MIWC ADDS ASSOCIATE ON THE GROUND IN JAMAICA
JO-ANN GOFFE BRINGS BACKGROUND IN TRANSLATION, HEART LANGUAGE WORSHIP
CREW 40:4 ministry focuses on Jamaican New Testament and culturally relevant worship music
When MIWC President Stephen Benham left Jamaica last year, the potential for MIWC ministry activities there was great – but so was the amount of work required to begin to organize in a place where MIWC had no prior connection.
Enter Jo-Ann (nee Richards) Goffe.
Born and raised in a Christian home, Goffe accepted Christ when she was just 5-years-old, gained a deeper understanding of a relationship to Christ at 12 and made a full commitment when she was baptized two years later.
Also at age 5, she dutifully started piano lessons because her mother had a dream that her children would play for the church. Goffe said she was more of a free spirit back then who just wanted to do her own thing – which usually was singing.
After studying education and music, Goffe entered the Jamaica Theological Seminary and earned a degree in Theology with a minor in guidance and counseling. While studying there, she traveled to the United States as an exchange student at Fort Wayne Bible College in Indiana. The college, which became part of Taylor University in 1992, hosted a large missions conference every year. It was there Goffe first heard God call her into missions. She followed that call to the Cayman Islands.
Returning to Jamaica after the mission trip, she worked not only in the church, but taught music and worked in guidance and counseling. She eventually took a position teaching music at a Catholic elementary school. But while enjoying her work in the school, Goffe said God "tapped her on the shoulder," gently reminding her of His call to missions. Another missions trip led to Goffe's introduction to Wycliffe Bible Translators.
"It was like pouring gasoline on a camp fire," Goffe said, after hearing the results of Wycliffe's translation work in Brazil.
"I want to do that!" she said. From there her journey with Wycliffe into the field of ethnomusicology began.
After some time in the western Africa country of Burkina Faso, Wycliffe moved Goffe to Costa Rica, Panama and Peru, where she spent most of her time working with jungle tribes. She helped tribe members learn to compose worship songs in their native tribal languages. The more time she spent working on translating the Bible for the people of the tribes, the more it "became evident I was helping other people have something my own people didn’t have – a collection of scripture-based songs," said Goffe.
A few years later, back at home in Jamaica, Goffe was involved in an outreach Bible study in Kingston, using the prodigal son account in Luke 15 from the newly translated Jamaican New Testament. The translation, published in 2012, is in the Patwa language, also known as Jamaican Creole, that is spoken in much of Jamaica.
According to Wycliffe's web site, "Wycliffe Bible Translators Caribbean (WBTC) became a major advocate for the translation of Scripture for the Jamaican Creole, now a recognized language, from as far back as 2001. This became so as each time presentations were made in churches on the needs of the Bible-less peoples of the earth, the first comment or question in response would often be: 'What about our language? We have something here too. Aren’t you going to do something about it?'”
Goffe said the people's response to studying the Bible in their native language was unbelievable. One woman told her the English version was just words on the page, but with the Patwa version the woman could see everything vividly in front of her.
The same woman explained to Goffe that while she speaks English, she does not think in English because she thinks in her first learned language – Patwa. She said a lot of God's word was passing her by because of the time it took to translate in her head.
Goffe realized that she herself felt the same way during services in Spanish or French, but since she had learned English first, it had never occurred to her that this same thing was happening to Patwa/English speakers in her own country.
This was the turning point in her ministry. Goffe said the people's reaction to the Bible in Patwa gave her clarity for what she needed to do: "There is a global need to empower people in their own identity," she said.
That was reinforced in 2010 while giving a seminar presentation on language use in song lyrics at a Global Consultation on Music and Missions (GCOMM) conference in Singapore. Goffe thought she was just giving the Caribbean perspective and did not expect much of an audience. It turned out to be standing room only.
Goffe said as she spoke she wondered why so many had come, noticing the people with an Asian background especially appeared to be soaking in her words. When she finished, they came to her and said, her story was their story.
Goffe said she found that being prohibited from using your own language in worship was often the natural result of colonization, and, as a result, impacted people all over the world.
"The need for this kind of ministry is everywhere. People still need encouragement to use their own language."
And in 2010, CREW (Culturally Relevant Expressions of Worship) 40:4 was born – a registered non-profit with a vision to spread culturally authentic, biblical worship across the island of Jamaica and into the rest of the Caribbean region.
After meeting Benham during his trip to Jamaica last year, Goffe and MIWC joined forces and in January 2016, Goffe, through her CREW 40:4 ministry, became an MIWC associate, giving MIWC a passionate, local advocate for authentic, biblical worship in the country of Jamaica.
Among her goals, Goffe would like to see a growing number of churches use the Jamaican New Testament as well as music they have written. She wants it to become a natural part of their worship expression and not an annual novelty worship event.
CREW 40:4's first major project kicks off February 29 when it hosts a gathering for pastors and worship leaders in Jamaica where it will tackle the topic: "(Why) Should We Use Jamaican Music in Worship?"
Goffe's long-term plans include pursuing CREW 40:4 locations in other Caribbean territories and setting up an interactive online network to share culturally relevant worship music in the English-speaking Caribbean.
In the nearer future, she hopes to host more pastor/worship leader conferences to spread the word and encourage churches to begin to worship in their own languages and with their own songs. She hopes to host a series of songwriting workshops across the island to help make this a reality.
Goffe has already begun building a prayer support team and seeking financial partners. MIWC encourages anyone who is interested in supporting the Jamaican ministry both prayerfully and financially to contact us.
To learn more about CREW 40:4's current Patwa Bible translation video project, visit their project web site here.
Jo-Ann Goffe's Crew 40:4 ministry aims to bring the Jamaican New Testament, or Patwa Bible to all native Patwa-speakers.
Check out this video to hear her read from this translation: