Going unto the Worldwide Web?
by Ms. Anna Gheen
Robyn and Aaron sit side by side at the breakfast table as the torrential rains of Typhoon Ofel pound against the windows of the Manila, Philippines, guest house. Two of 27 students representing 15 languages, both have just successfully completed a two-week workshop designed to teach mother-tongue speakers how to create Internet sites centered around Scripture.
It took only eight days to get the new Balangao language website online, and their satisfaction is evident. Robyn, one of the mother-tongue translators who worked on the Balangao Bible, is quick to point out that creating this website is indeed a continuation of the translation process. Putting the Scriptures online will enable speakers around the world to access a volume that, due to the need for revision, is no longer available in print. “The response has already been wonderful,” Robyn explains. “People are visiting the site and want to see more. The site isn’t just about the Scriptures, but about community.” While it’s a great place to listen to or download copies of the Balangao Bible, there is also a wealth of other information, from news and community events to worship videos.
So what are the primary obstacles to Internet sites like this one? The answer is time and technology. Websites like these require maintenance, and that can be difficult to do in areas where Internet access can be spotty and equipment is often out of date. According to one facilitator who played a key role in the training workshop, many of the mother-tongue speakers are utilizing old laptops loaded with a Windows version that is no longer supported by Microsoft. Aaron noted that Internet access was a problem for the first few days of the workshop and that their frustration was compounded because their computers kept crashing, and they had to reboot. Still, they got the job done.
It’s a victory that trainers and administration desire to see repeated, as the members of other language groups explore the reach and popularity of the new websites. “In the Philippines,” says Monie Chiong, director for Scripture engagement in Asia, “if a neighbor is selling barbeque, three neighbors away will start selling barbeque!” It’s his hope that the creation of mother-tongue websites will spur a similar level of enthusiasm among other language groups—something that is likely to happen if other workshops are as successful as this one. Past experience showed that building a website remotely without workshop support typically took six months. This time, the trainers challenged the teams to build their websites in eight days of focused work—and all 15 sites went live at the end of the workshop.
Planning has begun for other workshops, both in the Philippines and throughout Asia, but for the time being, these language communities are now enjoying something previously unavailable to them: the ability to access the Bible in their heart language anytime and from anywhere in the world—on the Worldwide Web. “Jesus commanded us to go [and make disciples],” Robyn explains. “This is just part of living that command.”
Photo by Gary DuBois
Anna Gheen is a freelance writer and author of Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce. She is currently in the process of raising support to serve full-time with JAARS, a partner of the Wycliffe Global Alliance. In her spare time she enjoys blogging, bicycling, and performing horticultural experiments in her backyard.