The Other Side of “Silence and Solitude”

Early last month I wrote a blog post extolling the disciplines of Silence and Solitude to unlock the treasures within our innermost being. Many of you readers responded, telling me how much these disciplines have helped deepen your spiritual lives. The impact of that blog post seemed to be so strong that I now realize I need to present the other side of the coin to bring some healthy balance.

God not only designed us to need time for being quiet and alone, He also designed us to communicate and be in fellowship with other people.

The Biblical Basis for Communication and Fellowship
After each act of creation God pronounced His work as “good.” But after creating Adam, God said, “It is NOT good for man to be alone.” He created Eve, not just for Adam, but to produce the human race, so that human beings could communicate and have fellowship with one another.

Canela Men's Group Breakfast Together

Canela Men’s Group Breakfast Together

David was a great warrior and reigned as a strong king, but he didn’t do this alone. He had his “thirty mighty men” with whom he planned strategies and on whom he depended for victories and safety.

His son Solomon wrote a poem eulogizing the concept of partnership to work effectively, to help each other, to provide mutual comfort and safety. It was written on the flyleaf of my parent’s Bible and read during their wedding eighty years ago, “Two are better than one . . . a cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Eccl. 4:9-12)

Jesus chose twelve special disciples to be with Him and later sent out seventy followers to do ministry all over Palestine. He sent them in pairs, not alone.

Jesus also promised His followers that whenever two or three gathered together in His name, He would be there with them.

The apostle Barnabas chose Paul, and later Paul chose Silas and eventually Paul was joined by others like Luke and Timothy to travel with him.

North American Cultural Bias to Independence
We North Americans have grown up to value independence and self-sufficiency. We honour the rugged pioneer who, on his own, braved the wilderness, and carved out a homestead for himself and his family. We teach our children to be independent, even our schools focus on training students to work independently. This self-sufficient characteristic leads to shallow relationships, and lack of commitment to others.

Yet, as Christians we need to realize that independence and self-reliance are not biblical values. God designed us to live and work together with others, to be interdependent—each of us depending on others, and others depending on us. God loves to see us, His kids, being honest, open and transparent with each other, working together for the good of the whole group and to meet the needs of others. He values interdependence and practices it Himself. He has chosen to work through us in this needy world. The hands of believers are His hands, our feet are His feet, our mouths are His mouth, through which He speaks and works.

God Speaks to Us Through Other Believers
As we are in fellowship with others, living, learning and working together, God tends to speak to us through the actions and words of other believers. We can all remember times when others held us accountable, encouraged us, or taught us a needed lesson. We have done the same for others, comforting, correcting, and sharing our joys and sorrows. We have been challenged to live better by looking at the lives of other believers. And we go to church, not just to sing some worship songs and listen to a sermon, but to develop relationships with other, likeminded children of the Heavenly Father.

A New Year’s Resolution That God Will Help Us Keep
My prayer is that, in silence and solitude, we will all make a resolution to develop some deep level relationships with others during this new year. Let’s write out the resolution, then find some person we trust, tell them what we have resolved to do, and ask them to hold us accountable.


New Bible Translation Tools for a New Generation

I invited my friend and colleague Hart Wiens to write a guest post showing yet another way in which God is using modern high technology to accelerate and improve Bible translation around the world. Jesus was no doubt pleased to see His prayer for unity answered in the way two major organizations worked together on this. Hart is Director of Scripture Translations, Canadian Bible Society.

New Bible Translation Tools for a New Generation

“I think the ParaTExt software is simply incredible. I am constantly amazed at how powerful it is, how fast it is, and how much easier it makes it to do my Bible translation project. ParaTExt is simply brilliant.”

Those words from Matt and Christy Taylor, SIL translators serving in Papua New Guinea, are typical of the user response to the computer tools we deliver to translators around the world. How different is their reality to the tools we carried to our field assignment in the Philippines 40 years ago – a manual typewriter, pencils, reference books and lots of carbon paper and whiteout. We had to retype our work multiple times and used a big table for all the reference books we needed to consult. We repeatedly heard tragic stories of manuscripts being lost, burned, or eaten by termites, sometimes after years of grueling effort.

Translating the Bible Into Their Own Indigenous Language

Translating the Bible Into Their Own Indigenous Language

God’s Gift to Accelerate Bible Translation
Today translators open their computers and on the screen they see a suite of software with multiple windows which all scroll together as they move from one verse to another. Built into our software is an entire library of Bible versions, commentaries, lexicons and other resources which they can display for use in their research even as they enter their translation in a separate window. All their work is saved on a central server in “the cloud” and they can share their work with colleagues in separate locations with the simple click of a button. If the computer is lost, stolen, or damaged, their work is still secure and can easily be recovered. The translated Scriptures are stored in a standard format which makes it relatively easy to convert the files to “typeset” page setup, ready for printing or even for immediate delivery to readers through new media such as e-books and smart phones.

God Uses His People to Develop His Gift
The software is called ParaTExt and is delivered and supported through the computer resource department of SIL, Wycliffe’s field partner, and through the United Bible Societies’ Institute for Computer Assisted Publishing (ICAP). The delivery and support of these tools is one of many ways in which the Bible Societies and SIL partner in the ministry of Bible translation. SIL recognized the immense potential of computers to support Bible translation, when it launched an ambitious project in the 1980s to produce a comprehensive suite of software to support all aspects of SIL field work. For many reasons the project took longer than anticipated, especially for the tools to support Bible translation. Since this was a priority for the Bible Societies, UBS launched a separate project to produce a suite of tools modeled on an early prototype built by Dr.Reinierde Blois, a Bible Society consultant serving in Africa.

A Software Marriage Made in Heaven
When the first version of this program was launched in 1997, it was an immediate and unexpected hit. Very quickly the demand for this software had outstripped the capacity of the Bible Societies to support its users. For some years SIL continued to work on a parallel tool called the Translation Editor (TE), to address needs that were not covered in the early versions of ParaTExt, but the rapid development and increasing ability of ParaTExt to meet their needs, eventually resulted in an agreement to merge the two programs. This agreement to partner was due to the persistence of visionary leadership and the gracious response of SIL software development staff who set aside their tool in order to partner for the greater good of God’s Kingdom.

Worldwide Impact
National Bible translators, many of them translating the Bible into their own mother-tongue, are effusive in their praise:
From Indonesia: Since we started using the latest version of ParaTExt our translation work became integrated and easier for our mother tongue translators and for us as overseers.
From India: The ParaTExt 7 software is a great blessing and help. We wish we had known about it several years ago. That would have reduced our workload immensely.
From Georgia, Eurasia: ParaTExt provides the best translation tools ever on our computers.
From Cameroon, Africa: I want to thank you for ParaTExt 7.1. I hope to use it successfully for Bible Translation into Mfumte language.