My wife and I are in the midst of a long transition. We are Bible translators with Wycliffe Bible Translators, involved in a New Testament translation project in W. Africa that has been going on for more than 40 years. Many things have been accomplished by many people during that time: University students were trained and recruited for service in the project; Dictionaries and grammar sketches were written; Several alphabets and scripts were standardized and put into practice; Films were dubbed, distributed; Websites and apps were created; and the list goes on. BTW, the actual work on this New Testament project began in 2012.

But finishing the New Testament and getting it ready for publication in 2 different scripts (roman and Arabic/ajami) has had its own set of challenges. One thing we've learned in the process is that there is not really one single "finish line" to cross, but instead, there are a series of "finish lines," each with its own purpose and goal. For example, our team actually finished the checking of the New Testament materials with a consultant last April, over a year ago! That was definitely an important finish line in the process. Since then, we've also been able to do the final cross checking that is also required to finish well, which included 16 different categories of checks (i.e., book titles, headings, footnotes, glossary, key terms, names and places checks, maps, etc.) It is important to be consistent in our different choices for each of these different areas, so that the message comes through, loud and clear, and so that there aren't contradictions in what we have said.

Some of the finish lines actually come in a certain order, so that the decisions made can affect the following decisions and actions appropriately. For example, since the people group where we work is highly illiterate, we wanted to record the whole New Testament as well as publish it to paper. The recordings will be used in apps so they can be distributed on cell phones. But the recordings needed to be done before the actual publishing process, so that any changes that came up during the recording process could be figured into the published materials. In doing it the other way around, we could have published the New Testament, only to find later on in recording that something wasn't "quite right." All to say, the order of the tasks is important.

We are now in the typesetting phase. This is putting the New Testament into the different scripts and page formats that make the most sense for the people group we are working with. In their school system, they are familiar with French and the roman characters, so that works for a certain part of the population. But in their religious life, they are also familiar with the Arabic script and how that looks, so that works for another part of the population. Just as it is important to understand what Scripture means, its message to us, it is also important that the message comes packaged in just the right ways, so that it is perceived to be and received for what it actually is: The Word of God.

Overall, we are very glad to be finishing the New Testament and publishing it in its various formats. But, as we have learned, finishing isn't a one-off event, nor does it mean that we "rubber stamp" what we have already done. We often find things that need to be checked again, fixed, changed, etc. This is all part of the process of finishing well, and I think it can be applied to many areas of life. May God grant each of us the patience and strength to finish tasks well, being willing to make the necessary changes as we find them, so that what we finish is acceptable and pleasing to those for whom it is intended.

by Eric Fields, Elder

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