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.


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).

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!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Alphabet workshop

August 4 we had an orthography (alphabet) workshop with representatives from all areas of our language group.  We met up in a village about an hour's boat ride north of us, Makam.  We were very pleased with the turnout of 74 leaders from all areas of North Ambrym, in addition to Kindy and class 1/1st Grade teachers from every school.

We presented the full alphabet which is fairly different from English,
and made a book for the pre-K/K and 1st grade classes with sample words/sentences using each sound in the alphabet.  Here are a few pages:
 "The centipede is biting."  "Freshwater shrimp/praun/crayfish."
 "Sleeping house" "The call goes up."
 "Sleep is good."  "The fire is alight."
 "The pig is rooting."  "The bird is flying."
"Ana's knife."  "The worm is squirming/rolling."

We presented this alphabet book as well as a workbook highlighting why we chose the various letters for each sound and how they contrast, such as "e" with "ee."
"Meeting for the Rral alphabet" book and "Rral's alphabet" book.

 Logistics for the workshop was headed up by Jones (pronounced like Jonas), who is the head of curriculum for the school district of North Ambrym.  His help in organizing the workshop was invaluable.  He invited the majority of the participants (after helping identify who would be best to invite), set up the venue, organized the cooking and food, and was MC for the event.  We are so grateful for his help in these areas!
 Guys sitting in the back.  We hope to further involve the chief in the yellow shirt in this picture.  He was very vocal in the meeting and had lots of great input.
 Lembunu (Kindy teacher in Fanto, a village about 20 minutes from us), Jenita (a Kindy teacher in our village), and I leading the song that goes with the alphabet book.  Sorry, I forgot to get it recorded!
 Philip Joses demonstrated how an experienced reader sounds as he read through one of the Children's Bible stories.  Everyone is concerned that their language is difficult to read (because they've never read it), so we hope to have further workshops to get people practicing, and also show them good readers and how they can sound with a bit of practice.  We've tentatively scheduled follow-up workshops to practice we we taught in October and November, using Children's Bible stories.
Houghton discussing the various sounds in the alphabet.
About 3/4 of the participants came to the workshop by boat.  We were able to use the Translation Committee boat for this, which worked out great!  Those from villages near to Makam walked, and the rest came by Ian's truck.  Ian, who helped us build our house a few years ago, has been back and forth a lot the last year or so building a school and staff homes for a school in the far northeastern villages of our language group.  His supporters helped him get a truck over to haul supplies from the cargo ship drop site to the school site.  He has helped us out several times with this truck and did so again, bringing people from the NE side of the island over to the workshop.
 A men's group from one of the Oz churches that support BuildAid ministries (Ian's crew) also made a bunch of wooden toys/games that we passed out at the end of the workshop.  The pre-K/K schools and 1st Grace teachers each got 2 tic-tac-toe boards to play with and a wooden whistle.  We taught the teachers how to play tic-tac-toe, and then had fun playing at the coral beach while we waited for our ride after the workshop.  Here's Addy playing with Rrorrin.
Jenita, one of the Kindy teachers, (and Rrorrin's mom), playing with Gwen.  Jenita is also the wife of George, one of our main language helpers and translators.

Praise God with us for this start to literacy in a before unwritten language, and pray for local motivation and interest in reading now as we prepare to introduce parts of God's word.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Translation Team

With our new office complete, we have been able to start hosting meetings with all our committed language helpers; soon to be translators, Lord-willing! 
Our newly completed translation office
 We are working on our last checks on the Children's Bible, translating key terms for the Bible (like God, Jesus, shepherds, peace, soldier, etc), and formalizing things like word breaks and spelling. 
Our main helpers:  Lala, Alice, Philip, George, El Harre
We hope to print out the Children's Bible when we're in Vila in a few months, and then distribute it as a literacy tool and for people to try out the alphabet we've proposed.
For you in the US, please pray for us on your Wednesdays as we meet as a full team on Thursdays our time.  For you in Australia, please pray for us on Thursdays.  We still meet individually with our helpers the other days of the week.  We hope to soon start teaching this group some translation principals and a Bible overview course as we finish up with the Children's Bible and begin verse-by-verse translation of the Bible, Lord-willing!


Vanuatu has over 100 languages, the most per capita of any country.  Only a very few have scripture in their language yet, so we feel an urgency to see God raise up more people to be involved in getting God's word out to our neighbors around us.
Languages of Vanuatu map
Houghton went last December to Australia to recruit young Australians at a mission conference.
Jesiah went to Oz too, and he and Hought got to connect with good friends as well.
The Wycliffe booth at the missions conference in Oz.  Wen Lee in the middle is an awesome recruiter and works with Wycliffe Oz.
 This last month, we hosted Nathan, a videographer from the US, who gave a whole week of his time to come film a recruitment video for translation in Vanuatu.
Nathan (sitting) came out with Ross (our old boss) for several days.
Video in progress
The same time he came out, two girls from Moody Bible Institute came to check out what Bible translation in Vanuatu looks like.

Celebrating 4th of July with Anna-Marie and Hannah
Visiting the Kindy (preschool, Kindergarten) with the girls.  I go most Fridays to hang out with the kids and learn language. 
Working with Mari
It wasn't all work!

Hannah and Anna-Marie heading out to another island

Please pray for these opportunities and future ones, that God would bring more workers to minister with us for the salvation of ni-Vanuatu and for His glory!  Oh, and by the way, if you're reading this, seriously pray and consider coming out or working with us or partnering with us to see God's word get to the people of Vanuatu.  And tell your friends about Vanuatu!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Finishing the Translation office

When the cyclone hit, it tore down much of the siding for our Translation office, but it was able to be fixed back up and now the office and toolshed have exterior walls.  The office has a roof now as well made of thatch.  Here's the siding process:
 Jenita is the local diamond pattern master for bamboo siding.  It's pretty complicated to get all the slats in the right order!  We told everyone to just put it in the normal way so it would be faster and easier, but they insisted that it had to be diamond pattern or it would look "rubbish".  :)
 They just measured the wall with sticks and the window space too to weave the walls before putting them up.
 Elder Harre cleaning up bamboo slats to be woven into the walls.
 George and Jenita counting and checking their work.
The older guy here, Totang, has been so helpful in all village projects lately.  He used to be a chief in the village many years ago, but then moved to Vila for work (as a builder, among other things).  He came out to Ambrym to visit and ended up staying several months.

And the roof just got put up fully a month or so ago so the office is fully functional and usable now, including power that was run over from the house. 
Here's the roofing process.  This roof should last 5 years or more, and Houghton lined the inside so when it does degrade, it won't fall down into the office. 

Awesome to have a completed office to work in and get translating the Bible in!