barna Group). They studied SU in the USA among the entire population, not just conservative churches, and they found that SU is quite low in our own country. Only 20% of adults read the Bible at least 4 times a week. Only 16% read the Bible every day, and 14% read it several times a week. Women (55%) are more likely than men (45%) to read the Bible, and older American (58%) are more likely than the younger generations. Southerners (55%) read it more than Midwesterners (51%), Westerners (51%), or Northeasterners (41%). (note that the KJV is the preferred version at 31%, NIV is second at 13%, and ESV is third at 9%). We in the USA aren’t using our Bibles very often, so should we expect it to be any different for those overseas?

But aren’t Bible-less people anxiously waiting the translation of the Bible into their language and ready to devour it as soon as we complete it? Thankfully, there are some in every language group who are like that–sometimes many and sometimes it seems like almost the whole language group. But there are many other factors that are working against us:

  1. Orthography not accepted
  2. Other dialects of the language don’t like the dialect we chose.
  3. Lack of support from church leaders, who were trained in a larger language.
  4. Low reading fluency levels
  5. People are more orally oriented and don’t see the value of written literature
  6. Lukewarm attitude towards their own language
  7. Lack of awareness of the finished translation
  8. Lack of good distribution of the finished translation
  9. Choice for key terms rejected
  10. Dissatisfaction with the formatting of the published Scriptures
  11. Not desirous to use the NT since it lacks the OT (they don’t want to carry two books to church)
  12. People have no Bible background knowledge to understand the Scriptures
  13. Church leaders are unable to show the relevance of the Scriptures to people’s daily lives
  14. Translators destroy their reputation, casting a shadow on the translation they are associated with
  15. Other churches don’t have good relations with the churches/missionaries we partnered with

These are just some of the complicating factors that make SU a real challenge. And this underscores why we need SU personnel to give focused attention to these issues so that our translations are effectively used. Please pray for God to send laborers to help us with this essential work.

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After being away for almost a month for furlough in Quebec (and one deputation meeting in NJ), the work really piled up, and I’ve not been able to catch up. It seems that fairly significant things (including approving two NTs for formatting) keep coming across my desk as I try to get caught up. So, I have to give those things my attention instead of the emails, some of them waiting for me since early in the summer.

One event that occupied my attention was the Bible Faculty Summit at Appalachian Bible College in WV. It was a great time of fellowship and academic challenge as we shared scholarly papers with each other and just grew in our professions and in our walk with the Lord. It was also nice to get to know ABC better. It was my second time to visit but my first time to get a tour. I appreciate their desire to keep things simple but squarely focused on the Lord. My friend, Dr. Mark Ward, is the main driving force behind this summit (though he’s only one on a committee), and I really appreciate his desire to provide a forum in which well-trained fundamentalist men and women can gather to sharpen one another academically and spiritually. I hope to keep attending in years to come! (My main purpose in attending is to network with profs to get more recruits and maybe even to get help with our translator/consultant tools.)

2017.08 Bible Faculty Summit

While traveling for that, I was also preparing for the upcoming Consultant Seminar, which I lead every year. It got off to a great start on Tuesday morning. During the opening session, I shared an article, “The Life of a Consultant,” that I had written to help candidates considering becoming a consultant. They need to know what they are getting into before they get into it too deeply. Then, I reviewed the life of Ross Hodsdon, who had been with BI since it began in 1981. He actually joined BMM in 1976 and then in 1989 he became a translation consultant. He had worked with at least 21 languages in 14 countries, and he was directly involved with the publishing of 23 NTs/Bibles. Ross died last Sunday, and he will be greatly missed. But what a legacy he left behind! And his imprint is all over BI’s material and consultants. Somehow he managed to be extremely productive in consulting while also developing translator/consultant tools and recruiting extensively. Few can do all those things well at the same time!

We focused on Scripture Use (or Scripture Engagement) for this seminar, and we had a special speaker on Thurs-Fri to address this topic. It was a very fruitful time of discussion and learning. Pray for wisdom as we implement these ideas into our current workflow.

We have two more days of seminar, when we will have just BI members and will focus on tools development.

Praise God that at least 2 of the attendees are planning on joining BI in the future, and others are quite likely. (The seminar is always a time of recruiting, and this year it was more so than in the past, since we had more non-BI members than members.)

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