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April 8, 2014

As we mentioned in our latest newsletter, it’s almost time for us to come back to the USA on furlough. Janine and Sean have plane tickets for 15 June; Chris will come about a month later after an important workshop and some field research for his MA Thesis project.

(If you want to brush up on your geography, our connections take us from Lusaka to Johannesburg to London to Chicago to Dayton, Ohio – about 22+ hours of flying time, plus layovers and time changes.)

What happens on a furlough?

Furlough is a time for a lot of things. Sean already has quite a list of things he wants to do and eat in the USA. Chris will spend about two months at GIAL finishing his MA in Applied Linguistics. We’re all looking forward to some R&R with family and friends. Sean will attend 7th grade at Bethlehem Lutheran School in Fairborn OH. We’ll get medical and dental checkups, new glasses prescriptions, and debriefings from our home office. We’ll get to touch base with individuals and churches around the country who have supported us the past 3+ years, thank them for their gifts and prayers, and ask them to partner with us again for our next term of service in Zambia. We’re also particularly excited about a special family vacation we’ll get to take over Sean’s birthday in April 2015.

How long will we stay?

Right now the plan is to stay in the US for about 9-10 months. This will give us time to do what we need, get some needed rest, and make sure Sean’s school year is smooth and uninterrupted. If everything works out, Sean will also be confirmed before we return to Zambia. Chris will probably come back to Zambia in mid-May of 2015, and Janine and Sean will follow after the school year is over in June.

One more thing…

Being in the US is a bit more expensive than being in Africa. In addition to our plane tickets from Zambia to the US in 2014 and the return trip in 2015, there are just extra expenses associated with being on furlough. In addition to that, Sean’s schooling could likely change dramatically in 8th grade (Fall 2015), which will impact our budget as well.

All of which is to say that we still rely on the generous contributions of our many faithful supporters while on furlough, and will be making contacts to try to develop more partnerships that will allow our work to continue through the publication of the Nsenga NT and on to whatever happens next.

If you already contribute financially to our work in Zambia – THANK YOU! If you would like to become one of our supporters, click the big red “Donate Now” button on the sidebar. A single gift is a great blessing, and an ongoing monthly donation helps to keep us in the field for the long-term duration of the project.

Our new Partnership Development goal is $21 per month, per day. That is, if a person gives $21 a month toward our project, at the end of a year that person will have supported one day of our work with the Nsenga Bible Translation Project that year. Whatever successes (or setbacks) we have enjoyed that day, you will have partnered with us in that. We’ll even ask which day you want to choose, so we can fill our calendar with supporters’ names and dates, and remember to pray for you especially on that day. Then, when we get 365 people supporting us at $21 per month (or fewer people giving bigger gifts), we will be fully-funded for our return and long-term stay in Zambia, helping to bring God’s Word to the heart language of the Nsenga people.

God’s blessings – and SEE YOU SOON!

Chris, Janine, and Sean




Spring Newsletter

March 7, 2014

Enjoy our Spring Newsletter, brought to you by the letter F:

  • Finished with our First draft of the New Testament
  • Our First Furlough is coming up
  • An Nsenga Funeral custom incorporated into John 11

Grace and Peace!

The Plugers

The Man Born Blind

January 21, 2014

Our draft of the first verses of John 9 looked quite a bit like many translations. I’ll quote the NIV, just for convenience:

9:2 – His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

9:3a – “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus.

9:3b – “But this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

But, as always, there are “some issues” in these verses that needed some adjustment.

In 9:2, the disciples ask a question that reveals an assumption that was apparently current in Jesus’ day – and of course still is: that specific hardships in life are punishment for specific sins. The disciples speculated that maybe the man’s parents had done some evil thing, with the result that they were punished by having a blind child. Or maybe the man (somehow?) had done something wrong (or maybe, would do something wrong?) with the result that he was punished by being born blind. Either way, the premise of the question is false: Yes, general hardships in life are the result of sin in general, and many sins have natural consequences that make life harder. But specific hardships aren’t linked to specific sins as punishment.

So, how best to make Jesus’ answer mean, essentially, “None of the above; your whole question is flawed”? John 9:3a, as written, tries to do the job, but ends up making a statement that, taken out of context, is patently false – this man and his parents had obviously both sinned. The (implied but obvious) point of Jesus’ answer is that no one’s sin caused the man to be born blind. So that’s what we wrote. Our back-translation of 9:3a is, “This man is not blind because of his sins, nor the sins of his parents.”

Even more dicey, perhaps, is the second half of verse 3. The Greek particle ἵνα can indicate either purpose or result: “in order that” or “with the result that.” In v2, it clearly indicated result: “Who sinned (with the result) that he was born blind?” But many translations take ἵνα to indicate purpose in v3: “…this happened so that…”

Now, this puts us in an interesting place. Did God cause this man to be born blind in order that later he might display his power by healing him? God certainly could have done so. But the usual promise in Scripture is that God will work through our hardships to bring us blessing – not that God actually causes those hardships in the first place. Put another way, God allows bad things, and promises to work blessing in spite of them. Implying that God caused this man’s blindness in order to demonstrate his glory in curing him is a bit like me sneaking into your garage at night and disconnecting the spark plugs on your car, and then when you call me because your car won’t start I fix it easily – and aren’t I a great mechanic?

Maybe I’m reading a little too much into “so that” in 9:3b. But I’d rather prefer to think that Jesus is using the ἵνα in his answer the same way the disciples were in their question: to indicate result. So, taking the last two words from the disciples’ question in v2 and supplying them again as the first half of Jesus’ answer in 9:3b, we get, “He was born blind; as a result, the works of God will be revealed in him.”

With a few adjustments, then, we get roughly this as our Nsenga version of John 9:2-3 (note the consistent use of “because of” as the “result” translation of ἵνα):

9:2 – His disciples asked him, “Teacher, this man was born blind because of the sins of whom? His sins, or his parents’?”

9:3a – Jesus said, “This man is not blind because of his sins, nor those of his parents, no.

9:3b – “But, because of his blindness, God will show his glory in him.”

In Nsenga:

9:2 – Asambili ŵake emukonsha kuti, “Asambizyi, munthu wamene uyu evyalika mphofu cikomo ca macimo a ŵani? Macimo ŵake, keno ŵa vyazi ŵake?”

9:3a – Yesu eciti, “Uyu munthu alilini mphofu cikomo ca macimo ŵake, keno ŵa vyazi ŵake, yayi.

9:3b – “Koma, cikomo ca umphofu wake, Mulungu awoneshe nchito zake mwa yeve.”

What do you think? Is this a satisfactory exegesis/understanding of the verse? Or have we made a mountain out of a molehill?

Stage One Complete!

December 20, 2013

Today, 20 December 2013, as of pretty much just now (about 10:45am CAT), the Nsenga Bible Translation Project has finished their rough draft of the entire New Testament!

This is a HUGE milestone, one for which the translators deserve a hearty “well done!” and for which God deserves all the glory.

We’ve been working towards this goal daily for the past 18 months, and preparations for the work started long before that. It’s also important to remember that in many ways, drafting is the easy part – the long, difficult, exacting, time-consuming, patience-testing process of editing the text into its final, universally-acceptable form will take a lot more time, energy, and prayers.

But we still wanted to celebrate with you in the reaching of this milestone on the day before we close the office for Christmas holiday. Thank you for all your prayers and support. Rejoice with us in the reaching of this goal. Commit this project into God’s hands for 2014, and the results of our work to the Holy Spirit for many many years to come.

Merry Christmas from the (very happy and a bit tired) Nsenga Bible Translation Project!


Overall Projection Completion: 80%

Stage 1: 100% / 7959 verses     (first draft)

Stage 2: 45% / 3420 verses       (internal review)

Stage 3: 45% / 3420 verses       (external review)

Stage 4: 8% / 678 verses            (final checks and printing)

Fear not! I bring you good tidings of great joy…

December 13, 2013

Musayope! Nazokuuzyani Malizu Aweme, watiuzesangalalishe ngako ŵanthu wonse… (Luka 2:10)

Don’t fear! I’m telling you Good News, which will make all people very happy… (Luke 2:10)


Merry Christmas from the Plugers in Zambia, and from the Nsenga Bible Translation Project. We thank you all very much for your prayers and support throughout the year, as we work to bring God’s Word to the Nsenga-speaking people.

Please click on the link to see our latest newsletter, which tells about a workshop where over twenty trained reviewers had the chance to collaborate with each other and give many helpful suggestions to our Nsenga drafts – including the Christmas story in Luke 2! Also a bit of  “grammatical theology,” and a hint about an exciting upcoming project.

May your holiday season be filled with peace and joy that comes from our Saviour, Jesus Christ!

God so loved the world…

December 5, 2013

We’ve been really busy lately (like the rest of you, I’m sure). In November there was a workshop for 20+ reviewers, which needed to be organized, attended, and recovered from, and then have the advice incorporated into the drafts. Chris is still up to his eyeballs in his college class (but the end is finally in sight). Meanwhile, Chris’ mom is visiting for six weeks, so there were guest preparations, lots of cleaning, and then traveling to pick her up in Lusaka and then a holiday at Victoria Falls. Now we have sugar cookies, Lego trains, and other Christmasy things to do, on top of finishing the homeschool term and spending plenty of time just trying to keep cool in the hot summer before the rains come.

Nevertheless, a HUGE milestone passed today at the Nsenga Bible Translation Project. Today was the day that we took our first serious exegetical/linguistic/translational look at John 3:16. This verse will go through many more stages and revisions before it’s finalized, but today the “Gospel in a Nutshell” verse took shape for the first time in the Nsenga language. Here’s what we have:

Mulungu eŵatemwa ngako ŵanthu a pa calo conse ca pansi. Tetyo, eŵapa Mwana yumo yeka, kuti aliyense womucetekela osati atayike, koma aŵe na moyo wosasila.

God loved very much the people in the whole world. So, he gave them his Only Son Himself, so that anyone who trusts him will never be lost, but have life without end.



November 19, 2013

I’ve been quiet on the blog front lately, but things have not been quiet at the Nsenga Bible Translation Project. In addition to the linguistic analysis I’m doing on Nsenga for my online course, we have been busy checking Luke, doing exegetical work on Revelation, and getting reviewer input on over ten NT books in a workshop setting. More news will follow in our soon-to-be-released Christmas letter, but for now, let this picture be worth a thousand words:

 We're getting there...

(The thick black lines represent the stages each draft goes through: Stage 1 = Drafting; Stage 2 = Internal Checking; Stage 3 = Reviewers; Stage 4 = Final Consultant Check. The blue bar for Mark means it’s been published as a booklet already.)


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