Mark’s Year In Review

  • App Released
  • Exodus almost finished
  • Uiko takes the reins as Project Director
  • U.S. Support team
  • Expanding in Asia and the Pacific

Short and Sweet (skip to the next section if you want the details):
ViBi released an iPhone/Android app on November 1; by December 17 it already had 736 downloads. Please pray that this number will soon change from hundreds to thousands, and many lives will be transformed.

Exodus is almost finished, with final recording scheduled for the first of February. Quality and speed of translation are both up, confirming that a new method we’ve been trying pays off. Praise God with us!

Back in March, Mary Esther facilitated a SWOT analysis. Preparing for the meetings, she spent hours with Board chair Matsumoto and lead translator Uiko—going over all the questions. When, half a day into the two day meetings, the “flow” just wasn’t happening, Mary Esther turned the meeting over to Uiko who did a brilliant job drawing out “the wisdom of the group.”

The board appointed Uiko as the new project director. With her translator skills and the improved systems, she translated at the same pace as the previous year, even with added responsibilities. Working under her leadership is a joy. Pray for God’s continued blessing on her life.

In the U.S. too, momentum is building. A team has formed in the Midwest to help promote the JSL Bible translation. In 2014, gifts from the U.S. through WorldVenture totaled $48,200, in addition to a church sponsoring the book of Titus ($9,200) as part of their Advent Conspiracy alternative Christmas giving plan.

And for 2015? With Matsumoto (ViBi board chair) and Uiko (project manager) scheduled for a trip to the US this spring, we are gearing up to have an English website, facebook page, and prospectus, seeking $200,000 in new funding to hire an additional team and translate the book of Luke. This is a big stretch for our small team. Please pray, and let’s see what God does.

The Asia Pacific Sign Language Development Association (APSDA) continues to grow. There are now 19 projects connected with APSDA.

All The Details:

The Japanese Sign Language Bible translation project (ViBi) celebrated our 21st anniversary with the release of an iPhone/Android app that puts the power of God’s word in the hands of Deaf people. Now a Japanese Deaf person can carry everything we’ve translated so far in their pocket, for free. They can jump to any verse right away, play it fast or slow, bookmark favorite passages, and make video notes to attach to their video Bible, much like “writing” in the virtual “margin.” Released on November 1, it already had 736 downloads. Please pray that this number will soon change from hundreds to thousands, and many lives will be transformed.

Work on Exodus is almost done! Quality and speed were both up, confirming that natural drafting pays off. It takes more time on the front end for Uiko. She has to to learn from someone else the content of the passage without reading it herself. Then she makes drawings that include all of the details in the passage and how they relate to each other. Then she uses that as a cue to reinforce the mental image which she holds in her head while conveying it in natural sign language. But the signing is so much clearer, so much less influenced by Japanese, that it is much easier to understand. The time “lost” on the front end is more than compensated by the time saved during the comprehension checks. It took much less time for people who didn’t know the text to watch the translation, understand it, and tell it back to us. Since they understood it correctly most of the time, very few corrections were needed. Praise God for translation system advances.

Our administrative systems improved as well. Back in March, Mary Esther facilitated a SWOT analysis, a watershed event that is still bearing fruit. The full leadership team, all staff, and even some board members joined together for two days to analyze, brainstorm, systematize, distill into action points, and then prioritize for execution. Preparing for the meetings, Mary Esther spent hours with Board chair Matsumoto and lead translator Uiko making sure she was on the right track–going over all the questions. When, half a day into the meetings, the “flow” just wasn’t happening, Mary Esther turned the meeting over to Uiko, who pulled everyone in and did a brilliant job facilitating, with Mary Esther providing minimal direction from the sidelines.

In order to keep the momentum gained at the meeting, Uiko was given authority to execute some of the action points. She did so well in this role that at our board meeting October 31, she became the new project director. This is a huge boost for the project, and bodes well for the future.

Uiko reminds me of Joseph in the Bible. She continues to grow into new responsibilities and thrive in them, and everything she touches seems to flourish. She continues to improve as a translator grow as a leader. This year she continued translating at the same pace as the previous year, even with her added responsibilities. And in her role as project director, she is moving with careful confidence, getting a wide range of input inside and outside of the church about the translation and about the project, and preparing plans. She is interviewing people for potential jobs with ViBi, and constantly on the lookout for people that could be part of a new translation team. Working under her leadership has been a joy. Pray for God’s continued blessing on her life.

In the U.S. too, momentum is building. A team has formed in the Midwest to help promote the JSL Bible translation. In 2014, gifts from the U.S. through WorldVenture totaled $48,200, in addition to a church sponsoring the book of Titus ($9,200) as part of their Advent Conspiracy alternative Christmas giving plan.

And for 2015? With Matsumoto (ViBi board chair) and Uiko (project manager) scheduled for a trip to the US this spring, we are gearing up to have an English website, facebook page, and prospectus, seeking $200,000 in new funding to hire an additional team and translate the book of Luke. It seems like a huge stretch for our small team. Please pray, and let’s see what God does.

The Japanese Deaf leaders at the JSL Bible translation project have also taken leadership roles in the Asia Pacific Sign Language Development Association (APSDA.) APSDA has the ambitious goal to meet the Sign Language Bible translation needs for all of Asia and the Pacific. There are now 19 translation projects connected with APSDA. Its exciting to see their progress year by year. This year Sri Lanka was added, and several recent startups are making good progress. I got to meet six teams from SE Asia at a translation practicum this May in Thailand. The synergy was amazing, both between the Deaf teams, and the Bible Society representatives that accompanied them.

Thank you for your support and prayers for us, for the Deaf of Japan, and now through them to the Deaf of Asia

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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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