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Team Makes Progress on Consultancy Concerns

by Ling Lam

A special team looking at consultancy concerns for Bible translation has been making good progress. The Area Consultant Taskforce (ACT) is a new initiative by the Asia-Pacific Area of the Wycliffe Global Alliance that started in April 2020. We invited Barry Borneman, who leads this team, to explain more about it. Barry serves as the Associate Director for Language Programme Services for the Area.

Barry Borneman speaks to a group of translation consultants during an Asia-Pacific meeting in Bangkok in 2018. Photo: Ling Lam

A Response to a Dilemma

“The formation of the ACT was a response to a dilemma that had been shared by the leaders of Alliance organisations in Asia-Pacific for a number of years,” Barry says.

The three related concerns expressed were:

  • Translation projects needing consultant checking;

  • A perceived lack of translation consultants; and

  • A desire to develop the next generation of consultants.

In order to understand the breadth of the challenge and respond well, the Asia-Pacific Leadership Team first researched and collated relevant information from each Alliance organisation with language projects.

“The research showed that some countries were well-supplied with consultants while some were desperately short with no clear strategy for addressing the shortage,” Barry says. “As a result, the ACT was tasked with being a catalyst to assist those Alliance organisations with the biggest challenges.”

Success Far Exceeds Anticipation

Barry explains what it means for ACT to be a catalyst. “First, it is not to bring in new programmes,” he says. “It is important that we support the Alliance organisations’ existing translation strategy and consolidate what is working.” ACT, he adds, is a Wycliffe Area response to a felt need, not an external, international response. “ACT is made up of translation consultants from Alliance organisations in Asia-Pacific. The key to the achievements of ACT has been the local knowledge and connections the Alliance organisations bring as well as their willingness to share leadership, expertise and resources.” With some excitement he exclaims, “The outcomes have far exceeded what we anticipated!”

Some basic catalytic activities of ACT are:

1. Consultant Care Initiative

The concern was that some key translation consultants had struggled to do their jobs because of a lack of personal financial support. ACT accepted recommendations from Alliance organisation directors regarding key consultants who were in this situation. Six consultants from four Alliance organisations are receiving additional funding through Wycliffe Singapore. This has already proved to be a big encouragement as well as practical help.

2. Online Consultant Checks

The ACT tasks itself with reducing the backlog of consultant checks among the least-resourced Alliance organisations with translation projects. As the pandemic continues and international travel remains restricted, online consultant checks become a potential game-changer. ACT undertook a pilot Zoom consultant check with consultants from Taiwan, Singapore and Australia, and the Bilua translation team in Honiara, Solomon Islands. An evaluation report with recommendations was made by ACT for rolling this out further. By the end of this year, four phases of Zoom consultant checks are expected to have taken place, resulting in the publication of 1 Kings in Bilua.

3. Online Consultant Gatherings

The first ACT online Zoom consultant gathering was held in October 2020. Thirty-five consultants and trainees from across Asia-Pacific joined and it was so much appreciated that it has turned into a bi-monthly event. It provides opportunities for mutual encouragement and learning, and gives consultants a space for them to participate in something bigger than their own world. Barry says, “These gatherings are important because a sense of belonging is such an important element in remaining motivated and dedicated to a cause.”

1. Certification in Biblical Hebrew

Partnering with 4.2.20, an Alliance organisation in Asia-Pacific, the Jerusalem-based Institute for Biblical Languages and Translation is offering online a Certificate in Biblical Hebrew. Over 50 staff-members from Asia-Pacific are participating, with funding coming from some of the Alliance organisations in the Area.

“This is another game changer,” Barry says. “Education is often restricted because of cost and language acquisition. Those without the wealth, adequate English and ability to travel and dedicate years to study in the past had to forgo their opportunity.”

The online course not only makes this certification more accessible, it also helps build local capacity instead of teams always having to relying on expatriate expertise.

Scratching Where It Itches

Barry is especially satisfied to see how ACT “scratches itches” rather than imposing outside agendas.

“I feel like ACT is about removing some of those obstacles that have been identified for a number of years but have become difficult to budge,” he says. “When you remove them, the people are set free to create new momentum of their own. It is like this for our translation consultants. Remove some obstacles and create some space, then they will redefine their future. This is a better way to work than to drive people in the direction that you think is best.”

Along with Barry, the ACT team consists of three translation consultants from Wycliffe Singapore, Wycliffe Malaysia and Wycliffe Taiwan, and Simon Wan and Tony Chan of the Wycliffe Asia-Pacific Leadership Team.

“I like the diversity across Alliance organisations, the amount of experience that is available to us and the humility on how that experience is exercised,” Barry says. “While I convene ACT, I feel that it is shared leadership and shared responsibility.”

No Big Goals

When asked about ACT’s goals, Barry says, “I am not a person that thinks big audacious goals are helpful. … Big goals suggest that we are in control. I don’t think we are.”

What does surprise the team, he adds, is that even though ACT is taking small steps to test the waters with various activities, the outcomes have been much greater than they expected.

“If there is a reason for this, I think it is in the waiting and the listening,” Barry says. “We took the opportunities that were not forced. These were responses to obstacles that had been identified by many people for a number of years and when they came to our attention again, we had the decision-making capability, the resources to respond and a strong sense of the leading of the Holy Spirit.”

So, what next?

“Simply find that next thing that will make a difference for our colleagues or organisations, and then be faithful in supporting them to take up whatever opportunity they have,” he says. “Faithfulness and shared commitment together is better than predetermined goals.”

Reproduced with permission from Wycliffe Global Alliance

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