Category Archives: News

Newsletter: Travels and Finance

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October was a month of travel for the Rowbory family, with all of us zooming round England to visit friends and family during the mid-term break before David flew off to America to attend and present a paper at a Bible translation conference. We’ve also been arranging meetings and speaking to groups around Scotland about what we’re doing in Nigeria.

England: flying visits

This is the first time we have had to fit our schedule around school holidays and unfortunately we just didn’t manage to fit in seeing everyone that we would have liked to in England. But it was delightful to see a healthy mix of relatives and friends, lots of fine autumnal English countryside, and all-important homeschool field trips to the British Museum and Roman Baths. We’re grateful to everyone who was bold enough to put us all up and we thank God that we managed the drive without any particular hitches barring traffic jams and travel sickness.

USA: Conference

Within a few hours of arriving back in Glasgow, David was on a plane zipping back down to London (somewhat gallingly, after the long drive north) and then over to Dallas for a biennial Bible Translation conference. You might remember he travelled there 2 years ago – a first time to the USA – and found it was a great chance to connect with other Bible translation consultants from around the world and gather some helpful insights for our work in Nigeria. This time, in line with his consultant development plan, he had a paper to present: Making Dictionaries Serve Translation. It still needs some final edits but David has to submit it this week for publishing along with all the other papers that were presented at the conference.

Aside from all the information presented and the encouragement of hearing others struggling with determination to translate the Bible around the world, David really appreciated reconnecting with fellow alumni from NEGST in  Kenya, where we studied from 2007-9. Some are now involved in Deaf Bible translation work, others are consultants and have taken up significant roles supporting Bible translation and theological education across Africa.

USA: Visiting friends

There were also a good number of Wycliffe UK people to see, some of whom we very rarely see in person any more. David finally met several other software support people whom he had only every interacted with over the internet. The conference lasted only about 4 days and then, having travelled so far, it seemed a good time to take up a longstanding invitation and visit our friends the Langs in Colorado. We had studied with them in Nairobi, going through many ups and downs with them, and their youngest daughter arrived 3 weeks before Rebekah was born.

Making Julie profoundly envious, David had a few more days visiting Jeremy & Jamie and their 3 kids and getting a taste of the Rockies, a spot of shopping for American goodies and some time to catch up after 6 years. (After a succession of perplexing health issues put paid to their plans for Bible translation in Tanzania, they have ended up based in Colorado but with Jeremy coming to Nigeria once or twice a year working with the Mwaghavul Old Testament project. So we have actually seen fleeting glimpses of Jeremy over the last 2 years.)

Arriving back in Scotland in time for a Tron Church evening service, David the next day represented Wycliffe and Bible translation at an Edinburgh University Christian Union event. Later in the week he had an afternoon talking about Bible translation with the Cornhill Scotland Training Course.

In November/December we hope to visit several more churches in Scotland and Northern Ireland, continue with a little remote work with Gworog translation and get ready for returning to Nigeria. We were encouraged to hear that Nigeria Bible Translation Trust eventually had its missionary quota renewed by the Nigerian government — necessary before we could renew our own work permits. We plan to return to Nigeria in early January, but can only do that if our permits are renewed and passports are returned in good time, and if we’re able to secure a modest increase in regular funding.

Finance update

We’re so grateful to God for supplying our needs for life and work in Nigeria over the last 4 years through generous friends and relatives (and for studies in Kenya before that).  As you probably know, Wycliffe Bible Translators doesn’t pay us a salary, but instead we all have to find people and churches who will invest in our ministry.

Several people have asked us recently about how our finances are looking at the moment, and we’re grateful for your concern. We’ve recently gone over all of our finances, looking ahead for the next year or so, and in summary it looks like we’ll need supporters to give another £500 / month from January to allow us to continue working in Nigeria.

When we first went to Nigeria we had saved up some money for startup costs with the house and car which was a very good help for the start and we have kept on a fairly even keel since then. But immigration matters / work permits have been a little unpredictable and more expensive than first budgeted. Housing costs, living costs and health insurance have risen a bit with inflation and as our family has grown. And obviously the costs of flights too and fro has increased a bit as the family has grown older. We’ve been very grateful to have a good gardener and househelps working for us in Nigeria, but again that takes its toll as we try to pay a fair living wage. We do hope that letting our Glasgow flat may provide a little supplementary income in addition to paying the mortgage but so far we have only broken even on that.

So now we have a request (but we’re not just asking for money). Many of our Nigerian colleagues have recently been building up their own support networks, not only asking friends and relatives to support them but looking to find friends of friends who would be excited to invest in building God’s kingdom.  Do you know anyone who might be interested in finding out more about our Bible translation work? We don’t want to do a hard-sell, but we would love to broaden our support network and broaden the horizons of Christians here who may just take it for granted that we can read God’s message in language that makes sense to us. Perhaps you might know someone who would like to support one of our Nigerian colleagues. If you do think of someone who might like to know more about how Bible translation is building God’s kingdom in Nigeria, why don’t you mention it to them and put us in contact?

Our recent video gives a bit of a snapshot of what we’re up to and our support pages  give some more information. We’re very grateful for any thought you can give to this, and please pray that God would provide and make our partnership something that not only strengthens the Nigerian church but blesses Christians here in the UK too.

Spreading the gospel nearer to home too

Finally, has it occurred to you that talking about what we’re up to in Nigeria might be a way of having a ’good news conversation’ with friends who don’t yet know and trust Jesus? We were so inspired and delighted when we heard that that very thing had happened with good friends of ours in Glasgow. A Nigerian dress (of all things) prompted a discussion about our work of translating the Bible, which was just peculiar enough that it opened up the door for a chat about the Bible and why it’s worth everyone in the world understanding it. We’re happy to supply some nice cheesy Nigerian photo notebooks, postcards or other things if it would help you reach your friends with the gospel. Just ask!

Thank you for your prayerful interest and concern for us and for Bible translators in Nigeria.

Love from David, Julie, Rebekah, Elizabeth, Abigail and Helen.

ps. Geeks interested in David’s paper should find it at before too long.

pps. Please just ask if there’s anything more that you’d like to find out about how the Wycliffe finance system works.

The problem with problem solving

Problem solving is at the heart of what drives programmers and many other folk to make things better. The problem is, there may be quite a variety of ways to solve a problem, some of which end up storing up bigger trouble ahead. And VW seems to have fallen into that trap.  I would love to know the truth about what went on in the software development teams (or individuals) behind the fiasco, but we’ll probably never really know.

Here is a conversation I’ve made up but which I could quite easily imagine happening:

Manager: We have a problem; we need to reduce the nitrogen oxide emissions to meet US emissions testing standards. Can you fix that? Pronto?

Continue reading The problem with problem solving

A flood of migrants – desperate to get away, determined to survive

Happened across an interesting article which came my way, talking about some migrants:

He was quite taken with the story of S_____ travelling to _____ on boats like the ____ and the horrendous conditions they experienced during those voyages. “It shows how desperate they were to get out of S____. They were sold on the idea of hope here and some powered through. It’s a testament to the S____ personality. A lot of determined people come out of S____,” he said.


As you might guess, S___ blank was not originally Syrians, but Scottish (economic) migrants escaping the desperate situation of Scotland for the clean slate of Canada. We see many differences between the migration away from Scotland then and the migration away from Syria now, but it’s good for us to have a big enough perspective to empathise with the plight and desperation of people who up sticks and flee their homeland, and yet would rather like to keep quite a lot of their family identity and culture intact.

Newsletter 42: Not in Nigeria!

MM42 Cover Picture
Click to download the high quality version

Here’s some news for June/July 2015 from the Nigeria branch of the Rowbory family (High Quality Printable Version)

With a whirlwind of final meetings, David wrapped up his solo month in Nigeria and returned to the heart of the family at the start of May.  By then they had moved over from Northern Ireland to Glasgow and Rebekah had started at a local primary school. Continue reading Newsletter 42: Not in Nigeria!

Don’t look back… but… Kirk Zero by 2037?

It suddenly dawned on me that May was coming round, and for most of the past 8 years that meant there would be some kind of trouble and rumpus regarding the Church of Scotland annual General Assembly. It’s actually a great joy to be able to put all that behind us now. Indeed, Phillip Jensen very helpfully urged us to stop looking over our shoulders and not let the persecution of the past control us (my paraphrase). But I’m afraid I still couldn’t resist wondering what was happening and whether the ‘Kirk’ was actually declining and falling into obscurity as rapidly as we expected it to do so.

IMG_0840So I had a glance through the latest reports and statistics and tried to piece them together when I found that someone (David Robertson of course) had already done a much better job. Continue reading Don’t look back… but… Kirk Zero by 2037?

I don’t really understand it so it must be great!

Journalists love writing about themselves and Nigerian journalists are no exception. I came across this gushing report on the Nation’s awesome achievements whilst searching for a turgid (but apparently award-winning) article on threats to Nigerian languages from the dash to English. I’m honestly trying not to be unfair here and to allow for the possibility of Nigerian English grammar and idioms being significantly divergent from British English, but I still would struggle to give this article more than a B–.

“But surely it deserves more,” I hear you cry, Continue reading I don’t really understand it so it must be great!

Christmas 2014 Newsletter

Download the printable PDF: Monthly Museletter 40

Christmas Greetings from Jos!  Yesterday we had our office Christmas celebration not just with colleagues but with their families too. Our group has certainly kept growing over the last year. Last year’s party met in our back garden. This time we met in a hall (on the compound we moved to in February) to enjoy scripture, songs, carols, prayer, games and food together. We’ll write more about our office and colleagues in the new year. Apart from celebrating Christmas it’s also the end of semester at the Theological College of Northern Nigeria (TCNN) where David has been teaching in the Bible Translation Dept. Continue reading Christmas 2014 Newsletter

BA’s worryingly unreliable baggage allowances for children [UPDATED]

Update 23 June 2014

After posting this to Twitter and Facebook last week I was contacted and told that an agent would get in touch. Eventually that happened and they have told me that they’ve sent £140 by cheque, but without admitting explicitly that anything was wrong, nor giving any clearer assurance about what we should do in the future.

Executive summary and why all families should be worried about travelling with BA: British Airways do not always honour the extra children’s car seat / stroller allowances that they quote on their website; sometimes you may be charged for every car seat as excess piece of luggage and other times not. Do not believe their website; their customer service refuse to honour it.

Disclaimer: I don’t like having to write this post, but it seems important for others that it be written so that they can be warned.

Our experience:

We flew from Belfast City Airport to Abuja, Nigeria, via London Heathrow on Sunday 19 January 2014.

My wife and I were travelling with 2 children and an infant. The infant was allowed one extra hold bag in addition to the standard 3 bags paid for on our charity fare booked by Key Travel. So our total allowance of checked bags was to be 13.

baggage grid showing child allowances

We had 2 booster child seats for the children (age 3 and 5, so required by law to travel to the airport in those seats) which are allowed as extra items, and a car seat for the infant and a push-chair. BA policy published on their website allows the car seats and push chair to be taken as extra hold items (without charge). However when we were about to arrange this at the checkin desk, the staff member told us that we would have to pay separately for all the 3 car seats. The staff member said that she was unable to check the car seats through without paying extra. I asked for a supervisor and she was unwilling or unable to contact one, since she didn’t actually work for BA but for another company.

Car seats wrapped up so we didn't have to pay £140 for each of the 3, just one £140 charge.
Car seats had to be wrapped up in a rather expensive £140 plastic bag.

Understandably we were unhappy about this, but no option was presented to us except putting the car seats in a bag and paying £140 for it as an extra case, and taking part of one car seat as carry-on hand baggage. The agents (“Siobhan” and another colleague) were unwilling even to write a note explaining what they had insisted and the reasoning behind the withdrawal of the child seat allowance. This at the time seemed suspicious to me, but there seemed no way to force their hand.

Our ‘Manage my booking’ details and the BA economy allowances policy available online makes it clear that child and infant tickets include an allowance for taking a car seat/booster seat and a stroller for each child/infant. The staff were unwilling to listen to reason and purported to have their hands tied.

This has never been a problem for us before travelling in and out of Glasgow International Airport, Belfast International Airport, London Heathrow and Abuja International Airport where the child seat allowance has always been honoured.

Shaken by this, and more than a little annoyed, we wrote to BA customer service who took over 2 months to reply. Surprisingly, even after some back-and-forth to make sure the situation was correctly understood by all the BA customer services replies asserted:

Firstly, I would like to apologise for the delay in replying to you.  I am sorry to learn that Mr Rowbory and his family had an unpleasant experience at Belfast airport when checking in their baggage. 

I have checked our records and can confirm that the car seats that Mr Rowbory wanted to carry as a free checked baggage was in excess of his maximum allowance.  Mr Rowbory was charged correctly.

Best regards
Soumya Poolerichalil
British Airways Customer Relations

After replying that this disagreed with their website policy, their reply of 14 April was as follows:

As stated in our previous response, Mr David Rowbory and his family had carried 15 pieces of checked luggage including the car seats.  The car seats were in excess of the total checked baggage allowance.  Hence, Mr Rowbory was not allowed to carry the car seats as a free checked luggage.

This means that BA do not consider the children’s and infants’ allowances (3 items) to actually be free. You will note that 13 items were paid for on the tickets and the extra 2 were easily within the total of 3 seats + 3 strollers quoted on the baggage website. I wrote to customer services because I could see that it was important not just for us but for every other family to see whether BA would honour their stated extra allowances for children. Our conclusion is that sometimes a car seat (as with RyanAir) counts against our allowance as an item of hold baggage, but other times it does not (as with most airlines, including EasyJet). With BA you cannot be sure. Part of the problem may come from the way BA has contracted out so much of its operation. It would appear that the Belfast City checkin staff didn’t know anything about BA policy, nor did they care about customer service. The customer service staff seem to know nothing about the website.

Before you travel with BA with a family you should probably write to customer services (maybe 3 months ahead of time, given their response rate) to find out whether or not you can take car seats for free in addition to other baggage allowance. This is the plain reading of their terms and conditions but not the practice this last time (though every other time we travelled it has been that way). Alternatively it may be financially safer to travel with almost any other long-haul carrier.

Please do spread this news so that others are suitably warned. Feel free to contact us if you have any queries or would like more details.

A Linguist-Geek Riddle

Is “dead metaphor” a dead metaphor? If not, then who killed it?

Background: Reading through a colleague’s excellent paper on the difficulty of handling words for ‘angry’ and ‘sad’ in the NW Nigerian language Huba, one section dealt with metaphors that we live by. A dead metaphor is one that has been used so much that you don’t notice it being figurative language any more and it carries the meaning directly, whilst also not necessarily making you think about the component parts.