End of an Era
Updated: Feb 19
The last month has contained a number of exciting landmarks for us on our journey north. This past weekend we celebrated my graduation from my master’s degree in linguistics, marking the end of an era of “student life” and the completion of my formal schooling for translation work. It was refreshing to spend a couple days reflecting on our experience here at CanIL and appreciating the ways God has been transforming us during our time here.
Other developments have been less expected but equally exciting. No sooner were we considering how to transition into the task of working and fundraising than I was asked to teach a linguistics course this summer at Trinity Western University from June to August! The course is called “Syntax and Semantics,” and it’s a core course at CanIL because it teaches translators about the kinds of grammatical structures they will encounter in the world’s languages and the kinds of meanings they can convey. It’s exciting to still be able to help train others for Bible translation while we raise funds for our own journey. So contrary to our last newsletter, we now plan to move back to the Comox Valley in September, at the end of the summer.
All dressed up for graduation
This past week we finished house-sitting for Bill & Norma Jean Jancewicz in Langley while they ran a two-week Translator Workshop for First Nations translators in Guelph. This workshop brought together experienced translators from Naskapi and Cree projects, as well as five beginning Oji-Cree translators. Many of these are people we will be working with ourselves when we move to Schefferville, Quebec to help with the Naskapi translation project. After the summer semester is over we will be going to Schefferville for two weeks in the fall to meet the community where we will be living and help run another training workshop onsite. For now, since my teaching job doesn’t start until mid-June, we will be visiting the Comox Valley and Victoria during May (contact us if you want to get together!).
The cottage we were house-sitting is on a farm with horses and peacocks.
In the last months Caitlin has taken to setting up her knitting in a corner of the CanIL common room when she comes to school, where she visits with a pretty steady steam of students and staff who come to sit with her. It continually amazes me how quickly people trust her and how naturally she encourages them. Sometimes we hesitate when people ask us what she “does,” since her current role doesn’t fit into common categories of wage earning or family-raising. But even aside from health issues and economic factors, I have been proud to see Caitlin thriving in one of the most meaningful aspects of our existence: relationships. Although her gifts are hard to quantify, they keep me running on a daily basis and are likely the most essential part of the community-based work we will be doing in First Nations communities.
Translation Talk A question we are often asked when we tell people about Bible translation is “Do you have to learn to speak a native language so you can translate the Bible into that language for them?” There are a couple parts to the answer. Yes, we will be learning Naskapi for the first year or so and then we will learn another language like Oji-Cree, Innu or Cree more in-depth when we move on. But our role will not be to translate the Bible for anyone so much as to train First Nations translators and to work with the community as whole to help them do their own Bible translation. A translation project is a collaborative effort: the community members are experts in their own language and know the goals they have for their community. We bring expertise in linguistics, translation principles, Greek and Hebrew (the languages the Bible was originally written in), and overall project design. So yes, we will be learning languages like Naskapi as a matter of doing our job well, but First Nations translators will be able to make the translation sound natural in their own language regardless of our ability in the language.
One of the things that stood out to me in my Greek class this semester was the concept of faith/belief/trust in the New Testament, three English words which are usually just three translations of the same Greek word (πιστεύω). The translations “faith” and “believe” get used in sense of “I have faith in/I believe in our new CEO,” meaning you trust his abilities or have confidence in his intentions and his character. Of course, while a CEO or any other human is never infallible, scripture portrays God as perfectly trustworthy: He loves us perfectly, knows what is best for us, and orchestrates the events of this world according to His plan. This is why we can rely on Him and even obey Him with a sense of freedom. Isaiah writes:
Let the one who walks in the dark, the one who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God (Isa 50:10)
In what follows this verse, Isaiah goes on to contrast the one who relies on God’s light with those who light their own torches and go their own way. Caitlin and I were encouraged by this reminder to keep following the path God lights as we go, rather than trying to make our own torches so we can direct our own path through the dark. We can πιστεύω (trust/have faith/believe) in Him, His character, His intentions, and His plans for us.
Trusting with you,
Matt & Caitlin