Today is Thursday September 4th and we are progressing very rapidly in the translation work on the Book of Mormon. We do not have easy access to the Internet or email, but to some extent that is an advantage because there are fewer distractions. I will include photos of the facilities and of the teams in my final report.
Twelve Swahili/English speakers (all members of the Church) have been invited to assist in this project. We have divided them into six teams, five of which are doing the direct translations and the sixth team is doing some review work as it proceeds. We felt it important to analyze which teams would be doing the best work, but surprisingly, after their training and about ten days of translating, all of the teams are producing very good translations. As of last night we had finished about 85% of the text with only seven chapters that are yet to be assigned. Each team is assigned a few chapters at a time and they return the documents to me continually so that their work can be backed up (by several different methods) and then reassigned to the revision team.
In preparation for this task I originally prepared the documents into the separate books of the Book of Mormon for translation, however during the past four years since I was here last, it became apparent that those were mostly too big for a team to deal with. If a document were lost or damaged, it would be catastrophic and the men became discouraged. Smaller documents were necessary. So I divided the text into a separate document for every chapter in the Book of Mormon. Each group of chapters were kept in a separate folder for its respective book.
In translating materials from English to Spanish over the years in Mexico, we discovered that word processors just won't do the job, because two, three or more columns of text are sometimes necessary and they must all be independent of each other. So a page layout program must be used. Most have been quite expensive in the past. One or two are now available at fairly reasonable costs. So I began with page templates that had three columns that I had developed for the Spanish translations. We now have the entire Book of Mormon divided into separate documents for each chapter. The English is in the left hand column, the second column is used for the new translation and the third column can be used either for a different translation or for a blank column for comments.
Next I developed a spreadsheet to keep track of the chapter assignments and their progress. Since all of the chapters are obviously of differing lengths—some dozens of pages long and others less than a page, it became a challenge to keep track of the progress as the work proceeded. The length of verses also complicated the tracking. Then I found that if we counted the number of pages in our page layout program, they would give us a fairly accurate way to track the progress. While one of the men helped in counting the pages in each documents, I set up the spreadsheet and designed a few simple calculations to make a graph of our progress and project a finishing time. What we could not project is that the team members improved both in the quality of their translations and in their speed as the weeks passed by. So we now expect to be finished with the initial translations from the five teams by this weekend. Everyone here is so excited! The people here in Eastern Africa have been waiting to be able to read the Book of Mormon in Swahili for many years, and now the end is in sight.
It is very easy to see the growth of the team members as the weeks have passed. Their knowledge of the Scriptures, their own Swahili language and of the English language has been greatly increased. The fact that they now have this experience behind them and they all have a sound knowledge of how to use this page layout program as well as the laptop computers, they will be able to easily repeat the process to translate other materials into Swahili or even into Luo—a more localized language on the eastern side of Lake Victoria in Kenya. Many classes have been taught about the gospel and before we part, each team member will be given a packet of DVDs and CDs with an enormous amount of information on them. We will be giving out several books and other materials as gifts for those who were especially helpful, or who showed the most improvement or for whatever other reason—to be selected by the teams themselves. Team members are already excited about sharing what they have learned and done with friends at home and with friends in other countries of Africa—such as the Congo where we already have a small mission, in South Africa and in Malawi which is south of Tanzania.
It has been an exciting time to be a part of this project. It has been such a blessing to me to see a renewed cooperation between the Saints in the Center Place. I believe that the Lord is moving to reunite the Lord's work all over the world.
Funding through the ARM board has made it possible for this group of twelve men to assemble in a reasonably sized facility that is very secure and quiet enough to do the work without interruptions. My plane ticket and a small amount for personal expenses were provided by the Joint Conference of Branches, and MMSG continues to take care of my wife, Patti at home so that these kind of activities can continue.
Since I don't have easy access to the Internet, it has been several days since the above was written. These last paragraphs are to announce that we have finally finished the first draft of the translation. 100% of the chapters of the Book of Mormon have been turned in to me for editing and to prepare them for the final review which begins tomorrow after church services here in Kisumu.
Today was set aside as the first break we've had in the weeks-long task of this first draft. The average work day here has been between 16 and 18 hours. Some of the men worked very late into the night and others began getting up as early as 3:30 a.m. to see the work accomplished on time. A special meal was prepared and visitors were invited for a meeting that lasted about two hours where each team was invited to share some of their testimonies. I was asked to give a sermon and chose to speak about the Restoration and the Book of Mormon. Before the day was over, three new people asked for copies of the Book of Mormon.
I've been asked to extend my stay for one more week to assist in the final review process. It has been very exciting to be a part of this historic effort. I want to thank all of you for your prayers and also for the cooperation of all of the various groups that have made this possible.
I'll keep you updated as things progress. There will be many things to share when I get back to Missouri.
In gospel bonds,