Year-end Report

Japanese Sign Language Bible translation

“I know Luke 2 might not be released before this year’s Christmas celebration, but can I use a pre-publication draft? I was really hoping to preach from it.” After waiting nearly seven years to get the “other half” of the Christmas story in his language, Pastor Matsumoto did get Luke 2 in time for Christmas. What a present! Can you imagine struggling through the Christmas story in a foreign language year after year?

Thank you! You are the ones who cared enough to pray, give financially, work, or all of the above. With your support, the Japanese Sign Language Bible translation project made three big changes. First, they hired Mr. Terasawa as a translator this May; the first staffing increase since 2009. Because of this additional translator, 300,000 Japanese Deaf people had the full Christmas story this year. Also, because the project wants a Christian “face” on the video, he translated it all the way to the final draft, but someone else signed it on camera. This, too, has never been done before, and was a big success. The third “new thing” is that we disguised the signer with make-up. From here on, people won’t be seeing “Uiko’s translation,” or “Minamida’s translation,” but “JSL Bible’s translation.”

But it wasn’t just Christmas and Luke. In Japan, the New Year celebration is central. The old passes, the new is born—death and resurrection; a hint of redemption. In Leviticus too, the lamb dies, and the community is put right, with God and with each other. Uiko, the project director, gave a good portion of the year to translating Leviticus 1-14. As she did, she kept saying things like: “I never really understood _____ until now,” and “People need to know this!” Now, Japanese Deaf people will be able to access and learn from the first half of Leviticus. Redemption and relationship in all its nitty gritty gory glory. So again, we say thank you.

We also say “please.” Because this year, we need you more than ever. In 2017, we tackle the rest of Leviticus and the rest of Luke, and are looking to hire a second video editor as we move toward two full translation teams. Please pray!

Thai Sign Language Bible translation

Last year brought another expansion—Mark made three trips to Thailand to serve as the consultant for a Bible translation project there. In February, he worked with the Thai Bible Society’s Deaf team on Mark 1-2. This team was brand new–they had just started working together in December. Even so, they were able to finish these two chapters and publish in time for a big event in March. In May, they worked on Mark 3-6, also building systems that would lead to faster, better translation work. On the September/October trip, they tackled Mark 7-10, and are now finishing up the final recordings. Through the year, we’ve worked out a good rhythm of on-site consulting and off-site checking.

In 2017, they aim to finish Mark and start in on Acts. But they face challenges. A key resource person is leaving to get more schooling in July. Pray that the team will find a new exegetical expert; someone who can communicate well in Thai Sign Language, get them the Bible knowledge that they need, and check their work without influencing the integrity of their signing.

Wheelchairs of Hope

Our son Daniel has received a new wheelchair since we wrote our last annual report.  To get this chair we attended appointments, made phone calls, talked to medical personnel, made more phone calls, waited, learned our request was approved, and then waited another 10 months for the chair to actually materialize.  It was a HUGE deal when Daniel was placed into the chair we had waited for so long.

By contrast, Wheelchairs of Hope sent 140 wheelchairs to people in other Asian countries. For many, this was their very first wheelchair–a lifetime of waiting.  We sent a 20 foot container to Cambodia, partnering with Cambodia Ministries for Christ and International Mine Clearance and Community Development.  Many of the recipients were amputees, victims of the landmines seeded during three decades of war.  Losing a limb usually impacts the more than the individual; it is often the parent working the fields or fishing at the river to feed their family who is injured.  We were thankful to partner with these organizations and to meet those receiving wheelchairs.  One young man had never been able to attend school, but missionaries had taught him to read and now he was enrolled in Bible classes, wanting to become a pastor, thrilled to be able to get out and about now with his wheelchair.

This month 12 volunteers from Wheelchairs of Hope will travel to Myanmar delivering wheelchairs to a pastor and Christian doctor who runs a special education program and physical therapy clinic for children.  We are delighted to be able to support them in their ministries.  Of the 12 going, about half are Christians.  We are glad for the opportunity to build stronger relationships with volunteers God sends to the project.

Later in the spring we will send another container to a government operated children’s hospital in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  Their wheelchair project is run by a man who grew up there as a missionary kid, and everyone of his workers is a short term missionary, many from Europe. One worker we met was a believer from Iran.  It was exciting to see how you in the US, we in Tokyo, brothers and sisters from Europe and even Iran, are all part of the Body together taking the news of Jesus to families in a government hospital in Thailand. We use refurbished wheelchairs as a tangible expression of what it means to take something used and worn and make it new.  Please pray that this will be the story for those receiving these wheelchairs.

Thank you for your financial and prayer support for us, the Deaf in Japan and Thailand, and those who are learning of Jesus because of a wheelchair.

For photos  and videos of these three projects, check out this link.   This is our Facebook ministry page. If you don’t have a Facebook account, you might have to ignore  some pleas to join up, but you can still see everything. If you’re already up on Facebook and want to keep up throughout the year, just hit the “like” button on our page.

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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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