This weekend we traveled to a visit the Gbari, to facilitate
a meeting to help them plan how to use their newly translated Gbari Scriptures.
The Gbari and Gbagyi languages surround the
nation’s capital, Abuja.
It had been a crazy week before going down, so I didn’t have
time to write a prayer request and get it sent out before leaving.
I happened to be traveling with my friend
and neighbor David, a prayer letter checker, so I just wrote a request on the
way down, and he helped me to clarify what I was writing. (Thanks to David and
Mike by the way, who often help make my words clearer!).
I couldn’t send the prayer request out,
because the internet connection was a bit spotty on the road.
Besides, I wanted to put in a photo from a place we where were going to stop
on the way.
When we arrived in Abuja, I was busy in the night and early
the next morning preparing audio stories [link] that we would use during the
facilitation. Before sleeping I uploaded
the prayer request I had prepared on the road earlier. But I was too tired to read through it
carefully. I decided to send it out in
the morning, but that wasn’t possible either.
We’ve done all we planned to do, but…
The rest of the day passed by quickly.
We did a Bible study using the recently
drafted translation of the John’s gospel in Gbari.
Then we facilitated several discussions which
laid the background for good Scripture engagement planning:
how the Scriptures apply to challenges in
Gbari, what languages are used in ministry, and what is helping and hindering
them in achieving their goal.
That goal was one sticky point.
In every step we tried not to tell them what they should say
, including in the statement of the goal.
Helen simply reminded them of the previous
conversation and noted a theme that they wanted to use Gbari Scriptures more in
How would that state
that goal in their own words?
the Gbari Bible so lives would be transformed.”
Helen wasn’t content with that goal so she stopped facilitating to
quietly ask Princeton and me if it was okay.
It seemed a bit more focused on translation than using the translated
Scriptures, but I remembered how much time we had wasted once in the past
trying to get a better goal without much success. “It sort of ends with
Scripture engagement; it should be okay,” I whispered.
After reflecting on things helping and hindering them from
reaching their goal, they broke into small groups and they finally got to
listen to some Scripture engagement stories
we had recorded in the
This sparked further issues of
things that were helping and hindering them towards their goal.
Finally, they identified four areas and
developed proposals on how they wanted to work on them.
About five in the evening, I stood there looking at their
plans. Something didn’t seem right. We had followed the exact process that we had
planned, carefully facilitating observation, analysis, and the initial steps of
planning. The observation had gone
great, as usual. But looking at the
analysis, it just didn’t seem focused on Scripture engagement. Even the Scripture engagement stories [link]
about others’ experience hadn’t sparked ideas clearly linked to Scripture
engagement. Some were broad such as
“Frustration”, “Total involvement”, “Flexibility in accepting our flaws”, and “Knowing
our challenges”. Was all the effort on facilitated
discussion and Scripture engagement stories still not working? So many things can affect how people use (or
don’t use) Scriptures, so technically everything they had listed did apply to
Scripture engagement. Yet still, we
didn’t seem close to practical plans.
On the bright side, there were several items which seemed
they could lead towards a Scripture Engagement focused plan.
For example there was “Universal
acceptability of terms” which could lead to activities to ensure agreement on
words that are difficult to translate into Gbari.
Also there was “Culture” which they explained
to mean the influence of their traditional religion.
One could design Audio Bible studies to focus
on meeting these needs.
There was also “Stories”
a wonderful cultural resource which can be used to communicate Biblical truth
to all ages.
However, in the end they had chosen to focus their plans on
“Funding” (Is that for Scripture Engagement or generally for the whole
Gbari programme?), “Bible in Gbari” (Does that mean getting the Bible in
Gbari?), “Literacy” (Truly important, but there should be a separate plan for
that), and “Training” (What kind of training and for what?).
It was hard to imagine these topics leading
to detailed plans that focused on helping people to engage with the translated
I felt a keen need for others to join in prayer by the time
I got to my room. I had been busy
non-stop since I had drafted the prayer request on the road down the previous
day. Thankfully, I already had an
approved prayer update to send out, and it asked for just the right
things. I clicked “send”, happy that while
it was 5pm here it was only about noon or so for most of you who are praying
After dinner we all met as facilitators to discuss the way
forward. We all agreed that we were not
content with the direction this planning was going. We suggested many different ideas on how to
improve the planning, but as the evening got later, we realized we were all too
tired to think clearly and we had not yet come up with good way forward. Looking at what was left to do, we also thought
we needed more time than we had originally planned on.
Joy comes in the morning
|I begin to realize I will be spending another night here|
The next morning, we sat as facilitators outside at a nice
table in the shade of some trees, feeling much more optimistic. “I have an
idea,” I said, “but it might involve breaking a few of the rules of
We always try to
keep our own ideas out of the discussion with communities, so that we don’t
manipulate the conversation.
to all they have been talking about, there are a number of helping and
hindering things that we have heard that apply directly to using the Scriptures
in their language.
Why don’t we
facilitate the helping and hindering discussion again?
But this time we can start out by listing our
“Also, why don’t we give them a choice of three goals?”
Someone else suggested “These goals can be more clearly focused on Scripture
engagement.” Soon I was listing the
helping and hindering items in a notebook as we all discussed together.
|Handing over the proposed plans the group drafted|
We still felt we would probably need to stay a bit
A difference of even an hour or
two would mean we couldn’t travel back the same day, since we cannot travel
So three of us volunteered
to stay on while others agreed to return, having appointments in Jos the next
The changes worked
even better than we anticipated. When
the four original plans were presented, they were all right, but all of them
focused on producing products, such as literacy primers and translated portions
of Scripture. As we hoped, our input to
the conversation led to further discussion on each of the points we raised
under the trees that morning. We got better
insights into opportunities and challenges the people faced than we had even
expected. By the end of the day, we had
four goals, still chosen by the community, that all focused on activities that
would help Gbari people to engage with their newly translated Scriptures: Audio Bible studies, children’s ministry,
youth ministry, and the Jesus film.
We wouldn’t repeat this exact process again. But we came away grateful that God allowed
our messed up process to be patched.
Thank you for praying with us!