Friday, 25 March 2011

A tribute to Mary Gardner.

This is a photo of Mary Gardner of Wycliffe Bible Translators.  Her picture was on the front page of newspapers today because Mary was the victim of a bus bomb attack in Jerusalem on Wednesday.

It was my privilege to know Mary many years ago, at a time when I was considering whether I might become a Bible translator myself.  Mary, at that stage, was just finishing her training and getting ready to go overseas to Togo, to begin translating the New Testament for the Ife people.

This was accomplished.  Bible translation is a slow and laborious process but the Ife people got the New Testament in their own language in 2009.

Mary never married and had no children.  She poured out the prime years of her life in the work she felt that God had called her to.  Rather than rest on her laurels after translating the New Testament for the Ife people, she was then studying Hebrew in Jerusalem in order to continue on to the Old Testament.  I remember her as a very gentle, soft-spoken, lovely young woman.

As it says on the Wycliffe website: "Worldwide there are over 300 million people who do not have access to the story of God's love for his people - the story of the Bible - in the language that they understand the best, their 'heart' language".

However, there are many dedicated people like Mary all over the world working to make sure that the Bible will be available in all languages.  Today, I'm sure, many of them will be thinking of Mary's elderly parents, her siblings, her colleagues and the Ife people in their grief.

Monday, 14 March 2011

The Missionary Position.

Many hundreds of years ago, when I was young and had yet to get involved with he who is now Him Indoors, I wanted to be a missionary.

To be honest, the first job I ever aspired to as a child was to be a bin lady.  Note: bin lady not bin woman - I have standards.  That was because I was fascinated (and still am, if you want to know) by bin lorries, or dust carts if you're from the other side of the pond.  I love how they mash up the litter.

However, I soon changed ambition to being a missionary.  I grew up near the David Livingstone memorial in Blantyre.  While my contemporaries were idolising the Bay City Rollers, I was captivated by the story of David Livingstone.  I had a book called "The Great Explorers" in which one of the chapters was about Dr Livingstone.  One of the things that remained in my childish imagination was a picture (not, but not unlike, the one above) illustrating the assertion that David Livingstone died while in prayer. 

When I left school I began studying medicine at university, and read more and more about being a missionary.  However, my medical career was very short-lived and after two years at university I knew it wasn't for me.  To tell the truth I'm so squeamish I couldn't even now watch a whole episode of Casualty.  When I go to give blood I struggle even with the pin prick thing they do on your thumb to check you're not anaemic.

The missionary thing wasn't out of my system, though.  A few years later, I became very interested in Wycliffe Bible Translators.  In fact I completed some of the application process to become a translator and although in the end it wasn't God's plan for me I still take an interest in their work.  Today I came across this fascinating gem in their prayer diary:

"Getting the Right Word.
Translators want to get the right word out! So they must ask the right question. For example, in order to translate “carry one another’s burdens”, the Koma translators in Ghana had to choose between mili (carry on the back), dogi (carry on the hip), vigi (carry on the shoulder) and chii (carry on the head)! So which word did they use? (Hint: What do Koma people carry where?). Please pray for translators who have to make difficult word choices to convey the right meaning.

Answer: Babies are carried on the back, toddlers on the hip; tools on the shoulder, and heavier items like water pots on the head. So they used chii".

This year is the 400th of the publication of the King James Bible in English - for a long time the most common English translation of the Bible.   Whilst it remains popular, many of us now use a more modern translation.  I like many of the modern translations, including the New Living Translation, the New International Version, the Good News Bible and others.  Yet there are many peoples around the world who don't have a choice of translation as we do.  Many don't even have one book of the Bible in their own language.

As we English-speakers mark the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible this year, let's remember and perhaps even give some of our money, or our prayers, in support of the efforts of Wycliffe Bible Translators and others to make sure that the good news gets to "the ends of the earth".

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

"Just as I am"... Give Him all you have!

Luke 21:1-4 says, "While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box.  Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins.
 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.”

I happened to read these verses at tea-time in the prison tonight and was thinking about them an hour later when I was listening to a conversation between two prisoners.  One of them was asking the other to help him write a C.V. for him to apply for a job on release.  He admitted that he had never had a job in his life before (he's not particularly young but has been in and out of prison since he was a teenager).  The guy he was asking to help him pointed out that there were lots of things he'd done in prison that he could mention in his C.V. and promised they would work on it together tomorrow.

I couldn't help making connections between my Bible reading and that conversation.   Earlier in the day I was at a 4-hour long meeting at which I'd been marvelling at the intellect and gifts of many of the attendees.

(When I was a wee girl, I used to think it must be great to go to a "meeting".  I wasn't very sure what a meeting was, but I wished that I could go to one.   Now at the grand old age of 21... well okay, 45...  I have been to lots of meetings and am considerably less enthusiastic!)

However, my experience of meetings, my experience of people and my experience of church has led me to the conclusion that it isn't what gifts you've been given that matters, it's what you do with them.  The meeting I attended earlier today caused me to marvel at the combination of great gifts from God together with a commitment to serving Him.  Wonderful!

A meeting I attended recently (in a different venue) was very different and caused me to reflect less cheerfully on the combination of great gifts and talents together with a lack of respect for God's ways.  Not good!

The prisoner who wants to compile a C.V. may not have much to put in it with which to impress a secular human employer.  The widow who put her couple of coins in the collection plate, however, apparently didn't have much to put in it to impress Jesus, yet she did impress Him.   The important thing in the Christian life isn't how many qualifications and assets we have.  The important thing is how willing we are to give God what we have.

God's far less interested in our ABILITY than He is interested in our AVAILABILITY.

1 Corinthians 1:27 says, "Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful."