Thursday, September 27, 2018

Answer to prayer: Steps for effective planning

I asked you to pray for our meetings with the Gbari program last weekend.

Here are some specific answers to prayer: 

We asked you to pray for all the stages of planning, that God would guide us as we work and pray together for the Gbari Scriptures to be used well.
Helen facilitates a discussion on language use
Thank God with us! The first stage of planning went well.  We were quite pleased with some of the steps of planning suggested, such as testing Scripture Engagement initiatives to see if they work.  We are hoping this will lead to time better spent in planning in October.   Also we set a date for our next stage of planning: October 12 and 13.  Please pray that these days will result in realistic plans with committed people responsible... and that the planned activities actually happen resulting in people reading, understanding, and following God's Word in Gbari language!

We asked you to pray for safe travel on Saturday for all those who are gathering (and for our return).  (And again in October when we get to the third "plan".) 
Thank God with us!  Our trip back from Abuja was safe and uneventful as well.  All the participants arrived safely and we assume they were able to return safely as well.  You can continue to pray for our travel on again on Oct 11 through 14.
We asked you to pray that all the participants would be able to come on time so that we could wrap up the meetings without skipping any steps.
Some of the items on display
Thank God!  Not only did we not skip any steps, but we actually had time to add in two steps.  We had a meaningful audio Bible study from John 10 (in Hausa and English since the Gbari don't have John translated yet) about the Good Shepherd.  One man shared how the verse about bringing other sheep into the fold touched him, and he felt called to keep sharing the Good news with Gbari people who are "not in the fold" yet. This also touched me!

Also, we went with lots of sample materials which we shared after the event was over.  We had all kinds of things: CDs, DVDs, paintings, radios, specialized audio players, children's Bible studies, Bible studies on Farming.  Thank God!  This generated a lot of interest in the many ways we can use Scriptures. 

Friday, September 21, 2018

Planning to plan to plan

I found myself making a new participatory tool.  (See these posts from 2012 and June this year on participatory methods).  We have been working with communities to help them develop Scripture Engagement plans for a couple of years now.  We have become quite good at helping communities to reflect on how they use their languages, and even feel pretty confident in helping them analyze the things that make it easy or difficult to use their language in ministry.  However, when it comes to the planning part, we feel that often it has been rushed. The approach has been rather foreign.

As I typed up the planning guide for our quick planning meeting (on Saturday) with a few community members to prepare for larger, two-day meetings (in October), I suddenly realized the file name had the word "plan" three times.  Sure enough, I was planning to plan to plan!

Please pray for all the stages of planning, that God would guide us as we work and pray together for the Gbari Scriptures to be used well.

Thank God for safe travel to Abuja today!  We were expecting serious delays, but didn't!  Also please pray for safe travel tomorrow (Saturday) for all those who are gathering (and for our return).  (And again in October when we get to the third "plan".)  Please pray that all the participants will be able to come on time so that we can wrap up the meetings without skipping any steps!

An unexpected trip

Zach helping prepare to
ask about language use in the church
"Would you like to come with us to Makurdi on Monday?"

The question seemed like a bit of a long-shot.  We usually plan with communities a few weeks in advance, sometimes even months.  Now I was being invited to meet with church pastors in less than a week!?

I had just met Rob Koops for the first time in a few years.  He was checking the translation of the Book of Ezekiel into the Kuteb language and suggested I drop by to meet the translators.  He wanted me to talk about Scripture engagement with them.  We had a nice chat, and found a few exciting things were happening using the Kuteb language.  For example in one church, they were using it for their children's Sunday school.

However, I had a few meetings on Monday to get ready for a visit to a different language community (Gbagyi).  So I asked two others on the Scripture Engagement team, Rita and Scott, if they would be willing to go.  I asked them on Thursday, and yet neither of them hesitated.  Yes!  They would go!

Rita and Scott practice before the trip
The Kuteb language area is about ten hours' journey from Jos, so about twenty pastors from the Kuteb land were coming halfway.  Rita and Scott from our team met them five hours from Jos in Makurdi.  Thank God for their safe travels there on Sunday and back on Tuesday, and also for how pleased the Kuteb pastors were with the discussion.  (Pleased, but also sobered realizing how little they use Kuteb.) Please pray that the meeting with Kuteb pastors will spark more use of the Kuteb New Testament and the books of the Old Testament that are already published.  Thank God for this special opportunity and for Scott and Rita's willingness to go!

(By the way, I helped train Rita in these Participatory methods in June. It is so exciting she has an opportunity to use those skills now.  Thank God!)

Monday, September 17, 2018

One Guy with a Vision

One guy, in a village no one outside has ever heard of, caught a vision.  In September 2016, he sat in a room of 20 people learning to lead audio Bible studies.  He was young, with a young wife and two children. As a member of the youth group at his Catholic church, he didn’t hold a grand position.  While the majority of those 20 people didn’t know how to start doing what they were trained to do, he knew exactly where to begin.  He started with nine young people, which grew as those members talked about how the audio Bible study in their language was so sweet to their hearts. 
This week, in September 2018, this guy brought two other young men from among the many in his group.  They are being trained to train others.  They are vibrant and excited to start their own groups because one guy caught a vision and through experiencing God’s word in a new way, they caught the vision too. 

Praise God for these three guys, and pray for the 5 other community members who are being trained to train their people to do Audio Bible studies in their own language. The training will be September 27th- 29th.

Friday, September 14, 2018

No prayer, a second prayer, what to pray, your prayers

No prayer

It was the beginning of an exciting two week training.  I [Zach] was assigned to a "Tool Group".  We excitedly practiced facilitating discussion using slips of paper which were placed between us for all to see.  When we finished, it was time for a short tea break, but first I stood up and said, "Wait a minute everyone!  I want to take your picture!

What a great tool group!
After I took the picture, everyone was eager hurry off for tea, but first I quickly asked them.  "Can I use your picture?  Can I share it on my blog so people can pray with us?"  They were all happy for me to do that.

The Kuce Pastors and Aunties
I wanted to write on this blog, "Pray for us as we meet with Kuce (pronounced Kuche) pastors that our conversation will help them as they plan to restart their translation project.  Pray that we will be able to meet."  But the workshop was intense.  The breaks were short, and many of them I used to help finalize preparations for future sessions or to discuss changes in plans.  On top of all this, there was a curfew in Jos due to unrest outside the town.  I never got to post the picture with the prayer request.  Although we were praying here, there was no way you could pray for this need!

A second prayer

However, Christy did send out a blog post that ended with the prayer request. "Pray for good practice facilitation groups, that they will be meaningful and have great impact."

That same week, on Friday, we got to meet with two pastors and two lovely Aunties, Igye Ruth and Igye Leah who Christy and I have had the privilege of knowing for a few years. My role in the meeting was simply to introduce everyone and then hand over to my colleagues who we were training.  I asked Malgwi to open in prayer then we each introduced ourselves and our various organizations.   Finally, before handing over to Obed, I related how Christy has worked with the Kuce in literacy in 2013, and how we had had a heart for Kuce ever since.

Obed facilitates discussion
Obed stood up and began wisely by asking those who came what their purpose in coming was.  We thought they had come to plan for a meeting the following Monday to select the members for a board. Rachel and Obed were ready to help them think about who should be in that meeting.  We call the tool they had prepared Stakeholder analysis.  They surprised us by saying they wanted to choose an organization to work with in Bible translation.  Obed immediately handed back over to me.

It was an awkward situation.  I had thought we could facilitate any subject that they wanted to discuss. After all participatory methods are very flexible, and all about helping people think and plan well together.  But this was the one topic I hadn’t anticipated and which would be difficult for us to facilitate. You see, the Kuce people had already begun their translation and literacy work with another organization - one of our partners. That other organization has for two years had difficulty giving the Kuce project the support they desired, but we didn’t want to imply we wanted them to leave our partner; to facilitate the discussion would seem to imply that. So what could we do?

"I know we opened in prayer," I finally said, "but I would like to pray a second prayer."  Then I asked God for wisdom in how we could help them.

Prioritizing characteristics of good board members
Then I simply told them that we couldn't facilitate that topic, but we would be happy to facilitate any other topic they thought might be helpful.  Sure enough, they did want to choose a board.  However, they already knew exactly who they wanted to be in that meeting.  So Rachel and Obed's Stakeholder Analysis tool wasn't going to be helpful.  Still, we could show them a tool they could use the next week to select the members of their board.  They discussed in the Kuce language and agreed that this would really help them.

So without special preparation, Rachel and Obed changed to a different tool call Criteria Development.  The two Kuce pastors liked this tool a lot and invited us to come to their area in two days to use the tool with a larger group of Kuce pastors. 

What to pray?

However, because of the curfew, a most our meetings with actual groups the next week were cancelled, including the Kuce one.  So it wasn't until three weeks later that we finally gathered with the Kuce pastors.  The discussion was lively, and they were willing to even go farther than we had expected, even listing the names of potential board members and then rating them in a participatory and mostly confidential way according to the criteria they had selected as most important.

At the end of the day, though, I left with a feeling of uncertainty.  What had we accomplished?  Many of the people they selected had already been on the original list the pastors had before the meeting.  Some names had been removed and some had been added, but were these changes to the composition of the board for the better?

I wasn't exactly sure what to pray.  Do I thank God for the participatory process?  Do I thank him for choosing these people? Do I ask him to help these people to be committed to the board they are being asked to serve on?  So I still didn't write a prayer blog update.

Your prayers

Now it is about six weeks later.  Since that time, the Kuce pastors continue to desire to translate the Bible into their language and they are taking steps in that direction.  Although I still don't know if our facilitation helped, I do know that it is important to pray for Kuce!

Please thank God for the interest these pastors have.  There are some differences of opinion on how to translate the word for "God" in Kuce.  Please pray that a good term can be chosen and that all can agree to move forward together in this translation.  Please pray for the new board as they will have to make a lot of significant decisions to restart the Bible translation process.

Go Away!

T here were children. Always so many children. Our children are a magnet for other children and so everywhere we go, they follow us giggling...