Let’s Celebrate!

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Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.
Psalm 115:1


The vision of Wycliffe is to see God’s Word made accessible to all people in the language that speaks to their heart. On September 23rd, we paused to celebrate the completion of Bibles and New Testaments for people groups who are getting God’s word for the very first time. You should have been there! Local pastors and ministry representatives paraded into the auditorium amid exciting music and applause carrying the precious Bibles. Here are some interesting statistics about this year’s celebration:

  • 25 languages communities
  • 7 complete Bibles
  • 17 New Testaments
  • 1 “Hybrid Bible” (NT + Genesis + Exodus in Takwane, Leviticus – Malachi in Portuguese — permission of Bible Society of Brazil)
  • 17 of 25 Scriptures available in a digital format
  • 7 of 25 have launched a website
  • 13 available in audio format
  • 7 available in Jesus film, Luke video or Genesis video
  • 7 available as Android or iPhone app
  • 12 are available in the YouVersion Bible App

Statistics are interesting, but read below about one of the language communities that received God’s Word.


The Lahu Si New Testament

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Upai Jasa, Wycliffe Thailand, recalls his reluctance to join the team working on this project.

“The Lahu Si New Testament translation began in the 1980s and by 2009, it was… well, it was a mess. Relationships among the team working on the project were broken, trust was nonexistent, many viewed the Lahu Si community in Thailand as being riddled with divisiveness. They saw Lahu Si churches split over the smallest disagreement, clans and communities also split.”

They had no idea how this project might move forward.  God did.  Read this whole story (and more stories) in the 2016 Scripture Celebration Information Sheets (page 9).

It goes right into my heart!


During our community testing as we were reading through the Lahu Si draft of Acts, a pux (the grandfather) said, “Even though I preach and pray in Lahu Na (a related language) in church, that doesn’t enter my heart as when I normally pray on my own in my own language. When I read the draft it goes right into my heart, as no other language can do.”

Let’s Hack!

This article comes from our Newsletter which comes out 3-4 times per year.  Sign up to receive in your inbox!


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Our team has recently released the first version of the Scripture App Publishing Service which automates the process of publishing Scripture Apps to the Google Play Store.  We currently have 175 apps managed in the Wycliffe Bible Translators, Inc account. However, our first version is only a minimum viable product and has limited workflow process management to handle the interaction between end users, the build infrastructure, and the service administrator.  Only parts of the process can be automated so people have to be involved.

To help accelerate the development of the Scripture App Publishing Service, our team is partnering with Indigitous, a movement passionate about connecting people to Jesus using digital strategies. We have submitted a project to the 2016 Indigitous #Hack, a global missional hackathon focused on solving technology problems related to missions. Are you a software developer? Consider participating in the hackathon which is Nov 4 – 6. There are host cities as well as a virtual group.

At Just the Right Time!

The vision of Wycliffe is to see God’s Word made accessible to all people in the language that speaks to their heart. Usually this might mean distributing a printed book. If there is a low literacy rate, then access to an audio version is important.

Audio versions of the Bible are recorded (often by Faith Comes By Hearing) and can be distributed on dedicated audio players like the Proclaimer. With the availability of smart phones, now a Scripture app created with Scripture App Builder can be distributed with the text and audio of the Bible bundled together.

What about early readers in the people group? Wouldn’t it be great if the text of the passage could be highlighted while the audio is being played?

In order to accomplish this, special timing files have to be created to let the software know which portions of the text and audio go together. Early attempts at this would take 45-60 minutes per chapter! For the Bible en Songoy de Gao App, this took weeks for a team of volunteers (listening to a language they didn’t know) to create these timing files.

Colleagues at Wycliffe searched for another way. Could software automate this process? Praise God, a solution was found! The Aeneas Library allows for the automated creation of the timing files. What used to take almost an hour can now be done in 3-5 seconds! How is this accomplished?

How does this thing work?

One word: Math

One Sentence (Layman Edition): A good deal of math and computer science, a handful of software engineering and some optimization tricks.

One Sentence (Pro Edition): Using the Sakoe-Chiba Band Dynamic Time Warping (DTW) algorithm to align the Mel-frequency cepstral coefficients (MFCCs) representation of the given (real) audio wave and the audio wave obtained by synthesizing the text fragments with a TTS engine, eventually mapping the computed alignment back onto the (real) time domain. 

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Phew! The result is that, now, a whole New Testament can be processed in less than an hour instead of weeks. Wycliffe is preparing to publish hundreds of Scripture apps. Many of them already have audio. This new software process came at just the right time!

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Above: Bible Dedication of the Soŋay Language of Gao, Mali included the Bible en Songoy de Gao App

Right: John 3:16 in Soŋay Language of Gao with text highlighting synchronized with audio

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One Thing

Chris recently attended the Mobile Ministry Forum 2015 Consultation. This photo and the story show below made quite an impact on him and those attending the meeting. In the face of some extremely challenging circumstances, God is using technology to spread the good news. The Gospel is being heard, seen, and read on mobile devices…and shared rapidly via Bluetooth and microSD cards.

Displaced Iraqi Christians Identify Their Most Treasured Material Possession

ERBIL, IRAQ – DECEMBER 13: (Editor’s note: Image has been processed using a digital filter) A Iraqi Christian, who asked not to be named, poses for a photograph in her tented home erected in the grounds of Mazar Mar Eillia (Mar Elia) Catholic Church, that has now become home to hundreds of fellow Iraqi Christians who were forced to flee their homes – many with less than an hour to do so – as the Islamic State advanced earlier this year, on December 13, 2014 in Erbil, Iraq. Asked, after her family what was the one thing she could not leave behind as ISIL advanced on her home, the student from Qaraqosh said her mobile phone. Although the autonomous Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq was already a refuge for an estimated 250,000 Syrian refugees, since the Islamic State began its onslaught on Iraq in June, Kurdistan has also taken in a more than one and a half million displaced people. Many have been placed in purpose-built refugee camps but the huge numbers mean thousands of others are forced to live in un-finished buildings or inadequate, makeshift shelters and as winter in the region closes in, there are growing concerns for the welfare of the refugees who, while their homes are still in ISIL controlled territory, have no realistic prospect of returning to them. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

A Glimpse of Worship

Won’t you journey with me to Panama City, Panama
to catch a glimpse of a Kuna worship service?panama

Watch your step as we’ll be traveling down a steep hill,
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KH Hill 1

past closely lined homes with bright eyed youngsters peering out the windows,
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through the voices of children,
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beyond the gates,
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amidst welcoming youth,
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and into the church, ready to lift our voices alongside our brothers and sisters in Christ.
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With one heart and voice, a unity in Christ Jesus, we worship the One True God together…KF Kuna-Church

and hear His Word,
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spoken in their heart language ~ Kuna.
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In the middle of preaching on the importance of God’s Word, the electricity flickers out… but darkness does not deter this local pastor.

Light starts to shine forth…RH Preaching by Cell Phone Light

Accompanied only by the lights from cell phones,
he continues to preach (adjusting the symbolism to fit the situation at hand)– Psalm 119 105 ‘Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.’
(Scripture from Psalm 119:105, part of the Old Testament that has just recently been
translated, published, and dedicated for their people.)

Upon the end of the sermon, we are welcomed warmly by the body with hand shakes and hugs.
And the sweet, sweet Kuna greeting of “Bab be bendake”  – ‘God bless you.’
(You pronounce it somewhat like: bob bay ben dock ay.)

Then (while still surrounded by a physical darkness)
boxes that are filled with the completed Kuna BiblesIMG_4521

…are opened for the people.RH Bibles by Cell Phone Light

May God’s Holy Word shine brightly in the hearts and minds of the Kuna.
May His Word truly be a lamp to their feet and a light for their path!
Praise God that the Kuna now have the entirety of God’s Word in their own heart language!

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Did you know that Kuna is only the 531st language group (of close to 7,000)  with the blessing and privilege of having access to both the Old and New Testaments?   This particular Kuna congregation is just one of many in the Panama City area.  There are approximately an additional thirty Kuna churches on the nearby San Blas islands.  Kuna pastors, leaders, and families now have access to ALL of God’s Word in their heart language!   We look forward to hearing how God’s Holy Spirit will continue to work through His Word in the lives of the Kuna people.

Why is it so important to translate Scripture into all of these languages?
https://www.wycliffe.org/about/why

Bible Dedication Highlights

Waiting …
DS Waiting for the Kuna Bible

no more!
RH Kuna Bible

… this is a historical day.
You’ve got the full counsel of God.

~Keith Forster (translator who worked on the Kuna Scriptures)

The Kuna people, along with translators Keith and Wilma Forster, recently celebrated the dedication of the entire Bible into their San Blas dialect.  Three Scripture dedications were held – two on the San Blas Islands and one in Panama City, Panama.  We were privileged to be able to attend the dedication celebration on the mainland with a handful of other stateside Wycliffe members and staff.

As I glanced around at the many Kuna in attendance, I noticed a large number of women and children.  Who could miss the women?  They were beautifully dressed in their lovely traditional clothing made with hues of red, yellow, orange, black, and white – some with their intricate handiwork ‘molas’ sewn on.  Many were also adorned with red head scarves and their delicately created bead bracelets on their arms and legs.  These were the mothers, grandmothers, (and future mothers) who would prepare the next generation to know Him. Women who, although live in another culture and speak a different language from me, are similar to me in that they now have all of God’s Word readily available to them to read, memorize, teach from, share, and pass on to their children!

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I found myself praying for the women and children surrounding me – that they would take the precious gift they have been given and use it, that their children would witness the change in their lives, and grow up knowing Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  (A prayer I’d pray for myself and other moms I know as well.)
Yes, the Kuna now have the full counsel of God.  May they (and we) pass it on to the next generation!

Here are a few highlights from the Bible Dedication.

The dedication began with worshipping Christ through singing!
(We, surprisingly, recognized many of the tunes.  In Kuna, they sang ‘Amazing Grace’, ‘Great is Thy Faithfulness’, ‘How Great Thou Art’, etc.)

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Eagerness for the arrival and presentation of God’s Word…
(One Wycliffe attendee compared it to the anticipation felt by a groom awaiting to see his bride walk down the aisle.)

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Silence being broken with the sounding of a shofar and Scripture carried forth…
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Giving thanks to God and praying over His people and His Word…

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Children reading from the Scriptures in the Kuna language!
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The Kuna people now have access to  ALL of Scripture in their own heart language!

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Praising God for the Work of His Hand…

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Keith and Wilma Forster
(Wycliffe missionaries who dedicated over 40 years in Panama
to revise an earlier New Testament translation and
to translate the Old Testament into the Kuna’s heart language!)

Keith’s thoughts on passing the torch to the Kuna and leaving it all in God’s powerful hands to work His Will…

… And I look around that crowd today and I see … the lives that have been touched and transformed by the Scriptures… And my prayer is ‘God, would You raise up sufficient leaders … shepherds to watch and minister to those flocks, to cause them to grow in Yourself, to keep them on track.’… My translation team – He who began a good work in them will complete it in their day.  You know, and that’s the big thing …The point is this – that God has raised up this thing. We’ve given them tools. We’ve given them the leadership… And so, we’re looking to God to carry it on.

Wilma’s reflections…

I think, today, for me, what was really amazing… When we first came here in 1971, the Kuna church was very, very small and there was only one of them. And as I looked around that huge group of people… just to see how God has been at workit feels like the time has come for the Kuna church to just explode.

Prayers of the Forsters as expressed in their update to partners:

Now the Kuna have God’s Word in its entirety. Please pray earnestly that the initial enthusiasm for the coming of the Word will not peter out. Pray that Kuna hearts will grow deep in their knowledge of the Word and of God’s claim on their lives.

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Please continue to pray for the transforming power of the Word of God
in the lives of Kuna men, women, and children…
that pastors would use and handle Scripture correctly,
that hearts and minds would be changed,
that the next generation of Kuna would know Him,
and that God would be glorified!

We Never Walk Alone

Commissioning Day – February 24, 2013

A day full of tears, full of prayers, and an outpouring of love from the body of Christ…

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Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

~Never Once by Matt Redman

 

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Our hearts are full of thankfulness to our amazing God who never has us walk alone.

Not Because of Who I Am

Over the past year, our family has been involved in sharing how God is working to bring His Word to the nations– through the work of Wycliffe and the Bible translation process.

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After a recent presentation, I was taken a little off guard by a question in regards to missions and our upcoming move. The question was worded similar to this…

“What is it about you that you are able to just get up and change the direction of your life?  What is it that you’ve got?  What does it take to do something like this?”

I smiled awkwardly, fumbled with my answer, and then finally said the first thing that had come to my mind, “There is nothing special about me.”  We talked a little bit more, but as with most conversations I walk away from, I realized what I should have said – much after the fact.

My more elaborate answer should have resembled the following…

There is nothing special about me.  It is all about Jesus.  It takes intimately knowing the One who has called you.  It takes trust that has built up over multiple times of finding Him faithful.  In order to step out in faith – whether to reach out to an unsaved neighbor, to move your family to the inner city to minister within community, to moving across the country to further the Gospel, or crossing the ocean to bring the Good News to those who have never heard – you must trust that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever and that He will continue to be faithful and true. It takes reminding yourself of Who you serve – the King of kings and Lord of lords, who loved us so much that he died for us and took away our sins.  I, this weak and sinful vessel, go and follow His call, not because of who I am, but because of who my Savior is.

God will still make a great name for himself among the nations. God involves us in His mission not because He needs us but because He loves us and in His mercy He has invited us to be involved in His sovereign design for the spread of the gospel to the ends of the earth.
~ David Platt, Divine Sovereignty: The Fuel of Death-Defying Missions, Together for the Gospel 2012

Skittles & Translation

 

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From the very beginning of our journey to missions, we knew we wanted to somehow involve our entire family.  So, when we had the opportunity last fall to start sharing with other believers the needs of the Bibleless, I began searching for a way to involve the kids.  I was so excited when I came across another Wycliffe missionary family’s blog and how their kids did a quick presentation using Skittles.  I contacted the other family, the Tolivers, and requested permission to copycat their original idea.

Then, we had fun counting and practicing….

Skittles Prepcounting Skittles hundreds
practice 1 practice2

At first, as we were sorting and counting, the most difficult part was keeping the kids from eating the Skittles.  We would jokingly say, “Don’t eat a language!”   Of course, after taking all of the effort of working together to carefully count the Skittles, the kids quickly learned the importance of not dropping, eating, or misplacing a ‘language’.

While I think our copycats gave a great visual for the need for Bible translation, the Toliver kids did an excellent job!  They recently remade the original video and it looks very professionally done.  Go check it out!

Skittles & Translation from RBennett on Vimeo.

 

Out of a known 6,800 languages spoken in the world today, only 471 language groups have the entire Bible translated into the language that they understand best.  Over 2,000  languages have a need for Bible translation to begin.   That means there are close to 350 billion people around the world today that have NO Bible available in their heart language(Stats were taken form the 2011 worldwide status of Bible translation.)  Won’t you join us in reaching the Bibleless with the gospel of Christ?

Hunger and Thirst

Yes, we hunger and thirst for technology.   If only we would have the same hunger and thirst for righteousness and be willing to stay up until 3 AM to get it…

Today was the pre-order date for the new iPhone 5.  Starting at midnight Pacific Time (3AM where we are), many people signed-up to receive the lastest and greatest phone from Apple.  The initial stock reserved for pre-orders sold out in one hour.

So who stayed up until 3AM (or got up early) to get the new iPhone 5?  I will admit that I did.  My justifications:

  1. My last day at Interactive Intelligence is 9/28 and I have to give up my current iPhone 4S.
  2. My Sprint contract (conveniently) expired on 9/6.
  3. Sprint service is not good in North Carolina where we will be going.
  4. I actually write software for iPhones.

With all those justifications, I still need to check my heart.  The pull of materialism is so strong.  But it is just a phone.  How can that hurt, right?

 The apostle Peter warns that Satan “prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, NLT). He uses riches, consumerism/materialism and worldly prosperity to lure believers away from following Jesus, the true Provider, Protector and Sustainer. We, as believers, need to maintain Job’s attitude towards riches: “The LORD gave me what I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!” (Job 1:21, NLT).1

How should we as Christians spend our money?  Where is the line between tool and toy, between enjoyment and idolatry?

John Piper writes, “Jesus presses us toward a wartime lifestyle that does not value simplicity for simplicity’s sake, but values wartime austerity for what it can produce for the cause of world evangelization… The point is: a $70,000 salary does not have to be accompanied by a $70,000 lifestyle. God is calling us to be conduits of his grace, not cul-de-sacs. Our great danger today is thinking that the conduit should be lined with gold. It shouldn’t. Copper will do. No matter how grateful we are, gold will not make the world think that our God is good: it will make people think that our God is gold. That is no honor to the supremacy of his worth.”1

There is a strong temptation to be distracted.  Am I abusing this world?  I need to be constantly evaluating the intentions of my heart. Would I be willing to get up at 3AM (or even 5AM) to grow in righteous by prayer and his word?



  1. Wycliffe article on Consumerism