Just an Illusion

By Rachel Greco

Bill Mayes, Richard Young, and other members of the SIL* Africa IT team had their airline tickets purchased and their bags packed for their annual trip to Kenya in March. Then they received the word—the trip had been cancelled due to COVID-19. Like us all, the illusion of control they held over their own lives was shattered.

Every year, with the support of people like you, this team leads two conferences in Africa—one in an English speaking country and one in a French-speaking country. These conferences bring the IT technicians who support Bible translation throughout this vast continent together in one place to learn from each other and grow in their skills.

IT technicians practicing new skills at the Burkina Faso 2019 IT Connect Conference

So when the conferences were canceled, the leadership team wondered, “What do we do now?”

Richard’s initial thought was to make some training videos and share them with everybody and then follow up with the technicians. The idea of conducting a live Zoom-type webinar—something they had never tried before—worried Richard, because some of the IT technicians don’t have reliable internet access. He was worried they’d leave these technicians behind. “There are just so many different problems with this [live webinar],” Richard thought, “that I’m not sure it’s a good idea.”

Technicians at one of the IT Connect Online webinars

But the other SIL consultants were enthusiastic about holding live webinars for the technicians. So Richard went with the flow, in spite of his doubts. And thankfully…they didn’t last long!

After presenting several webinars, for both the English-and French-speaking technicians, Richard reflected, “I’m glad that we did go [with the live webinars] because it’s actually worked out quite well. We’ve been able to engage the technicians much more than we would have by putting ready-made videos online and asking them to watch them.”

Richard teaching at the Burkina Faso 2019 IT Connect Conference

Trainers had decided to forgo training in the use of Zoom and Bomgar at the in-person conference because they didn’t have time. These skills have suddenly become more relevant, so they’ve added them to the online webinars. Bomgar software enables the technician to control somebody’s screen remotely in order to help them solve a problem or complete an operation.

The technicians are already putting into practice what they’ve learned in these webinars.

Frédéric Keudjitoloum Djetar, an IT technician working with a Literacy, Linguistics and Bible translation organization in Chad, said, “At the beginning of COVID-19, our consultant had to do some [translation] checks, which could only be done by Zoom [online].”

Since Frédéric had a limited knowledge of this tool, he made several contacts to try to remedy this. “Thanks to the support of JAARS,” he explains, “I was able to obtain a professional account for [the consultant], who was able to do checking with the Tounia [language group].”

And after the webinar training provided on Zoom, Frédéric was able to facilitate remote checking with two other Bible translation projects, which, according to him, “went very well.” The consultant and translators were amazed at this technology, saying that it’s in difficult times that God shows his power through a miraculous opening.

Not only have the JAARS-supported webinars helped these technicians gain technical skills, they’ve also helped bring them together in a difficult time. Thaliane Zaou-Goma, an IT technician working in Brazzaville with SIL Congo, said, “When we participated in the first webinar, it made me feel like I was surrounded by other friends from around the world in this time of health crisis. To tell the truth, I felt isolated in my own little world. Talking with others and seeing them warmed my heart and brought back good memories that we have as a community.”

Praise the Lord for shattering the illusion of control these technicians and consultants had. Now they can lean more on him and each other, and in the process, grow closer to God.

You too can help people grow closer to God by enabling these technicians to continue supporting Bible translation in Africa. Click here to give to Technology Solutions. Thank you!

*A partner organization of JAARS.