Friday, June 7, 2019

Not this language or that language

How does he know all of this in so much detail?  We sat in a round thatched shelter in the shade of a few trees. I had just explained the kind of work we were thinking of starting.  Then his colleague arrived and he explained it to him.  “First, you read a story from the Bible.  Then you close the Bible and you tell the story from what you remember.  Then you take the story to the community and ask people about what they understand or what they don’t understand.”  Yes, that is how the process works.

Then he continued “You can also tell traditional stories, or stories to help people with challenges in the community.” I hadn’t said anything about that.  But it is something one of our partners does.    Where did he get all these ideas?

Sure enough, as we continued talking, I found out that this man had been crafting Bible stories in his language with another organization.  Over the next few days we had planned to explore the possibility of living in the language area and crafting stories in this language.  But if someone had already done this work, it sort of made the next few days pointless.  Or did it?
A simple phone call before the trip could have kept this information from being a surprise.  So why hadn’t I prepared?  But I had!

In 2016 I had visited two languages we thought might be good places to start a pilot project.  One of them was quickly ruled out.  We started praying for God to send people to serve in this project.  In 2018, one of them Dee, joined Wycliffe and started looking for ministry partners. Also, another young woman, Bridget, was interested in coming for a exploratory prayer visit.  However, we postponed that visit until she had more time, a brief three-week window in May when she was free.

In preparation for the May trip, I had gone on an exploratory trip Four hundred kilometers and A social gap from that trip).  I asked the field and zonal leaders of our partner organization, as well as those leading Bible translation, and everyone thought it should not be a problem for us to partner with them and work in this language.  However, they said, I should meet the national director.  I had a couple of opportunities to visit the deputy national director and he said I should meet the national director as well.  Well, I got busy with a few other things, and it was already May, before I got around to booking a meeting with the national director.  The only day he was free was Tuesday, the day Bridget would be changing planes in Paris on her way to Nigeria.  When I met with the national director he agreed that Bible stories and Bible translation are important for their mission, but he didn’t think that we should start with the language where I had visited.  He suggested another language, actually a cluster of four related language.  Surprisingly, despite the previous visits, and Bridget on her way in Paris, I had peace accepting this change of direction.  I started imagining a cluster Bible storying project in all four languages, and between budgeting meetings the next three days, I made calls to rearrange our journey.  In fact, because the languages were nearby I didn’t have to change our first three stops.
in January (see
Our first and second stops had been with the zonal director and with an Anglican bishop.  Both embraced our plans, and even started calling other church leaders.  Now here we were on our third stop.  All the remaining stops focused on this one language.  Did it still make sense to go ahead? Clearly it would not be wise to craft a set of Bible stories in a place where someone had already started this work!
Immediately, I felt that we should continue with our travel itinerary.  Sure, we wouldn’t ask as many logistical questions such as which house we might live in.  But we still had a lot to learn from the people we were going to meet.
We asked you to pray for insights and direction.  You can see how God was directing us in the story I just shared.  Here are some of the insights as we continued.  Thank God for these!
  • All over the region there are low literacy levels.
  • There is a great pressure to “educate” the people about God, but not using the Bible.
  • Local Christian leaders see a great need for memorable Bible stories in minority languages so the people can meditate on the truth.
  • Several people working with stories in the region have not been communicating well with each other about resources (such as audio Bible stories) that they could share.
Thank God for giving us these insights in answers to our prayers together!

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