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Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada • Fall 2010

From Theft to Translation

Sign Language Translation

Gains Momentum
Worn-out copies of God’s Word is the
ambition of a dizzying, 22-language Bible Fortunately, Some Things
translation effort in the Timor region. Don’t Change
Fall 2010 • Volume 28 • Number 3
Word Alive, which takes its name from Hebrews 4:12a, is the official
publication of Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada. Its mission is to
inform, inspire and involve the Christian public as partners in the
worldwide Bible translation movement. It’s Really Cool!
Editor: Dwayne Janke Dwayne Janke
Designer: Laird Salkeld

Senior Staff Writer: Doug Lockhart
Staff Writers: Janet Seever
ur first exposure to the dynamic, multi-language Bible
Staff Photographers: Alan Hood, Natasha Schmale
translation effort in Timor and surrounding islands
Vice President of Communications: Dave Crough
actually started in Darwin, Australia. Photographer
Word Alive is published four times annually by Wycliffe Bible Translators Alan Hood, videographer Chris Coffyn and I had
of Canada, 4316 10 St NE, Calgary, AB T2E 6K3. Copyright 2010 by
Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada. Permission to reprint articles and stopped over in Darwin, home to
More On The Web: Watch Chris’
other magazine contents may be obtained by written request to the edi-
video about this Word Alive trip to
AuSIL (the Wycliffe partner field agen-
Timor, called “Unfolding Stories,” at cy furthering translation in the region).
tor. A donation of $12 annually is suggested to cover the cost of printing
and mailing the magazine. (Donate online or use the reply form in this
<www.wycliffe.ca/wordalive>. In the AuSIL building, working
issue.) Printed in Canada by McCallum Printing Group, Edmonton.
in a quiet, air-conditioned office,
Member: The Canadian Church Press, Evangelical Press Association.
was Misriani Balle (see photo pg. 33). Why was the 29-year-old
For additional copies: media_resources@wycliffe.ca
Helong speaker from Semau Island here? To focus on her Bible
To contact the editor: editor_wam@wycliffe.ca
translation work without village interruptions, she explained,
For address updates: circulation@wycliffe.ca
and to interact about drafted Scriptures with Wycliffe’s Stuart
Note to readers: References to “SIL” are occasionally made in Cameron, adviser to the project, living in Darwin.
Word Alive. SIL is a key partner organization, dedicated to training,
language development and research, translation and literacy. Fortunately, Misriani was gracious and spoke English, so we
naturally peppered her with questions. What we discovered was a
dedicated young Christian woman, passionate and excited about
providing God’s Word in the heart language of her 20,000 people.
“Wonderful!” Misriani exclaimed with a giddy voice and wide
smile, when I asked how she felt about being involved with the
Wycliffe Canada Vision Statement: A world where translated New Testament translation, now nearing completion.
Scriptures lead to transformed lives among people of all languages.
“I’m just so happy; just so excited,” she said. “Because even
Translating Scripture, Transforming Lives when we bring the
Together with partners worldwide, we serve indigenous people through
[draft] Scriptures
language-related ministries, especially Bible translation and literacy.
Our goal is to empower local communities to express God’s love in both “Jesus is there . . . directly speaking to us.” to the people in
Word and deed—for personal, social and spiritual transformation. Semau Island, and I
Wycliffe personnel currently serve globally in more than 1,300 language ask them to read it
projects for about 936 million. However, about 2,200 minority language
through . . . they laugh and they giggle and they understand. It’s
groups still wait for the power of God working through their own lan-
guages. Wycliffe invites you to participate in this effort through prayer, so nice. I can’t imagine what will happen when it’s completed!”
service and funding. Helong people struggle using the Indonesian Bible, stressed
Canadian Head Office: 4316 10 St NE, Calgary, AB T2E 6K3. Phone: Misriani. “We’re just guessing, guessing—guessing what Jesus says
(403) 250-5411 or toll free 1-800-463-1143, 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. because it is hard to understand. . . . Translating the Bible into our
mountain time. Fax: (403) 250-2623. Email: info@wycliffe.ca language, they will understand . . . what Jesus means.”
Cover: A young Tetun girl delights in reading a Bible story booklet in “Jesus is there . . . directly speaking to us. It’s really cool!”
her mother tongue. Struggling to understand the Indonesian Bible, Several years ago, Misriani could not have imagined being a
people in the Timor region are anxious to receive God’s Word in their
heart language. Photograph by Alan Hood.
mother tongue translator (MTT). Her parents asked her to help
serve “the white people”: namely, Stuart Cameron as he led com-
munity checking of drafted Helong Scriptures on Semau Island.
“I noticed that one of the girls serving us cups of tea at break
was showing a particular interest,” recalls Stuart (pictured on pg.
33), “and when I asked her a question about one of the verses we’d
just done, she answered very well.”
In Others’ Words Realizing Misriani would have loved to continue her education,
Stuart decided to arrange funding so she could attend Christian
“Father of mercies, in Thy Word what University in Kupang, Timor, and then join the translation team.
endless glory shines; forever be Thy “It’s one of those God moments,” he says. “That girl has gone on in
name adored for these celestial lines leaps and bounds, and become an integral part of the team.”
. . . . Teach me to love Thy sacred Many God moments fuelled this energetic Bible translation
movement. It now involves nearly 100 MTTs in 20-plus languages
Word, and view my Saviour there.”
of the Timor region. To quote Misriani, it is really cool!
—Anne Steele (1716-1778),
English hymnist, in “Father of Mercies”

Articles by Dwayne Janke • Photographs by Alan Hood

6 Dog-Eared Scriptures
Worn-out copies of God’s Word is the ambition of a dizzying,
22-language Bible translation effort in the Timor region.

18 From Theft to Translation

Timorese pastor Gabriel Bria started his committed faith
journey by stealing God’s Word. Now he’s translating
Scriptures for his own people.

30 Celling the Word

18 Translated Scriptures on hand phones are
getting an enthusiastic response in Timor.

2 Foreword It’s Really Cool!
By Dwayne Janke

4 Watchword Sign Language Translation Gains Momentum

34 Beyond Words Hogging the Spotlight

35 Last Word F ortunately, Some Things Don’t Change
By Don Hekman


Word Alive • Fall 2010 • wycliffe.ca 3


Sign Language
Translation Gains
pioneering movement to translate
God’s Word into sign languages for
the Deaf continues to make significant
languages in countries
such as Guatemala, Peru,
Jamaica and Chile, were
Momentum strides in various parts of the globe. overjoyed to attend the
In India and Kenya, hundreds from pivotal meeting.

Alan Hood
the Deaf community attended the January launches of 32 Bible story “We were amazed to
passages on DVD in Kerala Sign Language (the sign language of know that God had allowed us to be an integral part of this process,”
Kerala, one of India’s southern states) and Kenya Sign Language (used said Elizabeth. “Through our survey fieldwork, many of these sign lan-
by those pictured at right). It represents the first time both groups guages had been identified as having a translation need.”
have access to God’s Word in an understandable form. This past fall, Deaf people from several Asian countries formed an
Teams of deaf men and women, trained and equipped by Deaf organization to promote sign language Bible translation all over their
Opportunity Outreach (DOOR) and Wycliffe International, did the continent. The Asian Sign Language Translation Association was cre-
translations and the video production. DOOR has six other similar ated at the meeting in Tokyo, Japan.
sign language translations in progress in the Philippines, Burundi, Meanwhile, in Holland, a team is working to foster partnerships with
Ethiopia, Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania. groups and organizations that will see both the Old and New Testa-
In September, deaf and hearing translators from 14 countries in the ments translated into Dutch Sign Language.
Americas gathered at a consultation in Colombia to develop plans to It is estimated there could be up to 400 sign languages used by Deaf
translate Scriptures into every sign language represented. Wycliffe sign around the world. Virtually all need Bible translation (see Word Alive,
language surveyors, Jason and Elizabeth Parks, who have assessed sign Summer 2009), but work is underway in only about 50.

SIL Joins International Mother Language Day Observance

S IL representatives participated in
celebrations commemorating the
11th annual International Mother
France; and in the Philippines.
At the embassy, Dr. Paul Frank,
director of SIL international relations,
political, economic and spiritual needs and goals.
International Mother Language Day was born out
of Bangladesh’s celebration of “Language Martyrs’
Language Day this past February, at the said about half of the world’s 6,909 Day” since 1952, when many people marched to
Bangladesh Embassy in Washington, languages are each spoken by fewer defend their right to use their Bangla language. Some
D.C.; UNESCO headquarters in Paris, than 10,000 people. It is a fact that of them gave their lives for the cause.
should serve as a call to action.
“For languages to remain a viable
means of cultural expression,” said JESUS Film Project Begins
Frank, “two things are needed: 1) for Guyanese Creole
communities need the capabilities,
assistance and encouragement to
develop their languages, and 2) they
need a supportive environment for that
T he JESUS Film will soon be available in
Guyanese Creole for its two-thirds of a
million speakers.

Mary Steele
language development.” This past March in Guyana, South America,
Among the world’s smaller Wycliffe workers and a Campus Crusade JESUS
languages, SIL (Wycliffe’s key partner) film team completed the important first step: an
is a major advocate, trainer and con- audio translation for the film.
sultant in “language development”— Guyanese Creole speakers listened to the film
actions that a people group takes to in a closely related language, San Andres Islander
ensure that its language continues Creole, and translated it on the spot in their Creole
to serve its changing social, cultural, language. The audio translation was then recorded
to help provide an oral script, to be checked
for accuracy by a translation consultant, who
Word Alive Wins 7 Awards understands Guyanese Creole.
The corrected oral script will be used by

W ord Alive magazine earned seven awards for writing, photography and
design in 2009 issues, from the Evangelical Press Association (EPA) and
Canadian Church Press. Included was the EPA’s award of excellence for top
Guyanese Creole speakers, who will perform the
various parts needed for the final video recording.
No translation has ever been done before in
magazine by a missionary agency. Guyanese Creole.
For details, visit <www.wycliffe.ca/newsroom>.

4 Word Alive • Fall 2010 • wycliffe.ca

Wycliffe Partners Challenge South American Students JAARS
A“treasure chest” of photos,
plus technology, has ful-

P artners of Wycliffe Americas in the

southernmost part of South America
were out in force to present the need for
in charge of a workshop focusing on Bible
Especially emphasized was the pro-
filled hopes at JAARS Vernacular
Media Services (VMS) for a new
media creation tool that helps to
Bible translation, as 2,000-plus students gram Rumbo a las Naciones (Reaching Treasure present God’s Word effectively to
attended the seven-day CIMA conference the Nations), as it continues to seek Latin of a Tool minority languages.
in Cordoba, Argentina, earlier this year. American workers to serve in linguistics, A data DVD, filled with photo
Interacting with young people trying translation and literacy. images, stories and video templates of short stories
to discover what God has for their future, The letters of the Urbana-style confer- from Genesis is the first of an anticipated biblical
the Latin Americans in Translation ence’s name, CIMA, do not have special collection from VMS at JAARS, Wycliffe’s technical
and Literacy (LETRA) representatives significance; the word cima in Spanish partner agency.
manned an information booth and were refers to a mountain peak. Jim Doll, VMS production team manager, cred-
its God for bringing together two key components:
the needed technology and access to more than
Second Time
Around for T en thousand copies of the second edition printing of
the Bible in the Konkomba language arrived in time for
Christmas 2009.
12,000 photo images taken during the filming of
the Genesis and Luke Scripture videos, as well as
drawings from the Read-N-Grow Picture Bible.
Ghana’s The Konkomba people, who number about a million mainly Placing simple Bible story scripts and visuals
Konkomba in northeast Ghana and northwest Togo, Africa, had been for each scene in video templates, the VMS team
asking for more than a year when new copies of God’s Word has made video creation easy and customizable.
would again be available. It was 11 years ago that the Bible in their mother tongue was “By simply recording the script in its mother
dedicated and distributed among the Konkomba, a farming people who practise tra- tongue, a language group can produce a DVD that
ditional religion and shares God’s Word in a way that will be understood
are now turning to by everyone,” Doll explains. “Applying software
Christianity. technology makes it simple to add special effects,
Local translators, transitions and titles, and to zoom or pan across
serving with GILLBT photos or illustrations to add movement.”
(Ghana’s national Original music and custom sound effects round
Bible translation out the package. Language teams can now use this
organization), did tool to produce simple video stories, PowerPoint
the translation in presentations, picture books, flipcharts and more.
about a decade, with Meanwhile, JAARS VMS reports that it has
Wycliffe personnel been involved in producing 454 vernacular videos,
acting in an advisory/ including Luke and the JESUS film, in 363 lan-
consulting role. guages in 34 countries, as of June 2009.

K artidaya, Indonesia’s national Bible translation agency
and Wycliffe International partner, wants to begin
work in 75 more Bibleless language groups by the year 2015.
Word Count
Agency The vision is lofty. Kartidaya currently works with just 17
people groups in several areas of the country: North Suma-
1942 Year Wycliffe personnel began
Bible translation.
Sets Vision
tra, Central Kalimantan, West Kalimantan, South Sulawesi,
Southeast Maluku, Central Java, Jakarta and Papua. 24 Languages receiving translations of
complete Bibles, involving Wycliffe,
To reach its goal by 2015, Kartidaya says God must move so far.
churches, believers and Christian organizations in Indonesia to catch the
vision, work together and send out personnel for the task. Another major need
is funds to build a training facility for those called to serve in Bible translation,
735 Languages receiving translations of
New Testaments, involving Wycliffe.

since Kartidaya has outgrown its current office.

Consisting of 17,500 islands, Indonesia is home to more than 700 languages. 107,000,000 Population of
speakers in these
Hundreds still need Bible translation projects to begin. languages.
Source: Wycliffe International

Word Alive • Fall 2010 • wycliffe.ca 5


copies of God’s Word is the ambition of a dizzying, 22-language Bible translation effort in the Timor region.

Between classes, students at the

Christian University in Kupang,
West Timor, eagerly peruse and buy
Scripture portions and CDs in their
various mother tongue languages.
(See related story, pg. 30). Getting
materials into the hands of people as
soon as possible after translation is a
key strategy of the Bible translation
effort in the Timor region.
is mentally tough following Wycliffe’s Chuck Grimes’
monologue. He stands in front of a wall map of the
Timor region (at right), giving an overview of the
dynamic Bible translation movement among a cluster of
languages here, 600 km northeast of Australia.
Though Chuck speaks slowly and articulately, the sheer
volume of places and language groups he points to, and the
accompanying anecdotes he shares, can be, well . . . dizzying.
A few things are apparent, though. Eighty-plus languages are
spoken throughout the region. Their speakers live on dozens of
islands scattered around the Sabu Sea. Upwards of 100 local peo-
ple are currently involved in translating Scriptures and other mate-
rials into more than 20 of these languages. And Chuck, his wife
Barbara, along with Australians Stuart and Maryanne Cameron,
have the seemingly impossible task of giving leadership, advice,
mentoring and training to the whole vertigo-inducing effort.
“In one sense we’re overwhelmed by what God is doing. We’re
overwhelmed by just the range of it,” admits Chuck later. “I know
a lot of people in Bible translation don’t have the privilege of see-
ing fruit during the time they’re working. But we are overwhelm-
ingly blessed by having people grateful for the translations, using
the translations, and having lives transformed by the translations.”
“It’s that kind of stuff that energizes us, in spite of being logis-
tically very busy,” he says.

Sea of Opportunities
You begin to sense this busyness—aptly described by the
Grimeses as “almost drowning in a sea of opportunities”—on
a tour at their place of work. It is the one-storey headquarters
of the Language and Culture Unit of the Evangelical Protestant
Church of Timor (known locally as GMIT), located in bustling
Kupang, the provincial capital of West Timor.
It’s a comparatively slow day at the office, but in one room, a
four-man translation team from the Lole language, spoken on
the nearby island of Rote, sits around a computer screen. While
it is wearily hot and humid outside, the team labours in air-con-
ditioned comfort on the final draft stages of the New Testament
for their people.
“If they work in air conditioning, they can work eight-hour
days, rather than the normal 9 to 2, which is what a lot of the
government offices do,” says Chuck. “So they find the air condi-
tioning gives them a lot more stamina.”
At any one time, varying numbers of the 20-plus, far-flung
translation teams come to GMIT’s Language and Culture Unit
office. They get advice from the Grimeses, review the results of
testing draft translations in their communities, or work with out-
side consultants to check translation. Some visit to record audio
Scriptures for CDs or Bible videos. It is not uncommon to have
up to 40 people in the office’s courtyard dining area for lunch.
As translated Scripture portions and other materials continue
to arrive from a printer in Jakarta, Indonesia, the storage room
contents have spilled over into a second meeting room. “Which
means the teams are kind of lining up, on top of each other, ask-
ing to use rooms,” says Chuck.

(Above, right) The Lole language team works at the headquarters of the Language
and Culture Unit of the Evangelical Protestant Church of Timor (GMIT), in Kupang.
8 Word Alive • Fall 2010 • wycliffe.ca The team is translating Scriptures for their 20,000 people living on Rote Island,
southwest of the main island of Timor. Various islander teams must journey on
wooden boats (above) to reach Kupang for such activities as translation
consultant checks and audio/video Scripture recording. Rough seas often
make it too dangerous to travel during the monsoon seasons that begin in Word Alive • Fall 2010 • wycliffe.ca 9
mid-December and mid-June.
“We don’t want Scriptures in here or in boxes. We want them
out there. But there has to be a place to start [the distribution].
“Last year we probably moved through 250 boxes of Scripture
portions, from full New Testaments to single books,” explains
Chuck. “We quite regularly average distributing 30,000 Scripture
portions a year.”
As the translation movement expands in the Timor region, the
overtaxed office (sitting like a small sibling next to GMIT’s four-sto-
rey headquarters) will need to double in size. A Wycliffe Associates
construction team is returning this year to do more upsizing.

Multilingual Challenge
Chuck and Barbara Grimes—kids of parents who served in
Mexico with Wycliffe, and in Brazil with technical partner
agency, JAARS, respectively—came to Timor with no agenda for
a vigorous Bible translation movement.
They had worked as Wycliffe translators in Maluku, Indonesia,
for 10 years. Then, while pursuing their PhDs in Canberra,
Australia, the Grimeses rubbed shoulders with a studying
Timorese man. Rev. Dr. Tom Therik was academic dean of
GMIT’s Christian University in Kupang and adviser for a fledg-
ling Bible translation project for his Tetun people.
Therik invited the Grimeses to teach Bible translation prin-
ciples to the Tetun translation team and introduced them to the
Christian University leaders. The Grimeses accepted an invitation
to teach at the university’s theology department in 1995. It was
through this relationship that GMIT leaders saw Bible translation
close up and personal, as the Grimeses worked on the side with
visiting mother tongue translators from their days in Maluku.
Wycliffe’s Chuck Grimes chats with a senior church leader in front of the headquarters of
GMIT, a Timorese-run denomination with a Dutch Reformed
the Evangelical Protestant Church of Timor (GMIT), located in West Timor’s capital city of
heritage, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1997. Leaders were Kupang. Chuck and his wife Barbara began teaching at GMIT’s Christian University in 1995,
reminded that church-founding missionaries from Holland had before serving the denomination in the current wide-ranging Bible translation effort.

Timor Region At a Glance Geography: 63,000 sq. km (slightly bigger People: Numerous ethnic groups,
Location: North of Australia, between the than Nova Scotia). 550 islands including Timor, each speaking their own language.
island of New Guinea and Southeast Asia. Fores, Sumba, Rote and Alor. Coastal lowlands, Urban centres include merchants of Timor
with interior mountains on larger islands. Chinese & Arabic heritage, & other
Northern & southern string of islands have regional immigrants.
volcanoes and uplifted coral, respectively.
Religion: East Nusa Tenggara - 90%
Portuguese are the official languages in East Timor,
Climate: Tropical; semi-arid with long dry Christian (Roman Catholic & Protestant); 9%
although Portuguese is not spoken by most of the
seasons from Mar./Apr. to Oct./Nov. Muslim; 1% other. East Timor - 97% Christian
population. Local languages range in size from
(predominantly Roman Catholic); 3% other.
Government: Eastern half of Timor governed 1,000 to 1 million speakers.
as part of East Timor (Timor Leste); West Languages: 80+ local languages; some also used
Bible translation status: Bible/NT available
Timor and other islands comprise Indonesian as languages of wider communication. Indonesian
in 6 languages • Bible translation in progress
province of East Nusa Tenggara (NTT). is official language in East Nusa Tenggara; Tetun &
in 20-plus languages • Approximate total
Economy: Mostly subsistence remaining Bible translation need – 60
agriculture with heavy dependency languages.
on corn, plus some rice in lowlands.
Literacy Rate: 85% of adult population (15
Major income sources on location, PHILIPPINES
years and older) in East Nusa Tenggara; 50%
but include cattle, fishing, coffee &
of adult population in East Timor.
Sources: The World Factbook; Operation World (21st Century
Population: 4.5 million in Edition); NTT Dept. of Statistics, Ethnologue, Wikipedia, SIL.
East Nusa Tenggara; 1 million
in East Timor. GUINEA

Alan Hood



Bible is very

hard to


even for



even for

people with



Wycliffe’s Barbara Grimes and several staff at GMIT’s Language and

Culture Unit office unpack and sort Scripture booklets (printed in Jakarta,
Indonesia). They are being translated into 22 different languages in the
Timor region. Bulging at the seams, the storage room is only a temporary
stopover for materials being aggressively distributed throughout the
region—at a rate of up to 30,000 portions annually.
Word Alive • Fall 2010 • wycliffe.ca 11
Barbara Grimes is pleased to see championed Bible translation in the 1920s among one language
“Barbara and I say we
Christian radio stations, some run
by GMIT, broadcasting audio record-
group on Timor—with amazing and lasting spiritual fruit.
ings of Scriptures as they are trans- want to have worn-out, GMIT is one of the largest churches in Indonesia, with 1.3
lated into local languages. Besides million members, 900 ordained ministers and 2,300 congrega-
planting the seeds of God’s Word in dog-eared copies of the tions, some having as many as 8,000 members. But a major chal-
far-flung communities, such multi-
language broadcasts publicize and
lenge GMIT faces is its multilingual membership.
promote the acceptance and use of Scriptures out there. “The logistics and economics of ministering to over a million
the translated Scriptures. people who speak 60 different languages is really challenging,”
That’s one of the says Chuck. GMIT ministers in an area with great poverty, lower
levels of education and limited proficiency in Indonesian.
evidences that we “The Indonesian Bible is very hard to understand, even for
educated Indonesians, even for people with university degrees,”
can see that people he adds. “One of the reasons why some pastors tell us they
rarely preach from books like Romans, Ephesians, Colossians or
are actually in the
Hebrews, is because in the national language Bible, it’s even hard
for educated ministers with theology degrees to understand.”
Scriptures and using
As Rev. Dr. Eben Nuban Timo, current GMIT moderator,
has put it: “If we remember the command of Jesus before He
them. We’re confident
ascended to heaven, He commanded the disciples to bring the
that if they do, Good News to all people. And Timorese people . . . are also the
people of God. They need to hear the gospel according to their
that we will see own languages.”

12 Word Alive • Fall 2010 • wycliffe.ca

transformed lives.”
Deeper Roots
“The diversity of languages among GMIT members is valued as
a resource that is a gift from God,” explains a church strategic
plan, “and at the same time this diversity is a cross-cultural com-
munication challenge in the life and ministry of GMIT.”
Wanting to address the need for increased vernacular min-
istry, GMIT created a Language and Culture Unit to serve all
churches in the region. The goal is to translate at least the New
Testament and the book of Genesis for every one of the languag-
es in the region that needs it, as well as Christian material, such
as liturgy, confessions of faith, Bible dictionaries, devotionals,
Bible recordings, Christian education and scholarly material. To
enable this to happen, in 2004 GMIT signed a formal agreement
with Wycliffe’s partner field agency, with whom the Grimeses
and Camerons serve.
Barbara Grimes says vernacular Scriptures and related materi-
als will go a long way to deepen discipleship in GMIT so it can
be increasingly used by God as a light to the greater region.
“He actually will do a lot of amazing things with a strong
church. But until you have the roots in the church grounded
deep in the Scriptures, it’s just going to be a ritualistic kind of
While the Timor region language projects are multi-faceted,
the Grimeses put a special emphasis on translating God’s Word
so it will be used.
“Barbara and I say we want to have worn-out, dog-eared cop-
ies of the Scriptures out there. That’s one of the evidences that
we can see that people are actually in the Scriptures and using
them,” Chuck says. “We’re confident that if they do, that we’ll see
transformed lives.”
To that end, translated Bible portions and other materials
have been circulated as quickly as possible after the usual careful
consultant-checking process. This ensures extra user feedback
on how adequately a language is written and whether key bibli- Lena, also a member of the Dhao Bible
“One of the things
translation team, trims some booklets
cal terms are communicating correctly—and it whets people’s she printed on a risograph machine.
appetite for more heart language Scriptures. Besides printed that I realized is They will be distributed as part of a
booklets, the translated materials are distributed on CD, the pilot project for bilingual education
the national lan- materials, being developed by Barbara
Internet, and even cellphones (see related story, pg. 30). They are
Grimes and June Jacob, a Kupang
also used as content for broadcasts in various local languages by translator, who helps manage the
several radio stations. guage Bible never GMIT Language and Culture Unit (see
related photo, pg. 28), and who has
Can’t Put Them Down alighted on my already finished the New Testament
in her own language. Creating school
Tagging along with the Grimeses and various translation teams reading and health education materi-
as they travel around Timor illustrates the great receptivity to heart the way the als in local languages is part of GMIT’s
the translated materials. After a Sunday service at the Mizpah vision for holistic ministry.
Scriptures in my
Church, in a village 40 minutes drive east of Kupang, a table
of Scriptures, books and CDs attracts an energetic circle of
own language do.”
believers. Kids pick up Bible storybooks and New Testaments
in Kupang Malay, the region’s trade language and their mother
tongue, and begin reading with ease.
Many have never read their language before. However, they
are able to transfer their familiarity with the efficient writing
system of Indonesian—which they often may not understand
well—over to their own language.
“Do you see that?” asks Chuck, smiling with satisfaction at the

Word Alive • Fall 2010 • wycliffe.ca 13

chorus of eight kids almost entranced as they individually read ing that stuff and one of the things that I realized is the national
aloud. “Once you get them started, they just don’t put it down.” language Bible never alighted on my heart the way the Scriptures
And the Scriptures are making an impact, sometimes even in my own language do,’ ” recalls Chuck. “He used the same verb
before they are distributed. The Grimeses tell the story of how as that of a bird alighting on a twig. So, in other words, we would
one translator, a pastor and counsellor, was approached by vil- say, ‘it never gripped his heart the way the Scriptures in his own
lage people distressed that a neighbour had packed his bag to language do.’ ”
leave his wife and family. Uncertain what to say, the pastor read Then there is the secondary impact of the translations, stress
from a proof sheet of a yet unprinted booklet on marriage. It the Grimeses. Some older Timorese, after reading Scriptures in
is based on the 1 Corinthians 13 “love chapter” that had been their mother tongue, have grown in their hunger to access more
translated into Kupang Malay. useful information for daily living, deciding to pursue more
“The guy just started bawling his head off and said, ‘Why education. Youngsters are eagerly reading the Gospel of Mark
hasn’t anybody ever told me that before?’ ” recalls Chuck. “The because it is in their own language, developing reading skills far
problem is, the meaning of that beautiful passage just doesn’t beyond the usual for their age.
come through when they read the Indonesian Bible. He heard it Explains Chuck: “A school teacher father [of one such child]
one time in his own language and it went straight to his heart.” said, ‘We really need to continue doing this translation, not just
The husband reconciled with his wife. for the spiritual growth, but for the educational progress and lit-
eracy growth of our whole society.’”
Gripping the Heart
In another case, a highly educated senior GMIT church leader Player/Coaches
started reading Scriptures translated by a Language and Culture The Grimeses describe their role in the Timor language work as
Unit team into his mother tongue. “player/coaches.”
“He said after several months, ‘You know, I have been read- “The challenge that we were given from the church,” explains

14 Word Alive • Fall 2010 • wycliffe.ca

“The challenge that

we were given

from the church

was that we were

to train Timorese

to do the job and

to not depend

only on bringing

in foreigners to

actually do it.”

On a beach at sundown in Kupang,

West Timor, ocean breezes bring relief
after a hot and humid November day.
The dry season is nearing its end.
Timorese, many of whom are subsis-
tence farmers, wait anxiously for the
crucial moisture of rainy season that
provides their food and livelihood.

Pioneering in Timor “Most of them had never used a computer before,” says showed up just before Chuck needed to catch a ferry. That
To move Bible translation forward, the dynamic multi-language Chuck. “We began to realize that pretty much all of the soft- team has been using Our Word effectively ever since.
team working energetically in the Timor region has had to pio- ware is designed for educated Westerners, who already have a Another new strategy being used in the Timor region is the
neer in two important ways: software and translation strategy. body of knowledge about what computers are supposed to do.” “front translation approach.” When the first four language
As the Wycliffe personnel in Timor introduced computer He turned to an old Wycliffe friend, John Wimbish, a devel- projects started, the Grimeses expected the work to progress
software used elsewhere for Bible translation, they found oper of some previous translation software in the organiza- simultaneously. But Timorese teams suggested that the Kupang
that the Timorese translators routinely mangled their draft tion. Wimbish, who serves with The Seed Company, a project- Malay translation be done first, so they could model their trans-
Scripture files. funding partner of Wycliffe U.S., created a program called Our lation on it. Kupang Malay is spoken mostly around the capital
Word (pictured at left). Specifically city region but is also used more widely as a trade language.
aimed for the low-end user, the Their request was embraced. Now each team drafts their
“bullet-proof” program has worked translations based on the Kupang Malay Scriptures, published
extremely well. and dedicated in 2007. These act as a front translation for all
“It’s being used on about 50 the others, accelerating the time needed to finish each NT.
computers around the world so far. Before the Kupang Malay front translation was available,
We now have several whole New several teams tried to draft their mother tongue translations
Testaments that have been drafted from the Indonesian Bible, which the Grimeses describe as
on it and are nearing completion.” “difficult for many to understand.” It took six months to draft
Chuck’s record for successfully the Gospel of Mark. The story was far different when the
training someone to use the soft- Kupang Malay New Testament was available.
ware is 10 minutes. That was the “One guy said it took him 10 days,” recalls Chuck. “Another
amount of time he had with a local guy in another language said it took him two weeks.”
translator on a remote island who
“We cannot stand Barbara, “was that we were to train Timorese to do the job and
to not depend only on bringing in foreigners to actually do it.”
up and say our So from the beginning, the goal has been to train, mentor and
advise teams of usually three or four mother tongue translators.
The teams consist of both younger and older people, male and
brilliant five-year female, and represent a wide range of backgrounds, from sub-
sistence farmers, to schoolteachers
More On The Web: To see and even a few ministers (see related
strategic plan was
differences between some of the
story, pg. 18).
Timor region’s languages, visit
to do this. God <www.wysite.org/sites/cbgrimes>,
The translators come from lan-
click “Issues in Translation” and guage groups, explains Barbara,
“How similar are the languages?” which are quite different from each
had much bigger other. Some are mountain people,
growing corn on the hillsides and raising cattle for their liveli-
things in mind. hood. Others live in coastal lowlands, where the short rainy season
provides enough moisture for wet rice cultivation, and people tap
He’s taken it way palm trees for sugary sap. Still others make their living primarily
from the sea, as traditional fishermen and seaweed growers.
“Another difference is linguistic,” Barbara adds. “We have two
beyond what we major groups of languages in this region representing languages
that are as different as English and Chinese.”
thought or imag-
Holy Jealousy
ined.” Initially, the Grimeses and Camerons worked with four language
teams, but then “holy jealousy” began to increase that number.
“Probably the last 14 or 16 languages have started on their
own,” explains Chuck. “People heard about translation going on
in these other languages and said, ‘Our people need this, too,
and we want to be involved in this.’
“So for several of the languages, the first time we ever knew
something was happening, or met anybody involved in transla-
tion, was when they showed up at our doorstep with a draft of
the Gospel of Mark. They said, ‘Now what do we do?’ ”
As current mother tongue translators gain experience and
further training, the Grimeses envision more and more of them
becoming advisers and consultants.
“They are already operating as managers and co-ordinators
at a very high level,” explains Chuck. “If for some reason our
plane should fall out of the sky, we want them to be able to keep
going—keep going well, keep going robustly and keep going
with very high quality.
“People see Chuck and Barbara Grimes, and Stuart and
Maryanne Cameron and think, ‘Wow, four people working on
all these languages.’ We don’t see it that way,” he stresses. “We are
part of a much bigger team. Our team includes church leaders. It
includes 100 or so indigenous translators and Timorese advisers.
It includes Timorese administrators.”

25 More Years?
The Wycliffe personnel serving in the Timor region are amazed
at what God has done so far.
“We cannot stand up and say our brilliant five-year strategic
plan was to do this,” says Chuck. “God had much bigger things
in mind. He’s taken it way beyond what we thought or imagined.”
One senior GMIT leader has gone so far as to call the cluster

16 Word Alive • Fall 2010 • wycliffe.ca

“People are

hungry for

the Word

of God,

and these


are feed-

ing that


This has

never been



language work the beginning of “a revolution” in the region’s (Opposite page) Wycliffe’s Chuck and
churches: “People are hungry for the Word of God, and these Barbara Grimes have settled nicely into
life and service in Timor, as they work
translations are feeding that hunger! This has never been to help Bible translation expand in the
possible before.” region. Known as incredibly hard work-
The revolution, though, has a long way to go. The agreement ers, the Grimeses still find time to get
away from their labour. (Above) On many
for the translation effort with GMIT’s Language and Culture
Saturday afternoons, they join a walking/
Unit is for a 25-year period. That doesn’t seem to scare Chuck, hiking club for some exercise outside
54, and Barb, 53, parents of teenage and grown children. Kupang. While different routes are used
“If God gives us that kind of time, that would be fine with me for each excursion, the Grimeses’ ministry
path isn’t liable to change for the foresee-
because it’s such a privilege to be here,” says Barbara. “Our com- able future. With up to 60 more languages
mitment here right now is as long as the Church wants us and needing Bible translation, they are plan-
God keeps us here.” ning to be in Timor for the long haul.
With potentially 60 more languages needing Bible translation
work in the Timor region, it’s difficult to imagine the Grimeses
going anywhere else, anytime soon.

Word Alive • Fall 2010 • wycliffe.ca 17

From Theft
Timorese pastor Gabriel Bria started his
committed faith journey by stealing God’s
Word. Now he’s translating Scriptures for
his own people.

“My heart was ev. Gabriel (Gab) Bria’s passion to understand, share and
translate God’s Word was sown when he got his first Bible
in a most peculiar way.
saying, ‘Just take He stole it.
It’s a comical story, and appropriate for this 4 ft. 8-inch
that Bible.’ But it Timorese dynamo (opposite), whose eyes emit a glint of fun and
whose highly animated face expresses a fiery Christian commit-
was also saying, Working as a government agriculturalist 32 years ago in West
Timor’s capital of Kupang, Gab was asked to coach a soccer
‘Don’t steal the team that went to play in the nearby village of Oenesu. Raised in
a Catholic home, the young man nervously agreed to billet one
Saturday night with a local Protestant family.
Bible—you’re “They were Protestants and we were Catholics, and we just
weren’t supposed to get along,” a grinning Gab explains through
Christian!’ ” an interpreter. “I was hesitant to spend the night there, but when
I saw they had a Bible, I was intrigued. I had never seen a com-
plete Bible before.”

Two Fighting Voices

Gab sat in stony silence as the father of the household told sto-
ries after a hard day of work in his gardens. Then, before the
evening meal, the father prayed.
“I was amazed at his prayer because it was relevant to what
was happening to us right at that time,” recalls Gab. In contrast,
Gab had always repeated memorized prayers.
At bedtime, the family read a passage from the Bible in
Indonesian and again prayed in an intimate way to God. Gab
retired to bed, gripped by an inner turmoil.
“Two voices were fighting inside me, so I couldn’t sleep,” he
says. “My heart was saying, ‘Just take that Bible.’ But it was also
saying, ‘Don’t steal the Bible—you’re Christian!’ ”
At 2 a.m., he crept out of his bedroom, took the Bible and hid
it under his pillow. Embarrassed about stealing something, he
felt like he was being judged.

18 Word Alive • Fall 2010 • wycliffe.ca

to Translation
“The two voices kept fighting inside me saying, ‘It’s okay. It’s “So I confessed my sins
God’s Holy Bible.’ The other voice said, ‘You’re not worthy of
being a Christian!’
“But I cried out silently, ‘Holy Spirit, help me.’ That was my
first spontaneous prayer. After that I was at peace, and I slept.” as the stealer of their
But It Bore Fruit
The next morning, Gab stayed quietly in bed as he listened to
the bewildered father searching frantically for the Bible. After Bible. They said, ‘It’s
the village church bell rang, prompting the family to leave for
the Sunday service, Gab got up, put the stolen Bible in his soccer
ball bag and left.
“And since then, I’ve always read the Bible.”
no problem; it doesn’t
After that event, Gab’s life took a radical turn. He soon began
studies that led to his long-term pastoral service with GMIT, the
Evangelical Protestant Church of Timor. A few years later he matter. You stole our
was leading evangelistic services. Ironically, he ended up preach-
ing at the church in Oenesu, attended by the family from whom
he stole the Bible. It was time to make amends.
“So I confessed my sins as the stealer of their Bible,” says Gab, Bible, but it bore fruit!’ ”
laughing. “They said, ‘It’s no problem; it doesn’t matter. You stole
our Bible, but it bore fruit!’ ”

20 Word Alive • Fall 2010 • wycliffe.ca

Though he ministers in an
Evangelical Protestant Church of
Timor (GMIT) congregation near
Kupang, in the southwestern part
of Timor, Rev. Gab is especially at
home among his own 500,000 Tetun
people in the middle of the island.
As musicians proudly play Tetun
celebration music (right), Rev. Gab
energetically joins some traditional
dancing that he learned growing
up (left).

(Below) Rev. Gab and Wycliffe’s

Barbara Grimes, who is adviser to the
Tetun Bible translation project, visit
with the bishop’s secretary-general
serving the Tetun people’s Catholic
majority population. Though most
Catholic priests seem content
to minister with the Indonesian
Bible, Rev. Gab and Barbara are
encouraging them to also use Tetun
Scriptures. Such gentle lobbying
will continue as the New Testament
translation nears completion.
Fruit, indeed—and lots of it. Much has happened to Rev. Gab, “The Indonesian
now 60, since that holy theft in 1974. He is a respected GMIT
pastor, evangelist and speaker at large rallies, having ministered
to hundreds of lives around Timor and on surrounding islands. Bible, they can hear
He now is pastor at Mizpah Church, in the village of Tetebu
Dale, east of Kupang. it, but they don’t
Notably, he is also a Bible translator of the Scriptures into his
own Tetun [TEH-toon] mother tongue, spoken in the district
of Belu in the central region of Timor. The translation work is
really understand it
part of GMIT’s Language and Culture Unit, assisted by Wycliffe’s
Chuck and Barbara Grimes (see story, pg. 6). Barbara is adviser and it doesn’t really
to the Tetun translation team.
penetrate their
Preventing Slumbering Faith
Gab’s concern for Bible translation has long been evident. When
doing his internship for the pastorate, he was sent to the Tetun hearts. Their faith
speaking area. This was a perfect fit. It was here that Gab was raised
in a farming family, helping to care for livestock and tend gardens goes to sleep and
as a boy. He is still a farmer at heart, raising livestock behind the
house he and his family live in near their current church.
During his internship, Gab realized he had to use his mother sometimes dies.”
tongue to be effective among the 500,000 Tetun speakers.
“The Indonesian Bible, they can hear it, but they don’t really (Below) Camera-shy Tetun-speaking
understand it and it doesn’t really penetrate their hearts,” he girls in Rev. Gab’s home region burst
into giggles during his visit. (Opposite)
explains. “Their faith goes to sleep and sometimes dies. Rev. Gab leads some of his Tetun clan
“When I was preaching, I would read the Indonesian Bible relatives in a traditional working song,
and orally translate it into Tetun. And then I, along with some of as they pound sago tree pieces into
my friends . . . we started compiling songs and hymns in Tetun.” powder for extracting the starch. Sago
paste was the Tetun people’s traditional
Tetun speakers always respond better to ministry in their staple food before corn and rice were
heart language. introduced into the region.

22 Word Alive • Fall 2010 • wycliffe.ca

Eager to have a Tetun Bible, Gab worked for five years on Rev. Gab is a much-sought-after
a draft of the New Testament. Tragically, the one copy of the speaker, whether it is among his
own Tetun village people (above)
manuscript was misplaced and never published. or in one of hundreds of GMIT
“I was very disappointed and I didn’t know what to do. So I churches located throughout Timor
basically went back to the older traditional way that I had done (opposite, bottom). Some of GMIT’s
it—just translating orally when I was preaching.” 2,300 congregations include up to
8,000 people.

One More Time

In 1999, while finishing his theology degree at the Christian
University in Kupang, Gab was asked by Wycliffe’s Chuck
Grimes to consider translating the New Testament again.
Grimes has been impressed with Gab’s heart for serving God
and people, and realized he was a gifted communicator.
“I’ve seen him sing in a dozen different languages,” says
Grimes. “I’ve seen him preach in four different languages. He
picks it up very quickly.”
Gab didn’t hesitate, realizing that the Grimeses were promot-
ing a translation of God’s Word done with better training and
guidance. They want to produce quality translations that are clear
and meaningful, and done with more community involvement.
“We really need that [translation], so people can grow and so
the church can grow,” says the Pastor.
A Tetun translation team was formed. Two of the original

24 Word Alive • Fall 2010 • wycliffe.ca

“They say,
‘Wow. This is
what sticks
in our hearts
because we
were born with
this language.
Now we realize
that Jesus can
speak Tetun!’ ”
Having grown up in a farming Tetun family, Rev. Gab is still a farmer at
heart. He keeps cows, pigs and chickens behind his home near the GMIT
church he pastors outside of Kupang.

Word Alive • Fall 2010 • wycliffe.ca 25

(Above) Roadside signs indicate the members have died, but two younger Catholic speakers of the “I thank God that I stole
locations of churches in the Timor language have now joined the team, carrying on the work
region. This includes churches
among Tetun speakers, almost all of along with Gab.
whom profess to be Christians. Rev. Though extremely busy as a pastor, Gab finds time many eve-
Gab says for many, this is true in nings to work on the translation. It’s a valuable process because a Bible,” he concludes.
name only. A lack of understanding
it helps him clearly understand Scriptures, which he can then
of the Indonesian Bible is a major
factor. His vision is for everyone to use to preach the following Sunday.
have God’s Word in their mother A draft translation of the Tetun New Testament has been com-
tongue, like these enthralled teens pleted, and only one book remains to be consultant-checked.
“The Bible is what
reading Scripture portions already
translated (above, right).
But as community testing of the drafts has already revealed, Gab
knows Tetun speakers are excited.
“They say, ‘Wow. This is what sticks in our hearts because gave me life and I
we were born with this language. Now we realize that Jesus can
speak Tetun!’ ” explains Gab. “Then they say, ‘Please bring some
more, bring some more, bring some more.’ ”
want that life to be in
Confidence and Life
Gab says that while almost all Tetun speakers profess to be
Christians, for many it is in name only. While considerable
numbers have learned to read in Indonesian schools, most are other people as well.”
subsistence farmers, relying on maize, rice, sorghum, and cas-
sava for their livelihood during a short, intense rainy season.
“Their lives are quite closed,” says Gab. “But understanding
the gospel in a clear and understandable form, they gain confi-
dence so they’re ready to face challenges, and their lives aren’t so
closed and afraid.”

26 Word Alive • Fall 2010 • wycliffe.ca

Gab’s dream is that church leaders—both Protestant and When the outgoing Rev. Gab approaches
Catholic—can be better equipped for ministry with the trans- fellow Tetun speakers in his home region,
they often squeal with delight. Quick to
lated New Testament. But, he realizes, quite a number must still be the clown, this short dynamo always
be convinced of its value. manages to be the centre of attention.
“It’s like they sort of look down on speaking the local lan- He takes every opportunity to encourage
guage,” he explains. “Sometimes, as church leaders, we’re more others to join him in singing Christian
songs with lyrics in their mother tongue.
focused on the form of things than actually communicating the
While widespread acceptance and use of God’s Word in Tetun
may still be a challenge, Gab is eager to see the Scriptures ready
and distributed among his people, hopefully in 2011.
“I thank God that I stole a Bible,” he concludes. “The Bible is
what gave me life and I want that life to be in other people as well.”
For the Tetun people, it soon will be.

Word Alive • Fall 2010 • wycliffe.ca 27

June Jacob, manager of the GMIT
Language and Culture Unit, is
mobbed as she distributes Bible
storybooks in the Tetun language
to eager students at a church-run
school. But it’s not because the
kids are grabbing something free.
Instead of running off with their
printed treasures, they stand where
they are and read them from cover
to cover. With a New Testament
on the way, this is a good sign for
translators like Rev. Gab.
Rani Therik (above, left) helps a
student at the Christian University
in Kupang, West Timor, get familiar
with using the Kupang Malay New
Testament, just downloaded on his
cell phone (right).

30 Word Alive • Fall 2010 • wycliffe.ca

Translated Scriptures on hand phones are
getting an enthusiastic response in Timor.

y a courtyard-facing hallway at Christian University in
Kupang, West Timor, Wycliffe’s Barbara Grimes and sev-
eral colleagues set up a table covered with Bibles, CDs and
Christian reference books—translated into various languages of
the region. Husband Chuck has already gone to guest lecture at
an early morning theology class, where Timor’s heat and humid-
ity will drench him in perspiration.
Beside this hallway distribution table from the Language and
Culture Unit of the Evangelical Protestant Church of Timor
(GMIT), is colleague Rani Therik. Taking up much less room,
the unusually tall, 34-year-old Timorese man powers up a laptop
computer and starts a software program or two.
He is preparing for a much different kind of distribution of
God’s Word to interested university students. It will happen
invisibly and absolutely free of charge.
Even before Chuck Grimes vocally advertises the distribution
to his pupils, others from among the 550 theology students here
stroll by between classes, stopping to peruse the table and buy
some items. They are intrigued with the materials, including
those translated into Kupang Malay, the first local language in
the region to have a New Testament through the Language and
Culture Unit’s efforts (see story, pg. 6).
“Some are saying, ‘Oooh, that’s our language,’ ” says Barbara
Grimes, overhearing the gathering crowd. “If they grew up in
Kupang, Kupang Malay is their language.”
Rani begins interacting with the passersby too. Dealing with
one student at a time, Rani pushes a few buttons on his laptop
and their phones. Wirelessly and in a few blinks time, each stu-
dent has the entire Kupang
“Any method we can use to Malay New Testament
(plus Genesis)—on his or
spread the Word of God is great.” her cellphone.
“It usually takes 10 sec-
onds,” says Rani. “It’s a pretty small file—only 633 kilobytes. It’s
very good, simple software.”
Rani gives each recipient a quick orientation to these electron-
ic Scriptures (including finding where they ended up, since each
phone stores them differently). He also shares his email address,
in case they have questions or problems later.
This day, at least 20 smiling students walk away with God’s
Word on their cellphones. The little distribution session is part
of a strategy in this southeast corner of Indonesia to make trans-
lated Scriptures and other materials as accessible as possible by
digital means, via CDs, the Internet and cellphones.

But what’s the big attraction about cellphone Scriptures?
“Any method we can use to spread the Word of God is great,”
says Rani, who adds that the Indonesian Bible is already avail-
able on hand phones.
Most everyone, especially the younger generation in Timor,
seems to own a mobile phones, which are often more depend-
able than traditional landlines, says Rani.

Word Alive • Fall 2010 • wycliffe.ca 31

“People rely a lot on mobile phones here, I guess, in this part
of the world.”
According to some sources, cellphones outnumber landline
phones more than four to one here. You don’t have to look far
to see the technology’s influence. Across the sprawling Christian
University campus, dotted with palm and coconut trees, a group
of students sits on the edge of a cement-walled flowerbed. As
they laugh and chat with one another, many have their eyes and
fingers locked on their phones.
Several of the students for whom Rani downloaded the Kupang
Malay New Testament are quick to explain their interest in it.
“We take our phone everywhere: on the public transportation,
at home—so wherever we are, we can read it [God’s Word],” says
one female student. “And especially since it’s in the Kupang lan-
guage, it’s easier to understand.”
Another young woman says Christians commonly send
Scripture verses in cellphone messages to other people to
encourage and challenge them, especially on Sundays. “We can
do something with God’s Word,” she explains.
Rani says he is noticing Timorese referring to God’s Word on
their cellphones at Bible studies and church services. “It’s not
really common yet for people to use that in church, but you see
more and more people do it already.”

The love affair with cellphones in Indonesia is what got Wycliffe’s
Stuart Cameron to initiate the effort to distribute translated
Scripture in the format as part of the Timor region language
cluster project. Cameron, an Australian, has watched the situa-
tion since serving as translation adviser to the Helong language
team, which is part of a cluster of translation projects in Timor
(see “Foreword,” pg. 2). In many ways, he says, developing
nations are using cellphone technology far more extensively and
effectively than developed countries.
“Ever since mobile phones or hand phones or cellphones came
into Indonesia, people have
“It’s almost like the most important just fallen in love with them
thing you can have is a cellphone. .taxi . . . Even your motorcycle
driver has a phone. He
It’s just remarkable.” might even have two!” says
Cameron. “It’s almost like
the most important thing you can have is a cellphone. It’s just
remarkable. They’re so cheap and they’re everywhere.”
“I guess in the back of my mind was this unconscious thought
of how can we utilize that?, but not really knowing what to do.”
In early 2009, while attending a Wycliffe conference in
Australia, Cameron heard colleagues from Eurasia make a presen-
tation. They casually mentioned that putting translated Scriptures
on cellphones was a great distribution alternative in their sensitive
area, where borders may be closed to printed books.
Hearing about cellphone Scripture in use elsewhere prompted
Cameron to research the idea in earnest for the Timor region.
On the Internet, he discovered the relatively new Go Bible appli-
cation. Written by an Australian, it runs on most mobile phones.

32 Word Alive • Fall 2010 • wycliffe.ca

It was free upfront, required no royalty payments for ongoing
use, could be freely modified for the projects in Timor and
handled unusual scripts.
As a former geologist and now a Wycliffe translator/linguist,
Cameron took on the challenge of making the files from the
local translators run on cellphones with Go Bible.
“At first it was a struggle, but I had success in the end,” he
says. “I actually had to write something that would convert our
files into the right form that could be imported into this package
and then figure out how to get it onto phones.”


Cameron sent some test samples of Kupang Malay Scriptures to
the translation office staff in Kupang. The Timorese were com-
pletely thrilled with the idea, using them immediately in Bible
studies as well as preaching from cellphones. And, they asked,
“Where’s the rest of the New Testament?”
Besides Kupang Malay, Scripture portions and hymn books
from other local languages in the
“It’s just the way things have Timor region have been tested
Go Bible. And in Australia,
to be done now…. It’s just on adds Cameron, the Kriol Bible
the way of the future.” is now running on Go Bible for
Aborigines there. Rani, a civil
engineer who does emergency relief work with the United
Nations, but volunteers freely with GMIT’s Language and
Culture Unit, has helped Cameron in these efforts.
Some might see cellphone Scriptures as gimmicky, admits
Cameron. But ease of use and accessibility is at the core of why
they are popular, especially for younger generations.
“It’s funny, because if
More On The Web: For more on how Wycliffe is I talk to people above 45
harnessing digital technology to deliver God’s years of age, they say, ‘Why
Word, visit <www.wycliffe.ca/wordalive.> would someone want it on
their mobile phone?’ And
if I talk to a 20-year-old, they say, ‘Why wouldn’t you?’ It’s just a
generational thing.”
The future goal in Timor for releases of newly translated
Scriptures will always include cellphone technology as part of a
mix of formats, says Cameron.
“It’s now got to be in print form, we put it on the Internet, and
we have the mobile phone form and a stand-alone CD form.
“It’s just the way things have to be done now. . . . It’s just the
way of the future.”

(Opposite) Cell phones outnumber land-

line phones more than four to one in the
Indonesia region, so transmission towers
are a common sight, even in some outly-
ing rural areas of Timor. The population’s
love affair with cellphones (right) grabbed
the attention of Wycliffe’s Stuart Cameron,
adviser to the Helong Bible translation
team (above, with translator Misriani
Balle—see “Foreword,” pg. 2). He initiated
finding ways to distribute Scriptures onto
the devices, with a great response.

Word Alive • Fall 2010 • wycliffe.ca 33

Beyond Words

Hogging The Spotlight

Alan Hood

It’s auction sale time after a Sunday service at Mizpah

Church, pastored by Rev. Gabriel Bria (see related story,
pg. 18). An elder from the church, east of Kupang, West
Timor, displays a live young pig that someone from the
rural congregation generously donated to raise money
for the manse building project. The oinker fetches $30,
considerably more than other items offered for sale:
a bag of cucumbers and some cakes. But it all goes
towards God’s work.

34 Word Alive • Fall 2010 • wycliffe.ca

Last Word

Fortunately, Some Things Don’t Change

By Don Hekman

hen you’ve been involved in 10 years experience in another language project,
Bible translation for as long as and earned PhDs. Bible translation and the sup-
I have (nearly 40 years now), portive language work require serious academic
you’re struck with how much the training, highly skilled people and attention to
process of translation has changed—and with details. If you want accurate, readable translation,
how much it has stayed the same. there are no shortcuts to careful work.
We are usually impressed with the tremendous We in the Western world have a love affair with
changes that have taken place. The Bible on your efficiency, economy and speed. We would even
cellphone (see article, pg. 30)?! Forty years ago, love to promote Bible translation by saying we
we couldn’t have even imagined a cellphone. can now do it faster, cheaper and easier. And yes,
And we used to think phones were for . . . well, translations can be completed more quickly than
phoning. How archaic can one get! in decades past, through strategies such as co-
And co-ordinating translation projects in ordinated projects. But there is still no substitute
20-plus languages at the same time for rolling up the sleeves, learning language well,
(see “Dog-eared Scriptures,” pg. 6)? analyzing verbs, living in another’s culture and
Translating It’s difficult enough to manage a “skin,” building solid relationships, and translat-
project in one language group! Many ing one biblical thought and episode at a time.
the Bible changes in the world make this pos- So when you think about how much has
sible now: advanced education, soft- changed so quickly through the years, think
is still ware development, transportation, gratefully and excitedly about how much remains
Wycliffe’s and communication, to name a few. the same. Translating the Bible is still Wycliffe’s
Still, from my vantage point, what mission. The Word of God is still penetrating
mission. I notice even more in the world of hearts and cultures.
Bible translation is what fortunately
The Word of stays the same.
God is still The mission and vision remain the
same: God’s written Word is at the
penetrating heart of Wycliffe’s work—the Bible
translated into languages that speak
hearts and to people’s hearts. But not only trans-
cultures. lated. Bibles also get into the hands of
people and on their cell phones. The
Scriptures are read, listened to, and
lived out—an influential element in societies,
transforming people, renewing churches.
What also remains the same is the language
work that supports Bible translation. I’m speak-
ing here of detailed linguistic work, devising
Dave Harder

alphabets, publishing grammars and dictionaries,

developing literacy programs, authoring literacy
materials, and producing print, audio, and video
Remember, too, that Wycliffe still has a place
publications. I sometimes think we don’t talk
for people (perhaps like you)—people with a
enough publicly about these absolutely essential
heart for God, a heart for marginalized people
tasks carried out daily by Wycliffe personnel and
groups of the world, and a willingness to train
their national colleagues.
and engage in language work. And the joy and
You will notice in this issue’s main feature story
thrill at seeing people embrace the newly trans-
(pg. 6) that before Chuck and Barbara Grimes
lated Scriptures only gets greater!
served as consultants in the multi-language
translation project of the Timor region, they had Don Hekman is president of Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada.

Word Alive • Fall 2010 • wycliffe.ca 35

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