Friday, January 22, 2016

Literacy and Easter books

When Houghton and Philip passed out Christmas books, the largest village in our language group, Olal, which is a hour drive or so north of us, immediately requested that we get them an Easter one as soon as possible.  In the last few weeks since then, a community leader from that village has repeatedly called Houghton asking if the Easter books are ready yet.  This is a HUGE encouragement to us that not only are people valuing the Bible stories we're producing, but begging for more, and not ceasing to ask when we can't get it done immediately! 

"Jesus died and rose again"
We decided that because of this, we'd print five times the number of copies we made for our last distribution and get more books in more peoples' hands.  Even now people are still coming to ask if we'd print just one more Christmas book because they want their own copy.

Our teammate Casey, who is in Vila now, is printing all these books for us this week and shipping them out to us so we can distribute them to Olal village in particular, but throughout the language group for Easter.
word puzzles for Literacy practice
We're also FINALLY hosting our literacy workshop we've been wanting to have the last few months.  We had a few hiccups that slowed us down, namely that the first materials we produced were just too advanced for where everyone is at.  This gave us an opportunity to make a range of materials increasing in difficulty up to the original book, so now we have 4 literacy books we can use in succession to get people gaining in their reading skills.
Lesson 1 in our new level 1 literacy book (primer)

We now have a curriculum that we'll teach to adults the 1st week of February, Lord-willing, that they in turn can go teach in their individual villages.  We're hoping for the same turn-out of community leaders that came to our alphabet workshop last year.  Prior to this though, Thursday the 28th of January, we will be teaching teachers K-3 through this Level 1 book (called a Primer) so that they can use it to teach their students how to read this year in the local language.  A government initiative is encouraging vernacular (local mother tongues) teaching to happen in these grades but it is difficult for teachers to carry out because of lack of materials, and in most cases, lack of even an alphabet that represents that language's sounds.  Schools in the southern hemisphere run Feb-Dec so we are excited to offer teachers a 31 week curriculum they can use for this new school year.

We plan to teach this to the teachers, then help them to teach it to the adults in the workshop the following week so they already have practice using and teaching it before school starts the 2nd week of February.  We are also glad to be using a curriculum simple enough for children in order to also teach adults to read because we are hoping for community and parent involvement in their children's education, and for everyone to be becoming literate in their own language together.  This particular style of primer is a great one because it gets learners reading within the first lesson.  Getting these materials out and being used now is key, as we distribute Bible stories, and later this year, the completed Children's Bible (when it is finished being printed).  Having good readers to read the Children's Bible is of course ideal, and then good readers to read Scripture portions as we complete and distribute them is also our hope and prayer!

Stay tuned for pictures from the 2 upcoming workshops, and please pray with us that people will find value in practicing reading and that the materials are useful in that regard.  Please also pray of course that the Easter books are understood and the Gospel is clear and convicting to those who read and hear it.

Water and pressure and other such things

We were blessed to have our friend Ian from Melbourne, Oz and a new friend, Glen come out to help Houghton build a new and higher platform for our head tank.  The head tank is what gives us the pressure to have running water into our house.  Originally, it was built up on a platform supported by living trees, but 3 of the trees died after the cyclone, and began to decay, which made the having a big tank full of water up in the air a bit dangerous.  Our new platform being higher means even greater pressure into the house, which is an added bonus as well.  Thanks to Build Aid, we have a safer, and more effective tank platform!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Huwo vivi (New Year)

New Year is "Huwo Vivi" here locally.  They have a really fun custom on our island of doing New Year's caroling.  Christmas caroling from house to house isn't a thing, but caroling from village to village following the new year is.  They have a whole selection of songs in all sorts of languages (most of which are in their own) about the New Year and being thankful to make it through another year of life.  They are a bit more reality based on the brevity of life than Westerners are I think.  And for good reason too, without the kinds of life-extending healthcare and lifestyles we enjoy.

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(The smilebox here is just pictures.  If you want to hear a bit of singing, watch the short video clips below.)

The singing and process is pretty fun.  They enter the village and sing on the march, stopping every so often to sing a song or two in place.  This isn't anything rehearsed, they're just songs everyone knows.  The host village is expected to provide a bit of produce to the group and Koolaid/cordial to drink when they've finished their rounds.  They stop at a key place in the village, and sing a few more songs, then sing a farewell song.  The host village sings farewell back, and everyone hangs out together for an hour or several hours.  Quite a few of the songs are special favorites because they are conducive to dancing.  The dancing is really more of stomping, and the group huddles up into a circle for it, with youth boys in the middle, holding a big stick.  There are also some shout exchanges of "Hip Hip!" and then "Hooray!" and "two thousand!" and "sixteen!".  (Hip Hip Hooray took me some time to work out though that it was actually English.  It sounds more like "heap heap" and "who rrray" which to you Aussie's probably is quite natural other than the trilled r, but it's WAY different than American English).
video

Last year the only New Year caroling was the village kids going around the village the night of January 1.  This year was a full program though with one village walking through the night to come sing for us in the morning.  Our village of Ranvetlam is the furthest to the NW and their village of Wilit is the furthest to the NE so they walked for hours and hours.  Pretty impressive.  Another group came all the way from West Ambrym (a different language group than ours) on a boat to sing.  Another group (from another different language area) from SE Ambrym was going to come, but had to cancel due to political campaigning.  The national parliament was recently dissolved because the majority of the members were imprisoned this last year, so Vanuatu is scrambling to get new leadership in office ASAP.  This is certainly something for prayer for leaders who truly represent the best for their people, and make wise decisions.  Elections are the end of this week.  The plan is for SE Ambrym carolers to come next year, and that will be reciprocated by our village as well.  Several other closer villages also came this year, and a group from our village walked around to carol in multiple villages as well.
video

In the pictures and videos you'll notice everyone is dusted liberally with baby powder.  Another part of the caroling seems to be that those who are performing are to be powdered by their relatives in the host village.  The powder dumps freely and performers, especially those on the outside of the singing circle, are fairly white by the end!  Some people are given cloth as well, wrapped around their shoulders to use as a tablecloth or as material for a shirt or dress.
video
Happy 2016 from Ambrym, Vanuatu!!

Puppies!

Mandy, our female dog, just had puppies before Christmas!  We don't have resources here for vaccines and such, and we lost one adorable little puppy, Lightening, but her other 4 are doing well. 
She had 2 boys - Lightening and Pistol, and 3 girls - Angel, Amanda, and Midnight.  They are very cute and sweet and we are having a blast with them!

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Our male dog, Patches, is terrified of the puppies, which is pretty funny since he's the biggest, healthiest dog in the village. 
Patches is about 3

Monday, January 18, 2016

Christmas story distribution

 
We spent our second Christmas in the village this last year.  Prior to Christmas though, Houghton and Philip went around the language group to distribute Christmas story books to all the villages.  We pulled out 3 stories from the Children's Bible to do this, added illustrations, put in some comprehension/study questions and a dictionary, and had something to give everyone!

The day they were distributing worked out to be perfect because people were around in the villages preparing activities for Christmas day, and were free and interested in reading through the booklets together as a group and giving feedback on them. 
Philip reading "Iyesu mo Hoter - Jesus is born"

This is really our first distribution of anything in the local language (other than an alphabet book) so it was great for awareness of what the Translation Team is up to.  Also, everyone was very excited to see their language written and of course how exciting it would be to see God can tell His story in your mother tongue, not just foreign languages you have to learn in school!






  
In our village, Houghton was asked to lead part of the Christmas Eve service, so he used the booklet for that too.  Please pray that God continues to use these small portions from the Children's Bible to teach people about Him and give people a good understanding of who He is and how we can have a relationship with Him.

Christmas day was another community affair.  Christmas Eve unfortunately had some disturbances from home brew drinkers that prevented a prayer group and fellowship time from going ahead, but it wasn't too unexpected.  Christmas day they kept their distance from the village, so we had a nice time with all the families.
tug of war competition

Lots of the youth and kids had prepared what they call "skits" but are in actuality songs played and participants have actions and choreography to accompany them.  Jesiah, Gwen, and Addy spent many long hours in the weeks before Christmas practicing with all their friends, and enjoyed showing off their skills to the village.  You may be able to make out Lili, in the red dress pouring (baby/talcum) powder on all the kids as they danced.  This is pretty common to do for performers here and at other events, like weddings.



some of the adults performing
    
We ate all our meals together as a village, and enjoyed the off day to just hang out.
sporting my new Vanuatu flag necklace from Si!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Children's Bible and how translation works

Aside from learning language, the Children's Bible has been our main project over the last year.  To do a translation, there are a lot of steps involved.  They include:

1.  Exegesis and book study (study the original meaning (in Hebrew/Greek) of the Biblical text and get the team understanding it and ready to get it into their language).  Be ready for any tricky idioms or metaphors, or just complex ideas.
2.  Make a 1st draft of the book
3.  Check the draft with the translation team and make revisions

Translation team revisions
4.  Do a Village Check with people not involved in translation to see if the text is understandable and flows nicely in the local language.
Village check with Mali
5.  Do a Back-Translation (This involves translating what you've just been working on into a language that someone outside the project will understand.  This may be English in some settings, but we do Bislama, since that is a national language, and those who come in to consult (see step 7) know it.) 
6.  Check the Back Translation with the original to make sure that what's been translated is true in meaning, tone, and content to the original Bible text.
7.  Consultant check (an outside person who has experience in translating into another language themselves comes in to check with the Translation Team, using the Back Translation, since they don't know the local language).
Consultant checking
8.  Final edit
9.  Typesetting (making the document ready to be printed)
10.  Send off for printing
11.  Distribution
12.  Scripture Use (getting people using what they've just received, either in Bible studies, or in a church setting, school settings, or wherever)  Our teammates, the Ellis's are due to arrive next year and this is their job, to get people using completed Scripture portions.

We've just finished step 7 - Consultant Check - this week on the Children's Story Bible.  To elaborate a bit more, a Kiwi (New Zealander) named Ross McKerras came and spent 2 1/2 weeks with us.  He completed a New Testament back in the '90s for a little island named Uripiv, which is off the coast of Malakula here in Vanuatu.  We can see Malakula across the ocean from us to the West on clear days.  Now that Ross is "retired," he comes and does consultant checking for Melanesian translation projects.  Since he did a translation in Vanuatu, and knows the national language of Bislama, we were able to do our Back translation for him to work from into Bislama.  All of the members of our Translation Team can speak Bislama as well as their local language of Rral, so he was able to work with us in a common language.  (Many of our people are multilingual).  He could ask questions of the team in Bislama, we could discuss in language, and give back Bislama answers, but make changes in the Children's Bible in the local language of Rral, as needed.  While he was here, we split our Translation Team into 2 groups, and asked them to come every other day to work.  We also invited people from our language group who have never been involved in the translation work to come listen to the Children's Bible stories in their language and give their unbiased feedback about what the stories are communicating and whether the language flows well or not.  Ross then went through each story with the group of us (Houghton and I, the Team, and the villagers who came) and helped us clean up repetitive or confusing sections, assisted with original Hebrew and Greek meaning (he knows both well), suggested new ways of communicating ideas, and helped the group come up with more powerful idioms to express meaning.  It was very helpful to have this outside check!

This story Bible is comprised of 142 main stories from Genesis to Acts.  A set of illustrations goes with them.  When printed, it will be a small a book with the text (story) on the left hand page, a color-in picture on the right, and a Bible dictionary in the back.  We've started developing comprehension questions to go with it later as a study guide, and to lead people through redemptive stories of the Bible.  We hope to finish up the final edit this month, and get it sent off to be printed with the illustrations.  These will probably cost about $5 each to print, and we hope to distribute them throughout our 6,000 or so Rral language speakers here on Ambrym and in the 2 cities in the country (Vila and Luganville, on other islands).
Children's Bible story 70.  Bislama Back-Translation Left, Rral language Right

In the meantime, we need to get our people reading their language!  We introduced the alphabet to community leaders a few months ago, but we have a Literacy workshop coming up, Lord-willing, to get them practicing reading their language.  This will be a first for all of them and quite a challenge, since until now the language has been spoken only, but we hope people take to it and can get practicing with the Children's Bible before we get other Scripture portions produced!

Please pray for us that God will use this story Bible to introduce people to Christ in their own language for the first time.  Pray that the stories communicate clearly what God would have them know of His story and that the meaning would be understood.  Please also pray that the language is accurate and rich, speaking to the heart language of our people group.

Conference

In September, we had a conference with the other Bible translation families in Vanuatu in our organization.  There's not many of us, but the time we had together was great fellowship, and nice catching up. We are expecting 3 new families to join us in the new year, and one family working on an active project is on extended home assignment, but for this conference, there were just 6 teams in-country, two of which work out of Vila, the capital city. This is a language map of the country and I've put navy blue X's on the languages with completed New Testaments.  Current works are circled in red.  (This is a high quality image so you can click on it and zoom in if you like.  We're on the island in the upper center shaped like a Hershey Kiss/triangle.)
We pray and ask you to join us in praying for more people to join the work of Bible translation here.  As you can see, we are just scratching the surface of the need here among all the language groups in Vanuatu, the most linguistically diverse country in the world (per capita).

During the conference, we celebrated together some of the translation work that has been finished since our last conference two years ago.  Pictured are Vanuatu leaders along with our organization leaders holding completed New Testaments and audio Scriptures.
One of the highlights for the families was a crew from a church in Australia that came to do childcare activities for the week.  The kids loved their time with them, and we had the blessing of their pastor teaching us each morning from the Word.  Unless it's listening to downloaded sermons, we rarely get solid teaching ourselves in our ministry, so this was a great treat.  The Aussie team organized a showcase night at the end of the week for the kids to demonstrate some of the things they learned and did while us adults were in meetings.
 
The conference was split up into various types of meetings and information dissemination, but it was broken up by time for worship, activities, and prayer.  I was the activity coordinator, so I got some fun pics of everyone getting active!

Speed dating redefined (for non-dating groups of course...)  :)
 
Cup stacking.
 
 
 

Word puzzle games:
 
 

And Taboo in Bislama (one of Vanuatu's national languages that all of our teams can speak).
video

One of the families that came for conference hadn't been at the previous one 2 years ago, and because we are so spread out across the islands of Vanuatu, we hadn't seen each other for nearly 3 years.  Because we are all doing the same ministry, it was encouraging to catch up on what God is doing in each of their areas, and to reconnect again.  We're pretty isolated from people of our own language and culture so it was a much-needed time out from our language groups.

Of course we also go to enjoy things the city (Vila, the capital city is about 20,000 people, so I say that loosely) provides, like grocery stores, driving a vehicle again, the doctor, and hot showers. And I got to see my friend Talita one last time before she heads out of Vanuatu the end of the year.  This is her (far R) and her previous roommate, 'Ana, who has already left back to Tonga.  I'm going to miss hanging out with them whenever we're in Vila!

I'm thankful for our Vanuatu crew and the work God has brought us to do in this tiny part of the Pacific.  Thanks for praying with us for more workers and praise God for the new families coming next year!