2024 January Newsletter
Your prayers in October were answered; we had smooth transport, our bags all arrived successfully, and we received a warm welcome home in Jos, and after two weeks of frantic activity the annual staff conferences opened with the Mark Drama. Some weeks later we had recovered towards more normal rhythms of work and homeschool just in time for Christmas.
David: Urgent Catchup with Nyankpa and Ashɛ
As soon as we touched down in Nigeria I had to grapple with various urgent work I’d been neglecting whilst in the UK. After I checked in with the Ashɛ team, top priority was wrapping up some overdue consultant check reports for the Nyankpa translation from the last year.
Nyankpa language is related to Ishɛ, and the people are neighbours, so quite a lot of the language seems familiar, based on my Ishɛ experience. But it has its own grammatical patterns and sounds, and there are plenty of surprises and ‘false friends’ to keep me on my toes. Around the time we were checking John’s 3 letters the team were trying out 2 potential new translators and it’s been a delight over the last year to see how the new younger translator Lazarus has been nurtured into his translation role by ever-cheerful Alaska, who I’ve known ever since we came to Jos in 2011. They’re a fun team to work with, and quite patient with my foolish questions as I look to see how robust and helpful their translation is.
The portions I checked, 1-3 John and 1-2 Peter, pack a powerful punch urging and helping Christians keep on track, but along the way there are some tricky areas and much scope for getting all the words but scrambling the meaning. The Greek words that are translated into English often as ‘word’ and ‘spirit’ need great care as there are several possible options and what seems right at first glance may be very misleading. We could easily despair but we often are privileged to see the translators developing in their own understanding of God and his gospel and we hear stories of how others in their communities have gained a much clearer grasp of the gospel through the carefully translated scriptures.
I was interested to discover that the kind of harmful behaviour caused by evil spirits is known in Nyankpa as ‘elang ogbak obebet’ (bad wind disease), but Nyankpa people don’t talk about evil spirits ‘possessing’ or ‘entering’ people; the spirits stay outside. Each person is said to have a ‘good/clean spirit’ and an ‘evil spirit’ in them and the one you encourage is the one that dominates. Obviously there’s much potential for a naive outsider getting wires crossed here and remaining blissfully unaware of it.
In the last week before Christmas I squeezed in another week with Nyankpa working with a consultant-in-training Pelumi (a missionary from south-west Nigeria) as she led the check of Matthew 1-4 under my supervision. Do pray for her and her family as they prepare to move to Kenya next month to start PhD studies at NEGST, where we studied before coming to Nigeria.
Julie: Mark Drama
Two weeks after touching down in Nigeria we were in the midst of our conference a 40 minute drive outside Jos, this year focussed on the passion narrative from Mark’s gospel. We opened with an intense and captivating performance of the Mark Drama. Our colleague Christy had done a fantastic job preparing two different casts and Katie Piggot came from Glasgow to direct them in 2 performances, for our translation colleagues and for pastors and other ministry leaders. A week later the second cast put it on twice again in Jos.
Thus was fulfilled a desire we had 10 years ago to see the Mark Drama introduced to Nigeria as a way to help people get deep into Mark’s gospel and bring the story to life off the page. With countless ways things could have gone wrong, we thank God for making it happen.
Julie had a very intense time preparing for and coordinating the conference as soon as we returned. We thank God it ended well despite quite a few people including the speaker being sick beforehand and during it. Since the conference our office morning devotions focussed on Mark’s gospel too and many of us have been struck by how we see the details in a fresh way having experienced the whole Mark drama.
Plans are already afoot for other groups to put on the Mark drama in English and Hausa in Jos and further north, working with several church groups. Translation is always harder than people think, but also powerful when done well. We still need your prayers!Watch this 5 minute video to get a taste of the rehearsals for the Mark Drama, the conference where it premiered, and some take-aways from our friends who participated in it.
Thanks for your support and participation in building God’s worldwide kingdom.
Love from, David, Julie, Rebekah, Elizabeth, Abigail and Helen