Northern Translation Brief: Bill’s head injury after two years

Our Dear Partners

Most of you will remember that a couple years ago I had a serious accident with a tree, a ladder and a chainsaw that almost took me from you. By God’s grace I am still here to live and serve Him in our lives and Bible Translation ministry for First Nations.

From time to time people have asked me about my recovery and so we thought that the two-year mark would be a good time to take stock and take the opportunity to thank you for your prayers.

Briefly it happened like this: On November 7th, 2017, I was about 12 feet up a ladder against a large tree, holding a chainsaw, cutting off a large dead branch next to me. The branch broke suddenly and hit me in the skull knocking me and the ladder to the ground. I woke up hours later in a hospital, with Norma Jean anxiously waiting by my side.

Here’s the butt of the branch that hit me in the head. Somehow, I was underneath this (and, somehow, Norma Jean lifted it off me).

You can read the full account of what happened here:

http://billjancewicz.com/2017/11/11/one-hundred-nineteen-unread-email-messages/

God is Good, All the Time

During these past two years, Norma Jean and I have counted each day together as a precious gift. We both know that God protected me from more serious injury or death, even though the actual recovery period has taken many months. As I noted, the only broken bones were my skull, which received a half-inch depressed fracture at my temple between my left eye and ear, and three cracked vertebrae in my upper back between my shoulders. I also suffered a severe concussion that resulted in dizzyness and disorientation for several months. I was on strong Oxycodone-based prescription pain medication for the first several weeks, but recognizing the dangers of addiction to this medication I chose to voluntarily reduce the prescribed dosage. I was no longer taking this medication by the beginning of January 2018. The severe back and head pain could be reduced considerably by changing to a more reclining position. So I took my desk work to the living room and spent many of my days (and some nights) in a reclining chair. This went on for months.

Because of my dizzyness and disorientation, Norma Jean took over most of the driving. We also had good friends helping to drive us to appointments, and I walked with a cane well into the spring of 2018. The doctors had cautioned us that a brain injury like mine made me vulnerable to much more severe injury should I bump my head again. The fractures of my vertebrae would heal in time, but the displaced bone in the skull fracture would remain that way indefintely.

Gradually, over the full year of 2018, the constant headaches reduced considerably, and I was able to regain some stamina. I started walking without a cane. Indeed by the end of 2018 I had begun to do some physical work, such as operating the log splitter or carrying out minor home repairs. But I did find that I was only able to work a relatively short amount of time, an hour or so, before having to head back to the recliner and do some “other” kinds of work.

Other kinds of work

We are so grateful to God for the privilege of joining Him in His work of bringing His Word to First Nations languages, mainly the Algonquian languages of Naskapi, Cree and Innu. During the weeks prior to the accident, I had begun to work with Rev. Fred Evans as he read and recorded the Cree scriptures in the legacy 1862 Western Cree Bible. Fred, a Cree elder and pastor, lives with his wife in Swan River, Manitoba. He started to read and record the Cree New Testament in November of 2017. By phone and internet connection, I was able to guide Fred through the recording of each chapter of the Bible from Matthew to Revelation. I received his audio files via internet and spent my days (in my La-Z-Boy) carefully editing the audio files, following along in the Cree Bible and listening to Fred’s clear and faithful reading of the text. In general, for each hour of Fred’s recording, it would take five hours of listening and audio-editing on the computer to prepare the files for others to listen to. Our ministry partners, the Canadian Bible Society, SIL International, and Faith Comes By Hearing provided the technical support for this task–but God provided just the right kind of work to suit my physical limitations at the time, as I carried all the editing work for the first six months of the project, which were the first six months of my recovery.

Rev. Fred Evans working at his home during the recording stage for the CreeTalker Bible

Later, I trained our friend Ben Wukasch at the Bible Society to share the audio editing task with me, and so together we had the audio for the entire New Testament in Cree complete by March of 2019.

Read more about the CreeTalker Bible recording project” here:

http://billjancewicz.com/2019/02/03/northern-translation-brief-creetalker-bible/

We continued to supervise, mentor and support the other “Next Generation” translation teams during my recovery. It has been so gratifying and encouraging to see that God in His wisdom was preparing these younger folks to carry on His work as we had to slow down a little during these past couple of years.

http://billjancewicz.com/2018/07/02/northern-translation-brief-the-next-generation-update/

How do I feel right now?

God continues to amaze me every day for His care and healing for me. I am still “aware” each day and every day of ongoing symptoms from the skull fracture and concussion. Real severe “headaches” are much less frequent now, and I treat them with Tylenol. I still have them about four or five times per month. But they usually don’t “stop” me. On good days I can still feel a sensation of discomfort at the damaged area of my skull–not really very painful as far as that goes, just an awareness of some uncomfortable pressure; like the feeling you would get when you are wearing a hat… that’s too small… all day long.

My back pain can act up if I “push” physical activity too much–such as if I am up and doing things, walking, home repairs or maintenance; splitting wood. These days, sometimes I do go beyond a couple hours or so of that kind of activity, and I am sorry I did, afterwards.

I was almost 62 years old when I had the accident. Next week, I’ll be 64, Lord willing. So I feel pretty good and I am so grateful for all of God’s blessings on my life and His work.

Gratitude

Our family members, our friends and supporters, and the church have all been used by God in mighty ways to remind us of His care, and to deliver his care. Many meals were brought in to us during the early weeks of my convalescence, prepared by the women of Simcoe Immanuel church. The men of the church have repeatedly pitched in to help cut, split and haul firewood. We are deeply grateful for these expressions of love and care.

I know that many, many prayers were offered to God for my health and recovery by most of you. God has answered your prayers wonderfully, and He continues to do so. We are very grateful for all He has done and continues to do through you. We praise His Name and once again express our thanks. Thank you for being along side of us during this journey over the past two years.

Serving with you,

Bill & Norma Jean Jancewicz

Northern Translation Brief: CreeTalker Bible

Our Dear Partners,

The Scriptures are a verbal message from God, in words. We sometimes call it the “Word of God”. God has gone to great lengths to communicate His love to us, both in words in a Book, and in giving us His Son (the story of which we also read about in a book… in Hebrews 1:1-2).

Sometimes, there are barriers to undertanding this message. Often we think of the enterprise of Bible translation itself as one means of overcoming this barrier, and you would be right. Each of us reading this now has benefitted from someone having translated the Bible into your language, English: the language I am writing to you in, and which you are reading. But this communication also assumes that in the course of your life you have had the opportunity to read English fluently. To many, the Bible still remains a closed book if they have not adequately mastered literacy.

1862 translation of the Bible in Western Cree

Pictured above is a page from the Bible in Western Cree, opened to Matthew chapter 5, the Sermon on the Mount. This book belonged to a believer who invested years of his own life to learn to read and understand what is written in this book, and as a result he was blessed with the skill to grasp the hope and love that this message communicates in the Cree language.

But the reality is that among speakers of the Cree language (and indeed, many other First Nations languages) there is only a small minority who have learned to adequately read their mother tongue. It is true that First-language literacy education continues to gain ground among children in communities that are developing indigenous language curriculum in their schools. But for some, literacy in their traditional language remains out of reach.

But we all know that one way we can overcome this literacy barrier quickly is to simply have someone read a book TO us. This is why in many languages where we serve in Bible translation ministry there are also important efforts to make the Good News of the Scriptures available in non-print media. For the old translation of the Bible in Western Cree, this began with the CreeTalker project.

The CreeTalker project

In the fall of 2017, at the request of Cree speakers in Saskatchewan, Pastor Mark Ramshaw contacted us about the availability of the Cree Language Scriptures in audio, so they could listen to and hear the Word of God in Cree. While the Canadian Bible Society and Wycliffe Bible Translators have been working for some years on a new Contemporary Plains Cree translation, and most of the Cree Scriptures that have been published recently also have an audio narration, Pastor Mark and the Cree speakers he represents were actually interested in an audio recording of the old Western Cree Bible, that was first translated by Rev. William and Sophia Mason and published in 1862. This edition was later revised by Rev. J. A. Mackay in 1904 (New Testament) and 1908 (Old Testament).

This Bible has been reprinted many times over the past century by the British and Foreign Bible Society, and is still much loved and revered by people in many First Nations communities across Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.

After making some inquiries, it was found that no audio recordings of this Cree Bible were yet available. So Pastor Mark stepped out in faith to establish the “CreeTalker Project” which would undertake the production of a spoken audio version of this edition of the Cree Scriptures.

Pastor Mark secured some donations to purchase the recording equipment that would be used for this project.

Pastor Mark Ramshaw with the new digital audio recorder for the CreeTalker project

Rev. Fred Evans, Cree speaker and longtime preacher and evangelist in the Cree language, graciously agreed to be the “voice” for the CreeTalker Project. Bill helped Fred & Mark to facilitate the technical end of setting up the recordings, best practices for file handling, editing software, and a quality control procedure.

Rev. Fred Evans was dedicated to the task of reading the Bible in Cree for the CreeTalker project at a special service with Pastor Mark in early November 2017

By December 2017, Fred had begun to read and record the old Cree Bible in his home in Swan River, Manitoba, starting with the book of Matthew. As Fred finished his recording of each chapter, he would send these files on to Bill by Internet connection, and he would listen to Fred’s recording, take care of the audio-editing of the sound files while reading along with the Cree text, and look after sound enhancement and overall quality control.

Rev. Fred Evans recording the old Cree Bible in his home

Over the first 9 months of the project, Rev. Fred has recorded nearly 80 hours of “raw” (unedited) audio files, creating one computer sound file for each of the 260 chapters of the New Testament. For every hour of this recorded audio, it can take from four to six hours of editing work, carefully following along with the printed Cree text, removing false starts and mistakes, making the pauses and phrasing consistent, and bringing the sound quality and volume to adequate levels.

Listening to the chapter and editing the sound file, helping Rev. Fred sound his best

By mid-August 2018, Rev. Fred completed all of the “raw” (unedited) files when he finished reading the final chapter of the New Testament. He completed his reading of Revelation chapter 22 with a heartfelt “Hallelujah, glory to God!” and then this prayer: “…Let these words fall into the hearts of those who sit in darkness, to bring light, to bring hope. Thank you Lord, in your Name, Amen.”

Over the past several years, the Canadian Bible Society has been working toward a new reprint of the text of this legacy Cree Bible, and has digitized the text and is preparing to re-publish it to make it accessible in both Cree Syllabics and in the Standard Roman Orthography. Pastor Mark contacted the Bible Society early on in the project to coordinate the audio distribution and production.

In the spring of 2018, Ben Wukasch began to work at the Bible Society offices. Bill went to set Ben up with the software and training so that he could help with the audio editing task too. Since May 2018, both Ben and Bill have been doing the sound editing for Rev. Fred’s recorded chapters.

Ben Wukasch working on Cree Scripture audio editing at the Canadian Bible Society

Synchronized Scripture App

In February 2018, Bible Society leadership asked Bill to work on a “demo” of a Scripture app that would integrate Fred Evan’s narration and the written text of the Cree Bible, synchronized so that users could hear Fred read while following along with the text. By the month of March, a working version of the CreeTalker Scripture app was ready to be tested on a limited basis. At that time, the entire book of Matthew was ready to hear and see in the demo format.

Each phrase that is being played back is highlighted making it easier to read along

Using specialized software that integrates the printed text of the Bible with the audio recordings, each verse is timed to highlight the spoken word so that the user can read along, following the words on the screen. The software then creates an “app” and talking EPub books that can be installed on smartphones, tablets or computers, which will enable users to take the Cree New Testament along with them and listen to Rev. Fred read the Scriptures to them whenever they like.

Rev. Fred reading his Bible at home

This two-minute video provides a demonstration of what the Bible app or talking eBooks will be like when the project is complete (turn on your audio to hear Rev. Fred’s narration).

Video demonstration of the Western Cree Bible on iOS or Android devices

Ben and Bill estimate that they have a little over a month of editing work to do on the audio files before the entire New Testament is ready.

We appreciate your prayers for them both as they complete this work, for Cree speakers who hunger and thirst for access to the Word of God in their language, and for the prayer offered by Rev. Fred to also be answered in a mighty way: “…Let these words fall into the hearts of those who sit in darkness, to bring light, to bring hope. Thank you Lord, in your Name, Amen.”