Serving The Lord In 2012


Our Work For The Lord

To sum up what I did from January to April of last year, you could say I checked, checked and checked some more.  I had the privilege to work a friend of mine from our sister organization (SIL) on half of their Gospel of John in a Gulf Province language.  The preparation I did for their project came in handy as I then did the Advisor checking of John for the Akukem team in Madang.

To say that there were a number of challenges when we worked on the book of John for this second group would be quite an understatement.  Incomplete back translations, a late start date, uncertainty on who will arrive and work on which team, a potentially serious inter-clan conflict, and a dead hard drive are just a few of the exciting things we had to deal with.  As many would say, “Welcome to PNG.”

The men were very good to work with though once we got down to the business of checking the Scriptures, verse-by-verse-by-verse-by-verse.  You get the idea.  Including a brief break in the middle while I did more clean up work, it took us six long weeks to go through the entire book.  Our minds and bodies were worn out for sure, but our spirits rejoiced when we could say, “It is finished.”  We could pass the book along in pretty good shape for the final consultant check.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The last consultant project I worked on in April was the book of Daniel for a third language group.  Believe it or not, it felt like a breeze after the long grueling sessions on John.  In fact, we checked all of Daniel in just a week and a half.  There were a number of “ahhhs” and “ohhhs” and widened eyes as we worked through the apocalyptic material, but the translation was good, and we all got a greater appreciation for the power and majesty of God who rules over nations and kingdoms.

Whenever I was doing consultant checking, Jill helped in the office and the publishing department.  She was able to help prepare questions for the E-1 curriculum which will help teachers to prepare lessons for their own vernacular preschool and Grades 1-2 education program.  She also helped with some Paratext coding for one of our completed New Testament projects, and then assisted me when I became fatigued or needed help with daily tasks around the house where we stayed.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Then it was time to go back home to Canada.  I made the assumption that “home” would be warm when I got back to Calgary at the beginning of May.  Wrong!!  Oh well, it is Canada after all.  Jill and I celebrated our 28th anniversary on May 11th, and we decided that it would be nice to take a car ride out to the mountains, which are just an hour west of Calgary.  We had barely left the city limits when we both exclaimed, “It’s Spring!”  How did we know?  The orange construction pylons were dotted along the highway.

It was so nice to spend the Spring and Summer in Canada, with family and friends.  I stayed pretty close to home in Calgary and decided to pick up a hobby for the summer.  What did I do?  I retaught myself Hebrew after not using it for 19 years.  (There must be something wrong with me don’t you think, as I actually enjoyed reading backwards again in that strange Semitic font.)

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The other main summer activity for both Jill and I was to visit three churches in the Maritimes (two on PEI and one in Halifax) and then one in Calgary.  I would preach at the service hour, with Jill running the Power Point projection.  We would then talk with people after the services and meet in some homes to tell more about the work that we do for PBT-Canada.

At the end of October, I traveled to Dallas where it is warmer and more conducive to doing my translation checking preparation for my 2013 trip to PNG.  During November and December, I finished preparing my questions for Exodus chs. 1-24 as well as Psalms 120-150 for one group who have finished translating the New Testament.

In the middle of my time in Dallas, I was able to take a trip up to Illinois where I visited a number of our supporting churches.  I spoke in three churches and in three small group meetings over a ten day period.  They are all excited to see what God is doing in me (physically) and through us in the work of Bible translation.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

The big achievement for Jill last year was getting the acceptance letter from the Nursing Council in PNG and the Work Permit which provisionally allows her to do some nursing experience in PNG.  We do wonder if this is the beginning of us making a move towards living and working full-time here in PNG, or if we are meant to continue coming over each year for so many months out of each year.  This next trip will show us where this might lead.

I must mention an amazing thing that is occurring for me physically.  Ever since the churches in the Maritimes, and also Oak Park church in Calgary, prayed for me and Jill and for my healing, I have been doing better and better.  I am rarely using my arm crutches now.  I can walk around inside buildings without any assistance, and I am also starting to take short walks outside with only my pole or not even that.  I believe that God is incrementally healing me, and I am very grateful for that.  I believe He is preparing me for what lies ahead in PNG.

Prayer Card no address


More About Cool Computer Programs & Bible Translation


Technology & Bible Translation – Pt. 2

Last week I gave you some of the interesting background of how the advance of technology and the computer age we live in has helped the cause of Bible translation work.  Isn’t it incredible to think that only a few decades ago, translators had to write all of their language data on 3″ x 5″ recipe cards and file them in their appropriate shoebox.  Read about that here.

Now it is impossible to think that we can do language learning and translation work without the use of a computer.  Even by 1997, when I started learning the village language in that remote location in Papua New Guinea, we had brought along with us solar panels and deep cell batteries to run my computer in the village.  Thank goodness for the advance technology of laptops though, because that first IBM desktop was a real bear to get to and set up in our village.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Back to the present now, I had started to tell you in the last article about a very cool program called “Paratext”.  Remember all those windows that were open in the one program?  I had Greek or Hebrew in two windows, English Bibles and commentary helps in a few more.  I would look at the Tok Pisin (PNG trade language) in another, and then a few more held the vernacular village language of the text I was going to do the consultant check on.  I’ll show you again what it looks like:

Paratext Windows (800x450)

So at any given time, I usually have about four languages going on inside all these windows.  It would take a lot of time (or sentences) to explain everything that I can do with this program.  But let me give you a peek into one corner, and show you what I do.  I will open up the Hebrew language corner where I am working on the Psalms.

The first thing I want to show you, even though you probably don’t know Hebrew, is what amazing things you can learn when you can read the Bible in the original language that it was written in.  (The Old Testament was written in Hebrew, and the New Testament was written in Greek.)  I will paste the blown up picture of the Hebrew-English Interlinear text.  It looks like this:

Psalm 121 in Paratext Hebrew (800x427)

Underneath the Hebrew text you get a grammatical breakdown of the words in green, and then an English word gloss for the Hebrew word in the light purple.  I highlighted one word in yellow.  One of the interesting things about Hebrew is that most of its vocabulary is based on a three consonantal root form.  This particular root (שׁמר) has the basic meaning of “to guard, to watch over, to protect” .

This passage is from Psalm 121 which starts with a statement and then a question in verse one, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains.  Where does my help come from?”  That was a good question back in the time of the Israelite kings, because there was a great deal of worshipping of idols and false gods going on back then.  And many of them had shrines up on top of the mountains.

Do you see the answer in the next line, which is the first purple line above?  (Remember to read Hebrew from right to left.)  The psalmist was very confident that his help would come from the LORD, the One who made the heavens and the earth.  He goes on to write further about his God, and he used this Hebrew root of (שׁמר) three times in verses 3, 4, and 5.  (Can you see them?)

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

This verbal form is called a “participle”, which is often used to help describe someone or something.  The literal translation for this Hebrew root in the participle form would be “the One who protects”.  The psalmist was confident that YHWH was the One true God, above all other gods, who could protect him.  This is good, but it gets better.

It is one thing to believe that God is capable of protecting those who trust in Him.  It is another thing to state emphatically that He will indeed protect you in times of trouble.  And this is what the psalmist does in verses 7 and 8.  He again used the same Hebrew verbal root, but in these verses (and three times) he put it in a future tense, what is called the “Imperfect” form.

You can see this twice in the picture above in verse 7.  It looks like this:  יִשְׁמָר.  There is an extra consonant on front, and it can be translated as “He will protect/watch over”.  No longer is the LORD simply described as the One who is able to protect, but now with bold confidence, the psalmist tells his readers, Yes, in fact He WILL protect those who trust in Him.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Isn’t that so cool what you can learn about God when you are able to read the Scriptures in its original language?  I’m glad that I do know a lot about basic biblical Hebrew.  But imagine if I didn’t know that much about it, but still had a program like Paratext that is able to analyze a lot of the language for me.  A whole world of meaning is opened up when we have great computer programs like these to help us to read and understand the Bible.

I wish that I could let all of you who read this to be able to have this program I use.  But a program like Paratext is given out primarily to those involved in active Bible translation projects.  If you are really interested in this though, you can do an internet search for Greek-English Interlinear or Hebrew-English Interlinear Bibles online and find lots of helps.

One good site is which will allow you to choose either the Hebrew Old Testament, or the Greek New Testament.  We are so very fortunate to have so much available to us electronically.  I will have more to say in the future.

Cool Computer Programs for Bible Translation


Technology & Bible Translation

The first really cool peek for me into the emerging technology for Bible translators happened in 1994.  I had seen a little bit of the old program called “Shoebox” where linguists and translators would store their language data and enter their vernacular text which could then be interlinearized to have English gloss words under the vernacular text once you had a good amount of words entered into their dictionary file.

Let me pause here before going on and tell you why this linguistic computer program was called “Shoebox”.  Think back to the time before computers.  (If you can do that easily, you are my age or older, but if this is hard for you, then you are definitely part of the younger generation.)  😛  Now imagine that you have been doing language learning for a few years in a remote part of the world.

What would you do to help you keep your data all organized?  Even to divide words into basic verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs.  Well, the pioneers of Bible translation actually did use the old file card system and would put one word, and its description/definition, on to one card, and then “file” it in long shoeboxes to be retrieved later when needed.  (Some translators would have piles of shoeboxes in their houses full of words and linguistic notes in the early days.)

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Thank goodness for the advent of the computer.  Now we no longer need to put all of our research into old musty shoeboxes.  And we no longer need to fear that our work will all go up in smoke if the house burned down or would get all chewed up, by all the cockroaches in our village houses.  Though we do need to worry about hard drives crashing, and wondering where we put that information in the thousands of files on our hard drive.

But back to where I started.  “Shoebox” was very handy for us to organize our linguistic data and do basic translation work.  In 1994, when I was at a training week of orientation for Pioneer Bible Translators, I was introduced to the neatest, most cool and intuitive linguistic program at that time which was called “Lingua-links”.  It could add words, analyze words, interlinearize words, and so much more with just a click of a button.

When I was able to tell Jill later about this, I summed it up by saying, “That was SO AWESOME!”  Very professional, wouldn’t you say?  I think that is when I knew for sure that I wanted to be a Bible translator, because I would be allowed to buy the best model of computer out there, and make it perform some awesome linguistic feats, and be able to call it “work”.  I was in love!!  😀

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

In the past decade, there continues to be great advances made in the area of marrying linguistics together with computer technology.  There were a number of versions of Lingua-links over the years, each being able to do more than the last version.  But the basic ideas remained the same.  And then came along a program called “Paratext”.

When I first heard about Paratext, I thought that it was just another program that was doing pretty much the same things I was already doing.  I was wrong.  It did still have much (and even more) of the computing power of the old programs.  One common feature with modern linguistic programs is the ability to open a large number of windows within the main window.  Here, let me show you what I mean:

Paratext Windows (800x450)

 Going from top left down and then middle top to bottom and right side top to bottom, I have these windows to work with just in this one program:
  1. My Hebrew text in which I can add notes.
  2. The Hebrew/English interlinear text.  I can add rows within this to give me the lemmas, the transliteration, and the parsing of the Hebrew words.  All of these are hyperlinked to one or more Hebrew Lexicon and Dictionary.
  3. A text comparison of a variety of English versions.
  4. A Key Term rendering window which will grab specialized biblical terms and show you the equivalent vernacular term which will add up over time to become your “Key Term List”
  5. A rendering tool based off of algorithms of the Greek and English text and looking into the vernacular text to produce a computer generated guessing and interlinearization of the vernacular to English.
  6. The “Back Translation” of the vernacular text.  We want a reverse translation from the translated local language back into a fairly literal English version of their text.  I use this the most to judge if something is missing, added or wrong in their translation.
  7. Peeking out at the top right is the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon.
  8. The NIV larger window box.
  9. Finally, the actual vernacular translation that I am checking.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

What was really exciting though about Paratext was that you did not just work on this project by yourself in your local village any more.  Of course you want to save to your local hard drive as you go along.  But Paratext is part of the global work of United Bible Societies and many other linguistic organizations who share their project information and their translations with others around the world.

So when you do an “Internet Server” back up of your work, it sends the data to the Paratext server on the other side of the world, and can be made accessible to anyone else who has been approved to work on the translation.  So we have literally gone from doing local translation projects to doing global translation projects.

There is so much more I’d like to tell you about this, but that will have to wait until the next article.  I hope that some of you who have read this have found this very interesting.  And who knows, maybe you’ll fall in love with what I am showing you, just like I did so many years ago with the joining of technology and linguistics.