What do you do when tech support doesn't answer?

September 2019

Dear Friends,

If you send an email to the Language Software Support desk at SIL in Papua New Guinea, you’ll get this reply:

The LSS Office will be unstaffed until further notice.  …Please pray that we can fill this role in the near future.

The reply message also contains a number of links to self-help resources and online forums, but for specialized help, Bible translation teams are left in a lurch. This situation was unavoidable because the local trainer/expert had to leave for a year of furlough, building support and reporting back to sending churches.  It’s what we missionaries do.  The sad part is that there was nobody at the regional Bible Translation Center with the skills or availability to replace him.

Papua New Guinea is the home of more than 800 of the world’s languages. As you can imagine, the Bible Translation Center in Ukarumpa is a hive of translation activity. How all of this goes on without dedicated personnel providing technological support for the software tools of the trade is hard to imagine.

We’ve been training people to provide this support for Bible translators for 12 years now, and for the very first time, we were able to arrange a training workshop in Papua New Guinea.  We were hoping for 12 participants, but in the end, we had 16.  That may not sound like a lot, but it is actually an indicator that major change is on the way. You see, we don’t take just anybody. To be accepted into the program, candidates are asked to commit a minimum of 20% of their time to helping others with what they learn. Better yet, all sixteen of them are now on a growth plan that we will be monitoring, with clearly defined activities to improve their skills.  Just hang tight, Bible translators, help is on the way!

Papua New Guinea is only one of the Bible translation centers in the Pacific area facing this critical lack of support personnel with the skills to help them apply technology to their language and translation projects.  To make sure our new protégées get the follow-up training they need, we are already planning a follow-up event next year and opening it to a wider audience from the Pacific area.

It was especially exciting to meet Zacc (front row, right), who has the job of providing this technical support for SIL’s partner organization: PNG Bible Translation Association.  Zacc has learned a lot on his own, but hasn’t had access to dedicated training in this field.  At the end of the week of training, he was awarded the title of Language Technology Specialist, level 1 – a significant achievement.  As he continues to work on the skills we outlined in the course, it wouldn’t surprise us if by this time next year he earns the title of Consultant—not only gaining recognition for his skills but maximizing the help he is able to give to the Bible translation teams he supports.

A big thank you to those who contributed to new computers and hardware for the participants with the slowest computers in the class.  At each of two workshops in the Philippines and in Papua New Guinea, we gave away a computer and two solid-state hard drives to replace or speed up existing machines. Since we received more funds than we needed for these two workshops, the rest will be used for the next workshop in Cameroon.  The recipients were very grateful to be blessed in this way, helping them to be more effective in their support of Bible translation projects.

While I was in PNG doing the training, P.J. was putting the final formatting touches on an ePub by Glenys Waters about community-based literacy techniques used in Papua New Guinea to teach people to read and write. We thought it was pretty cool that we both had opportunities to make an impact in this country from opposite ends of the globe!  And none of this would be possible without your continued support through encouragement, prayers, and financial gifts!

Partners in the Gospel, (Phil 1:5)

Doug & Priscilla Higby

Prayer & Praise

  • Praise God for the change underway in Papua New Guinea with a whole crew of potential technology consultants to provide support for Bible translation projects.
  • Praise God for the imminent release of Paratext 9 (Bible translation software).  Pray for Doug and his team as they train people in its use.
  • Pray for the Global Bible Translation Conference and surrounding meetings in Dallas in October. Paratext 9 training will officially start on October 7.
Your gifts enable the Higbys' continued ministry with Wycliffe.
  • By check
    • Payable to: "Wycliffe Bible Translators"
      with the memo: "Doug & Priscilla Higby"
      Mail to: Wycliffe Bible Translators, P.O. Box 628200, Orlando FL 32862-8200

Doug & Priscilla Higby are missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators. Doug is the International Coordinator for Language Technology Use, and Priscilla is serving as E-Pub Manager with SIL International.

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Mailing address:
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Phone: (616) 808-8129, 808-1126
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