Nkoya update 21st Dec 2020

I feel as if I’ve been going like a sparkler since Friday. No, not angry sparks, just that a week working on Genesis with the Mbula translators left me supercharged. A long time ago, English Bible translator, J.B. Phillips wrote that translating the New Testament was like re-wiring a house without being able to turn the mains off. Everything you touched gave you a shock. As we worked through the first half of Genesis, I felt that I was always working on the live wire.

Every story charged me up until … I was sparking all weekend. That was in spite of spending six hours each day on Zoom meetings, since I was sitting in Largs and the Mbula translators were in Nigeria. It’s amazing that technology lets us meet through a screen even when we’re worlds apart, but it is tiring. So, I’m happy that as well as feeling tired on Friday I was sparking and fizzing … Hagar’s story, Lot’s daughters, Rebekah’s story. My! What a teenage girl Rebekah was!

Although consulting is slow, meticulous work, what goes on in the stories gets into you, heart and mind. Sometimes I am frustrated hearing people say, “This is not only for your head; it’s also for your heart.” As far as I am concerned, translation consulting hits both. I hope we’ll do the second half of Genesis in January. We had planned to spend two weeks on it in early November [see last letter], but circumstances were against it, time passed, and we were glad to get in one week just before Christmas.

And this has been the story of the past few months. No sooner did I have the future all laid out flat and smooth, than it began curling up somewhere.

In Zambia, Mufaya has kept visiting a village, getting a positive response to the gospel message, some baptisms, and meeting each week under the tree on rough benches [below].

BELOW RIGHT: This baptism seems to be in a corner of a flooded field, fully clothed, with the woman at the left ready to wipe down the person’s face.

Mufaya, cheerful as ever! Just at the weekend, his Committee agreed to give a substantial discount on Nkoya Bibles. Great news!

Mufaya himself attended what we call an Exegetical Workshop for a different project, the Nkangala New Testament. Here they are during a break-time. One woman is a translator, the other a consultant. This is good to see. Last week, the Mbula left the woman of the team back home when they travelled for work with me. I was sorry—a woman adds different eyes to the draft translation.

In the last update, I mentioned the two projects in Madagascar held up by lack of funds for the internet, Analamanga and Tsimihety. No sooner had we sent funds for Consultant, Dr Olivia to use setting up internet for them, than a friend sent in another month’s funds. So they’ve been able to finish the year!

ABOVE: Olivia’s screen when she’s working with a team, just like my work last week with Mbula. So, we see each other; the translation; and some other windows showing other features for our work.

We’ve also agreed to help a group in Ethiopia get new laptops. They’ll fund the laptops, and we’ll help on the transport costs. I am hoping this will go ahead without delay.

I’m afraid the news has been building up. Even cutting it short, I’m into page 2. But you can look at the pictures! So, thank you again for praying and supporting this work. Without this there would be little done.


Nkoya update, 23rd Oct 2020

It’s rare to get a piece of real new news, but I got several two weeks ago, and I’ve been fighting for time to write ever since.

First was an email from Nigeria, hoping I would do some checking with the Mbula project. About three or so years ago I agreed to their invitation to be their consultant, then nothing. They were starting Old Testament, and struggled to get funds together. Time passed with no developments. When Covid19 came along, I put the Mbula Old Testament out of my mind…until Wednesday 7th. The team had funds for about a year, and meanwhile had translated Genesis and Exodus. Would I be able to do some consulting in November? Not by going there, but by zoom or skype!

It took over the weekend to get my head round it, and then I said yes. I would need to replan the rest of the year, and knew I was taking on six or seven hours per day skyping or zooming for two weeks. So, that’s what I will be doing for the first half of November [2nd–13th]. Consulting is a pleasure face-to-face, but ten full days on the internet, looking at faces, will be tiring.

At the same time, I learned about two translation teams in Madagascar, the Analamanga and Tsimihety who have not been able to have contact by zoom with their consultant—a former student, living in South Africa with her husband, and these days also limited to consulting by zoom.

Olivia is an enthusiastic, committed woman, and so we began emailing about the need. The translators are students, neither team has the funds to give them all internet access. We sent some funds to get them started, and hopefully, they will get some consultant time in the next month or two. Olivia is from Madagascar, but also can’t travel because of Covid19.

There are two things to pray for … Olivia and me, the translators we’ll be in contact with, and the portions we’ll be looking at. Doing it by skype or zoom for hours each day will be tiring for us all, translators included.

Meanwhile, Mufaya is a wee bit frustrated. Nkoya Bible sales are slow, because people are still recovering from last year’s shortages, and cautious about laying out the cost to buy a Bible. And the rains are about to begin another farming year. People will be busy preparing, their attention on the fields rather than reading. I’m really hoping the Translation Committee will see their way to giving a worthwhile discount. It would encourage Mufaya and me, and get Bibles in the hands of the people who need them.

Finally, some WhatsApp texts from Ethiopia tell me the two full Bibles, Gamo and Gofa, finally go off to the printer next week, after long delays caused by the way Covid19 disrupted office work.

Sincere thanks to all of you for prayers and support,


Nkoya Update, 28th Sep 20

In late August, Mufaya made a visit to another Nkoya chief. This was Chief Kahare – and they presented him with a copy of the Nkoya Bible. In receiving it, he said he had known about it and had been waiting for a long time. He requires those who visit to sit with their legs straight out. For me, in Africa this is uncommon; legs are usually tucked out of sight. He has several other chief’s areas to visit.

A courtesy visit to the chief comes first, and only after his favour is given will the team “intrude into his territory”. I think the main delay is hiring transport to out-of-the-way places for taking a small team of evangelists to each one. November sees the start of the new farming year. The farmers’ “slack time” will be over as they begin – preparing the ground. September and October are still good for evangelism.

Mufaya is still on local radio promoting and reading from Nkoya Bible each week. Here is a photo from a dark studio.

His wife’s health has been a worry – Betty Mufaya. She finally had minor surgery in August to remove a fatty cyst. This is healing, but her blood results are still not normal and she was due to have a scan last week.

Effect of Covid in Zambia is remarkably low: the number of cases is only 14,600 cases with 332 deaths. As we know it interferes with social life – and evangelism too. Ethiopia’s Covid numbers are now higher – over 73,000 cases with 1000 deaths. We have friends and colleagues there who are trying to work from home. This is not easy with translation – translators want to be with their team daily for discussion, and so do consultants. I have mentioned before a long-time friend and colleague, Dr Daniel Hankore for your prayers in life and work. As we know here, there is no end in sight yet, and I cannot even think of planning a trip!

Turning to our own situation: we are both well, and have enjoyed meeting up with family occasionally. Church doesn’t meet except on zoom! My major work is still researching and writing short Introductions for Old Testament Books. It might seem straightforward, but to put my finger on each book’s distinctive contribution and say it briefly in a way that translators could use as a model, is demanding. I keep reminding myself that each Introduction has the potential to help translators themselves, and when published, to help pastors and teachers, as well as ordinary Bible readers.

Here is the progress so far: Introductions are close to ready on Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Ruth, Esther, Job, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Hosea, Micah. I have also done basic work on Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Kings, Chronicles, Psalms, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, with more to do on each of these. It takes longer than I thought it would!

I have three needs – a clear mind [1] to see the distinctives and [2] to write them in an accessible way, [3] with no room for waffle or shallow, tasteless claims. And to do it in 500-600 words.

So, keep praying for these inputs to translation from my work, and the outcomes from people like Mufaya, who are making time and opportunity to get newly published Bibles into people’s hands.

Thank you for your prayers, encouragement, and support,


Nkoya update, 23rd June 2020

On Sunday 14th June, Mufaya took up an invite to speak about the Nkoya Bible on local radio. In the left photo he is in the studio, and it is a chat and phone-in programme. The right hand photo shows the Nkoya Section of radio with a good smile, having received his own copy of the Bible. So, pray for its distribution and reception. It was translated so that people would read God’s Word, and find satisfaction of all kinds in it.

Mufaya had hoped for greater excitement from the callers… but that’s life, and it is still a great opportunity. He was back again last Sunday [21st]. “We had a good time.” he said. “I was given time to preach in Shinkoya. I have been asked again, next Sunday [28th] to teach the love of Jesus in Shinkoya.”

Mufaya is a pastor with a heart for evangelism, and he is also working with the chaplains of the local hospital and prison in Kaoma town, to place Bibles there for the use of patients and prisoners. Pray again for his radio opportunity. This is good.

The Chaplain thanked the support, “This is the right tool for this time. Continue praying for us, as you can see the prison is congested with inmates, both male and female. Very sorry that because of the covid meanwhile we are not allowing outsiders to mix with the inmates. Otherwise we still extend our invitation when the covid is over or when HQ will allow. We still invite you to come and share the gospel with us. We appreciate your prayers, words, and support. Only that we cannot allow pictures of our inmates at present. Be free to visit and even give prayers.”

Kaoma district Hospital. This is children’s ward nurse-in-charge receiving the Nkoya bibles as Sr Alice Kawisha handing over the five copies. The nurse appreciating and thanking the Nkoya community for donating the Bibles to the ward says, “We know this cloud [the coronoavirus] needed this kind of a blessing for all patients and staff in the hospital. We are very grateful for your kindness.”

The translation committee members have also been involved in their own harvesting. Pray for them, that they can return to the task of Bible distribution. Their work is not completed with publication!



Nkoya update, 30th May 2020

Like most nations in our world at present, Ethiopia is deeply concerned about coronavirus. “Stay at home. Work from home” people have been told. So, most translation consulting has shuddered to a halt. In only a few places is there a signal for Skype, Zoom or Facetime.

I’ve mentioned Daniel Hankore to you before. His faith income includes an honorarium from each agency he does some work for. Right now, he is at home with his wife Dero and two youngest children, who he has to home school. A familiar picture now to us here!

Here is a photo of Daniel and Dero. Pray for them as their income too, is restricted. Daniel keeps preparing for future consulting.

As I write I am conscious that yesterday was the planned Dedication of the Nkoya Bible. Because of restrictions brought by coronavirus, there was no celebration yet. Mufaya says “Trusting the same God to give us another day.” He is working to get a team of evangelists to encourage people to read their new Bible. His church building at least has been approved for opening, and I’m sure they’ll be meeting tomorrow. And meantime, harvest continues. It is a labour intensive time, with all members of the family involved. I’ll leave a series of photos below to tell part of the story.

Back at the Ranch … I completed my four articles for this planned Encyclopedia of Biblical Greek Language and Linguistics, and sent them off, and Margaret got hers off too. Now we wait for the editors to tell us to change dots to colons, and colons to commas… This lets me shine my earlier work on Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and then get on to something else. But I’ll take some slack time, and catch up on delayed DIY outside the house.

Left to Right: The temporary store has a lot of maize. It is to last a family for
a year. Right: Nearby is a funny erection. A little walled and roofed “table”… with a pit dug below.

Some cobs are put on the “table” and beaten with thick sticks to knock off the kernels. Kernels can fall through the rough table top of tied sticks—it acts like a sieve. Mufaya sent a short video of two young men beating the cobs. It will take two days [or more] to beat the kernels off of all the cobs. The video is worth watching! Ask me for it and I’ll send it to you.

At the right side, two young fellows are down in the pit after hours of beating. Now the kernels are bagged and go to the women who winnow it in baskets to get all the bits of broken cob and grit out of it. Only when it is clean do they take it to the mill. Maize meal makes the staple food, nshima.

Thank you for your prayer and support

Ronnie & Margaret

Nkoya update, 10th May 2020

Harvest! In Western Zambia it is well through, but not completely so. Just this morning, Mufaya sent me a text, “I am rushing to the farm. If not today then tomorrow it’s a must.” Crops need not only to be gathered but to be put in safe storage, or transported home. It’s the staple food for the coming twelve months. Meanwhile, parts of the horn of Africa, are expecting a second wave of locusts, as eggs from the first wave hatch. This could affect parts of Eastern Kenya and south-eastern Ethiopia. And at the same time, parts of western Kenya have been going through drought. Soon the agencies will be telling us about it.

Ethiopia responded to coronavirus by testing, lockdown, and … a national month of fast and prayer. In UK we only managed lockdown. One of the consultants there says “It helped people to see what is going on around them as family, especially evangelicals and the nation. In general it created unity, recognising each other and God in this difficult time.” Let’s pray for another harvest to come from this. The churches all have time on the four national TV channels. Progress on translation has obviously been disrupted.

Back in Zambia, Pastor Mufaya was meeting on Friday morning with a group from his church to organise small reading groups for the new Bible, to encourage people and accustom them to the Bible in ShiNkoya. Their meeting was interrupted … a well-known Christian woman had died the previous evening. She had been unwell for several years, and diagnosed with cancer. A funeral took over priority for Mufaya. Another Pastor, Kahare, led the graveside service, reading from the Nkoya Bible, and preaching. As he did so, Mufaya says, “People were cheering. They never thought of someone reading from Libuka lya Kuyela, and preaching from it.”

There were two other funerals, and as they finished, they came over and stood together to listen. Someone once said that, when a corn of wheat falls into the ground and dies it brings much fruit. Another harvest! Pray that it might be so. His church building has had a health inspection preparatory to re-opening. So this Sunday they will be trying to observe the restrictions we are also familiar with. It is Ascension Sunday, so I’m sure they’ll have something to preach about. Mufaya sent two short videos—too long to attach, but fascinating to watch. Ask if you’d like me to send them to you.

I’ve been praying for harvest here too, in UK, wondering if the fields are white. My writing work on Jeremiah and Ezekiel is finished, and just to be put together. When the month began I turned to four other short pieces, this time on Greek, which I agreed to write for an upcoming Encyclopedia—the same one Margaret has been writing for. The deadline is 31st May, and I am on the fourth and last piece. Lockdown doesn’t really affect writing…it is a lonesome task in any case. And we get out walking each day in peaceful surroundings.

Thank you again for your prayer and support,


Nkoya update, 21st Apr 2020

Western Zambia is concentrating on harvest. I’m going to tell you about it; it’ll be longer, but still interesting, I hope. It’s more like farming a century ago in the western world. Keep in mind it is all done by hand [except for large farm estates that go back to colonial times]. The men dig the land by hand – acres of it. They sow and plant by hand, bent over all day. And harvesting is also by hand and labour intensive. Mufaya has been three weeks in the fields. In his field they are gathering peanuts, pumpkins, cassava, maize, sorghum and greens, and with schools closed, all the boys and young men are out there helping.

Sorghum looks like maize, but the crop is a head of grain like millet. The maize and sorgum will dry off, and go to local mills to be turned into coarse flour. That is used to make the staple nshima, which is hard to describe. Much too solid and thick to be called porridge, served in large ladle-spoons, and used to carry by fingers to the mouth whatever veg or meat there might be. One of the favourite vegetables is the green leaves of African ‘cabbage’, which grows like brussels sprouts but it doesn’t form a heart, and we gather the leaves for cooking with chopped onions and tomatoes. It’s a bit like chard.

Mufaya’s photos show stacks of maize against a tree in the field. It’s quicker, he says, to stack it first and take the cobs off in one place. The right hand one shows some sorghum.

Our local church in Largs has been supporting the family for the past six months, to ensure they had food at this time. Now, as things begin to ease, Mufaya has invested in a hand plough to start clearing the ground for next time.

His wife continues to improve, but she is still waiting to have a swelling in her side dealt with. I have no idea what this is, but clearly it should get attention as soon as possible.

Zambia is on partial lockdown. Churches are closed, and pastors like Mufaya are encouraging people to increase their family devotions. His household spends an hour singing and praying – and knowing Mufaya, he will be teaching from the Word – each Sunday morning.

All this raises a question over the launch, which was planned for late May. And attention has rightly been concentrated on harvesting. But pray for a spiritual harvest as the Nkoya Bible begins to be distributed.

Our friends in Ethiopia are also in lockdown. As in Zambia, numbers affected by coronavirus are not high, but the fear of it spreading is. Resources for dealing with it are fewer, so offices are closed down, and there is less opportunity for working at home. No more than four people together, in Ethiopia.

Bible translation is obviously affected. Translators might work at home with little team contact for a few weeks, but quality depends so much on contact and discussion. Consultants cannot visit and help, and all revision processes are on hold. Yes, some use systems like Skype and Zoom—for family chat they are great, but for formal work they are less easy. This is especially so in rural places where the signal is weak or non-existent. I personally shy away from consulting this way because I rely so much on the feedback that comes in face-to-face interaction. I get a better feel for how we are thinking this way.

In Ethiopia there are Bibles and New Testaments in the final stages, with all the proofing and checking that is needed before printing goes ahead. Margaret and I had direct input into the ones I’ve been told about: the Dawro, Gofa and Gamo full Bibles, and the Konta, Oyda and Melo New Testaments. You’ve never heard of any of these, but just think, there are going to be people from them all in the great choir when the Lord comes back.

The Bibles are published in both the traditional Ethiopic script [for the older people] and the Roman alphabet that we’re accustomed to [for the younger generation]. Education is shifting the traditional script to the side. The Dawro and Gofa Bibles are ready for sending off for the printing stage, but they are waiting for the Gamo to be completed. They are neighbouring communities, and policy is that they move forward together.

Can you see things to pray for? On Good Friday there was a headline in one of our newspapers here: The Lords’ vital work must continue. Yes, I thought, but get the apostrophe in the right place. The paper was talking about the House of Lords … I was thinking of a different, greater Lord: The Lord’s vital work must continue. It must, and it will. Join us in praying for the parts of it I’ve mentioned, from one harvest to another, from one nation to another, from one Bible to another.

Thank you for all your continued support, in prayer and giving to us,


Ronnie and Margaret

Nkoya update, 4th April 2020

You’ll be waiting anxiously to see how your prayers for Nkoya this week were answered.

Mufaya went to Lusaka with the truck on Tuesday, and had a meeting with the General Secretary and Distribution Manager in the Bible Society of Zambia. There they learned good news, which was truly new to Mufaya as well as to me. It had been agreed by the donor who financed the printing of the Nkoya Bible, that the Translation Committee would receive a quantity free, equal in value to the cost of printing, $10,000 US.

So, they were to pick up 1000 copies without charge, with a Receipt for both parties to record the transaction. [Just as Jeremiah had when he bought a field, Jer 32. Read it! His Receipts were more cumbersome. Now it’s a page from a ledger]. The remainder they will have to purchase whenever they need them.

On Wednesday, they collected the cartons of Bibles and loaded them on the truck. You can see here the love of naming vehicles.

They left Lusaka around 4 pm, with a new set of tyres; stopped in a layby at Tobacco Board Zambia for a snooze, then drove all night, to arrive just after 8 am on Thursday, without mishap. So, your prayers were answered. It is always good to have answers to prayers! There has never before been an Nkoya Bible in its own community – 1000 of them. Thank you, Lord, for this point at the end of many years of effort! And thank you, too, for funding the transport!

On Friday Mufaya was hoping to meet with the Translation Committee members, and the king. They’ll decide how to get the Bibles into the community. So, the new prayer is for a good plan for distribution and sales… and that people will buy and read, and that it will change their community.

In Western Zambia, this is the start of harvest time. Everyone will be watching their fields and itching to start harvesting. Pray for that too, and for a good harvest. Just  as Israel’s national feasts in the Old Testament were built around harvest time, pray that there will be a double harvest in Nkoya and Zambia, that Nkoya farmers, and that is everyone, will have a good crop harvest … and that the Bible will reap a great harvest now and from now on. The virus will prevent us going to Zambia for the dedication, and indeed, I am not sure how they will handle a celebration now, with the virus hitting Zambia too. But a representative of the donor agency said “You worked a miracle in Nkoya.” It’s nice to get some encouragement!

Mufaya’s wife is so much improved in health. But she still awaits a procedure to remove a swelling of some kind in her side. This is something important to pray for also.

And, here in Largs, I work away on Ezekiel, and am nearing the end at long last. My Introduction to Ezekiel is too long, and needs trimmed down. And a big article on the three major prophets needs to be finished and edited. I’ve still got some editing to do for the last part of my earlier work on the Hebrew term ‘ban’, but the coordinator said this past week, “It is an excellent article.” So, thanks for praying for even such tedious work as writing. These things now need to get out to translators.

So, continue to pray, Thank you for your prayer and support,

Ronnie & Margaret

Nkoya update, 28th Mar 2020

The other day our god-daughter, same age as our Karin, was out with her growing boys. They passed a billboard poster that declared “Jesus is coming back soon.” You know the kind of thing. One of the boys piped up, puzzled, “I didn’t know he had been away.” It’s good to know both statements are true! Good for Covid19 days.

A few days ago, Mufaya and I had one of our semi-regular sessions on What’sApp. Within one or two minutes of sending a message, the other knows if it is already read. Then it tells me Mufaya’s typing, and he’ll get a similar message when I type. Then the response comes, only a minute or two later, from one-third way round the world. Scotland and Zambia! He and his wife and family are fine right now. The field crops are ripening, harvest is coming, if all continues well. And he also tells me that last Sunday’s effort to limit church meetings to one hour didn’t work too well.  Time isn’t tight in Africa, as the restriction required, and meeting went on for two hours…and I can’t imagine everyone sitting one metre apart in an African congregation! And singing will spread any infection in the congregations’ breath.

Meanwhile, back here, social distancing goes on much more strictly. When I walk [my daily exercise] some others on the pavement along the beach smile and say Hello. Others carry the social distancing further, and look firmly ahead, with a strong glower. I chuckle. But as we continued exchanging texts, we talked about Bible Society selling Nkoya Bibles in Lusaka—why not? A good idea! And from there it was a small step to going to Lusaka for some to carry back to Kaoma. As Mufaya worked it out—and there were time gaps as he discussed with his Committee members—the simplest way all round was to hire a van, drive up, load up, and drive back to Kaoma with the Bibles.

I still hold funds from some of you, and I agreed to wire funds to cover the cost of the trip. After all, I said I’d be in it to the end, as my hairstyle proves. So, at 11 pm I wired the needed sum. In the morning, he picked it up at the Bank. The plan is to travel at the beginning of the coming week [target Tuesday in prayer], meet the distribution manager of BSZ when he returns to Lusaka, load the van, and drive back west. As I say, Target Tuesday for prayer. The plan is that willing pastors will sell the Bibles at a discount. Maybe they can use Palm Sunday and Easter for a focus. I believe Bible Society operate a sale-or-return basis, so they will not be liable for payment immediately. And I have committed myself to provide funds to make up the discount. It will work out at around £3.50 British / $4.00 US dollars per copy.

A month ago or slightly more, we had a prophetic question in our weekly prayer meeting: Can’t we do something to make it a price they can afford?  Yes, we can. And this is the kind of prophetic word I like!  Another of you made another prophetic point responding to the last Update: Get the Bibles to Kaoma and start selling them. As yet, we have no idea how well they will sell! Harvest is coming up in April, and few will have much to spare until later in the year. So, here is another focus for your prayer: Sales! Pray for good sales, and for people to read with pleasure. And pray for paying Bible Society later, to make up the discounts. A second time, Mufaya said people are hungry to see the Bible now, and that, in his words, a discount will be a blessing.

So, continue to pray, Thank you for your prayer and support,

Ronnie & Margare