Quite unexpectedly, I was asked to travel to a tropical island. Christine, my boss, took a video call she was not supposed to take and then, I and my colleague Geoff were suddenly registered for a Bible conference in sunny Fiji. Well, this was a first!
I should back up a bit. The Bible Society overseeing the South Pacific region (including Australia and New Zealand) were planning their annual conference. They wanted more missional organisations in the region to collaborate for better Scriptural engagement. In a planning meeting on Zoom, the committee were asking each other,” Which agency here can demonstrate how to share skills and knowledge to meet our goal?” It was that call which Christine (instead of International Director, Graydon) joined, and she said, “Sure, we can help with that!” And so our flights were booked…
I haven’t travelled a great deal. I’ve never been to Fiji, or any island in the South Pacific (apart from New Zealand – does that count? ;). Geoff and I knew we’d landed in the tropics when we stepped into the wave of humidity, and I became acutely aware of my dark-blue jeans. As we waited for our passports to be stamped, we enjoyed a trio of guitar-playing singers, each in his sulu skirt and a flower over his ear.
Geoff and I knew the hotel was only a few kilometres from the airport, but the shuttle bus kept us waiting. About half an hour after most other passengers had dispersed, one old bloke rang his mate at the hotel for us. The bus arrived shortly after that, and suddenly half-a-dozen people converged on it. A minute before, we had stood apart as strangers, then there were warm smiles, handshakes and “Oh, you’re going too?!” and our camaraderie began.
The three days of discussions, shared mealtimes and prayer and worship were driven by a positive community of goodwill. The Bible Society’s goals were clear, and we all knew it – we were there to learn how to work together so that more people could engage with the Word of God.
Seventy delegates from the Bible Society, SIL, Wycliffe and many others attended, representing islands ranging from PNG and Micronesia across to French Polynesia.
Native representation was very strong, showing passionate commitment to reaching their neighbours with the gospel. I was also grateful to network with Faith Comes By Hearing and Megavoice, fellows of GRN in gospel audio work.
Where did GRN fit in? In recent years, several Bible translation agencies have seen increasing value in audio recordings, delving into the technology for themselves. Given ever-increasing access to simple recording devices, the monumental task of recording swathes of scriptures can be fraught with frustrations. Capturing and editing audio is much less straightforward than the equivalent textual task, so I wanted to explain to delegates that GRN can help. We will run training courses sharing our experience of recording techniques, using cost-effective equipment, to save other agencies time and money by producing quality recordings from the beginning. Geoff enthusiastically outlined the training options, and we pointed to several initiatives GRN recently completed in Namibia, Thailand and Gove (NT). Our presentation was very well received, and we both fielded several inquiries for recording in native languages and for training of local workers.
The full fruits of our attendance remain to be seen. As we follow up with the agencies we connected with, we need your prayers to judge well how to facilitate training courses in the islands, and cover associated costs. They also need to do so, but I’m grateful that this movement of collaboration between missions seems to be growing. GRN also hopes to build on recent momentum. The more workers trained in recording, the greater our capacity to spread the story of Jesus in every language.