Colin and Dot Suggett are Bethany-supported missionaries working with Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada. They recently returned from Burkina Faso, where they were working on translating the Bible into the Turka language.
“So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.” -Acts 27:25-26 (NIV)
“Keep up your courage”. The Apostle Paul gave good advice to the sailors on the Adriatic Sea. Paul was on his way to Rome, and the vessel on which he was sailing was destined to shipwreck. But Paul’s confidence was in God, who had assured him that he and all his shipmates would survive this disaster.
Eight months ago, the “ship” of the Turka translation broke apart on the shoals of long-distance communication, cross-cultural differences, and other unknown perils. Since that time, God has been speaking to us along the same lines as Paul did to those sailors, encouraging us to to expect good from Him. Always faithful, He has given both of us meaningful work as we contribute to Bible Translation and literacy efforts around the globe.
In this letter, I will talk about one of my two new, part-time positions with our mission. After years of working in the Turka project, as the source-language-decoder-meaning-based-translation-facilitator (short form: “exegete”), I have gained some experience in the tools we use to check important words and phrases (a.k.a. “key terms”) in the translation. Now, as an “Exegetical Assistant”, I will be working remotely (i.e. from Canada) with translations in a restricted-access country where several language projects are nearing the completion of their New Testaments.
To give you an example of what this looks like, take another look at Acts 27:25. The Turka people live in sub-Saharan Africa, far from any large bodies of water. They do not have a word for “island”. In the draft translation of Acts the Greek word, nesos, “island”, was translated with a phrase: “The bank of land which the water has surrounded”. However, in Revelation, which had already been consultant checked, we had a slightly different rendering: “Land which the sea surrounds”. A small difference to be sure, but an inconsistency all the same. My job was to note the discrepancy and allow the team to choose the better of the two translations for nesos, and then make them consistent throughout our translated Scripture.
Before a New Testament can be published there are many such “checks” that need to be completed. These range from verifying key terms to checking punctuation and capitalization norms. I am glad to be able to figuratively come alongside other teams and work through this laborious, but necessary task. My corrections will lighten the load of the translation consultant, who will be able to focus on comprehension questions and other important issues as she works with the teams in-country.
In our own translation work with the Turka we did some of those checks and revisions, but never saw the final steps of completion and printing accomplished. It is therefore significant to me that I may be able to help other translations move closer to publication.
I have begun work with one translation already, even as I study the culture and history of the country to which I am now part-time-assigned. I am learning a new non-Roman script, (just because it’s fun!) although I do not yet need to use it. I am getting to know teammates who are working in-country and remotely, national and expat. It is good to be part of a team again.
Like Colin, I will still be supported by donations sent to Wycliffe for us. Neither of us are in salaried positions. Thank you to our financial supporters and our prayer team, for being our “shipmates” on our ongoing work with Wycliffe Bible Translators. With your help we have been encouraged and hope to encourage others in the years to come.