Road Trip

We just finished a long road trip from North Carolina to Oregon.  We saw lots of beautiful scenery (photos below), went through places that have an abundant supply of space (west Texas among them), ate at a place favored by John Madden (Chuy’s in Van Horne, Texas) and saw funny T-shirts (”You can’t scare me; I have kids”).

We stayed with family once, but mostly we stayed with people who support us though prayer and finances, or with people we did not even know through the Wycliffe Associates Hospitality Roster. My overriding impression was of people who are very serious about their faith. Some talked about their efforts to reach out in their communities.  I even went to a Gideon’s meeting with one of our hosts. Others talked about transitions in their lives and were seeking God’s direction including wondering if God would like them to volunteer in missions during their retirement.  Those with young children were taking focused action  to bring them up well and in the faith. Many spoke to their concern for their community, society and world.

We saw evidence of the problems – a stop on I-10 checking for drugs and illegal immigrants, signs in yards and radio announcements for the short sale of homes, contentious wording on political signs, crews cleaning oil off beaches, a man in handcuffs while police searched his car.

While the things we saw were not always what we would want, they did match what the Bible says about this world.

  • It is “normal” that a minority in society have true faith:
    “The gate to destruction is wide, and the road that leads there is easy to follow. A lot of people go through that gate. But the gate to life is very narrow. The road that leads there is so hard to follow that only a few people find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14 CEV)
  • No country will ever rid itself of all economic problems:
    “For you always have the poor with you” (Matthew 26:11 ESV)
  • Those who are serious about their faith are more numerous than one can deduce from the general state of society where faithful people can feel quite alone:
    “For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” (I Kings 19:14 ESV) and verse 18 “Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal”

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Deciphering a creole

This is a verse from the Bible in a language called Sea Island Creole

“Cause God lob all de people een de wol sommuch dat e gii we e onliest Son.  God sen we um so dat ebrybody wa bleebe pon um ain gwine dead. Dey gwine lib faebamo.”

Can you read this Bible verse?  If you figured it out, how long did it take you?  Look at the end of this blog to see what verse it is, then go back and read it again, and it makes a lot more sense.

Like most of you, I grew up speaking the same language at home that saw used at school and at church.  It was in that language that my parents and others taught me from the Bible.  For those of us in that situation, it is difficult to imagine what it is like to have to go to school and learn about God in another language.  But we can  get a taste of that.  Just imagine that you had to go to school in Sea Island Creole, that church was  in that language and that was the only Bible you had.

Over 300 million people in the world speaking more than 2,000 languages have to do all their learning and Bible reading in another language.  Sea Island Creole and English are very closely related.  In fact, Sea Island Creole came from English.  But what would it be like if the language in which you had the Bible was not closely related to the one you spoke?  That is the situation for many people in Africa and around the world.  Just look at this page from the Gospel of Luke. English is a strange to those who speak this language as this page is to you.

So, when people in Africa get the Bible in their own language we get all sorts of comments.  At one showing of the Jesus film in their language the Christians present were exclaiming “We can understand everything!”  That is good, but is also is bad.  Good because they are understanding. Bad because it means that they are not used to understanding when they are in church or when the Bible is read, so it is a big surprise to them when they do understand.  Can you imagine it being an unusual thing that you understand what is said or read in Church?

So, let me know what you think. How hard was it for you to decipher the verse?

If you feel the way we do, or you want to know more, see our website, subscribe to this blog, talk with us on Facebook, or sign up to support us through prayer or financial support.

Answers to questions:
The verse is John 3:16
Sea Island Creole is spoken mostly in the United States.
If you want, you can look through the Sea Island Creole translation on line at

Another kind of KP

In addition to being a military term, KP is a sound in many African languages.  This is Konlan Kpeebi.  He directs all translation work for the Ghana. Note the KP in his name. The KP sound is quite common in West Africa.  The language Dayle and I were assigned to in Burkina Faso, Cerma (pronounced CARE-muh), had the KP sound.

The interesting thing about the KP is that it is not a sequence.  PL is a sequence – a P followed by an L.  But KP is not.  Instead, it is a K and a P pronounced together at exactly the same time.

How is that done?  I thought you would never ask. One of my favorite classes when I was studying to work in Bible translation was articulatory phonetics – the study of how we humans move our mouths and throats to produce the sounds that make up words.

But back to KP.  We’ll break things into steps.  To say a P you press your upper and lower lips together.  Say “pa” and feel your upper and lower lips touch.  To say a K you push the back of your tongue against the roof of your mouth.  Say “cake” and feel the back of your tongue make contact with the roof of your mouth twice.  If you want some help, look at the diagram at the end.

To say KP, one must press both lips together and at the same time press the back of your tongue against the roof of your mouth, then release both points of contact simultaneously. Try it.  For most people who did not have this sound in a language they learned as a child, getting it right takes practice.  I worked on it for weeks when we were learning Cerma.  In fact, practicing the sounds that were new for me was a time-consuming activity in learning the language.  But it paid off.  In fact, it was a lot of fun being one of the few Americans to meet Mr. Kpeebi who pronounced his name right the first time and see the surprise on the faces of the Ghanaians who were there. I kind of like to do things that break expectations.  Besides, I don’t mind the credibility I get.

Because most languages in Africa were not written, the first outsiders who encountered African languages did not recognize the KP sound, writing it as K or P.  But languages that have the KP sound, might have a word “ka”, a word “pa” and another word “kpa”.  So writing the word “kpa” either “ka” or “pa” will result in confusion.  Imagine how difficult reading English would be if the alphabet had been decided by someone from a language which did not distinguish L and R and so they just wrote L everywhere.  Words like “raw” and “law” would both be written “law”.  Reading would be a lot more difficult, especially reading something as long or as important as the Bible.

There are still many languages in Africa that have never been written.  Sounds like KP are why the first step toward a translation for those languages is doing some applied articulatory phonetics.  We first take down lists of words in the language using the International Phonetic Alphabet, a cool alphabet with a symbol for every sound made in human language.

In this photo Konlan Kpeebi is working with other language and translation experts in his organization, Naana Nkrumah and Sammy Ntumi.  My next project is to work with them and others to find ways to make the work go faster and have more impact.  Among other things, that means a faster was to sniff out the KPs and other sounds in the languages in Ghana which have still never been written and then figure out how to put that plan into practice.  Then every person in Ghana can know the pride of having his or her heart language written in all its God-given glory.  That means KPs and all.

Long in name

It was in 1835 that the Bible was published for the very first time in the language of Madagascar. It had been translated by British missionary Davis Griffiths. At the time there were still few believers in Madagascar. The following year, the new queen, who became known as Ranavalona the Cruel (1828–1861), outlawed Christianity in Madagascar, expelled missionaries, and began persecuting Christians. Christians were forced to drink poison made from a local tree. The few that survived were declared innocent. As many as 150,000 Christians were killed in the next quarter century. But, instead of failing and shrinking without missionaries and in the face of persecution, Christianity grew. Bolstered by the Word of God in their heart language, the Christians of Madagascar stood firm. Through their witness and the witness of the Scriptures, others adopted their forbidden faith. After more than a quarter century of persecution, the next monarch reversed Queen Ranavalona’s course, declared freedom of religion and readmitted missionaries. Missionaries returned to find more believers and more vibrant faith than when they left. Today, half of the island’s people are believers. The story of the Scriptures in the heart language of the first Christians in Madagascar shows yet again the lasting and profound impact of the Word of God in the heart language. God did not promise that he would send out missionaries and they would accomplish all that he sent them to do, but he did say that about his Word.

The impact of the translation of the Bible in Madagascar has come full circle. Meet Serge and Olivia Razafinjatoniary (rah-zah-feen-ya-tune-ee-ah-ree). The Razafinjatoniarys are the first missionaries with Wycliffe from Madagascar. So the fruit of the translation done in 1835 is spilling beyond the borders of Madagascar, as it should.

Dayle and I were so impressed with Serge and Olivia that we worked hard to get them assigned to work alongside us. In their first four years they have already had a significant impact for Bible translation. Serge coordinates the technical side of all the translation work in eastern Congo. Olivia is an expert in translation doing training and quality control. In addition, Serge is becoming an expert in the use software to speed translation work. They both have masters degrees from the Nairobi Evangelical Graduate School of Theology. I expect to see them have a broad and deep impact for the Gospel over the course of their careers.

Other Africans involved in Bible translation of whom we are justly proud include Nessiel Nodjibogoto, Kabucungu Hand-jinga, Bungishabaku Katho, and Boureima Ouedraogo. They all fit in the category of “people whose commitment to the Lord is as deep as their names are long”.

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Dayle and I have a passion is to see Africans taking the lead in Bible translation in Africa. We devote a whole page to that topic on our website. Among other things it says:

“How we go about Bible translation is shaped by what we see God doing in Africa. He is raising up educated African Christians with a vision for translating the Bible into their own language or other languages without the Scriptures. We believe that our most effective role, and the one which God is calling us to, is that of cooperating with this movement of God’s Spirit. Se we are involved in mobilizing and training of Africans for the task.”

You can read more about Serge and Olivia’s story on the Wycliffe International website:
Or you can follow Serge on Facebook:
If you are interested in praying for them or giving to their ministry, let me know and I’ll put you in touch.

Trivia question – what is the adjective for something from Madagascar? Click here for the answer.

If you feel the way we do, or you want to know more, see our website, subscribe to this blog, talk with us on Facebook, or sign up to support us through prayer or financial support.