We’ve been running silent for a few weeks on our blog, but I guess it’s because we’ve been busy working hard and helping out.
Our orientation period ended at the end of June, and we entered a period known as “Group Service”. Basically, this is a time before we are assigned to a project or job yet, and when we are expected to help out various people in various ways. So some of this has been doing things like collating literacy manuals, health pamphlets, and gospel presentations for kids, thus helping to remove some of the workload from our overworked, one-man IT and Print Shop technician.
But a lot of what we have been doing is using our knowledge of computers to help finish various tasks in a more efficient manner. To start out with, I helped our colleague Andrea to reformat the dictionary database for the Mbochi language project, in order to get it into a consistent format and one that matches the current best-practices recommendations. Part of the problem is that the dictionary has been worked on for more than a decade, by several different people, both before and after the evacuation for the war in the late 90’s. Also, originally there was no SIL recommended standard for how the dictionary database should be formatted. Fortunately, God prepared me with computer programming skills before He put me in Congo. I was able to write some scripts in the Groovy programming language (a superset of Java), that automated many of the reformatting tasks. Andrea and her Mbochi-speaking colleagues seem happy with the changes! I was then able to reuse the reformatter program to help get the Munukutuba dictionary database in better shape. Hopefully I’ll get to help with other dictionaries as well. I think someone hinted that the Beembe dictionary may need some attention.
Sara has been helping prepare an 80 page literacy-related language manual in Lingala. It’s in Microsoft Publisher, but was done without Unicode fonts, which is not recommended practice these days for multilingual documents. So she has been using SIL conversion programs to switch it to Unicode, as well as going through it and making sure all the styles, tab alignment, etc. are consistent throughout the document. She has also helped several people with fixing their computers – getting their anti-virus downloads working, helping move all their files to their new computer, installing download managers to help deal with the slow internet, etc. One of our co-workers said the other day, “How did we survive before Sara got here?”
Our colleague Jessica, who is in charge of the Scripture Use project for the Laari language group, came up with the idea of taking some of the Scripture portions that have been translated into many languages here in Congo, in addition to the audio recordings that have been made of those portions, and combining them with still images (from The Glory Story for example). The idea is to make story videos of Scripture that are more engaging and accessible to people who can’t read yet, or have limited ability or interest in reading.
My part in this has been exploring the technical aspects of the project. What video editing software is available? What would be a good fit for our needs? I’ve also been tackling the question: Can we use the programming/scripting capabilities of some of the movie editing software to allow us to create a generic template for a movie, and then rapidly produce the same movie in multiple Congolese languages? We’ve had some initial success with this idea, so please pray that God will lead us to good solutions to the issues we face. We want to make God’s Word available to the people in Congo in a variety of interesting media, kind of like what we’re used to in the U.S.