Northern Translation Brief 14Sep2014

Our Dear Partners,
It is so good to be back in the Naskapi community of Kawawachikamach. We are here for a week of literacy and teacher workshops, Scripture translation and engagement activities, and linguistics capacity-building for the team here. We start a full and busy week on Monday morning in the translation office, afternoons at the school with the Naskapi teachers, and taking part in activities in the evenings.

IMG_7969It was nice also to have the weekend to reconnect with our good friends around the community and to settle into the house here. We were invited to stay in the rectory attached to the Naskapi church and are enjoying the privilege of being just steps away from everything in the community. On Friday night, we even enjoyed the wonderful display of God’s creation in the northern lights (aurora borealis) overhead.

IMG_7924Thank you for your prayers as we re-connect here and help our Naskapi friends to have the joy of reading God’s Word in their own language. We will be here through September 22nd before traveling on to our many other appointments during this trip.

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean


Please take note, all our friends who connect with Norma Jean by Facebook: The office network that we share here is unable to use Facebook, but you can still send messages by our e-mail addresses:

IMG_7899Eventually when we have full internet access again, you will be able to follow us through Norma Jean’s Facebook account, meanwhile, thanks for your patience and prayers.



Summer 2014 Newsletter (Part 2)

In the previous post, we told you about several priorities that came out of the Prince Albert meetings with First Nations language speakers and church leaders:

  1. Acceleration and continuation of the Plains Cree Bible Translation project.
  2. The establishment of a Bible Translation and language development project for Kingfisher Lake Oji-Cree and the surrounding Oji-Cree communities.
  3. The establishment of a Bible translation initiative that would result in a cluster of several Cree dialects working on the translation of the same books. This cluster could get its start with a series of workshops to train Cree speakers from each participating community in Bible translation and literacy (reading and writing) which would also include Naskapi from Quebec, Oji-Cree from Ontario and Innu from Labrador.

Multiplication as a sustainable strategy
This brings us back to Jesus’ story that we referred to in the previous post. God has been using us primarily in the Naskapi community–and He is still doing a great work there. Now, we are being invited to grow from there, and use our Naskapi project experience as a model and training opportunity for other communities. Cree Map July 2014aTo fulfill this vision, we are asking God to send us six to eight new workers (that is, three or more new teams) who are willing to be trained and mentored to serve alongside the mother-tongue speakers of these languages in these new priority areas in Bible translation and language development.
While we are here in Langley BC, we are also connecting with CanIL, the Canadian Institute of Linguistics at Trinity Western University. CanIL is the Wycliffe and SIL International training partner in Canada. It is a good opportunity for us to present the language program needs to students that God has already been calling into this kind of ministry.
We will also be developing and deepening relationships with other First Nations language speakers and their communities that have been waiting for adequate access to the Scriptures in their mother tongue. At the same time, we will work on establishing learning opportunities so that more First Nations mother tongue speakers can become translators for their own languages, building their capacity for literacy and material development, while recruiting, guiding and mentoring the new language program workers God brings into these priority projects.

Fall development trip
This September-October we will be traveling to Cree, Oji-Cree and Naskapi communities to continue developing these relationships and to provide language and literacy training to Naskapi teachers and mother-tongue translators. We will also be meeting with Canadian Bible Society and First Nations church leaders to coordinate and support each others’ work on this initiative. Along the way, we also plan to visit with many of you who support our work with prayers and gifts to share our new and expanded vision and responsibility.
–To Be Concluded in Part 3


Northern Translation Brief 10May2014

Our Dear Partners and Friends,

More Answered Prayer!

The Anglican Healing Fund (Anglican Church of Canada) has agreed to fund the Naskapi participation at the First Nations Bible Translation Capacity Building Gathering to be held this June in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

This means that the tickets that were purchased last week for Cheyenne and Marianne to come to the meeting have been fully paid for.

One purpose of this meeting is to hear from the First Nations language speakers who still do not have access to God’s Word in their language, so we can listen to their need and respond appropriately.

It is also an opportunity for the Naskapi to share how God’s Word in their language continues to help them, and how they might participate in showing their Cree brothers and sisters how they might do the same thing.

The gathering is scheduled for June 9 and 10 at the Anglican diocesan office in Prince Albert. Church leaders from Anglican, Catholic, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Pentecostal Assemblies and other denominations that serve First Nations people are invited to meet with the Bible Society and Wycliffe Bible Translators at this two-day gathering. We are expecting about 20 persons, lay-persons and clergy, First-Nations language speakers and linguistics resource persons to listen and share and plan for the future.

Our prayer is that God will continue to work out the details of this meeting in a way that all the other First Nations languages that still need His message in their mother tongues can begin to participate themselves for their communities as well, and that Norma Jean and I will see and respond to the opportunities we may have to work along side the Cree, Naskapi and Innu people in the languages that speak to their hearts.

Thank you for your prayers. God is hearing and answering!

We look forward to sharing more news of how God is at work in our lives and the lives of those we serve and will be serving in the months and years to come.

Love, Bill and Norma Jean

Northern Translation Brief 20April2013

God is doing lots of good things here in Kawawa this spring, I just want to highlight a couple of them. Back in February, I received some remarkable news from the directors of the Naskapi Development Corporation (NDC), where I have been working with Silas over the past two decades plugging away at Naskapi Bible translation, and other Naskapi language development projects (New Testament, Naskapi children’s books, church lectionary readings, Naskapi dictionary… such things).
The directors decided that to better serve the community, they should increase the translation staff–they decided to quadruple it!–and so, I was invited to recruit and hire persons for two to four new “Naskapi Language Specialists-in-training” positions to continue the Naskapi translation work beyond the projects we already have underway. So, in February, we posted the positions, that carry a modest (for Kawawa) salary, but include the possibility of becoming a life-changing career for the recruits with “the right stuff”. On the last week of the posting, I interviewed four bright young Naskapi people: two women and two men, all of them between the ages of 25 and 30.
After testing their baseline skills in Naskapi, I prayerfully decided to hire and train all four of them, and began to work with them at the office on March 1.IMG_5041
Since then, Amanda Swappie, Kabimbetas Noah Mokoush, Jimmy D. Shecanapish and Kissandra Sandy-Dominique have made tremendous progress surviving my instruction and applying themselves with daily practice, as they are learning to read Naskapi fluently, type and transcribe Naskapi syllabics into the computer, learn the various computer-based translation tools that help us today in language work (parallel Bible tools, dictionary and digital audio tools, commentaries and grammars), and study the structure of the Naskapi language.
The NDC office has been regenerated with the youthful enthusiasm of these new recruits, and we have started to refer to them as the “Fantastic Four“. They are learning to work both as a team and independently, and have improved on many levels during their current probationary period of employment.

IMG_5040aFor the first three weeks of April, I was once again given the wonderful opportunity to serve as the guest instructor for the Naskapi-McGill teacher training program, teaching another section of the Naskapi Language Foundations course (Naskapi IV) to the cohort of about a dozen undergrad Naskapi students enrolled in the McGill University program. I was able to bring the “Fantastic Four” with me into the classroom to audit the grammar and literacy training that is being provided to this bright group of students.
And now, this week each of the “Four” will be starting on the adventure of translating a portion of the Old Testament into Naskapi–they are each beginning on a different “historical” book (Joshua, 1 & 2 Samuel, and Kings), which, Lord willing, they will all be working through for the long-term, as they continue to learn the skills and art of crafting a translation of the Bible into their own mother tongue.
All this while at the same time I am in “thesis mode” as work through the write-up of my own MA in linguistics final project. Our plans are to leave Schefferville at the end of this week as we begin to make our way over to SIL at the University of North Dakota where I am scheduled to defend my thesis this summer. If a candle had more than two ends I guess I would be burning those as well.candle-both-ends
But I am so deeply grateful for the privilege of working with our new “Naskapi Language specialists-in-training” (the Fantastic Four) as well as the Naskapi-McGill teacher-training class. Seeing God at work in the lives of so many people here in the Naskapi community is exciting and humbling at the same time.
We know that you will want to remember to pray for each of them by name, but even if you can’t remember their names, just bring the Fantastic Four working on the Naskapi Old Testament to the Lord, and He’ll know who you are asking about. Remember us too, as we have many thousands of miles to travel in the next month or so (and all the loose ends to take care of, and a thesis to write…)

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean


Northern Translation Brief: Naskapi Genesis Dedication


On Sunday, 17 February 2013, the Naskapi community celebrated during the dedication of the translation of the book of Genesis in Naskapi. This dedication was held during the Sunday morning services at St. John’s Anglican Church. Rev. Martha Spence led the congregation in thanks to God for the many years of work by the Naskapi Development Corporation (NDC) translation team that brought this portion of God’s Word into the hands of the Naskapi community in their own language.

genesis front coverSilas Nabinicaboo, who was recently ordained a deacon at the Naskapi church, has served as the lead translator on this project since it was started in 1996. At that time, his salary was completely funded by donations from interested individuals and churches who partner with us for Bible translation. After a the first few years, however, Silas was invited by the NDC board of directors to continue work as a full-time employee as they realized the importance of Naskapi Bible translation as one of the core activities related to Naskapi language development.

The cover design of the books was inspired by the hand-painted caribou-skin ceremonial coats that were made and worn long ago by ancestors of the Naskapi. The Genesis books were printed in two sizes: standard 6″ x 9″ size for general reading and use in church, and “large print” 8″ x 10″ size for distribution to elders, use on the pulpit, and anywhere where large print text would make reading easier. Both sizes are available in library-quality hardcover or paperback. The NDC presented a gift copy of a large print edition to each Naskapi elder household. The remaining books are available for sale to the genIMG_4708eral public at the NDC office at Kawawachikamach; $20 buys a hardcover book in either large print or regular size. Paperback versions are $10.

Outside Kawawa people can order their copies online here:

Regular size hardcover, large print hardcover, regular size paperback, large print paperback.IMG_4797

During the service, the books were displayed on the platform at the front of the church and all those assisting in conducting the service gathered around the books to pray God’s blessing on all who would read His word from them in the years to come. After the prayers, gift editions were given to all the elders who could be present at the service.

IMG_4789Following the service, a community feast was held in the church basement. We are grateful for God’s faithfulness and the prayers and generous support of all our partners that has made this milestone possible.

IMG_4799You can read a related article on the Naskapi News website here.