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Hebrew in Mexico with the Bible Online Learner | Eep Talstra Centre for Bible and Computer

By Janet Dyk

Wycliffe Bible Translator’s former Jungle Training Camp

Several years ago, after deciding that what I missed here in Holland was white water and after being unable to book a suitable rafting expedition in Belgium (in the summer the water in the rivers is too low for rafting and in the fall when there is enough water it is too cold to be fun), a group of us who had grown up in Chiapas, southern Mexico, decided to visit the places familiar to us from our youth. These included the Yaxoquintelja’ valley where I grew up (Wycliffe Bible Translator’s former Jungle Training Camp) and the Santa Cruz river with its rapids and deep flowing water as well as some of the many Mayan ruins in Chiapas.

Santa Cruz River

Mayan ruins in Chiapas (Yaxilan)

One of my goals during this 2016 trip was to see whether I could become involved in some way with the various activities aimed at further development amongst Tzeltal people, the Mayan language group with which I grew up. To my surprise Hebrew courses had been given there to the pastors (see also https://hebronusa.org/about/our-missionaries-in-chiapas/ ). After contacting the retired missionary who gave these courses, I joined him in 2017 in giving an introductory Hebrew course in Spanish to 17 Tzeltal pastors.

Throughout last year, Nicolai Winther-Nielsen, who developed the Bible Online Learner course (see https://bibleol.3bmoodle.dk/ ), enlisted help from various quarters to produce a Spanish interface for this course. including lessons, lexicon, and exercises. A working version was finished in January 2018 just before I left for another course of Hebrew in Ocosingo, Chiapas, Mexico. The students were used for the trial run of the Spanish course and were much impressed by the fact that if we encountered a snag or a mistake, I could email Nicolai and it would be fixed by the next day. True to tradition, the participants all were awarded a certificate for their efforts.

Hebrew Class

After consultation we have decided that in the coming years I should provide intensive training in Hebrew to a select few so that they become proficient in Hebrew and could then be responsible to spreading the knowledge of Hebrew there. This would eliminate the dependence on foreigners who must travel great distances at their own costs to teach Hebrew there.

I could not have dreamed of being able to use my training received at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam to teach the pastors of the language group I grew up with, using the Bible Online Learner course developed on the basis of the database of the Eep Talstra Centre for Bible and Computer (see www.etcbc.nl ), on which database I have worked for more than three decades. The circle is complete and life continues to be an adventure. — Janet Dyk

Video of the Tzeltal pastors singing Deut 6:4 in Hebrew: “Shema` Israel Adonai elohenu Adonai eHad” – “Listen, Israel: Adonai [representing the unspeakable name] is our God, Adonai is one”