by Mark

Poppies, football and perspectives: why I agree with FIFA

November 3, 2016 in Mark, Culture, Random, Sport by Mark

Next Friday the England football team will take on Scotland in an important World Cup qualifying game, and since the game happens on November 11th, Remembrance Day in the UK, both teams have proposed that they wear poppies (the traditional British symbol of war remembrance) to commemorate those who lost their lives in past wars.

PoppyIn the past 24 hours it has been revealed that FIFA, the governing body for world football, has denied the request of England and Scotland to wear poppies, as it violates their principle of not allowing political, religious or commercial messages on team shirts. Many in the UK have reacted strongly to this decision, with the Prime Minister Theresa May saying it is “outrageous”, claiming that the poppy is a neutral, non-political symbol to remember those who have died.

While it is undoubtedly true that many who wear a poppy do so purely to remember loved ones who have passed away in wars, I think it is naive to think that the poppy would be universally seen to be non-political. Read the rest of this entry →

by Mark

A Kisi Alphabet

December 29, 2015 in Wycliffe, Mark, Africa, Bible translation, Front, Language, Tanzania by Mark

Last year I had the opportunity to visit a village in the Kisi community on the eastern shore of Lake Nyasa in southwest Tanzania. Although to be honest there is not much of a shore to the lake on that side – for mile after mile the towering Livingstone mountains drop straight into the lake, with just room for one or two houses at the water’s edge. Travelling to the Kisi from Mbeya town requires a 3-5 hour journey by car, followed by 8-12 hours in a wooden boat with an outboard motor, praying for good weather and a calm lake.
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by Mark

“The people back home will not believe these books exist!”

June 17, 2015 in Wycliffe, Mark, Africa, Bible translation, Front, Tanzania by Mark

Three unexpected guests arrived in our Mbeya office this morning, asking to talk with the project manager. They were speakers of the Ndali language, and had traveled from the north of Malawi, having heard that we are translating parts of the Bible into the Tanzanian dialect of Ndali.

After introducing themselves they presented a letter, asking that they be kept informed of the progress of the project, attend advisory meetings, and have access to the books that are being distributed. Their desire for Ndali books was obvious, as they explained how they use Scriptures from the neighbouring Ngonde language in church, despite it being difficult for them to understand.

Seeing some of the Bible books that our office has produced in Ndali, their eyes lit up with excitement! They pleaded that they should at least be able to take home a sample of the books, as they think through how to build a sustainable distribution network. “The people back home will not believe that these books really exist!” they exclaimed, “except there are three of us, so they’ll have to believe us!” Read the rest of this entry →

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 →