First Week in Kenya


Thank you for praying. I have been doing well. After a 27 hours of travel in two cars and three planes, my first meal was an unavoidable wheat-filled dish which I knew would cause me problems. Prayer before meals was more than a ritual that night! Thank God, I had no sign of problems at all. A small, but happy little miracle.


More exciting (by several orders of magnitude!), there were two times last week when I felt that my being here actually made a difference. The first was my opportunity to share with the Kenya translation team about comprehension checks. DOOR International has teams of Deaf people from Kenya, Burundi, Ethiopia, and Zambia, each working on translating selected Bible portions into their respective sign languages. The teams have been translating and recording drafts for 8 months, working very hard, but without doing community checks to see if people can understand their work. My experience in Japan is that what we think is understandable (to us, it is, since we know the passages already) can be totally misunderstood by non-church people. Essentially, I was supposed to prepare them for the possibility that 8 months of work might go up in smoke.


As the time drew closer, I stopped my exegetical checking work and began writing up some notes. After about a half hour, I saved the file, and then started to add a few more lines before printing it out, when the power went out.

With no way to print it out, I walked down to the room note-free, expecting to give a 15 minute testimonial on why community checks were important to us. An hour and a half later, after lots of interaction back and forth, they understood that tomorrow ‘s event, however it turned out, was not about Wycliffe outsiders coming in to tell them that their translation had problems, but people from their own community coming to tell them what the translation was actually communicating. They seemed much more relaxed and ready for whatever might come.


The next day, I was first on for practice coordinating a community check. Five community people, several from the translation team, a Deaf staff person, an interpreter, and a handful of observers made for a full room–very different from the one checker and few ViBi staff I was used to in our checks. Nor could I speak the language of the translation.  A Kenyan Deaf staff person led the process, and my interpreter would give him my questions.

He did a marvelous job of getting responses without giving away the meaning of the passage, and I had less and less need to feed questions as he was drawing out most of the information on his own. The real turning point came, though, when with a couple of questions left on my list, I asked if the students, the translators themselves, had any questions. They immediately affirmed, and jumped in to ask the most important question on my list. My heart swelled.


It was obvious that they fully understood the passage, understood the process, could see the potential understanding gaps, and were eager to find and correct them. Not only this, they asked the questions in such a non-threatening way that the checking process was enhanced even more. It was obvious that they were sold on the idea of community checks, convinced that their work will be enhanced by it. It made a big difference in our work when we found out about it from Wycliffe people years ago, and it looks like the same will happen here. Their enthusiastic and joy-filled faces will stand in my memory for a long time. Thanks for praying!


About Mark and Mary Esther Penner

Mark works as an adviser and resource to a Japanese Sign Language Bible translation project that plays a key role in the worldwide sign language Bible translation movement. Mary Esther founded a non-profit organization that partners with local communities and organizations to collect, refurbish and send wheelchairs throughout Asia.
This entry was posted in Translation. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to First Week in Kenya

  1. Sharon says:

    Absolutely Fabulous Mark!  Absolutely Fabulous.   Bill & Sharon Huffman. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s