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Working from Afar (COVID-19)

by Sharon Tan

Photo: Marc Ewell, Wycliffe Global Alliance


Working remotely has become a way of life for most of us, thanks to COVID-19. For those of us in Singapore, “remotely” generally means a distance of less than 40 km! However, some translators who have returned to Singapore are continuing to work on their projects despite being much further away.

Erin is a Wycliffe Singapore member who is a translation facilitator for a team in a Southeast Asian country. This team is one of 7 teams in the Simar cluster project. The goal of the project, which began in 2019, is to translate the gospel of Luke and dub the Jesus film in each of the 7 languages by 2022. Whether the completion date will be affected by the COVID-19 situation remains to be seen, but the teams are still continuing to work as best as they can.

The original plan…

The teams work on short sections of about 3 chapters at a time. Before the recent upheavals, the process was for each facilitator to help their team with exegesis, explaining the main points of the passages and highlighting key terms and concepts that might pose problems. The team members would then produce drafts which would be checked and corrected within each team. The drafts (in audio and booklet form) would then be checked with other native speakers in the villages, and revised as necessary. The facilitator would also spend about 2 weeks in the village with the team. Every 2 months, all 7 teams would come together for a 3-week workshop with 3 or 4 consultants to check these final drafts. The teams would then move on to the next few chapters.

Now…

As a result of the COVID-19 situation, the physical workshops have been cancelled until further notice because of movement restrictions. Consultants from overseas are also not able to travel into the country. Due to the escalating situation where she lived, Erin also returned to Singapore.

However, technology is enabling Erin to continue to work on the project from a distance. She meets online with the 4 members of her team, helping them with exegesis and key terms, and encouraging them to keep going. She is happy to see that the earlier training has paid off, and that they are independently following the steps she taught them. Her familiarity with the language and culture from living there also helps her give advice and discuss issues with them, even from afar. Even the workshops are continuing, with weekly online sessions spread over 6 weeks, linking the consultants and facilitators in their home countries with the teams in the field.

This way of working does pose challenges. Team members have had to adapt to meeting online, never as satisfactory as face to face. Electricity and internet connections can be patchy in the villages, and equipment can fail. However, many team members have learned to cope very quickly, and the work is progressing better than they expected. Later on, the teams will have to produce the audio recordings and printed booklets, and distribute and check the drafts in the villages on their own.

Online or in person, the work also has to take into account the regular activities of village life – the farming schedule, family emergencies, etc. The uncertain situation has also increased unrest in parts of the country, with more robberies and threats of terrorism. With all these stresses, pray that the team members will stay safe, and not get distracted or lose focus.

Please pray for Erin and the others in this project as they persevere in the work. While they rejoice that the team members are stepping up to work more independently, they would still much prefer to be there to work alongside them. Pray that God will sustain all of them as they work to bring much-needed good news to these people groups in their own language.

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