Year End Report: Mark

2011 was a year of huge proportions. The struggles were as earth-shaking and life-changing as the triple disaster, and the triumphs, too, were on the same scale. Putting words to the devastation we felt personally is close to impossible. The very foundations of our life felt threatened as we tried to mourn losses and still maintain our lives. At the same time, we moved to the opposite side of Tokyo and continued dealing with a heavy work schedule. Thank you to the many, many who supported us through this year. And of course, for the 27 years before that as well. We consider ourselves very blessed.

In January, there were nine days in the Philippines to connect with new colleagues in SIL Asia Area’s Sign Language translation and language development departments. Two weeks in February I spent in Korea with 5 others from ViBi at the first ever Deaf Translation Consultant Development Workshop (TCDW). March was supposed to give us a breather, time to focus on moving the Matthew translation forward (as well is moving our residence two hours across town), but the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster blew a big hole in that plan. April, Matsumoto and I traveled to Scotland for a Forum of Bible Agencies International meeting where I interpreted morning to evening. May, we travelled to the US to connect with supporters in Kansas City (by this time, we were starting to cut back, missing Chicago to try and gain some margin). A week after returning, it was June, and we were off to Mongolia to distribute wheelchairs on a six day tour.

Things slowed down after that til the end of October: just a US home assignment trip in August. Then it was off to the US once again where we connected with a new church that took a substantial chunk of our support. Mid-November we returned to Japan, and a week later flew to Korea for a double-header that took us well into December. First was a meeting of Asian Deaf leaders in Sign Language Bible translation to establish the Asia Pacific Sign Language Development Association (APSDA). Deaf leaders from almost all of the Sign Language Bible translation projects in the region make up the group. As the first regional group with this kind of representation focused on signed languages, this was a huge step forward–another first. After that we continued in Korea with the 2nd Deaf TCDW, planned and led mainly by Japanese Deaf leaders.

So, it was a BIG year in every way. At ViBi, translation work took a big hit as our main translator struggled physically and emotionally under the enormity of his task, coupled with his role as pastor during an intense year for the church and for his country, and regional work mentioned above. Yet three people came to Christ through his ministry, two of them full-time workers at ViBi.

So God is pushing, pulling, stretching, and growing us into this new year. We’re thankful for time to reflect on all that has happened, and time to look forward and plan for the new year. Pray that we will follow well.

The coming year promises more changes. For my own growth and the development of new translation consultants, I need to work more as a consultant and let new people tackle the day to day translation work. One major task ahead of me is finishing the research and writing an MA thesis. What I have done so far in discourse analysis has thrown light on many aspect of Japanese Sign Language, and helped us achieve better translation results. My desire is to develop research tools that Deaf people even in less developed countries can use to gain an understanding of their everyday language. Much work remains to be done, though, if the results of my study are to be validated. Pray that I will find ways to work quickly and well in the year ahead. Pray also for the translation team as they tackle Colossians, Titus, Esther, and start work on Luke.


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.
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