Monday, May 27, 2013

Linguistics conference in Cologne

This past week I had the privilege of going to a conference on Nilo-Saharan languages (of which Ik is one) in Cologne, Germany. My good friend Robert Lane accompanied me on this journey. Every three years, a group of about a hundred scholars and students come together for three days to get to know each other and share what they've been studying about this fascinating language family.

So last Monday Robert and I flew into Schiphol airport near Amsterdam. Here we are enjoying our first taste of European cuisine:

That very evening we took the train to Cologne and got settled in. We enjoyed many hours of walking through the streets of this beautiful city that dates back at least to Roman times:

We climbed the magnificent Dom, a cathedral that took over 800 years to complete. It's so big it doesn't fit in a single picture or even in your mind. Here's a couple views from atop one of its spires:

Robert and I both LOVE to eat, so we really enjoyed the German, Turkish, and Greek food we found around the town. Here's some German appetizers and famous Bratwurst:

At the conference, we got to hear many presentations on different things people are studying in the Nilo-Saharan language family. Here I am presenting something I discovered about the Ik language:

Robert and I got to hang out quite a bit with Sam Beer, an American guy studying Nyang'i, a language related to Ik:

One of the coolest parts of the week was getting to meet some of the well-known scholars in the field of African linguistics. The first photo below shows me with Bernd Heine, a German linguist who did work in Ik in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Much of what I know about Ik I learned from his writings. The second photo shows me with Gerrit Dimmendaal, an expert on Turkana and on African languages in general. It was a real honor to meet these men:

Monday, May 20, 2013

Happy girls

We've now spent three weeks in Kampala and it's been a wonderful time of connecting with the girls, establishing routines and growing as a family. Tomorrow I go to visit a lawyer regarding the requirements for legal guardianship. We appreciate your prayers as we care for these children. One of our goals is to make them feel loved and secure. May it be so, Lord. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


We recorded this video for one of our partner churches but thought we'd also share it with a wider audience:


Obviously we still have some work to do in the English department.:)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Timely visit from Tom Matthews

One of the key components of Bible translation work is interaction with a translation consultant. We are privileged to have Tom Matthews as our initial consultant on the Ik project. Tom and his wife Juanita have been good friends for more than five years now. They have more than twenty years of experience in SIL work in East Africa. We have stayed with them a couple of times in Nairobi, and this past April, Tom made his first visit to us in Ikland.

Officially, Tom came to help get the fledgling Ik translation team (Daniel, Sylvester, and I) off the ground. This included training in how to use a computer program called Paratext, how to draft portions of Scripture in a way that will preserve Ik's 'oral' qualities, and how to get members of the Ik community more involving in checking the quality of a translation.

But unofficially, Tom provided much more. He came just one week after we got Janet and Lemu, at a time when we felt alone, exhausted, and completely disoriented. Tom prayed for us, encouraged us, and supported us during a very difficult time. Tom, we thank you for that!

For nearly two weeks, Tom and I worked with Daniel and Sylvester down in the office. First, we had devotions, then we got to work reviewing the translation of Ruth. We took breaks for tea and lunch and continued throughout the afternoon. It was tiring for all of us, especially for Daniel who walked ten miles every day! But we sensed God's presence and guidance with us the whole time.
While we worked on translation, Amber continued working at the addition to cooking and caring for the children! She's one awesome lady, a great wife and mother.
Janet and Lemu warmed up to Uncle Tom pretty quickly:
The last Sunday Tom was with us, we drove to the village of Tulutul, for two reasons. One, to have Sylvester read our translation of Ruth for the first time to the people there, and two, to visit Zachary and his wife Rose and daughter Small. Zachary is one of the paternal uncles of Janet and Lemu. We want to do our part in making sure the girls know their relatives even though they now live with us.

Zachary is also the rector for the Anglican church in Tulutul. It is the only Anglican church in all of Ikland. In addition to reading a lot of formal prayers in Karimojong, Zachary delivered a homily:
After the usual prayer service, Sylvester got up to read the translation of Ruth:
As he started, people were at first distracted, as if they were expecting more incomprehensible Karimojong formalities. But soon, as they heard pure Ik pouring from Sylvester's mouth, they fixed their attention on the fascinating story of Ruth that they had never heard in their language:
The people said they really liked what they heard, and afterward, a couple of men even showed keen interesting in reading and writing Ik. Guys like these could be future literacy teachers.
After the service, Zachary and Rose (and Daniel and his wife Monica) invited us to their home for lunch. We enjoyed some delicious cassava and beans, topped off with a sweet cup of tea:
Here's a picture of Zachary and his daughter Small, who is one of Janet and Lemu's favorite cousins. We hope that in the future they can have many more opportunities to play with her:
We're not quite sure how Janet felt at the time, because she had lived in Tulutul for short periods of time before. Just two weeks earlier, on a dark and misty Sunday evening, we had driven up out of nowhere and whisked her off to this new, unfamiliar (but hopefully good) life.
Please pray with us as we try to help Janet come to grips with her tumultuous life up to this point and begin forming a new identity out of the fragments.

Tom Matthew's professional help and personal support during the two weeks he was with us is just another example of God's provision for us as a family and for the Ik people (through the advancement of the translation project).

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Cultural quirks

Every country and culture has its quirks. These are things that may go unnoticed by members of the culture but seem strange or humorous to outsiders. Uganda has one such quirk we'd like to describe.

In Uganda, if you stay at a hotel, you will almost always be provided with flip-flops as shower-shoes. There is a basic law, however, that accompanies this provision: the flip-flops must not be matching, either in size, or color, or both.

On our way down to Kampala with Janet and Lemu, we stopped in Soroti and spent the night at the aptly named Soroti Hotel. The shower-shoe law applied once again, as the above photo illustrates.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Fun in south Uganda

We've now been fostering these girls for 3.5 weeks, and it's been quite the adventure. We came down to Kampala last Saturday to start a month of 'maternity leave' with them where we'd try to get to know them better, work on speaking English with them, and try to connect as a family unit. 

It's been a week of 'firsts' for them. On Saturday afternoon, they went swimming for the first time and loved it. Although shivering half the time, they wouldn't get out of the pool for an hour. They both enjoyed floating in Terrill's arms and being thrown into the air. They are very daring! 

After swimming, we went out to a Chinese restaurant with some friends. In the middle of the room was a fish tank with brightly colored fish. I forget what I thought when I first saw a live fish, but the girls were captivated and wanted to touch them. It's little things like this that we take for granted. Many mountain-dwelling people have never seen live fish.
The next day we went out for lunch again and the girls got their faces painted. So many new experiences. They're exhausted at the end of each day, but we feel like they're handling the changes well.
We've also taken them to several playgrounds. Janet is like a little monkey who enjoys crawling/climbing on anything and everything. She's very self-confident and courageous, which we hear is a trait of children who've grown up having to fend for themselves.
Riding in a buggy and having juice at the grocery store:
Always following in her sister's footsteps...Lemu is a little slower than Janet but seems to be more coordinated.
Did I say coordinated?
More to come...