Thursday, January 17, 2008

Portland, Wycliffe, and Australia

Gretchen (my sister) and I spent New Year's week in Portland at a Wycliffe conference called TOTAL it Up, TOTAL standing for "Taste Of Translation And Linguistics." We ended up driving because flights were ridiculously priced, but it was a wicked long drive! Despite some crazy times (5 hours to go 200 miles on Hwy 12 and spinning some interesting cookies in the snow, we came back a different way to avoid this insane highway), it was a fun trip and we were able to have some great talks and read quite a bit of a book called "Cavorting with Cannibals" about Vanuatu. If you'd like some serious culture shock into Vanuatu, I'd highly recommend the book, by the way. We attended the conference because back in November through a number of things, the Lord graciously made it evident to us that not only is it a 90-some% chance that we'll need to do Bible translation as part of our church planting ministry, no one on our team has any kind of training, knowledge, or experience in that kind of work. Thankful that He made us aware of this now rather than later floundering in Vanuatu wishing we knew what we were doing, we started researching our options. Wycliffe Bible Translators/SIL definitely has the corner on the market for translation training, and they aren't exclusive about who can take their training so we are seriously pursuing getting 11 months of training in Australia as a team Jan. 09-Nov. 09, Lord-willing. To get a jump start on what that training might look like, Gretch and I went off to get a little "taste" while Houghton bravely volunteered to stay with the kids for a week. :)
There were lots of wonderful things that resulted from our time spent with Wycliffe. Many of our teachers are translators in Papua New Guinea, which is a Melanesian people group like in Vanuatu. We learned a ton from them and have some great lifelong consultants now! One huge impact to us during the time is the certainty we saw that this kind of work is not something to be done on the fly or learned from a book, but necessitates intensive training. It was nice to solidify that our time really will be best spent getting this training on the front-end of our ministry so the overall ministry isn't impeded or slowed down or ineffective. Instead, being well equipped should make language learning easier and the church plant more effective. Another benefit was the building of new friendships with other attendees. We met some great new friends and hope to have continued fellowship with them as God leads in their lives. Finally, we really did get a taste of what we need to become proficient in in order to effectively translate. We had daily classes in grammar (I'm going to need to do some serious study to be ready for Australia classes in this area - whew!), language acquisition, phonetics (the anatomy of making human speech sounds and the international symbols associated with the sounds), phonology (the study of and system for sounds and breaking them down), translation and semantics (meaning of words). For language acquisition, I got to learn from a Japanese native speaker, Hiroko, who taught us all kinds of great ways to remember Japanese words. We had lots of fun in her group. (We sang "head, shoulders, knees and toes..." in Japanese for the rest of the group and did some fun actions for numbers 1-10 too.) My sister learned a bit of Indonesian from an Indonesian man, and there was a group learning Russian and another learning an African tribal language. Very fun, but very practical stuff. Our days were packed with classes and our nights with homework and field reports given by the missionaries who were teaching our classes. It was amazing to hear of how God is using the translation of His word into the heart languages of people who have never had it to change lives and let every "tongue and tribe and nation" glorify Him. There is much work to be done, some 2,000 more languages without translations, and we hope to have at least one more done in whatever tribal group the Lord leads us to in Vanuatu. Here I am with Yohana, a Papua New Guinea translator/literacy specialist. What a blessing she was to fellowship with!

We are so thankful for the time and provision to be able to check out this awesome resource available to us. Also, it was an awesome blessing to be able to stay at a friend's house on the way to and from Portland. Thanks Josh!! Please pray with us as we begin the application process for the SIL/Wycliffe program in Australia (called Equip). I'll write more later about our timeline and this program. (On the left are Gretchen, me, and Michaela working on our translation "Zack and Jesus: a story for toddlers" about Zaccheus; our choice for a homework assignment to make a new English translation for a specific people group.)

The Richards and I leave tomorrow for Lindsey's house in Bozeman, then Friday AM for Boise. God has faithfully provided a place to stay, a toddler mattress to borrow, a 2nd car to get around in, and a start on help with babysitting for the kids when we are making presentations. He is also slowly filling in our schedule with groups and churches to share with about His work in Vanuatu. Praise Him!

1 comment:

Bob Creson said...

So glad that you were able to attend our TIU and that God is using it to continue to lead you in the direction He is leading (church planting in Vanuatu). When you arrive there you may bump into SIL translation teams working under the umbrella of national churches.

Warmly in Christ,

Bob Creson
President/CEO
Wycliffe Bible Translators USA