Thursday, August 22, 2013

Wycliffe and "the Guatemalan Connection"

As I promised in my previous post here is an article that will show you the Guatemalan Connection to Wycliffe.

William Cameron Townsend

By Claude Hickman

"The greatest missionary is the Bible in the mother tongue. It needs no furlough and is never considered a foreigner." - William Cameron Townsend
William Cameron Townsend was one of the three most influential missions leaders in the last two centuries. This was the statement that Ralph Winter made after hearing that Townsend had passed away in 1982. 'Cameron' was born in California in 1896 into a time of poverty for the country. He was raised in the Presbyterian Church and decided to stay in California, enrolling in Occidental College in Los Angeles.
The influence of the Student Volunteer Movement, though in its early beginnings, had gained enough momentum to reach from the East coast to Cameron in the West. During Townsend's junior year, the movement's lead visionary, John R. Mott, visited Occidental and challenged students to give their lives to the evangelization of the world in this generation. Cameron met with Mott and joined the SVM, committing his life to the Great Commission. He had joined the National Guard in 1917, and was prepared to serve his country in the war, when he was challenged by a missionary on furlough to obey his SVM commitment and go to the mission field instead of the battlefield. He applied for a discharge in order to become a missionary to Guatemala and was surprised to get it approved by his commanding officer.
Cam left for Guatemala in August 1917, with a Bible association that sold Spanish Bibles there. He was serving a one year commitment in Guatemala, and almost finished when, on one day, something radically changed his perspective and eventually the course of missions history. One afternoon, one of the Cakchiquel Indians that Cameron had been living among last few months, approached his table and looked curiously at the Spanish Bible, asking what it was. Townsend explained to him that it was the words of God, the creator of all mankind. The man replied, sarcastically to Cameron, "If your God is so smart, why doesn't he speak my language?" Cameron was stunned to find that this man, though he lived in Guatemala, was one of the 200,000 Cakchiquel people and spoke zero Spanish.
The cutting remark left Cameron with a scar that he would never get rid of. It began to burden him that there were thousands of individuals, and hundred of other tribes, without one page of scripture in their language. Townsend would not return from his one year missions trip. In fact, he dedicated the next 13 years of his life to Cakchiquel Indians, translating the Bible into their language in an incredible 10 years. Cameron allowed the gospel to interrupt the course of his life. He began an organization known as Wycliffe Bible Translators, named after the Reformation hero who first translated the Bible into English.
Concerned about other minority language groups, Townsend opened Camp Wycliffe in Arkansas in the summer of l934. The camp was designed to train young people in basic linguistics and translation methods. Two students enrolled. The following year, after a training session with five men in attendance, Townsend took the five to Mexico to begin field work. From this small beginning has grown the worldwide ministry of the Summer Institute of Linguistics, Wycliffe Bible Translators, and Wycliffe Associates. No cultural group is considered too small, no language too difficult. Pioneering continues as several thousand workers break new ground in many parts of the world. The highest standards of linguistics and anthropological orientation are upheld. Service is stressed. All field work is done in cooperation with host governments, universities and philanthropic groups. Portions of the Christian Scriptures are translated for people in their mother tongue, the language of their hearts.
"Uncle Cam" as he is known by Wycliffe staff was also credited for beginning the final missions era that we are living in today. It is an era that focuses not on just reaching continents and inland countries, but on every distinct ethnic group, or people group in the world. This people group focus, taken from the original meaning of the word 'nations' (ethnos) as it was used in the New Testament and in the Great Commission, is the commitment to pioneer into every ethno-linguistic group. Cameron truly was one of the greatest missionary pioneers of our time. Today Wycliffe has the goal of translating the Bible into every language on the earth. Currently, there are over 3,000 languages without scripture, but 4,000 have at least portions in their dialect, all because Cameron stumbled on the idea of People Groups.

Visit of the Consultant

In November of 2012, I wrote about the agreement that I signed with the Guatemalan Bible Society. I mentioned that one of the major contributions the Bible Society could make to us, was providing us with a consultant to check and approve the translation that we are working on. Initially we planned for the consultant to come some time in March, but due to a number of reasons this did not happen. However, I am excited to say that the consultant finally came. 
While on furlough in Canada, I received word from the Guatemala Bible Society that they had finalized the agreement with the consultant and that she would be able to travel to Cubulco from August 5-9. This worked out good for me as we would be back from our furlough and would be able to go to Cubulco and meet the consultant. I was able to spend three days with the consultant, the translation team, and some members of the Bible Society. After some brief introductions and talking about the history of the translation work, we spent several days delving into several portions of the translated word of God into Kubultzij (Cubulco Achi). The consultant chose different texts from the Old and New Testament each with different genres. It was immediately apparent the value of this step in the translation process as the consultant asked pointed questions about how words, ideas, and concepts were being translated. The first text we tackled was Mark 1 and the first issue we ran into was how "repentance" was being translated. The New Testament had been previously translated by two Wycliffe missionary women, but one of our previous translators had done a revision and made some changes. One of the changes was with regards to this text and he had translated the word repentance as "washing away of sin" instead of asking for forgiveness. The original Wycliffe translators had translated the idea correctly, but the former translator in his "zeal" (or arrogance) to better the translation made it worse. It could perhaps also be a problem with doctrine as many evangelicals in places like Cubulco mistakenly believe that repentance includes being baptized in a river since the river will wash away one's sins. The consultant picked up on that instantly as she did on other things and I am sure she will find many more things that will need to be changed.
As you can see the work of the consultant is crucial to ensure a faithful translation. I am grateful for the consultant. She is very qualified for the work and a good fit for our translation team. Her name is Isela and she is from Mexico. She is Presbyterian and therefore holds to the Reformed faith and has a high view of Scripture. She has a doctorate's degree and various other degrees in anthropology, Biblical sciences and languages. She has been involved with Bible translation work and has experience with Mayan languages. 
Translation work is a challenge as there are words, ideas, and concepts that are not found in the language of the receptor. Some languages do not have words for "repentance, forgiveness, atonement, etc". Often literal translations are done to overcome some of these problems, but at times this can cause the receptor to misunderstand the Word of God. For instance in Cubulco Achi a literal translation of "hardness of heart" means "bravery" instead of "stubbornness" "unwilling to submit or repent" or "rejection of God's grace". Therefore an idiomatic translation is important so that the term "hardness of heart" can be translated in such a way that the receptor will understand what it means.
Please pray for the consultant Isela, the translation team, and the Guatemalan Bible Society. Please pray for the translation of the Bible being done all over the world through organizations like the Bible Society and Wycliffe. Pray for the missionaries and nationals who do the work as well as for those missionaries who support them from behind the scenes like our good friends from the Chilliwack FRC, Jaco and Andrea Devisser who are being prepared to work full time with Wycliffe and provide vital IT support for missionaries and nationals. While they might be in the background and not on the front lines, their expertise and contributions are crucial and a huge help to translators. (If you want to know more about Jaco and Andrea Devisser you can check out their blog ‎
PS. I have mentioned Wycliffe several times in this post. Did you know that there is a "Guatemalan Connection" to Wycliffe? If interested read the next post!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

In Memory of John Van Woerden

I mentioned in a previous blog that one of the "highlights" of our furlough was a funeral. This might sound strange to some, but it really was. I have attended quite a few funerals, especially here in Guatemala, and I would dare to say that this was by far one of the more memorable and special ones. It was sad and heart wrenching like most funerals are, but it was filled with hope and joy, as we knew that the deceased had passed from earthly life to eternal life. What a blessing it was to be able to be there!
It was several years ago that we had the privilege of getting to know a couple from our home town in Chilliwack named John and Henrietta Van Woerden (some of you might have read about him through Jack Westerink's blog). Although we knew them from years earlier, because they were from similar church and school circles (we knew their children), we did not know them that well. However, we had heard that they were interested in missions and that is what first connected us. It was not much later that John was diagnosed with terminal cancer and that is what connected us even more because of my wife Lia's battle with cancer when she was 17. Of course living in Guatemala did not allow us much contact with them, but every time we went on furlough we would visit with them, talk and pray together. The visits were always special and uplifting. One of the things we did do regularly was pray for him and his family. When John passed away our kids were disappointed since they believed that by praying for him God would heal him. We used this opportunity to teach our kids that God did heal John, although not here on this earth. John is fully healed now and enjoying the presence of the Savior. We ask that you pray for John's wife Henrietta and his children who have to "limp" through life with a void in their lives. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Visiting Churches

During our furlough to Canada we had the privilege to visit a number of churches and promote the work that is being done in Guatemala. We did presentations in four different churches one of which had never had a  Guatemalan mission presentation done, and two others who had a presentation done more than 10 years ago.
The first church we visited was the ORC/URC church in Edmonton, Alberta. I had contacted the church a month or so before going to Canada and they were excited to have us. We had been there some 10 years earlier and although many people were gone because of holidays most of the people present stayed after the service for the presentation. After church we had the privilege of being invited over to the house of Anthony Tuininga and his family for lunch. This was nice as it allowed us to make a personal connection with some people in the church. The church in Edmonton has been supporting the work for many years and we are grateful for their faithful giving.
free-reformed-churchThe next presentation we did was in the Chilliwack FRC which is our home church. We initially were supposed to do the presentation several weeks earlier at a potluck dinner, but the weather was very warm and the sun was bright so it was decided to postpone it for a few weeks. We held it at the church where we could enjoy the A/C. The interest of the church was good, the feedback was positive and we are thankful for the support that our home church gives us while on the field on furlough.
The third presentation we did was at the Langley FRC. This was a surprise and last minute one as we received an email from Pastor Aicken asking whether we could do a presentation there on a Sunday. Since we only had 2 Sundays left, he made arrangements for the following Sunday. He told us that he had never seen a presentation of the work in the 18 years that he has known about it and the church had not been visited for at least 10 years. We had the blessing of worshiping with the Langley church and we really enjoyed the worship service partly because the church consists of members who are from different cultural backgrounds. Again the church received us well and it was nice to see the interest they have in mission work.
Finally, we visited the URC Church of New Westminster. I was not aware of this church until the beginning of 2013 when we received a post card from the ladies society. I found out that this church has been supporting the work for many years, but that they never had anyone do a presentation of the work. Although it was a Friday evening and several families were gone on holidays a good number of people showed up and it was nice to meet these people and see the interest that they have in the work. I was able to have dinner with Pastor Gary Zekveld and his young family and also after the presentation there were refreshments at the home of one of the members were there was more time to talk about the work that God is doing in Cubulco.
We are thankful for the churches that support the work and are grateful when were have the opportunity to present the work that God is doing in Guatemala. We strongly feel that the promotion of missions is an important part of our work so that people and churches will stay informed, committed, and passionate. We are grateful that in our church circles sufficient time is given to be able to talk about the work. When we speak with other missionaries many say that they are often only given 5-10 minutes in a service. This is not a lot of time! In our case we were given 45 minutes to an hour to present the work and then time afterwards for questions. This allowed for time to be able to go into more detail on the work and explain also some of the history, joys and challenges of working in Guatemala so that people have a better overall understanding.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

40th Anniversary of Mom and Dad Kattenberg

We celebrated my parents 40th anniversary at Sun Peaks Resort in Kamloops, BC from July 8th-13th. My parents rented a chalet which could house all of the kids, in laws and grandchildren. There were 23 of us in total: 6 children, 4 in laws, 11 grandchildren and my parents. Since 3 of us live abroad being together as a family is difficult and when it happens it is special. The last time we were all together was in 2005 when we were in Holland for the wedding of my brother Martyn and a week later in Spain for the wedding of my brother Peter. It was a special time for all of us and we all regretted having to say goodbye and return to our respective countries.
We spent the week doing different activities around the resort area. We hiked, played at the playground, fished (one of my favorite hobbies) and hung out. We saw lots of wildlife including fox, deer and bear. Some of the girls had a close encounter with a bear in a tree that they surprised as they were hiking. Thankfully the bear was more afraid of them and in its hurry to climb out of the tree it fell with a crash and high-tailed it into the bush. However, it was a close call as it was only a couple of meters away from them. The brothers and some of the kids spent much of their time fishing in a small lake close to the resort. Although it was quite cold on the lake, the fishing was excellent and we hauled out some 25-30 good sized and tasty rainbow trout. Each weighed between 1.5-3 pounds and we had enough fish to feed all 23 of us twice. For the rest we spent time chatting and enjoying each others company. It was a very special time and we are thankful that we could have this opportunity. We are grateful to God for our parents and the example they have been to us. Although they had their weaknesses and faults (like we all do) they were godly and pointed us to Christ. For me the reunion was an emotional one as it brought back a lot of memories. Many were good memories, but there were also some sad ones as we remembered how God had taken our brother Arjen to be with Him some 30 years ago. Although many years have passed it is not something that is forgotten and there is a void that can not be filled. This trip however, was another opportunity to make memories of all of us together not only as immediate family, but also now with our own children and spouses.
It was a huge blessing to be together and we hope to do this a little more often and not let 8 years go by. It was not only good for us as adults but also for our children who had the chance to get to know each other personally and not simply via skype. What a blessing family is and what a blessing godly parents are! Thanks Mom and Dad! and thank you Lord for your faithfulness and mercy!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

We are back!

We are back in Guatemala after spending some time in Canada.We had a good flight down and enjoyed great seating and space on our red eye flight. For some reason we could not pre-check for our flights and had to get our seats assigned at the gate. I was muttering under my breath saying that we would probably be spread out and sitting in the back of the plane. Also since we had six carry-ons and several handbags I was complaining to Lia that the overhead bin space would be full and we would have to put the bags under the seat in front of us. Traveling with 4 kids can be a little stressful, but God was good and we got to sit in the front part of the plane where there was plenty of leg room and since people were traveling light we had plenty of space in the overhead compartments. Although we were not able to sleep much on the plane, we got enough rest to be coherent and we were able to get some well needed rest in the days following our arrival.
We really enjoyed our time in Canada connecting with family, friends and churches. It was a busy time, but the change of pace and scenery was nice and helped us relax. There were several highlight on the trip. One was celebrating my parents 40th anniversary at Sun Peaks resort in Kamloops, BC. Another was visiting several churches that we had not visited in a long time or never had visited. And the final highlight (although this might sound strange) was a funeral. During the next week or so I will tell you more about our trip. We are off to Cubulco tomorrow for a few days as there are a series of meetings with the consultant from the Bible Society. This will be exciting and I will write about that as well.