Brian & Christine Palmer are ELCA missionaries teaching in Liberia. Brian describes how a computer project has aided publishing teaching materials and a Kpelle translation of the New Testament. To support the Palmers, or another of the ELCA’s 230 missionaries, go to www.elca.org/missionarysponsorship.
April 2, 2012
I was only here a couple of months before I got it in my head that I wanted to do two things.
First, teaching at the Lay Leaders and Ministers Training Center in Totota was done without any printed material. There were no books, no handouts, no sheets of paper with helpful pithy phrases, nothing. Teaching was done with a chalkboard and notebooks; this is the same as most teaching in Liberia. I found myself thinking it would be cool to figure out a way to inexpensively produce printed material.
The second “problem” I wanted to address involved the Lutheran Church in Liberia’s efforts to translate the Bible into the Kpelle language. The New Testament was translated and printed before the advent of computers and the translation team dreaded the thought of typing it all into the computer. I told them I would scan the text and have the computer “type” it. I never could have guessed what this whole Kpelle New Testament and cheap printing business would evolve into.
It started with Miss Mulbah. I call her Miss Mulbah because when I first met her I wasn’t able to say her first name. Miss Mulbah is the daughter of one of my fellow instructors and was one of my physics students when I asked her if she wanted to do some work on the computer in the evenings. A couple of months after Miss Mulbah began working, I hired another of my physics students, Bobby. This was all a year and a half ago and all three of us have been on a steep learning curve ever since. The Kpelle New Testament project has been done for over a year now but we are still printing materials like crazy.
Nowadays we call ourselves Motherbird Publishing (Deuteronomy 22:6-7) and we are “Committed to simple dirt-cheap printing of helpful materials.” We do all kinds of stuff. We type and print letters, invoices, booklets etc. We take and print passport photos. We’re even making a database of the books in the training center library so we can make an old-fashioned card catalog.
Both Miss Mulbah and Bobby have navigated the waters from total computer newbie to outstanding computer genius by any measure. They are the greatest. My hope is that the skills they have learned will be an ongoing blessing to them. I know my time spent with them has been a blessing to me. I can only pray that the work we have done together will be a blessing to others. Thank you Miss Mulbah and Bobby!