The handling of Gods Word is something one should not take lightly. It is a special Book and deserves the utmost regard and respect concerning its preservation. So how does one go about making it available to others when no previous electronic text exists? Or, to cut to the real issue, how did the Chamorro Bible become available on the World Wide Web without having to retype the Bible in electronic format? To answer that question, we must take a step back and look at why it needed to be online in the first place.
The Chamorro Bible had been lost among the native people for decades. There were only a few copies left in the entire world and none of them seemed to be on the island for which it was intended. The Chamorro Bible had been nearly erased from history without a trace. But in August of 2001, began the resurrection of the Chamorro Bible. It brought life and refreshment to all who crossed its path. When a person is able to see the effects that the Bible has on individuals, especially having one in their own language, it leaves no doubt in the human mind that this Living Water must be provided to everyone and be easily accessible so that all may benefit.
Clarence Thomas IV, pioneer and pilgrim with the Chamorro Bible project and teacher at Guam Adventist Academy, was convinced that Gods Word needed to be provided to His people in the Marianas Islands in their own language. But in his study of the Chamorro culture and language, he knew that the language had undergone changes in spellingorthography. How significant would the Bible be considering the spelling changes that had taken place in the Chamorro language over the past decades? Would the written Chamorro be understood by people who were only fa miliar with the most recent Chamorro orthography?
I agonized over continuing with the idea of reprinting the Chamorro Bible, says Thomas. I needed to know that people would be able to read and understand the older Chamorro spelling.
His answer came soon after his concern. David Babauta Herrera, Engineering WHE Test Director for Raytheon Technical Services on Guam, read through much of the Chamorro Bible with elated interest. He told Thomas with enthusiasm, The spelling is different, but it can be understood. This is very good Chamorro.
Thomas concerns were answered once again during GAAs Chamorro History week during the 2001-2002 school year. A speaker was arranged for each day of the week, but Fridays speakers fell through and they had no one to speak about Chamorro history or culture. Picking up the baton, Mateo Aggabao, history teacher for GAA, asked Thomas to share an update on the Chamorro Bible.
What if someone can read in Chamorro? asked Thomas. Two high school students were selected who could read in Chamorro: Jennifer Mafnas and Rosabella Flores, the daughter of GAAs office manager and registrar, Janet Flores. Thomas gave them a copy of Psalms 19 and they reviewed it for five minutes and divided the texts in half to be read. Thomas spoke to the students about the Chamorro Bible and asked if they would like to hear it read in their own language.
Jennifer and Rosabella read through Psalms 19 perfectly with the original orthography, remembers Thomas. They knew about the substitution of different characters to correspond with the present day Chamorro orthography and it was not a problem. Once again, I was comforted knowing that the older language of the Chamorro Bible was not useless and
it could be read.
Later that day, Thomas was speaking with another Chamorro student and asked her if she was able to understand what Jennifer and Rosabella had read earlier that morning. She said that she understood everything that they read, said Thomas. This was just wonderful. God took this opportunity to confirm that this Bible can be read and understood by the people.
That conviction was what propelled the duplication of the Bible into electronic format.
But what venue would be the safest against tampering, provide security of its existence, and allow every person access? Let us not forget that God works through technology and uses it to further the Gospel to people who may otherwise not be able to receive it. The Internet is able to enter countries where missionaries cannot go. It is able to reach people who would be persecuted for seeking Christianity. It is able to instantly reach an island where printed copies of the Written Word have been lost. Introducing, www.ChamorroBible.org.
It wasnt without great lengths that Thomas was able to convert the printed text into electronic text. When a large amount of text is needed to be entered electronically, there are several ways it can be done: typed into a word processor, use speech recognition software, or use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software on the scanned text. One function of the OCR software is to take scanned content and reproduce the same text in a version that can be edited in a word processor.
How exactly does OCR work? Thomas scanned every single page of the Chamorro Bible and saved each page as its own file. After the entire Bible was scanned, the OCR software was used to process each file. The software is able to recognize scanned characters in several different languages. Spanish was selected since Chamorro was not available and the next closest language, as far as the spelling characteristics of the Chamorro language are concerned, is Spanish. Selecting a specific language in which to reproduce the text is important because it provides for more characters to be used than what is used in the English language. For example, because the letter ñ is used in Chamorro and not English. Running the OCR software with the Spanish option where that letter does exist allows the program to recognize the ñ. The OCR software was run on every page of the Bible until a complete copy of the Bible was reproduced in the Chamorro language in a word processor format.
The OCR process is not without its limitations. Be cause the program recognizes the characters the best that it can, there is always the risk that a letter is mistaken for another character of the alphabet or that a spec of dust is interpreted as a character. Therefore, a complete and careful proofreading must take place. The first proofreading session was done during the OCR process (mechanical); the second and subsequent sessions required human involvement.
David De Leon Flores, Sr., and David B. Herrera, who both speak Chamorro, assisted in the proofreading of the text and took their roles seriously. They understood the sacredness with which they must handle Gods Word. All three men would sit down together and one would read from the original Chamorro Bible and the other would follow along with the reproduced electronic
text and make sure that the spelling and punctuation was identical to the original. If a character in the electronic copy differed from the original text, then that was highlighted and Thomas would analyze the difference later. Begoña Santos Flores, Principal of George Washington High School in Mangilao was also consulted early on in the first proofreading session.
Additional proofreading methods were consecutively taken to expedite the proofreading process. During this time, Herrera expressed the idea that the Bible should be available with red letters. Mr. Herrera said, states Thomas, The Bible should be made available with Christs words in red. Wouldnt it be really great if we had the Gospels in red letters like other Bibles do? He was completely right.
Herrera took a real protective care and devotion to reading through the Gospels and Acts and highlighting Christs words that should appear in red. It was a project that was real dear to his heart, expresses Thomas. After Herrera finished designating Christs words to be printed in red letters, Thomas electronically changed the color of those words to red completing the electronic copy of the Chamorro Bible.
At the beginning of each proofreading session I began with prayer, asking God to be with the pens and pencils and with those of us involved in checking for proofreading errors, verifies Thomas. The completion of the OCR proofreading came on April 7, 2002 after the entire Chamorro Bible was proofread with many prayers and a fine toothed comb.
Having the Bible in electronic format provided the opportunity to make it available on the Internet. On May 31, 2002, Chamorro Standard Time (ChST), www.ChamorroBible.org officially opened. This is the first Micronesian Bible to our knowledge to be made available on the Internet and is the first to be produced as a red lettered edition. There is no other Bible in these territories that provide those same characteristics. Anyone can access this website and will find a complete copy of the Chamorro Bible in the Chamorro and English language, as well as the 1918 Chamorro-English Dictionary and a Chamorro Language Grammar book.
Since the publication of the website, several emails have been received from fellow Chamorros who have browsed the site and are excited to find a Bible in their native tongue. Here are a few comments:
Buenas. Thank you so much for the information regarding the Chamorro Bible. Our native islanders, the Chamorros, should be proud of this Chamorro Bible. As I read the words, I felt a wonderful feeling in me. My question to you is, how many Chamorros have been reached about this? I just want to be sure that all Chamorros here in Guahan, Luta, Saipan, Tinian and the other Mariana Islands and abroad be reached about this important Chamorro history.
Hafa Adai, Chelu! The website is very informative and the words are truly Chamorro. Keep up the good work and my family looks forward in seeing this Bible out soon for all Chamorros to have.
Biba Chamorro! Thank you for this website! Awesome! Its about time that our Chamorros have a Bible written in their own native language. Looking forward to seeing this be published.
Buenas, Chelu! In regards to the website, I would like to say thank you! We the Chamorro people have waited for this to happen I was so amazed to see the words from the Bible written in our native language. I look forward in knowing more about this.
I never knew that this website would create an impact on our Chamorro people, but it is. And, I am so happy! It is about time that our native Chamorros be afforded a Bible in our native language. Keep up the great work. I know that some of the manamkos would find this [Chamorro Bible] a word of God!
There is no mistaking that www.ChamorroBible.org is revolutionizing the Chamorro people. God truly does use the art of technology to reach His people in unexpected ways.