A year after the launching of the completed Meta New Testament, my desire is to see the Meta New Testament Project succeed. We at the Heath Church have prayed and given over 40 years, so I want to see that it has been all worthwhile. The measurements of success are:
1) that the Scriptures are read in all the Meta churches in a confident and expressive way, rather like a good story-teller or a good teacher would. This would give the audience or congregation a good experience of the Meta Scriptures being delivered in public, and so encourage others to take up the reading of the Scriptures for themselves.
2) that the Scriptures are read confidently and fluently at home, both aloud to the household and silently for personal study and devotion.
A good start has been made but there is still a long way to go. People need to be familiar and confident with the Meta alphabet, including the extra letters, and most especially the tone marks. With increasing familiarity with the Meta alphabet, people should be able to spell, and spell out, every single word in the language. The alphabet is a good alphabet, unlike the English one with all its inconsistencies and exceptions. If as children they managed to struggle with the spelling of English words, they should be able to manage as literate adults to use Meta’s ‘phonetic’ alphabet with relative ease.
Recognising the words of Meta is vital, but is only a first step. It is poor reading to ‘count’ each word in a sentence because the reader and the listener quickly lose the meaning of the sentence. As a second step people have to recognize which words belong together as phrases (‘sensible groupings of words’) and, thirdly, to recognize how the phrases join together to make a clause or sentence. What helps in these respects is their knowledge of the equivalent passage in their English Bible. In fact, as part of the exercise of reading the Meta NT, some people feel the need to consult the English Bible to make sure they have got the sense.
The fourth step is to see how all the sentences contribute to the description of the event – for example, raising up Simon Peter’s mother-in-law from her fever – or the description of a piece of teaching – for example, 2 Peter 1:3-11. It is important to understand the whole event or the main point of teaching.
Finally, the fifth step is to catch the high point of the event: the fever left her immediately – and to express the amazement due. And to catch the steps in the presentation of teaching and to express these steps as a good teacher would as they taught. In this way, the congregation is ‘pulled’ into the event or ‘led’ in the teaching; the congregation feel involved like participants. It provides the congregation with a rich experience of Scripture, which should help them to be encouraged to read the Scriptures for themselves.
The aim is to enable people to read with ease, with meaning and understanding, and with confidence. Confidence is the sense of ‘I can do this’. People need to practise reading and spelling words and to get the sense of the words in phrases and sentences. If they are to read in public, they need to prepare themselves in this way, but also to rehearse aloud in private.
People should read their Meta Scriptures each day, for 10 minutes at least, or more. People could also meet together informally or in reading classes as regularly as possible for mutual encouragement and help. Moreover, people – mothers particularly – should let the children see them reading and read to them too. Such children will grow up knowing that their mother tongue can be read and written as well as heard and spoken.
One problem is that there is little else to read. When asked what else they would like to read, the following list emerged:
1. Scripture text cards
2. Lord’s Prayer card
3. Old Testament lives: brief accounts of the life of Abraham, etc
4. children’s versions of Gospel accounts
5. Gospel leaflets
6. Bible study notes
8. vocational booklets, eg business management
9. cultural heritage
10. history of the Meta people
12. poems, rhymes
13. public signs and posters. The Meta Students Association have experimented with such signs on their premises. Posters for hygiene, etc, could be displayed in hospitals, clinics, schools and churches.
When asked who would compose these materials, they eventually agreed that it would have to be Meta speakers themselves. In this way, people were encouraged to try and write as well as read; “Try and write!” Anything written would need to be subjected to editing. It was also emphasised that trying to write is a good way of learning to read; the more you read, the better you write; the more you write, the better you read.
When asked who will fund such publications, they were happy if someone could help, but they realised that really in the final analysis, the Meta people themselves should be responsible. An immediate need is a new printing of the dictionary, with corrections and revisions if need be.
A revitalized language committee or literacy committee is required. A number of people need to be recognized as experts in the language, who could undertake the editing and proof reading of new written materials before publication. People need to learn to type with the extra Meta letters and tone marks. People need to be encouraged to try their hand at writing for the public. Parents need to be assured that learning to read and write Meta would not hinder their children’s progress in English, but is more likely to enhance it. The teaching of Meta in schools needs to be progressed.
CABTAL has begun a LISTEN Project, in which trained Meta readers will record the Scriptures to be recorded on to mobile phones. The Project has begun with the training of some readers. The Project will be a vital asset as people will be able to hear the Scriptures read fluently in their own language, and will be able to follow the written text as they do so, if they wish. The greater familiarity with the Meta Scriptures, the more confidently will people be able to read the Scriptures for themselves. May the Holy Spirit so help people that the Meta New Testament Project will indeed succeed and be the means of great blessing in the Meta community.
Paul Tench, March 2015