Overcoming Darkness with the Light of the Word.
Dear friends, coworkers, alumni and supporters of JCBT
Greetings from the Jerusalem Center for Bible translators!
“Behold, the darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you, and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn” (Is. 60: 2-3).
This text from Isaiah seems to be an exact description of the situation in the world today.
Indeed, the darkness seems to be getting thicker with every newscast telling about more dishonesty, immorality, violence, wars and killings.
What is the reason for that? It is twofold: many in the western world, those who have God’s word in their language are rejecting and ignoring it. The other reason is that there are hundreds of millions of people who never have had the opportunity to hear – in their mother tongue– about the God of Israel and His Messiah. There simply are no translations in their language.
The vision and work of JCBT (HBT) is to provide a specialized program for national translators and consultants-in-training to study the source text of the Bible while becoming familiar with the land, the context of the text. This will enhance both the accuracy and naturalness of the translation with no secondary language between the source and target languages. The components of national translator, the source text and the understanding of the context were three pioneering ideas back in 1995. It has inspired us and our friends and supporters – you included – already for some 23 years. The accredited five month study program has graduated some 140 alumni from Hebrew university.
It has been blessed and empowered by the abundant grace of God. This is evident by the fact that this small non-profit organization, supported basically by people like you, has survived and even flourished all these years.
In this letter, we will summarize the three main programs that are under JCBT to execute the vision enthrusted to us by God: The five-months Semester program, The Two-weeks “Land of the Bible” course and the Sign Language program.
2018 Semester Program
Spring Semester of 2018 was a unique combination of hardships and challenges, together with uplifting events, joy, fun and great fellowship with the students, the volunteers and staff. The participants consisted of 15 students, who came from very different national backgrounds and cultures. They came from four different continents, Africa (Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria), South America (Brazil, Paraguay), Europe (Russia) and Asia (Mongolia, Singapore). They had been accepted to this special course for Bible translators which demands several prerequisites, the most important one being a JCBT test on introductory Biblical Hebrew.
Indeed the studies were a challenge. They included transferring the passive ability in the language to active one, acquiring an active listening and speaking and reading and writing. The text became understood at sight with increasing accuracy. This was achieved by an intensive study program of 400 academic hours of Hebrew (modern Hebrew, Living Biblical Hebrew, Readings and Grammar, Discourse Analysis and Hebrew poetry).
The language study was supplemented by carefully planned weekly study tours (18 days altogether) covering the land while studying the history, geography, archeology and cultural backgrounds of the land.
The tremendous amount of linguistic and geographical and historical knowledge was not all that the students learned. The 2018 semester students benefitted also spiritually. All along, the common life in the log home dormitory at Yad Hashmona was supplemented by student-led devotions after the lovingly served supper by JCBT volunteers (all household chores at JCBT have been always provided by committed volunteers, mostly from Finland).
One of the students expressed this thought beautifully after returning home as follows:
“We can never again experience what we experienced in the 5 months together: an experience of seeing 15 people from different countries, with different likes and dislikes, and different cultural backgrounds, yet growing together in love and making us a unique family. We will always remember and cherish the memories” (Maxwell from Malawi).
Indeed, it is a tremendous privilege to provide this excellent program for the national translators of the word of God so their people can have it in their heart language. This is a common effort consisting of the leadership, staff and volunteers here at JCBT, together with the friends, supporters and prayer partners, like you.
Thank you for your part in this great effort. In common service,
HALVOR and MIRJA RONNING
In 2019, JCBT will provide a semester course taught in French for West African translators. We continue our commitment in spite of the administrative and financial burdens involved. The application process is on. Prayers are needed as to selecting those translators or consultants-in-training that will most benefit by coming to study in Jerusalem and be a blessing to their people. Up to ten students will be chosen.
Land of the Bible Program
During the first eight months of 2018 JCBT has hosted four highly appreciated groups for the two-weeks Land of the Bible program. The fifth group is just now concentrating on Hebrew for NT consultants so that they can learn enough Hebrew to begin the transfer to becoming OT consultants. It turned out that the majority of Bible translation consultants have not been in the land and have not studied the history, geography and archaeology of the Bible on location. This program has become a great success as it gives “not only abundant relevant information, but also the experience of the land where the Bible was written”.
This program is hosting groups in many different languages. Besides the Hebrew, English, French, Spanish and Portuguese groups, we are expecting more to come, including one that will be in the Chinese language. We praise God for the opportunity and privilege to be in a position to bless people from many different tongues and nations.
Note: Both the United Bible Society and The Seed Company have been especially supportive in sending many of these groups.
The short term programs are directed by Brian (Baruch) Kvasnica, assisted by Wilma Bosman-Levy.
One of JCBT most unique programs is the one directed for the Deaf Bible Translators and Consultants. There are over 70 million Deaf people in the world. They form one of the largest, remaining groups of people without access to the Bible in their heart language. Our Semester Course Coordinator for the last two years, Adam Van Goor, has decided to follow his vision and step out in faith to meet the need.
Together with other organizations and ministries, JCBT provides Deaf participants with equal access to training in the historical, archaeological, and geographical context of Scripture. Tours are led by Deaf guides who can communicate directly with the participants and understand the culture, background, and thought patterns that are unique to members of the worldwide Deaf community. The importance of this pioneering work lays in the fact that even though there are over 350 distinct sign languages in the world, Bible Translation work has been carried out for only 40 languages. None of them has the complete Bible.
This is a special time in history for the Deaf. With recent technology, such as internet and cell phones, Deaf people can now access video sign language translations of the Bible from all over the world. We believe that this is a special time in history when God is bringing the revelation of his Word to the Deaf people. “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.” Isaiah 35:5
We, at JCBT, are excited to be a part of this significant development in history by training the Deaf translators and consultants who are developing these translations.
New Semester Course Coordinator
Since Adam has decided to focus on the Deaf Program, JCBT had to recruit a new Semester Course Coordinator. The team prayed for a local Israeli with the proper training and heart for Bible Translations. Indeed, God is the one who answers prayers.
Z., our new Semester Course Coordinator, writes:
We feel very blessed to be part of such an important endeavour. The need is huge, and all around the world translation agencies are waking up to the need of better and more accurate translations of the Word of God. This is why the last semester program was so diverse. In the past month, we’ve had the privilege of working with 15 students from 10 different countries, some were from distant and small regions.
The students are all gone now, back to their home countries, ministries and loved ones after many months here in Israel. Even though my wife, our baby daughter and I only joined JCBT at the end of their semester program, we truly bonded with them, as we spent mostly every week-day evening with them in the last month of the program, helping them through their last course, and caring for some of their needs. It was indeed strange to have them leave this past month, but as one of them stated, ‘if we can’t meet again here, we see each other in the hallelujahs’.
It’s been truly encouraging and touching for us to sit here, in the hills of Judea, and receive photos of them arriving home, photos from all over the world. It reminded us very much of this passage: “And many peoples shall come, and say: ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” Isaiah 2:3
Note: Z. and his wife are both Israeli citizens with no visa problems. Z. has studied at the Hebrew University and has a background of working with Israeli and international studentsall over the country. Before that, he was a medic during his years of army service. He is in the final stages of his Masters studies in the States (online), so both he and his wife are fluent in Hebrew and also English. Z. is proving to be a great blessing to our expanding work.
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Jerusalem Center for Bible Translators
PO Box 40258
Mevasseret Zion, 9080500