The good #1: Rebooting our collaborative approach

by bzephyr

A reboot of our Bible translation project in August means that some language groups will now WAIT to receive God’s Word. Waiting is good? My Papua New Guinean teammates think this reboot is one of the best things that happened this year in the project based on our team’s evaluation of how things were going over the last few years.

As promised here, I’m summarizing some of the good and the bad from this last year, and what I’m doing now to put first things first and sharpen the ugly worn-out tools.


James, Jonathan, and Otto above are assembling the Christmas Story from Luke 1-2. These were printed with their local Onnele language and pidgin trade language in a parallel-column diglot format. This is the format that many pastors in the area believe is needed to enable them to effectively use their local language more in worship. This is because churches almost always include people who have married into the language group or traveled from neighboring language areas.

One of the key defining aspects of our multi-language translation project is that we highly value the collaboration that occurs with one another as we work on the same chapters at the same time. Nine languages worked together recently to produce those Christmas diglots. We have learned over the years, however, that this model is difficult to maintain when different language teams are able to proceed at different rates. This was especially true while we were completing the very lengthy books of Luke and Acts. One solution has been to allow the quicker teams to work on other things while their teammates catch up.

We can no longer allow the slowest teams to dictate the progress of all the others, especially if all teams do not show up to all workshops. It’s one thing to allow the quicker teams to work on something else while the teams with more difficult translation challenges catch up. It’s quite another thing, however, if some teams fall behind because they repeatedly miss out on some workshops. We have been looking to the completion of Luke-Acts this year as the appropriate time when we would need to “reboot” the project and initiate new patterns for working together.

With the start of 1 Timothy in August, therefore, we now expect language teams to have a third translator ready to stand in for another if one of the regular two translators have a good reason for not attending. Also, frequent absences may require that translation committees need to designate a new translator.

So we are now starting to follow a tighter schedule of translating shorter books and taking them all the way through to consultant checking and publishing each year. The new understanding is that if a language team misses a workshop, they will not be able to receive that short book this year. This may mean that some languages in the project will need to wait to receive that portion of God’s Word. But what we are already seeing is that teams are more motivated to attend or make arrangements for another to stand in their place if their absence absolutely cannot be avoided.


5 Responses to “The good #1: Rebooting our collaborative approach”

  1. Ben and Mandy, Sounds like the “reboot” concept is a good “tweaking” of what you need in a particular way for your set of God’s servants in each particular setting. Ultimately, nothing will stop the Living Word from reaching it’s target. The timing and oversight is totally God’s great passion . Take special moments with your team to let the Niagara of God’s love, joy, and comfort wash over you. He won’t give a just a trickle. He is the great and mighty, loving Savior. Love, your Florida Mom and Dad.

  2. How about a metaphor of waves instead of rebooting? If a surfer misses a wave he has to wait for the next. Translation efforts that fall behind are not abandoned, but they do have to wait for the next wave which might come in 2-3 years.

    • Thanks for visiting, Ed. Yep, it’s just like catching the next wave. We were looking for an approach that would help keep the project on schedule for the majority of the team, give some added accountability to those who were not always showing up, but also make allowances for legitimate obstacles that sometimes pull team members away. Catching the next wave is a good analogy for those who surf. But to get there, it’s like we needed to say we’re going to stop our previous routine of waiting for everybody to show up to the game. Let’s go surfing instead. In other words, let’s reboot the computer and help things work smoothly again.


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