Wa Bible

Wa Bible

Hoay Maw Check-Up

On Mon 3rd June, Adrian, Jenny and Niti visited Hoay Maw returning on Tues 4th. This was to be our last visit before returning to England. We wanted to check the status of the home and also gather information, photos and video. We wanted to portray a day in the life of a child at Hoay Maw. By staying overnight on the site of the home, we had an opportunity to see and experience many aspects of the day.


On the way up, we shopped for hygiene and food provisions for the home.

School Uniforms:

Soon after our arrival at about 3pm, the children began to arrive home from school. We wanted to get some photos of the uniforms to be able to report back to supporters, in this case: Links Christmas Gifts and remaining money from ACC Blessings in a Bag and other individual donations. The money that we have been able to pass on to them them has provided 1 shirt and 1 skirt/shorts per child plus the annual school fees and some basic stationery items. It would be ideal for the children to be able to have a 2nd shirt, socks and some replacement shoes. Even so, it is a great step for the children to be able to attend school and it was a joy to see the young students wearing their uniforms with pride.


“A Day In the Life of a Child at Hoay Maw”:

5.30am wake up and get dressed
6:00am prayers and worship in church led by house-parents
6:15am Chores – sweeping, litter picking, make beds, tidy shoes
6:40am Breakfast of rice with some chillies and egg mixed in
7:00am Line up and walk to school – more chores at school
8:00am School starts
12noon Eat packed lunch at school (rice from breakfast)
3:30pm Home from school
4:00pm Chinese school for 2 hours
6:00pm Play and Meal
7:00pm Time in church
8:00pm Homework (or “family group” time on Fridays)
9-10pm Bed-time


The children have a very long hard day compared to that which most children are used to. It was however a joy to capture fun moments as the children are developing relational and recreational skills in their “family groups”.


We felt that Joseph and the family were pleased that we were staying over. We enjoyed an evening meal together and were pleased to see that Joseph is at last looking in better health following the bout of Dengue fever.

Wa Bible:

We discussed the Wa Bible. Joseph reported that the modification phase has been completed. Now Joseph's brother Solomon is preparing the changes in an electronic form for us to incorporate into the sources and re-format. We have emailed Dr Paul in order to check that the recording of changes is being done correctly. We are willing to visit Mae Sai to assist Solomon if required.


There are 8 new children who are refugees. They are in the process of trying to get papers for them so that they will be eligible to attend Thai school. Of course at the moment they don't yet speak Thai. They are attending the Chinese school.


We wanted to be able to communicate something of the backgrounds of the children. We took some video of some children whilst Paul explained their background. The story of the children is generally that their families had to flee from their villages when raided by soldiers. Their parents were shot and killed. The children, some only 6 years old, manage to escape through the jungle and over the Thai border. There, they hang around the streets in the border area where they are extremely vulnerable to unscrupulous people wishing to exploit children in the drugs and sex industry. The Thai soldiers know of Hoay Maw as a place of safety for these children and so bring them there.

Paul said that he was reluctant to take the children knowing of our advice to limit the number of children but that he felt that he could not send them away. I'm afraid that we have to support this decision.


Paul said that he will try very hard to keep the total number of children below the max of 80. The significant change is that the children at Hoay Maw are now all 'true orphans'. This is in contrast to many other homes. Some, called “hostels”, are like boarding schools and enable children to receive an education – a valid goal. The proliferation of this type of home in Indonesia has recently been featured by the BBC (Reality behind Aceh's 'orphans'). Whilst we feel that these “hostels” meet the important need of enabling children to receive an education, we personally feel that there are issues of undermining the family unit and community. We also feel that it is essential that supporters are clearly aware of the purpose of the home that they are contributing towards. We can now clearly state that the focus of Hoay Maw is on the care of 'true orphans'.

Chinese School:

We were pleased to hear that Dr Paul (Taiwanese) has managed to secure sponsorship for the Chinese school of 20,000 baht per month (~£300 / $600). This is covering the expenses of the school including the teachers. The school is certainly an asset to the children in the home as well as in the community. It is a positive development that there is now a clear separation between the finances of the Chinese School and the home.



The pig pen and pigs are in good condition. The piglets are quite small because they have only had natural food. We are now able to provide money for nutrient food to give the piglets a boost. The money is from the Links Christmas Gifts this year.


Paul and Ratanaporn have been on a 3 week course on child-care in Taiwan. They found it beneficial. It was good to see that they are taking the management of the staff and home very seriously.

The old man, Wan, who feeds the pigs became seriously ill with a brain cancer. He went to his daughter's house. His daughter rang to say that he had no pulse. They took him to the hospital and prayed. At the hospital he revived!


Somchai is a very good worker. He is the cook for the home and is currently feeding the pigs as well.

Kitisak, the boys care leader has had to leave to care for his sick mother. Another male care worker has experience and is turning out to be a real asset. He interacts well with the children and is a good role model. He also leads worship for the children.


Niti audited and signed the accounts. They still have 10,000 baht (£165/$330) outstanding at the market for Apr. They have spent further money this month of May (probably a similar amount). This is a relatively low amount required to provide a basic diet for the children. However, if there is no regular support then it is inevitable that debt will increase and become a serious problem. It is still our desire to try and set up a basic level of regular support but we would like to seek input as to how that might be done. Our feeling is that it is not big money. We also set an even higher priority on the relational aspect of being able to partner with people of all ages who would have an interest and heart for these children.

Obviously there are more costs involved than the food from the market, e.g. clothes, school, gas, electricity, staff and maintenance. We don't know the exact figures but have a fairly confident inclination that an amount of £15 per child per month (i.e. one take-away meal for a family in the West or equivalent to the pocket money that many youngsters receive in a month) would make it possible for the home to run at a basic level.

Rough estimate of monthly costs:

20,000 baht staff (currently covered by an individual supporter and Open Hands)
10,000 baht food market
10,000 baht hygiene and other misc
5,000 baht gas / electricity
5,000 baht pig food and project
5,000 baht home maintenance
5,000 baht medical expenses
10,000 baht school uniforms, fees and materials
70,000 baht Total per month

£15 per month, per child, for 77 children = 71,610 baht / £1155 / $2310



We are grateful to be able to report at this point that Open Hands have indicated that they will be able to provide increased support over the coming months. This should make it possible for Hoay Maw to subsist without going into debt at the market.

Other needs:

It has been decided that rather than repair the mosquito screens, that it would be cost effective and straight forward to buy mosquito nets for each of the children to have over their beds. There have been Malaria and Dengue warnings in the area and obviously Joseph himself has contracted Dengue. The total cost of the nets would be 10,000 baht (£170 / $340). We have decided to forward the money for this from our project account in order to avoid further delay.

We have used remaining money donated from a coffee morning in Cirencester towards reusable plastic boxes so that the children can take a box of rice to school for lunch. The cook prepares enough rice at breakfast time for the children to take for lunch as well.

Care Policy:

We have been pleased to be in touch with Sarah Armitage, the children's projects co-ordinator for Partners World. She has kindly agreed to allow us to use their care guideline document as a basis for our own.

It is our intention to also liaise with the Haven Foundation based at our church here in order to develop a policy for Hoay Maw and potentially for wider use. It would also be used for the new children's home in Laos.

Home Visit:

We will be in the UK from 20th June - 8th Aug. We will be doing a mission focus on Hoay Maw at Powerpack, Kingdom Faith.

Wa Bible - Update

On Monday 3rd March we attended a meeting in MaeSai to discuss the current status of the Wa Bible. We previously reported in December that the typesetting of the Wa Bible was completed following a sustained period of work by ourselves and a small number of Wa translators. The initial plan was to print 5000 copies, then to work on further revision and print a further 5000. Because each print-run would effectively be a new Bible, this would result in additional costs. The price per Bible for 5000 copies would be $6.23, whilst for 10000 copies, the price would come down to $4.55 per copy. As a result of this and other factors, it was decided that it would be wise to combine the two rounds of revision and checking with the aim to printing a single batch of 10,000 copies, thereby bringing the cost per Bible down. To this end, a new team of four educated Wa pastors has been assembled to begin re-reviewing the complete Wa Bible. This process began in January 2008. One contentious issue has been the very strong desire to have this new Wa Bible printed and ready for the 100 Year Celebration of the first Wa Christian around 16th-18th April 2008. They have wisely decided not to allow this deadline to result in a rushed job. Their main concern is producing a good quality and accurate Bible using modern and up-to-date Wa language. This decision has understandably caused some upset and disappointment among some of the Wa pastors and translators. The original Wa New Testament was translated and first published in 1938 by Vincent Young and his Wa pastors. The Old Testament was translated at a later date by a different person. We understand that a Chinese government survey estimates a total of some 300 different Wa dialects in China alone. It is believed that only one third of the Wa people group actually live in China; the remaining 2/3 live inside Burma. This implies that there could be as many as 900 different Wa dialects in total.

(Language groups distribution in Burma & China – Wa people are labeled as “Parauk” and “Vo” - see here)

The Wa language belongs to the Palaungic branch of the Mon-Khmer language family, to which the Lahu also belongs. Lahu was the language that Vincent Young had originally learned and worked with. He later started to work with the Wa. The four new Wa pastors began this latest review process this January. It emerged that the language used in the Wa Bible contained too many old Wa and Lahu words, spellings and grammar. It was also realised that the word used to describe God was the same word used to describe earthly government officials and rulers. Since the original publication in 1938, a new higher word has been found or created in the Wa language. Following a meeting last month with all those involved in the translation work it was decided to perform a complete word change throughout the entire Wa Bible to use this new word. Another issue discovered by the new Wa pastors was that some of the language used was overly complex. Their desire is to produce a Bible in Wa that is easy to understand for the average Wa person while maintaining accuracy. As of Monday 3rd March 2008, two Wa pastors had reviewed and listed corrections to the first six books of the New Testament. This took them two weeks. The team has now been increased to four Wa pastors. It is expected/estimated that they will take another four weeks to complete the New Testament. The Old Testament will then be addressed. It is estimated that they will take at least two months to complete. As they complete each book, they will provide to us the list of corrections and changes for us to integrate into the electronic sources. At the end of the meeting, we posed for the team photograph. When we got home, we realised that with a small bit of editing, we could make the image resemble the old photograph of the Wa Head-Hunter warriors:

Original Wa Head Hunters...

Modern day Wa Head Hunters? 2 Heads!

Wa Bible Ready for Print

After working fairly solidly on the Wa Bible checking and typesetting for the last 2-3 months, the PDFs have now been sent off to the printer.

The main PDF contains the text of the Wa Bible Old and New Testaments. Additional PDFs include the simple artwork for the spine and cover and the title pages and tables of contents.

The Wa language is emerging. The written language has been developed only fairly recently in the process of translating the Bible.

There are many dialects of the Wa language which vary in spelling and pronunciation. Attempts have been made to reinforce usage of the main Wa dialect.

The Bibles will be printed in Japan and the printing will take about 3 months. The Bibles will then be shipped back to Chiang Mai at the end of February leaving the month of March for the Bibles to be delivered on in time for special celebrations. This will mark 100 years since the first Wa believer and the emergence of the Wa church since the first missionary to the Wa people, William Marcus Young.

Wa People

United Wa State Army soldiers and a skull from the Wa headhunting past, Burma, Northern Wa State - Thierry Falise

So where do these Wa people live on the planet?

The above map was the best I could find. However it is incomplete as it does not show the extent of the Wa people living in China, as well as islands within the Shan State.

Below are some links to resources about the Wa people group:

Wa Bible Checking

During the summer whilst the Oliver family were back in England, work continued on checking of the Wa Bible. On our return to Chiang Mai it was our turn to produce the typeset (Portable Document Format (PDF) files.


Left to right: Adrian, Jenny, Dr Paul (sponsor), Pastor Joseph, Pastor John (Wa translator), team member, Pastor Niti, more team ...

We still have a little more work to do on the layout to get the format as compact as possible to achieve a lower page count and thus lower paper cost.

In the mean time, I have built some checks into our text-to-USFM conversion program. The program now checks for matching pairs of quotes (single or double) within a chapter. It also checks that each reference marker has a corresponding reference defined, and also that each reference defined has a corresponding usage marker.

This simple checking has reported about 1000 errors that need to be checked and corrected.

It has been interesting to realise how the whole process of Bible translation has been transformed over the years by the use of computers.

We have been given the opportunity to try out a prototype of a new Bible editing tool. It has some useful features but the main point is that the tool is "aware" of the basic structure of the Bible which is consistent for most translations regardless of the language used. I.e. there are a fixed number of books each with a known number of chapters, paragraphs and verses. Once the name of each book is defined, cross-reference text can be automatically generated.

It is fascinating to consider the use of these tools in remote third-world settings.

We have also learned that software exists to produce a translation from one language into other languages that have the same structure and grammar rules. This enables new translations to be produced in significantly less time than previously taken.

Wa Bible converted to USFM

We have successfully performed a first pass at converting the entire Wa Bible from the Word format provided by Pastor Joseph's team into USFM format.

The USFM "markup language is a special notation for identifying the components and structure of an electronic document".

An a example of USFM is as follows:

\id JHN
\c 1
\s Gumlox Im: Ju
\v 1 Yam jah koe: Gumlox, Gumlox an ot mai: Siyiex, Gumlox an
     mawh Siyiex heue.
\v 2 Yam jah Nawh ka ot mai: Siyiex.
\v 3 Pa koe: kuceu ku cawng koe: kheu yuh Nawh, mai: pa koe:
     pa ang Nawh yuh ang koe: tix ceu kawx heue.
\v 4 Kadaux Nawh koe: Ju Pa Im:, mai: Ju Pa Im: an mawh Pa 
     riang kawn: pwi heue.

where "\c" defines the Chapters, "\v" the verses, "\p" paragraph markers, etc.

We have generated an automatic conversion program which takes the Word documents and generates the appropriate USFM format.

Once in the USFM format, the conversion of the raw text into the fully formatted Bible in PDF format is a simple question of running a conversion script which makes use of XeTex macros, there the definition of the layout is defined in configuration scripts. Changing the layout/font size/etc is a question of changing the correct entry in the script. Knowing which is the correct entry is a different question we are working on (i.e. learning...).

The currently generated PDF is using default layouts and fonts which produces over 2600 pages. This will need to be reduced to around 1200-1300 pages.

A test version of the PDF of Matthew is here

During this conversion process, a small number of issues were detected which we have now given back to the translators.

The current list of errors is here.


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