Saturday, November 9, 2019

Home Sick (by Jennings)

(or "How we came to visit family in the U.S. for the holidays, and I ended up bald and living in my parents' guest room")

NB: I wrote this piece back in March 2019, when I was still reeling from the news that I had a recurrence of endometrial cancer, as a metastasis, and that I would need 4 months of chemo and radiation and might need to stay in the U.S. for 2 years. At the time, I wondered if I would ever see our home in Bunia again. My deepest fear was that our life there was over, and I was in shock at that idea. I wrote the following post in the midst of those thoughts and emotions. I'm posting it now because it expresses much of what I love about our Congolese life.
What "coming home" looks like, every day, in Bunia

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

October Highlights 2: Workshop in Goma

The last week of October and first week of November, I (Jennings) traveled to Goma to work with four teams that are in the early stages of translation. At the moment, they are midway through the translation of Luke's gospel.
A large part of the workshop focused on using Paratext software. I tried to use some adult learning techniques I had been reading about. A few weeks before the workshop, I asked the project managers to find out what the translators most wanted to work on, that would be most helpful to their work going forward. They answered that they really needed work on computer software (Paratext), key Biblical terms, and exegesis. I tried to make sure there would be lots of practice and repetition, so that they would remember what they learned. One day, I gave them an exercise to do and joked that it was a "quiz". They seemed to like the idea, as a challenge, so we had an exam at the end of the workshop. This was to help them feel that the certificate they received reflected a real, measurable accomplishment.

October highlights - Conflict, Ebola and language use

In mid-October, Douglas and Bagamba were invited to the office of the Governor of Ituri Province (a few hundred yards from our office in Bunia) to participate in a meeting on the Ebola outbreak. They were asked to give advice on the best languages to use in different areas, in order to make sure people are understanding important information about the disease.
About one million people in Ituri Province speak the Lendu language. The Lendu Bible has been available for two years. Although it was produced by another organization, we knew the translators and one of them is now part of our translation consultant team. In addition, Bagamba understands the language, due to having spent part of his childhood in the Lendu area. Recently he visited a Lendu-language church service that started in Bunia a few months ago (photo above).

Services at this chapel were held only in Swahili and in French until this year, when many Lendu speakers fled to Bunia because of violence in their villages. The leaders of this church realized that many of these displaced people did not know Swahili or French, and started a third Sunday service to minister to them in their own language. This service has become very popular among Bunia residents, including among people who understand Swahili and even other local language better than Lendu!

Unlike most other denominations in Bunia, this church has the custom of confessing their faith each week using the Apostle's Creed. But Bagamba noticed that they said the creed in Swahili. They have the Bible in Lendu, but this brief but important text is not yet available in their language. Bagamba is looking into having a faithful translation of the creed prepared for use by this congregation -- and why not by others?

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Building capacity, and relationships, a trip to Isiro, by Jennings (with a few lines from Douglas)

Our cadre of consultants and consultants-in-training! (Minus two who could not attend.) You will notice I'm the only woman... ask me what I think about that, sometime! 
The other day at the office, I (Jennings) greeted a colleague had just returned from an IT conference that had been deeply encouraging and stimulating for him. It wasn't just - or even primarily - the technical aspects he appreciated, but getting to know other IT people in our organization. "It's all about relationships," he said. I had to think about that... it isn't how I normally think of work here, even when it's called "ministry". But, in fact, building relationships is the essential part of what we are all doing, and we forget that at our peril.

Last month, I spent 3 weeks in the area around Isiro, a more humid, forest-y area. (Bunia is in a hilly, savanna area.) For two weeks, we had a capacity-building workshop for translation consultants and consultants-in-training. There were 16 of us -- 4 expats and 12 Congolese -- at a center outside of town. We debated strategy, discussed best practices for consulting, learned new software techniques, and talked about relating and working cross-culturally.

But perhaps the most important thing about the two weeks together was that we were able to bond as a team. The workshop leader led us in an extended time of prayer one night, where everyone had the chance to share what was on their heart and to be prayed for. We had lots of down time, to play games, take walks and watch movies. Participants commented on how much it meant to them to feel cared for, and to be able to speak openly.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Tembo New Testament received with much joy! (by Jennings)

(This post is taken from a recent newsletter, but with more photos and description.)

After more than 20 years of linguistic work, literacy classes, translation and checking, war and insecurity, the Tembo people now have the entire New Testament in their language! Praise God!!

The dedication ceremony was held Oct. 7, in the city of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The Tembo home area is actually several hours away, in another province. But the project moved to Goma around 15 years ago because of militia fighting in their home area, a knock-on effect of the genocide in Rwanda. The situation in the Tembo homeland is still dire at times… villages burned, pillaged, people attacked, raped, killed.

Translator Robert Mwanjale (far right) in the village of Ziralo, distributing the book of Genesis.
Goma has not always been much safer. The Tembo continued working there in 2002, after a volcanic eruption that sent lava through the center of town, and in 2012, when the city was taken over by Rwandan rebels.

Road to the Goma airport, with the volcano Mount Nyiragongo in the background. Lava from multiple eruptions covers much of the city and surrounding area.
Goma, city of over 1 million people
The Tembo community in Goma is strong and cohesive, and they have been very supportive of the translation project. They attend literacy classes in Tembo and teach their children to speak and read the language, even though Goma is dominantly Swahili. There are weekly radio broadcasts in the Tembo language, including songs, Scripture readings and preaching. Tembo people from all over the area call in to comment and to send greetings over the radio to family who are scattered. The Tembo translators and literacy workers make regular visits to the home area despite the danger. (Recently, two Tembo project workers were robbed and roughed up by militia on their way home from a trip.)

The Tembo had always planned to hold the dedication in the town of Bunyakiri, where the project first started. But due to insecurity and bad roads, they decided to have it in Goma, for the safety of visitors and to thank the Goma community for their support.

Thousands of people came to celebrate, dance, and hear Scripture in Tembo. Several of us attended from our Bunia office, and others came from Kinshasa, Kenya, the U.S. and Europe. It was a joyful celebration from start to finish!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer (by Jennings)

In Matthew 13.12, Jesus says, "Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them." The first time I checked this with a translation team, I asked them if the saying was clear to them. Oh yes, they said, we have a similar saying in our language. Great. But in this context, Jesus is speaking in a spiritual sense, not about money. Is that how a reader/hearer would understand it? No, they would understand it to be about money. Because that is clearly true.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Political troubles in Congo - 21 December 2016

At the moment, tension is high in DR Congo, and many are wondering what the future will hold. Joseph Kabila, who has been president since 2001, was to have stepped down on December 19 after presidential elections in November. He did not step down, and the government says there will be no elections until 2018. There have been protests in several large cities, and around 20 people reportedly have been killed and hundreds arrested. Negotiations are ongoing between the government and opposition parties.

As far as we've heard, all the people we work with in DRCongo are safe.

Here is a link to an in depth description of what's behind the president's refusal to step aside.

Here is a link on happenings in the past day or so:

The latest news suggests that the protests in the street may be fizzling, after hundreds were arrested.

Please join us in praying for wisdom and courage for the country’s leaders, and peace for the Congolese people.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Ndruna New Testament celebration: to the "zone rouge" and back (by Jennings)

Avuta, who started the Ndruna language project 30 years with SIL, and his wife, holding an Ndruna NT

One Sunday in March, we put on our party clothes and walked to the translation office at 6 AM. We were meeting another 60 people to travel by bus to the town of Gety, to see the Ngiti people receive the New Testament in their language, Ndruna! It was the culmination of many years of hard work for the translators, much of it done on a displaced basis here in Bunia because of war and militia activity in their home area. This is the first language project we've worked with that has never had an expat missionary assigned to live with them and work on the translation... it is a completely national project.
Our office staff, family and friends, with the boxes of Ndruna New Testaments
We didn't leave until a few hours later, though. Gety is in the "zone rouge", the "red zone", where there have been ongoing militia attacks. The bus driver was afraid to go there, and it took hours for the bus company to find someone willing to drive us. We were not completely unprepared, though. We had arranged for a United Nations escort to accompany us from the town of Bogoro to Gety and back. We had an uneventful trip through beautiful countryside.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Do people use the New Testament in their mother tongue? (by Douglas)

This is one of the hardest questions we face as we support Bible translation projects. Will people actually read the completed Scriptures? What affects whether or not these New Testaments are used?

In eastern Congo, the only published New Testament our group has seen so far is in the Fuliiru language. But several other New Testaments either are in press right now, or will be published in the next few years. Naturally, we want to know what kinds of factors affect whether or not people read them, so we can prepare as well as possible.
Ten thousand copies have been distributed; is their message being heard?
Do people find the words 'sweet', or are the books only a curiosity?
This was the work of the Strategic Research Team (Dr Bagamba Araali and me) -- to design and oversee the collection of interview data among the Fuliiru people themselves.

To get to the Fuliiru translation office in Kiliba, Bagamba and I traveled by air, sea, and land. On 20 August we flew to the town of Goma, on the northern shore of Lake Kivu. The next morning, we crossed the lake in a "rapid boat" (« canot rapide »).

Bukavu is on the southern shore. The photo below was taken from the window of a restaurant where we ate on our return trip.

In Bukavu we met the research team, pictured with us in Kiliba: Rév. Mbirize Masumbuko (Fuliiru Language Program Director); Feston and Malega, two other translators who have worked with him on the Fuliiru Bible now in draft; and six other Fuliiru pastors and Christian leaders. Mbirize is in the top left of the photo, Malega is next to me, and Feston is the only one in the "middle row".

The field researchers with Mbirize, Bagamba, Douglas and a guy in a football jersey.

The best road from Bukavu to Kiliba passes through Rwanda. I hadn't ever thought that my first visit to Rwanda would last less than one hour -- much less my second visit, six days later! Bagamba and I rode in the front seat of the van in this photo. The white sign wishes us a good trip in English, French and Kinyarwanda.

After re-entering Congo, we dropped off pairs of researchers at various places on the way to Kiliba, arranging for them to meet us after five days of interviews in a total of about twenty villages. Madame Tulizo, whom you see here, is the widow of a pastor.
Saying 'see you later' to Mama Tulizo
Tulizo testified that people in the chapel she serves used to be hesitant to pray in public. They didn't have all the vocabulary they needed in their own language, and they weren't sure how to use the Swahili words that they had heard. Since people started receiving teaching from the Fuliiru New Testament, though, there are always enough volunteers to pray in Fuliiru, and the contents of their prayers are theologically rich.

When walking with a camera, I often trailed behind Bagamba and Mbirize. On the left, we're going to the translation office shortly after our arrival in Kiliba. There were two cozy guest rooms, complete with solar power. On the right, Bagamba goes with Mbirize to see Lake Tanganyika up close.

The office is a few hundred yards above a Pentecostal church. On the other side of the road is the turnoff for a famous sugar factory; however, some of the factory equipment was damaged in the war and it is no longer in operation. I took this photo while waiting for the bus back to Bukavu.

But what did we find? More after the break...

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Ndruna Service for Mobilization

The Ndruna New Testament has been translated and is set to be published next year! In May, our colleague Dr. Bagamba led a service at a local church, using the Ndruna language and Scriptures, to help get people excited about receiving - and using - the New Testament. They also hope to continue with the Old Testament, which will require much support from the Ndruna people.

Veteran translator shows his true feelings for the Ndruna Scriptures, before breaking into song.
The service opened with Mr. Avuta Mboudhu, who has worked his whole life translating the New Testament and hymns into Ndruna, his mother tongue. He read a passage of the translated New Testament. You can see in the photo above how excited he was, and the congregation cheered. Then he started a Ndruna praise song, and the whole room jumped to their feet to sing along, clap and dance. (**See an update at the end.)