Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Tale of...Five Organizations

Some confusion exists over the different organizations involved in Bible translation. Most of the confusion lies under what might be called the Wycliffe Umbrella of organizations that includes Wycliffe Bible Translators (WBT), Wycliffe Associates (WA), Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), Jungle Aviation and Radio Service (JAARS), and The Seed Company (TSC). In this post I want to briefly describe each organization and the interrelated roles they play in the overall task.

Wycliffe Bible Translators (WBT), also known simply as Wycliffe, is an organization whose goal is to translate all or parts of the Christian Bible into all the languages of the world that need it (that is, that have a significant number of speakers who don't know any other language fluently). A further component of this vision is to see all needed Bible translation projects started by the year 2025. The specific contributions Wycliffe makes to the Bible translation task include recruiting personnel, training them to raise funds, supporting the fundraising efforts, orienting new personnel, offering pastoral and counseling care to personnel, handling personnel financial issues, etc. In other words, Wycliffe raises up, guides, and supports people to be involved in Bible translation. They also raise funds for Bible translation at the project or institutional level.

Wycliffe Associates (WA), despite sounding a lot like Wycliffe, is a completely different organization. It's motto is "accelerating Bible translation", and it does this through hands-on support efforts like: technology advancement, construction, education, administration, community development, prayer, hospitality, and banquet tours. Much of their work is done by short or long-term volunteers, and many of these are retired folks who lend their skills and expertise in a variety of areas.

The Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL), also known simply as SIL, is a faith-based, non-governmental organization that carries out the language-related activities of Bible translation. "SIL serves language communities worldwide, building their capacity for sustainable language development, by means of research, translation, training, and materials development." SIL does what might be called 'language ministry' of which Bible translation is a major part but not the only part. So much of the stuff you might hear of 'Wycliffe' folks doing overseas is done under SIL as an organization. This includes linguistics, literacy, Bible translation, anthropology, ethnomusicology, community development, chronological Bible storying, teaching in universities, etc.

People are often confused about the relationship between Wycliffe and SIL. Let's set the record straight: Wycliffe recruits people, prepares them, and then loans them to SIL for the actual work of Bible translation. Anyone who is a member of SIL is also an employee of Wycliffe (except for nationals hired by SIL overseas), but not every employee of Wycliffe is a member of SIL (for example, Wycliffe employees working in the States). Amber and I are employees of Wycliffe that are loaned to SIL (which makes us members).

JAARS (formerly known as Jungle Aviation and Radio Service), like Wycliffe Associates, is another organization that supports Bible translation in practical ways. Their motto is "Make Bible translation possible: invest in practical, day-to-day support." They accomplish this through services like: aviation, land transportation, water transportation, information technology, and media.

The Seed Company (TSC) is an organization also dedicated to "accelerating Bible translation", and their goal is "God's Word for every language---in this generation." A main focus of The Seed Company is forming "Great Commission partnerships" with other organizations (like, but not limited to Wycliffe and SIL). The Seed Company's special focus is rallying prayer and financial resources for individual translation projects, as well as larger 'cluster' projects at the institutional-level.

In summary, these five organization are intimately related, but they are separate. One can practically refer to all of them (i.e the Wycliffe Umbrella) as 'Wycliffe', only if their difference and separateness is understood. Otherwise, conflating all of them into one leads to confusion.

As you can see, Bible translation is a huge, multi-faceted work that needs a huge range of skills and services. These five organization under the Wycliffe Umbrella work together to complete the job, but there are other organizations taking part, like Pioneer Bible Translators (PBT), United Bible Societies (UBS), The Word for the World, and numerous others. One reason 'language ministry' (of which Bible translation is a major part) take so many different shapes and approaches is that 'language' is central to human existence in all its intricate complexities. In other words, language touches so many---nearly all---aspects of human life from its physical needs to its spiritual longings.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Great Outdoors

A lot of our work, both here and in Uganda, is on the computer. So when we get a chance to do some activities out of doors, we try to take it! Here's a quick glimpse of a few of the fun things we've had the privilege of doing over the last couple of weeks:

My dad, Arlin, has gotten into biking, and he likes to take people with him. One Saturday a little while back, he, Amber, and I took a nice bike ride on Old Shell Rd. in Mobile.

Old Shell Rd. took us right past the campus of my alma meter, the University of South Alabama.

After we left Mobile that weekend and came back to Tallahassee, we had the opportunity to attend the annual Greek food festival at the Holy Mother of God Greek Orthodox church. This is the place you come to get awesome Greek food and drinks, hear Greek music, and tour the Greek church.

This year it was extremely hot (you can see how red our faces were!), so we didn't stay long after downing our gyros. Here's a photo of us with Jaxon, one of our little nephews (son of Josh & Amanda Gingerich):

Just this past weekend we had the awesome privilege of being taken kayaking by Chad Northington on the Wakulla River. The Northingtons have been ministering in Cameroon for some time with World Transformational Ministries, but are now taking some time to establish a home base in Tallahassee. They threw a house-warming party at their home this weekend and also took some time to hang out with just us, which was great. On Sunday we headed down to the river on a beautiful day:

Ahh, now this is the life!

We topped it all off with a good country seafood lunch!

These three outdoor activities are just further examples of how kind folks have been to us and how richly God has blessed us on this furlough. Dad & Mom Schrock, Dad & Mom Gingerich, Chad & Tiffany---and MANY others not mentioned in this post---THANK YOU!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Never the Same

Click here for a short video about the changes God made in the hearts of the Sawi people of Papua New Guinea. The Sawi are the tribe Don & Carol Richardson went to live among in 1962. Don is well-known for his books Peace Child and Eternity in their Hearts. Their legacy is part of what drew many young people, including us, into similar circumstances. Fifty years from now we hope to see the change God has made in the hearts of the Ik people through Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cleveland, TN

After Oxford, Mississippi, we headed over to Cleveland, Tennessee by way of the beautiful Natchez Trace scenic highway. On the way we stopped to see the Pharr Mounds, one of the many burial mounds left by early generations of Native Americans.

Cleveland is where my brother Chad and his wife Rachel and son Toby are currently living. Here's a shot of them enjoying some mean hotdogs at a local, quaint southern restaurant:

Chad teaches English at Lee University, while Rachel runs a photography business from home. Here is Chad posing at the door of his office:

Toby, by all estimations, is an adorable little fellow. One day when we visited Chad in one of his classes, Toby decided to help teach. Chad says he had to dismiss the class because no one could concentrate after Toby's cuteness!

Lee University recently built a chapel in the style of old European cathedrals. Amber and I agreed it was one of the most gorgeous buildings we've seen since Prague:

On Friday, Chad and Rachel took us to Chattanooga, where we got to walk on a bridge over the Tennessee River. We explored a huge antique store and later a used book store. Somehow we miraculously refrained from buying anything!

Later in the day, we drove up to Covenant College on Lookout Mountain, Georgia. Chad had arranged an opportunity for us to talk about the Ik language and our experiences in Uganda in a couple classes at Covenant:

After the presentations, Rachel took a few portraits of us on the lovely campus. Here's one:

To cap off a wonderful day and week, Chad and Rachel took us out to eat at Sugar's BBQ, a smokey joint perched on a hill overlooking the Tennessee River valley in Chattanooga. If you know us, you know how much we love us some good BBQ!

Thanks Chad, Rachel, and Toby for a great week with you in Cleveland!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Why Bible translation?

Over the past couple of years when I was getting bogged down in the day-to-day, I often asked myself this question: "Why Bible translation?". Wouldn't it be easier just to teach people English? Wouldn't it be better if the Ik people translated what they wanted when they were able to on their own? Does any of this really matter? Is it worthwhile? What am I doing over here?

Despite the occasional doubts, I've been being reassured lately that it IS worthwhile. One good book I've been reading on the subject is The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible created the Soul of Western Civilization by Vishal Mangalwadi. From the point of view of an Indian Christian intellectual, Mangalwadi shows that many of the things the modern world considers virtuous in fact originate in the Judeo-Christian worldview. It's a good read, if you're interested.

And today I was browsing the website of JAARS, the organization that does technical support for Bible translation around the world. I came upon this nice summary of why Bible translation is important and thought I'd share it with you.

For me, Bible translation is one, albeit big, part of a larger strategy. That strategy might be called Language Ministry: serving people in all things related to languag. Language Ministry includes Bible translation, dictionaries, scientific grammars, teaching grammars, literacy, literature, audio recorded literature ('orature'), written histories, oral histories, school curriculum, Christian curriculum, culture preservation, indigenous knowledge preservation, and last but not least, relationship through conversation. And this is part of an even larger strategy that is to share the love of Jesus with all the people groups of the world. We consider it a real honor to be a part of such a thing and to be partners with you in ministering through language to the Ik.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Ole Miss, etc.

From Birmingham, we headed on over to Oxford, MS, home of the University of Mississippi, where my sister Laura attends school. She's lived there for a couple of years, earning a degree in American literature and teaching composition and lit to undergraduate students. She's one smart cookie, and I sincerely believe that by the time she finishes her degree, she'll be able to speak American! Here I am with Laura near her office:

Laura recently successfully passed her 'oral exams'. She had to study over 60 books for that, and the exam consisted of two hours of 'grilling' in the room pictured below:

Congratulations, Laura, on a job well done!

Laura shares her home with a variety of critters, including fish and a turtle that live in the aquarium seen below. We joke with her that if the literature career falls through, she could also go into herpetology. Hey, it's a thought!

Laura is a connoisseur of fruit smoothies, and she shared her productions with us numerous times:

During the week, we took some glorious walks around Oxford, a town full of towering oaks and gorgeous homes. We also liked perusing antique stores...especially the old books section!

Over the weekend, we drove up to Memphis to visit some friends, including Curvin & Joann Hursh, folks Terrill has known his entire life. Curvin & Joann work for Choice Books, the same company Terrill's father works for in Alabama.

The Hurshes kindly shared part of their Saturday with us, taking us up into downtown Memphis, where we first pigged out at Miss Polly's, a local joint known for serving waffles with chicken. I never would have put those together, but it worked!

Later we met up with Aaron & Hannah Mason, a couple with the Southern Baptist mission board who will be joining the Echelon team in Kaabong this coming January.

In the evening we walked with Laura and the Masons along the mighty Mississippi River:

That night, we drove with the Masons up to the home of Bob & Janet Lane, the parents of Robert Lane (whose wife is Maridith) who is also a member of the Echelon team mentioned above. We've known Robert and Maridith for ten months now, and they are great friends to us, so it was a privilege to get to meet Robert's parents:

Sunday afternoon, we and Laura made a spontaneous decision to go to the Memphis Zoo. Having been in so many African game parks, I thought the zoo would only be mildly interesting, but man was I wrong. We ended up spending 4.5 hours there and still didn't see everything! Awesome time.

Northern Mississippi and western Tennessee were just beautiful this time of year, and we feel so thankful for being able to visit friends and family in these wonderful locations.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Sweet Home Alabama

From Powhatan, VA, we headed southwest to Birmingham, Alabama, to visit some of our relatives: Steve & Lenora Longenecker and their family. Our deadline was to reach Birmingham in time to attend Steve & Lenora's twin sons' evening concert. They are in a Christian rock band called Redemption Row. When they started their set with a Needtobreathe cover song, I knew it was going to be a good night...and it sure was!

Some friends of ours told us to do all those things on furlough that we miss when we're in Uganda. Going to concerts is one of them (especially for me), and this was a weekend for concerts! The following day, after chatting with Steve & Lenora and watching football with Derek & Eric, Amber and I went to a Switchfoot concert. Switchfoot is one of our favorite bands who help us break through the emotional funk we sometimes find ourselves in overseas. The concert was good, but we had to wait in the freezing cold through a series of rather bad musical acts (I won't mention any names)!

A big thanks to the Longenecker family for welcoming us and sharing their fun-filled weekend!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A friend reflects on the Ik

A friend of ours from Oklahoma, Sam Beer, has been studying the Soo/Tepeth and Nyang'i languages, both of which are closely related to Ik (in fact, they are the only two other languages so closely related; and they are both near extinction). Sam visited us in Ikland this past June. With stunning photography and poetic prose, Sam has been reflecting on some of his experiences and perspectives through his blog Latent Yasila. We invite you to read!

Monday, October 8, 2012

On to Powhatan, Virginia

Terrill & I have a 'history' of sorts in Powhatan. Terrill used to spend summers here as a kid on his great aunt & uncle's farm. He also spent his senior year in high school here. So he has a number of friends and family here as well as connections to a church, Powhatan Mennonite. I just so happened to have two friends from Blountstown, FL that have migrated to Powhatan after marrying local guys. It was actually kind of exciting to visit Powhatan and reconnect with high school friends. 

Since my birthday was on Tuesday, we wanted to go on a special outing. Instead of giving gifts, Terrill & I like to make memories together. This time around, we decided to go fossil hunting with our dear friends, Jan & Phoebe Ranck. Jan drove us down to the James river to a strip of shoreline where she's gone for many years to find shells. 
 A closer look at the wall. 
Sadly, we found that the riverbank where the fossils are found is being destroyed to make room for property development along the river. Above the rocks in the photo below is a cleared area where someone can buy a two-acre plot for $450,000 and put up a house. We dug through the sand looking for fossils even as we lamented the destruction brought by 'development'. Is it worth it, folks? 
 While digging through the sand along the water's edge, we found a tooth of some kind. It looks a little small to be a shark's tooth but it was in remarkably good shape. 
 After fossil hunting, we had a picnic on the beach. What a fun day with friends and a memorable birthday!
 That evening, 'Mammaw' (Phoebe Ranck) made me an apple pie to celebrate. It's my first birthday celebrated in the states in the past five years.
 The next day I got to take a walk with my dear Blountstown friends, Allie and Ruthann. A new friend, Rachel, also came along for the stroll. I got the chance to meet Allie's new baby girl, Heidi. 
 On another day, Terrill & I gathered with some friends at the County Seat restaurant. On the left are Pres & Carolyn Nowlin who we stayed with in Powhatan. They are dear people who opened their home and hearts to us. We thank God for people like them who continually love, encourage and pray for us while we're overseas. Phoebe (on the right next to Allie) is another one of our prayer warriors. This lovely lady is my penpal and constantly remembers us in her prayers. I know this because she tells us so. And I'm certain that the grace of God has covered our lives because of her prayers. 
 Terrill & I with Phoebe. How good it is for the body of Christ to come together! This is one reason we travel around during furlough and see our friends.