The Gratitude Initiative

Yesterday I had the distinct privilege of spending a few hours in the company of Girma Bishaw. He’s a wonderful man seeking to change this nation by being thankful and showing gratitude.

An Ethiopian lunch with Girma
An Ethiopian lunch with Girma

The Rev Dr Bishaw, to give him his proper title, is an Ethiopian who has now spent more years living in the UK than in the country of his birth. In his time here he has seen firsthand how immigrant communities, due to their strong attachment to their country of origin and challenges they face here, may pull away from involvement in their new home nation and this lead to complex issues which could exacerbate the divide rather than solutions to problems. His experience has led him to believe that a culture of gratitude can begin to bridge some of those divides.

During our time together he told me the story of meeting a lady in central London. She commiserated with him the experience of being an immigrant in the UK right now and how difficult it must be for him to be here. Girma’s reply was to point out all the wonderful things about living in Britain.

By the time the conversation finished she had tears in her eyes. ‘If we were in Ethiopia’, as Girma said, ‘we probably would have hugged. This is still Britain’.

Gratitude isn’t about coving up the difficulties and problems that exist in society, but it is about choosing to start the conversation by recognising where there is good and appreciating it. As it says on their website,

We are convinced that a greater culture of gratitude can make a very significant social contribution. A society in which resentments towards the other are frequently expressed without respect and mutual appreciation is a society in danger of fragmentation. A society, however, in which gratitude to the other is readily expressed is one which will be inevitably more stable and coherent. 

http://gratitudeinitiative.org.uk/

It was a blessing to spend some time with this man and learn about how he’s seeking positive change. I feel inspired as to what gratitude could do to change my immediate community and even this nation.

Reflections on Faith Camp 2018

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Faith Camp, but the experience was amazing and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to be part of the last one.

Here’s what I took away from the week:

  • It’s wonderful to be amongst a group of people that expect God to be at work in this world in amazing ways. I think some parts of the church know that God is at work, but here they see God at work.
  • The message that I heard most clearly from the week was the need for me to find time and space to be alone with God. I’m planning my first, semi-silent retreat this October.
  • No matter how much a church may focus on the work of the Holy Spirit, there’s always a need for a course or a programme to help put building blocks of faith in place.
  • Oh, and 3,000+ people singing is pretty amazing (see the video)

Forever

I’m in Kenya at our Alliance Leadership Team meeting. Today is day one and it has been busy, and the rest of the week already looks challengingly full. That said, one key focus that will go through our week is considering spirituality in mission.

This afternoon we took some time to worship and reflect. To focus our time we listened to Forever, sung by Kari Jobe. It’s impactful, so I’m sharing it here for you too.

Why Bible translation matters

We face a challenge. Working for Wycliffe Bible Translators, all our income comes in the form of gifts from family, friends and churches that love us and want to play a part in Bible translation through us. However, our current income is too low and we’ve almost used up a pot of reserve money that’s been filling the gap.

We can’t keep going like this, so my boss has been kind enough to give me a little time out of my assignment so that we can focus on raising the financial support we need to continue doing this long-term. That’s given me the chance to think some things through, including reflecting on why I’m personally involved in this area of ministry.

This is my little video on the subject of why I’m involved in Bible translation.

Facing a challenge

Tany and I are facing a new challenge. After two years of serving bibleless communities around the world with the Wycliffe Global Alliance, we face something of a personal funding shortfall.

We don’t receive a salary for the work that I do with the Alliance. Instead, our income comes from the kind gifts of friends, family and churches that love us and want to play a part in the Bible translation moment.

Over the last few months, this income has declined to the point that we can no longer carry on as we have been. So, I’ve been released from my role for a while, to allow me to focus on addressing this challenge.

This video explains a bit more…

So, if you’d like to support a young(ish) family as they seek to serve the global Bible translation movement, would you:

Pray for us – if you’d like to receive regular prayer updates, you can sign up for our newsletter, or email me at phil.prior@wycliffe.org.uk.

Give to us – if you’d like to support us financially, you can give directly through Wycliffe UK’s secure website. If this doesn’t work for you, please get in touch and we will find another route.

Invite me to speak – if you’d like me to come and speak to your church*, your small group or at some other gathering, with the aim of building a relationship between us and taking a long-term interest in Bible translation, I’d love to talk to you.

There are probably other things to consider too. You know how to reach me. And please, feel free to pass this blog post, or the video, on to others who may be interested too.

The impact of Bible translation on world mission

Tim Rudge, who works with UCCF, appears in this short video from Wycliffe Bible Translators in the UK. In it, he makes the point that, ‘Bible translation into indigenous languages is absolutely crucial for world evangelism’.

He also makes some good observations about how, without a Bible in your own language, being able to justify your faith beyond your own experience, being able to tell others about Jesus and authenticate your faith. Also, when the Bible is only available in a foreign language, it appears that faith only belongs to speakers of that language. I’ve got some first-hand accounts of all these things being true.

Wycliffe Bible Translators, the organisation that I work with, believes that the whole Bible should be available to all people, yet there are still 1.5 billion people for whom that is not a reality. If you’d like to find out more, please get in touch.

Reflecting on a reflective consultation

The consultations that we run as an Alliance can be frustrating to some. Those people who like to leave gatherings with a list of things to implement can be disappointed. The purpose of these events is not to set the objectives of individual organisations, but to listen to God and one another as we seek to define a larger context for ourselves.

I’m not sure it’s a perfect analogy, but I keep turning to sporting metaphors. Imagine players and a coach turning up for a game of football, only to find no pitch marked out and no idea what kind of game they are supposed to be playing. Through these consultations, we are trying to create some broad objectives and to mark out a rough pitch, before inviting the teams (or the Organisations) to take the broad framework to apply to their context. It may be that a game of American Football breaks out in one place, Soccer in another, and Rugby Football in another, that’s OK as long as the principles are applied and the teams playing have agreed upon what’s happening.

The point is, the Organisations take the broader principles and then ask what it means in their context.

The analogy is messy. I could have talked about us making up the rules, but rules aren’t what a consultation is about. Rules are another level of detail that comes further on.

As I said, some people struggle with these kinds of events, they like a nice defined list of objectives, but I love them. It’s the opportunity to really dig into an issue and hear perspectives from all parts of the world. Just to give you an example, at this last consultation, there were representatives from, Switzerland, Romania, Brazil, Hong Kong, Norway, Canada, US, Kenya, Cameroon, New Zealand, France, Slovakia, Singapore and Colombia. 

Some personal notes

As much as I loved the consultation, this was the toughest trip I’ve made yet. Sophie, my youngest daughter had been ill for a while, but it got worse just as I left. She had a visit to the hospital on my second night away and is now being treated for a chest infection. I don’t like being a flight away from home when my kids are ill.

On the second day, I picked up an eye infection. The middle morning of the consultation I spent at the doctor’s surgery getting treated. By the morning of the final day the infection was clearing up, only for that evening the second eye beginning to show the same symptoms.

Having said all that, it was wonderful to be prayed for by so many friends and supporters and to know the peace that God gives when things are beyond your control.

Mission and the church

When God called his followers to tell others about the good news that Jesus is for this world, he didn’t create global mission agencies, instead, he called his church to the task. Mission agencies, like the Wycliffe Global Alliance that I work for, haven’t replaced the church in this role (or at least we shouldn’t have), but we have found that at this point in history, for some tasks (like Bible translation) agencies such as the Alliance appear to be the most effective way of achieving some things.

However, the call to the church hasn’t disappeared or been replaced by the agencies. So, we as an Alliance face a challenge, to consider how we work as an expression of the church’s missional calling.

What does that look like isn’t an easy question to answer. While the Church is global, there are many different churches. Some international, some local, with a variety of structures and a variety of attitudes to mission all mixed in. Should we be listening to all of them? How? What happens when they disagree?

This week I’m in Germany taking part in a Consultation on Ecclesiology – a conversation about the place of the church in the way the Alliance works. I hope we will get into some of these questions and begin to think about the kind of attitudes we should have to the church and consider how we should be making space for the church to speak into the Bible translation movements.

If that sounds a bit dry and technical, maybe I’ll be able to write more later in the week that illustrates what this is all about.

2017 Global Bible translation statistics

Every year the Wycliffe Global Alliance publishes an update to the Bible translation statistics. It’s great to be able to compare one year against another and see that there has been progress. 670 languages with complete Bibles (636 in 2016), 1,521 with New Testaments or more (1,442 in 2016), 3,312 languages with some scripture (3,223 in 2016).

It all sounds pretty impressive until you reflect on the fact that there are almost 7,000 languages in use around the world today. The gap between 670 languages with complete Bibles and every language that needs a translation having one is still significant. In fact, our research suggests that there’s a need for translation projects to begin in 1,636 languages.

There’s a lot more data in the full statistics and more information about what these numbers really mean in the FAQs. However, numbers aren’t just numbers, they represent language communities and these communities are made up of people. Individuals like you and I, trying to work out how to make their way through life the best they can. It’s fine to talk about the 1,636 languages that need Bible translation to begin, but just remember that behind that number are individuals who could well be missing out on knowing the fullness of God’s love for them because of the barrier of language.