Together in Spite of the Distance

By Charity Armstrong

During the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic, the internet has often been our access to the outside world. We’ve worked from home—online. Gone to school—online. Visited with family and friends—online. It’s made our isolation somewhat easier to cope with.

Our situation sheds some light on the struggles ACATBA’s* office staff and translation teams were facing not long ago in Bangui, Central African Republic. Power outages and lack of internet service were seriously impacting their work. For translators, a reliable power source and internet access are vital: to operate their laptops and printers, to communicate and share work with each other, to check with distant consultants, and more. As one team manager put it, “Without the internet, we are cut off from the world!” Sound familiar?

Nate Marti, an IT specialist at SIL Central Africa Republic, works closely with the ACATBA staff. Nate suggested a consultation with Bill Mayes, manager of SIL Africa ICT Services, and his team. The result: Jacques Akplogan from Bill’s team traveled to Bangui for some serious problem solving.

Jacques Aplogan, Nate Marti. and ACATBA staff member Victor Noudjoundima confer on the use of new equipment.

When Jacques arrived at ACATBA’s headquarters, he found several issues. The offices lacked internet service for their main network server, and there was no power available in the server room. Nate also hoped to implement a Wi-Fi network for the ACATBA campus to distribute Wi-Fi service to the offices where the translation teams worked. JAARS was their go-to partner to request help with funds for the equipment they needed to acquire. With Bill’s help, they were able to arrange a grant for the purchases. Generous partners like you make these grants to support language team connectivity possible. Thank you!

Jacques and his colleague, Richard Young, acquired and installed the equipment to provide cellular service for the network server. Then they put a solar solution in place to provide reliable power to the server room. Check out the story about these solar panels. They made a significant difference in the work environment at ACATBA’s offices. But there’s more to the story!

To implement the much needed Wi-Fi upgrades, Nate consulted with Richard to specify and order the necessary equipment. Again, with help from generous partners like you, JAARS provided funds for that equipment, and Nate completed installing the Wi-Fi upgrade in early February.

Nate reports that the teams are already appreciating the benefits of this timely, upgraded network. Edmond Ngodi, a Project Coordinator for the Mandja language, sums it up: “The internet project at ACATBA is at the heart of our activities.”

Another language team, the Ngbugu, used the internet to complete the typesetting of their New Testament with a remote-based partner—right from their home office in Bangui! They avoided having to send team members to Cameroon for this process, which would have been expensive.

The Mpyemo language team is also making good use of the new setup. They need to work with consultants to clarify and improve their work. Instead of paying expenses for consultants to travel to Bangui, they have worked with their consultants remotely. Pastor Mathurin, coordinator for the project, describes the benefit: “It’s as if, in spite of the distance, we’re together with the remote consultant… . I’m delighted to see the work moving forward.”

The most recent project to improve operations for the ACATBA office—again, with help from JAARS—was the purchase and installation of a new generator to replace one that failed a year ago. Reliable power is now assured. The translation teams can forge ahead with their translation work.

According to Bill Mayes, support from JAARS is a vital element in all these projects. “We are all grateful to JAARS to provide funding that allows us to respond to critical issues like these. Without [their support], Bible translation would come to a halt!”

To help other translation teams like these ACATBA teams who need reliable remote communication, make a gift to our Technology Solutions.


*ACATBA is one of our Bible translation partners in Central African Republic.