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Growing in Community

by Ling Lam, Asia Pacific

It is early November in Bangkok. On some typical sunny days, an ordinary group of men and women gather in a small meeting room. Nothing is special at a glance. One may think it is just another meeting. However, if you listened carefully to their discussion, you would soon be caught up by the enthusiasm of this group. No, this is not just a group – they call themselves a community. They are the Community of Reflective Practitioners on Bible Translation and Consultancy. As a community, they endeavour to ensure that the Bible is translated well in everyone’s heart languages. They not only do it by themselves, but also by inviting and training others to carry it on.

Why Community?

Since 2018, Wycliffe Global Alliance Asia-Pacific Area has been inviting Alliance Organizations to be part of learning communities on key issues within the Alliance. The groups are called “Communities of Reflective Practitioners” (CoRPs). One of these CoRPs focuses on Bible translation training and consultant accreditation.

The 2nd round of CoRPs consultation held in Bangkok that gathered 36 participants from 14 Alliance Organizations from Asia-Pacific.

The community gathers a diverse group of experts with extensive experience in translation from Alliance organizations across the Area, which are facilitating Bible translation programs and training. The consultations of CoRPs have provided space for deep conversation on important issues such as consultant training and accreditation, and oral Bible translation. By drawing on collective wisdom, the community aims to foster Bible translation movements in new ways with new strength.

The first consultation was held in Bali in March 2018. This was the second round in Bangkok where 36 participants from 14 Alliance Organizations attended.

Dr. Bryan Harmelink, the key facilitator for the consultations shares his experience and knowledge with the community.

“The idea of bringing people together is [that] they have a voice in what the Alliance is doing in terms of training,” shares Dr. Bryan Harmelink, the key facilitator for the consultations. Dr. Harmelink is also the Director for Collaboration of the Alliance.

“It's only by coming together like this with a diverse group of people from various organizations across the region that we can learn different things about the realities in different parts of Asia-Pacific.”

Dr. Harmelink has been serving in translation training and consultancy for many years throughout Africa, Latin America and other regions. Yet he is aware that what he understands from a global perspective might be totally different than what he hears from people working in various organizations locally, especially the perceptions of what the needs are and what the gaps may be in training.

Simon Wan, the Asia-Pacific Area Director.

Consultation host, Simon Wan, Asia-Pacific Area Director, echoes this perspective, “The Alliance movement does not depend on a top-down prescriptive approach, but we would really like to see the community reflecting on their own respective contexts. We believe that the best kind of reflection is done in a community.”

Reflecting, Praying, Sharing and Learning

He finds the CoRPs consultations a process of mutual learning as the participants hear about both positives or strengths of the work, and honest sharing on things that have not worked well, or even disappointments. It is encouraging to have so many participants with extensive experience in Bible translation training in the community, yet Simon acknowledges they do not have all the answers.

He reflects, “It brings us back to our dependence on God as we spend time in prayer. We commit to meet together again to seek God in prayer and also to continue reflecting and learning.”

Alex Mathew (right) and Matt Dreyer from Faith Comes by Hearing introducing Render, computer software for oral Bible translation.

Alex Mathew is a guest speaker from Faith Comes by Hearing, who has many years of experience serving in Bible translation and training in India.

In his opinion, this CoRPs on Bible translation training and consultancy is so important that it should become part of the agenda of Wycliffe Global Alliance. He points out, “Today we are living in a world where more and more national movements are getting involved in Bible translation.”

Participants take part in discussion and sharing on issues they are concerned about.

He says as we look at the organizations in Wycliffe Global Alliance, we would find out that “out of the 100 plus Alliance Organizations, a significant number are leading translation work in their respective local contexts.... There should be an avenue where national organizations are able to come together and share their best practices”.

James Daguman, the Director of Translators Association of the Philippines, recognizes the value of CoRPs as a learning community. He says, “From here we can see what the Lord has been doing in different parts of Asia-Pacific.... We can pick up good practices, and incorporate those into our training programs, so that ours will be more effective.”

Kim Hae-Kyung (left) from Global Bible Translators of Korea, and Rose Girsang from Kartidaya of Indonesia, work together on a presentation.

Rose Girsang, the Associate Director for Training Academy of Kartidaya in Indonesia, expressed her excitement to be part of CoRPs: “I'm really blessed! Through the meetings I’ve seen different kinds of training happening in Asia-Pacific…. Of course, I cannot just copy and paste [these trainings] to Indonesia, but adjust [them] to see which kind of trainings [are] suitable for Kartidaya, especially in rural areas.”

New Ways and New Strength from Diversity

Barry Borneman, the outgoing Wycliffe Australia CEO, is among the participants. He describes CoRPs as “an absolute privilege to be at”.

“It brings together so many different people with different experiences and different understanding, and you get a chance to hear and see what that means for us as a community.”

He recalls when he first attended a global meeting in 1990s in the United States, he was sad to see the participants were 99% western men. Now looking around in this community, the picture has changed drastically. Its diversity in nationality and gender has opened up a new way and has brought in new strength to the community to serve together in the Bible translation movement.

Having served alongside many Pacific friends for 30 years, Barry finds this community especially meaningful to him, “I just love the fact that Duncan [Kasokason] is here from Papua New Guinea. We're part of this bigger community!”

Hot Discussion and Warm Community

Duncan Kasokason represents Papua New Guinea Bible Translation Association.

Though it is only the second round of consultations and the course is just three days, it is not difficult to see people around the room engage eagerly in discussion with each other.

“You just see the great friendships that are formed,” says Dr. Harmelink. As he and Simon Wan observe, the level of relationship and friendship is very notable, and there is a level of openness and confidence that allows participants to share difficult things. Many are ready to share their own experiences, their inspirations, and even their dreams.

During the three-day course, on top of training and supporting translation consultants, oral Bible translation is another topic which has come under the spotlight. Asia-Pacific Area has invited speakers from Faith Comes By Hearing to show a picture of some of the latest trends and tools available for oral Bible translation, while Anita Beniston from India shares her experiences in using Render, an oral Bible translation software.

Let’s Take Action!

Looking into the future, the community members are not content simply with reflection and discussion; they are looking forward to putting these ideas and thoughts into practice.

Alex Mathew comments, “We'll need to come to certain definite and specific action items, and know where it can be pursued in various areas of training.”

He hopes there will be specific training and goals developed with Asia-Pacific Area Leadership, so that the Alliance Organizations can develop trainers to go about it.

Dr. Harmelink agrees that there should be some action plans for different Alliance Organizations as they work to define what will be best to meet their training needs in their own contexts.

One of the Alliance’s values is to serve in community through holistic ministry that facilitates translation, access and application of God’s Word. With the formation of different Communities of Reflective Participating (CoRPs), the Asia-Pacific Area Leadership Team continues to help Alliance Organizations to build up and benefit one another in various aspects, so that everyone can be growing together in community.

Dr. Bryan Harmelink (middle in the front) with most of the participants of the Bangkok consultation.

Photos by Ling Lam

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