by Mark

Walking to the market with God

February 24, 2015 in Mark, Bible, Church, Front, Tanzania, Theology by Mark

Having moved around quite a bit over the past few years, we have had the privilege of hearing many different church leaders in three countries and two (three if you count American) languages, reading parts of the Bible and teaching what it may mean. While we have certainly heard some excellent teachers making fine points about various parts of the Bible, when I think back over all the sermons I have heard (and taught) in the past few years, I struggle to think of any “fact” or “teaching” that has really impacted my life. And I really have to try hard to remember any “application” from any of those sermons. OK, maybe I have a bad memory, and I’m sure I have dozed off in church too many times, as all male Woodwards are prone to do from time to time.

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by Mark

Safwa Scripture Celebrations

October 11, 2014 in Wycliffe, Mark, Africa, Bible, Bible translation, Church, Front, Language, Mission, Tanzania by Mark

At the end of August, I flew to Mbeya in southwest Tanzania, to be attend the dedication of several books of the Bible in the Safwa language. The books of Ruth, Jonah, Mark, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, are the first to be published in Safwa, and were greeted with much singing, dancing and joy by the crowd assembled in the town of Mbalizi, about 30 minutes drive from Mbeya.

Various honoured guests were present, including a Member of Parliament, local businessmen and traditional Safwa community leaders. The celebrations included performances by choirs and bands, and speeches by various guests, the highlight of which was our German colleague, Andrea, giving her speech entirely in Safwa, to the amazement of all! Read the rest of this entry →

by Mark

Borrowing words? Or stealing?

January 7, 2014 in Mark, Bible, Bible translation, Language by Mark

Earlier this week I came across an article about how 300 Bibles in the Bahasa Malaysia language were seized for using words that originated from the Arabic language, including the word for God. This seems to be the latest in an ongoing controversy in Malaysia about whether Christians speaking Malaysian languages should be allowed to use words that historically came from Arabic in their translations of the Bible in those languages.

From a sociolinguistic point of view, a language borrowing “loan words” from another language is something that happens all the time. Of course, “loan words” is something of a misnomer, as the new words become as much part of the language as any other words, and will never be returned! English has borrowed words from a whole range of languages – French, German and Greek to name just a few.

Whenever a new concept occurs in a language, there is a need to name it, and the new name is almost never random. People generally make up the new name, either by modifying existing words in the language (hence we now talk about a “selfie”), or by using the word that was already used by speakers of another language for that concept (e.g. “pizza”). Sometimes the name is borrowed from a similar concept in another language, but the meaning changed, for example the English word “safari”, meaning a trip to see wild animals, comes from the Swahili word meaning “a journey”. The word then becomes a legitimate part of the language – a Swahili speaker can’t tell an English speaker that they are using the word “safari” wrongly just because its meaning in English is different from its meaning in Swahili. Read the rest of this entry →

by Mark

A missional reading of 1 Peter 2:4-12

October 9, 2013 in Wycliffe, Mark, Africa, Bible, Bible translation, Church, Language, Mission, Tanzania, Theology by Mark

Last week Laura and I had the opportunity to speak at Calvary Chapel, Salem here in Oregon. As well as giving an update on Bible translation projects that we’re involved in in Tanzania, I took a look at 1 Peter 2:4-12, exploring what it means to read this section of the letter from a missional perspective.

Looking back, I think I sub-consciously applied the various missional hermeneutics we covered in the “Reading the Bible Missionally” module of Redcliffe’s MA in Bible and Mission, specifically looking at:

  • The place of the text in the missional meta-narrative of the Bible
  • The significance of the text in forming and equipping a missional community among its initial hearers
  • The text as part of a movement from the particular to the universal
  • The text speaking to the missional situation of the present-day hearers

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by Mark

Good News for the Poor?

November 13, 2012 in Life, Mark, Africa, Bible, Church, Front, Justice, Mission, Tanzania, Theology by Mark

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” (Luke 4:18-19)

This was the Scripture that Jesus read in the synagogue in his home town of Nazareth, asserting that the Scripture was being fulfilled through himself, and giving an early indication as to how he saw his ministry. But how did Jesus fulfill this prophecy of good news to the poor? And what does that mean for today?

Last month we were in Tanzania’s largest city, Dar es Salaam, which caused me to ponder these questions. What is the good news for the poor of today? Read the rest of this entry →