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Archive for the ‘translation’ Category

We sang these words this morning at my home church in the song “As the Deer,” and I sang those words with believers on the other side of the world in a different language just two weeks ago. In both cases, I got choked up as I sang those words, because I could reflect on how God had been my strength and shield during my travels. God truly gave me strength throughout the trip, even though I had many disturbances to my sleep (traveling through the night on four different occasions, waking up early for flights, and sleeping in less than comfortable situations many other nights), and He protected me from evil (from terrorists, traffic, bad roads, religious extremists, etc.). He was also my family’s shield, though they seemed to face many attacks from Satan. My wife said she didn’t get a single good night of sleep while I was gone (but she’s already had 2 since I came back on Thursday).

My greatest joy on the trip was dedicating the Inner Seraji NT. The translator and his wife began working among the Inner Seraji people in 1990. He married a woman, who also helped with the translation work, a few years later. They had to leave the area because of health issues and the need for more training, but returned in the early 2000’s and began translation work in 2005. Twelve years later, the NT was completed and ready for dedication, and God gave me the privilege of preaching at the dedication on October 4 and praying for God’s blessing as people begin using it. The service was 3.5 hours long, but I enjoyed every minute of it. There were many tears as we recounted God’s goodness through the years. There were around 450 people present, 100 of whom were unbelievers. When the translator and a few other missionaries arrived in that area called “the valley of the gods,” there were no believers. Now there are 5 churches and another Bible study. There are estimated to be around 750 believers, which is slightly over 1% of this language’s population. I look forward to seeing how this number will multiply greatly now that they have good access to God’s Word in their own language.

On this trip, I also got to thank a church in Bangladesh for their faithful support of us since 2009. In Bangladesh, you have to have a police escort with armed policemen accompanying your travels through the country, because terrorists are targeting all foreigners. The situation was rather tense for me to see armed policemen in a pickup truck just in front of our vehicle. Thank God for keeping away any problems! I probably faced more danger when I rode on the back of a motorcycle with a friend in Dhaka to visit a nearby prayer meeting, but thankfully, that trip was quite short. Dhaka seems to be the rickshaw capital of the world, as they share the bumpy roads with other vehicles of all shapes and sizes. This capital city teems with around 18 million people, so it’s one of the largest cities I’ve ever visited. As you can imagine, the traffic is absolutely awful in this underdeveloped city. But one positive thing I can definitely say about the country: I didn’t see a single immodest girl the whole time I was there. Apparently, the Muslim religion at least has that positive influence on the people.

The third major portion of my trip was to gather with around 10 co-workers in BI in another location in Asia to do strategic planning about how to get more projects and personnel in that part of the world. I invited two cross-cultural translators (one from the Inner Seraji project) from within BI to join us for the discussions; their presence among us was profitable both for them and for us. We spent 2.5 days discussing research strategies and ways to connect with Bible college graduates to target Bible-less language groups. We still have a long ways to go in this strategic initiative, but I’m thankful for the significant strides we took during these planning meetings. I look forward to seeing how God will continue to bless these efforts.

When I arrived on Thursday, I had exactly three weeks to prepare for our departure to Eurasia, Ukraine, and Chad. Pray for our preparations during these busy 3 weeks. Pray also for the annual Harvest Dinner on Thursday, in which we will highlight our 3 newest projects in Myanmar.

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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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It happened again. I was heading into another translation checking workshop, and I wondered how I would manage all the different things converging at the same time. Not only did I need to prepare for the Haitian Creole workshop, but I also needed to get ready to welcome two summer interns during the first week of the workshop, while also trying to be ready for whenever our son would decide to come into the world. (Not to mention the many emails and meetings I have to deal with on a regular basis)

I thought I needed to have both 1 and 2 Kings ready for the workshop, since that’s what the translator had submitted. Considering the amount of material we’ve covered in past workshops, I anticipated we could cover both books.

My prayer was that our son would come before the workshop started so that I wouldn’t miss any days of the workshop. It’s expensive to fly the translator to the office, so I didn’t want to lose a single day. My thinking was that if he were born on his due day (May 11), I would have a few days to get adjusted to welcoming him into this world and into our home before starting the workshop on May 15. God clearly had another plan, and as it always turns out, His plan was better than mine.

God delayed Eliyas’ birth until Friday, May 19. By that Wednesday evening I had prepared enough material to check through 2 Kings 8 in the workshop. Because I invited another consultant to join us in the workshop so she could do the next workshop in Haiti (I actually hoped she would take this May workshop, but she couldn’t, but wanted to just observe, resulting in my having to prepare an English interlinear for 8 chapters of 1 Kings–i.e., more work for me rather than less work!). I had prepared 6 chapters by that Wednesday night.

Then, Thursday afternoon came around. At 4 pm my wife called saying she felt the contractions coming on. So, I had to cut out of the workshop 30 minutes early. About 28 hours later, our son would be born. So, I lost that full day of the workshop. We were in the hospital until Sunday afternoon, so I was occupied for two weekend days, but no more workshop time was lost. I had to prepare two more chapters for an English interlinear, so I spent an hour doing that in the workshop.

I got back into the workshop on Monday, and we picked up where we left off. We had various other distractions along the way, slowing down our progress. In the end, we finished up to and including 2 Kings 6, which meant that I didn’t actually have to do any more prep work after the previous Wednesday night. God gave me just enough time to do all the preparation work needed for the workshop (except the 1 hour of work in the hospital), and He arranged it such that we basically lost only 1 day of the workshop because of my son’s birth. Plus, because of that, I could focus on helping my wife at home in the evenings during the second week of the workshop, instead of having to prepare more material, as I normally always have to do during a workshop. In fact, if I calculate the number of days we actually spent on 1-2 Kings (7.5 days), I find that we were as productive in this past workshop as any in the past.

I will add that I couldn’t have gotten back into the workshop very easily if it hadn’t been for the sacrificial help of my mom. She stayed all day every day with my mom while I was at the office, and then she stayed until late in the evening while Oksana and I did other tasks. So, I thank God for leading my mom to live close to us so that she could help us bear our burdens!

I also hoped Eliyas would come early in May, because we needed time for him to get into a good pattern before leaving for Quebec in mid-June. Well, God worked that out too. The pastors were very gracious to move the meetings back, giving us an extra week before we have to leave.

It never ceases to amaze me how God orchestrates His plan in my life such that everything works out well for a workshop. Why don’t I learn this lesson and stop getting stressed out about how it’s all going to work out? Maybe I’ll be less stressed out the next time? No, there will be completely different circumstances, causing me to wonder again how it’s all going to come together. If only I could trust God more, work within the time slots God gives, and leave the rest with Him!

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Metanoia NT workshop

Oksana and I are thankful for the safety and the Lord’s blessings on our recent translation workshop in Eurasia. My goal was to cover 600 verses, which would be double what we did last time, but we ended up doing just under 300. But that’s partly because we took an entire afternoon (thanks partly to the power outage) to elicit verb forms from them, so I could understand better how their verbs work. We also spent an afternoon trying to work through some problems with their orthography. There are around 4 sounds that still have issues regarding what symbol to use. Another organization is trying to settle the matter by field testing, so they came to the workshop to test the symbols with our team. Hopefully, we’ll get this settled this year, so we can use the correct symbols throughout the translation. And hopefully we’ll make better progress next time in the translation. I’m thankful to see how the translators are growing well in their skills in translation and grammar. Oksana and I are also growing in our understanding of the language. We asked them to write 4 different types of regular (not translations of biblical passages) texts by 3 different people so we can do more analysis, and we asked them to complete 4 verb tables as well. Hopefully this material will give us even better ways to understand their language.

Because of the slowness of the workshop, we had time on the second weekend to take a two-day trip. We really enjoyed seeing the countryside and spending time getting to know friends. We are also thankful for many opportunities to minister to our friends.

We are also thankful for many opportunities for ministry to our translation team. They’ve been through a lot recently, so we were able to be an encouragement to them, as they were also an encouragement to us. They are truly a great group of believers to work with! We look forward to the next time we’ll see them, though this time there will be three of us!

As a side note, we are very thankful that our support rose to 88% during our trip. God is providing!

If you are interested in some technical details, you should check out my “Translator’s Page” for a list of some issues we wrestled through during this workshop.

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Michael Grant, an adjunct stewardship representative for BI, edited three excerpts from the past, added his own introductory and concluding thoughts, and published A Bible for Every Hand and Heart (Xlibris, 2014) to encourage believers as to how we can get more involved in Bible translation. They are as follows:

  1. “The first encompasses all the spoken material of the service held in 1812 commissioning America’s first foreign missionaries, of which Adoniram Judson is the most well-known of the group.”
  2. “The second is a sermon preached in Salem, Massachusetts, by Benjamin Wadsworth in 1815.”
  3. “The third is a sermon delivered by Baron Stow in 1846 to the American and Foreign Bible Society on the occasion of its ninth anniversary.”

Grant did a good job of updating the 19th-century content so that it gives a “modern voice to the material so that it may speak again and be understood by our generation.” He chose these three excerpts for the following reasons:

  1. “Each conveys a deep-seated belief about all men.”
  2. “Each, very thankfully, proclaims the one and only cure for mankind’s guilt and condemnation before God.”
  3. “Each displays a bold, confident faith in the Bible–a faith believing God has authored a Book as eternal and powerful as He is.”
  4. “Each stresses the importance of declaring the Bible’s message to mankind worldwide.”
  5. “Each pinpoints language as an obstacle to this mission of spreading God’s Word worldwide.”
  6. “Each agrees that overcoming the language barrier is a non-negotiable and must be pursued at all costs, whether in personnel or personal resources.”
  7. “Each presents an urgent call to action–to make the Bible available to men in the language they understand best.”

The first excerpt, made up of various speeches given on the occasion, is an excellent reminder of all the reasons why we should be engaged in missions work. I particularly enjoyed Leonard Woods’ sermon to the new missionaries. He lays out the motivations that should move us to action. He writes,

He takes into  account their temporal comfort, and endeavours to promote it… But, when their spiritual interest is before him, when he contemplates the value of their souls and the prospect that the Gospel opens of immortal happiness in the world to come, his deepest inner compassions are moved; his most tender affections kindled, pure and heavenly love pervades and warms his soul. (p. 30)

He gives 7 motives that should move us to reach out to lost souls: “the worth of immortal souls, the plenteousness of the provision which Christ has made for their salvation, the express command of our Lord to preach the Gospel, the peculiar design of Christianity and its adaptability as a universal religion, the spirit of prophecy, and the operations of divine Providence at the present day.” (p. 48)

Samuel Spring’s charge is also moving, especially when he warns them:

Never, never preach the theory of the Gospel until you have presented the practice of the Gospel in your own godly example.

In the second historical excerpt of Grant’s book, Benjamin Wadsworth recommends the Bible as “a volume for the world.” After exalting the many excellencies of the Word, he concludes,

We therefore very justly consider the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God, an invaluable treasure–one of Heaven’s best gifts to men. (p. 76)

He then exhorts us to consider how blessed the world would be if they had the Bible in their hands. He writes,

We have therefore reason to conclude that the streams of widespread goodness will not cease to flow till all nations are blessed with the Word of His grace. (p. 80)

He appeals to us to try to help those without the Word by reminding us that the second greatest commandment should compel us, who “know the excellency of God’s Word and enjoy its consolations and hopes,” to help those who don’t enjoy these benefits. He points us to the fact that the Bible alone gives us knowledge of God and Jesus Christ, which leads us to eternal life, and this knowledge we possess lays upon us an obligation to impart it to the world.

The third excerpt is Baron Stow’s sermon “The Bible for the World,” and this portion of Grant’s book is probably my favorite. He begins by emphasizing how badly the world needs the Bible. He substantiates this point by asking us to consider how awful a condition our country would be in if we didn’t have the Bible. What a sobering thought to imagine!

Stow recommends the Bible as an authoritative standard of doctrine and practice, which is what mankind needs (p. 122). The Bible satisfies our desire to see into the future, and it speaks to our heart (pp. 122-124). Then he explains how the Bible is adapted to the world and designed for the world and concludes,

If, then, the Bible is needed by the world, if it is adapted to the world, if it is designed for the world, why, inquires the thoughtful hearer, has so large a portion of the world never seen it or even heard of its existence? (p. 127)

What a soul-searching question! Stow urges us to realize we are debtors to the world to take the Word to them.

The measure of our obligation is, of course, determined by our ability and by the resources that we have for the effective use of that ability. (p. 129)

Surely, the American church has sufficient ability and abundant resources!

No time is to be lost. The world needs the Bible! The world must have the Bible! Its populations are sinking annually in compacted millions by a starless way to a dreary eternity. Shall we whose souls are lighted by the Revelations of Heaven continue to deny to those wanderers the Lamp of Salvation? We are engaged in a great work and by nothing should we allow ourselves to be diverted from our straight onward path of duty. (p. 131)

Stow ends his sermon by highlighting the immense responsibilities of a translator but also the crucial importance of a preacher to go alongside the published translation, as well as the absolutely necessary work of the Spirit of God.

Grant ends his book with some final thoughts to encourage us to get involved in Bible translation:

  1. “Begin by personally acquainting yourself with the work of a Bible Society.” (He recommends BI as the one to seek out.)
  2. “Establish a friendship with some Bible translators.”
  3. “Consistently follow the progress of at least one Bible translation project while not losing sight of the broader existing work.”
  4. “Financially support the work and workers making the Bible available worldwide.”
  5. “Finally, but most importantly, support prayerfully the work and workers making the Bible available worldwide.”

Grant’s desire and prayer is that “all readers of this book will involve themselves in this endeavor at some level.” I say a hearty Amen to that! May it be so!

You can find out more about Mike Grant at www.treasuringtheword.org. On his webpage he describes his ministry in this way: “We maintain a rare Bible and book museum in Sevierville, Tennessee displaying in an interactive, chronological format the history of our English Bible. We are committed, in cooperation with Bibles International, to providing a conservative, “heart language” translation of the Scriptures for those people groups in need. We also provide Bible study tools to institutions and individuals who are training for the preaching/teaching ministry in underprivileged or mission-restricted countries. We revise and publish rare, out-of-print works relevant to the spiritual well-being of mankind.”

 

 

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Dear Family and Friends,

In Jay Adam’s A Theology of Christian Counseling, my current counseling book to read, he points out the seriousness of the accusation “That isn’t fair!” that counselees often make. It’s tempting to say such words when we don’t understand how good things can happen to bad people and vice versa. But with this accusation the counselee is “challenging the justice of God and the faithfulness of His Word.” It also demonstrates “a clear lack of faith.” As believers, we must trust God and accept by faith what He says about how He will reward good and punish wickedness.

PROGRESS AND LOSS

The month of July began with Oksana attending (with me at her side) BMM’s Candidate Seminar. We enjoyed the fellowship and learning at the week and a half of orientation, and we are rejoicing that Oksana now has “appointee” status. Eventually, we’ll both be commissioned by our new church in Grand Rapids, and she’ll then have full missionary status. PRAY as we continue to seek monthly support, which is currently at 81%. PRAISE Him for the 1% increase!

During the seminar, Oksana’s dad had some sort of mild heart attack. He refused to get medical help, and passed away a few weeks later. He most likely died in the same spiritual state he was in throughout his life—a hardened atheist. Oksana wasn’t able to make it to Ukraine for the funeral, but she got to visit his grave when we stopped in Ukraine after the Metanoia NT workshop. PRAY for her and her family as they now deal with the loss of two loved ones—her nephew and her dad. PRAY especially that Oksana’s brother-in-law will turn from alcohol and false religion and run to Christ.

ANNUAL EVENTS AND WORKSHOPS

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In August, I led another Consultant Seminar, which was probably the most well-attended since I began leading in 2007. Current consultants, prospective consultants, and others enjoyed our focus on dictionary-making and literacy. It does no good for us to publish the Scriptures if the recipients can’t read, and one thing that encourages literacy is having a dictionary in the target language. PRAY for wisdom to put into practice all we learned. PRAISE God for my mom’s leadership over all the food service. Next year our new administrative assistant, Becky Holub, will be in charge. PRAISE God for His provision of a new assistant!

After the seminar, we enjoyed three days at the annual BI Retreat. We are thankful for the emphasis on living by faith. On October 20, we’ll have our annual BI Harvest Dinner, which will focus on our Chad and Central African Republic projects. PRAY for a good offering.

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The day after the retreat, Oksana and I flew to Eurasia for another Metanoia NT workshop. We checked James, 1-3 John, and Mark 1:35-3:22. I’m so thankful for Oksana’s significant aid as my Russian interpreter. PRAY that God will provide more funds for her to go again in January (designate gifts to “Troy Manning—Passage”), which we need until we get full support. PRAY for better progress on this project too and for the health of the two translators.

PRAY for the Haitian Creole OT translator to finish enough material for us to have a workshop in November. He’s been struggling with electricity outages in Haiti.

For the cause of Christ,

Troy (for both of us)

 

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I just finished my 14th translation checking with the Haitian Creole OT. We were supposed to take two full weeks on the translation, but the translator was distracted by the birth of his third child last month (he has Down syndrome) so he wasn’t able to get as much material ready as we wanted. So, we finished the workshop in 7 days, even though we also spent time working through some issues with the upcoming publication of the NT with Psa/Prov. This project is already at least 5 years behind schedule, so we can’t afford to lose any more workshop days. We have another workshop scheduled for November in Haiti, so pray the translator will be able to start getting caught up by at least having enough material ready for two full weeks.

I have a few weeks break from workshops until I need to start getting ready for the Eurasia workshop in August. I will probably start working through that material beginning in July, even though we’ll also begin our travels to churches during that month. Actually, we’ll be in 3 churches in MD and PA, with the Candidate Seminar (for Oksana) at the BMM home office in the midst of that. We may also go to a conference in WI before heading home at the end of the month.

So, hopefully I can use these few weeks remaining in June to get some other urgent tasks done, including preparing material for a Discourse Analysis course that I will administer to 4 consultants long-distance. Oksana and I will also be taking a few days vacation, and during one weekend we’ll take a trip to our supporting church in Waukegan. Pray for strength to keep up with everything!

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