Michael and Lisa Colburn specialize in linguistics and translation. Michael served as a missionary with the Wycliffe Bible Translators for 13 years, living and working with the Ogea tribe of Papua New Guinea on a project to translate the New Testament into the Ogea language. This required his learning Ogea without the benefit of a written grammar or dictionary. He devised an alphabet for the Ogea language and taught people to read and write using the new alphabet. He trained Ogea speakers as “mother-tongue” translators and provided consultation and review of their translation throughout the process.
After returning to the US, Michael worked 24 years as a full-time software developer and program manager for the US Government.
Michael's academic qualifications include a BA in Biblical Studies, MA in Linguistics, MCIS in Software Engineering, and a Doctor of Computer Science degree. He has developed courses and taught both within industry and at the college level.
He and his wife, Lisa, now work full-time with the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) as mission specialists in linguistics and translation. Their vision is that every Orthodox Christian parish in the world will have the opportunity to worship God using the mother-tongue of its parishioners. Their mission is to equip translators of the Orthodox liturgical texts with the knowledge and tools they need to produce accurate and understandable translations that speak to the hearts of those who pray, hear, or read them. To that end, Michael has laid out a multi-year plan to develop and provide four types of assistance to OCMC missionaries, liturgical translators, and publishers of translations: software, courses, handbooks, and consulting.
Working with Fr Seraphim Dedes, Michael developed AGES Liturgical Workbench (ALWB). This software has tools for translators, a multi-lingual library, typikon templates, and a rubrics engine. The rubrics engine calculates the liturgical properties for a given date (e.g. the tone of the week, what day of Lent it is, what feast day it is, etc), in order to generate services for specific dates , automatically determining and inserting the variable hymns. Fr. Seraphim uses ALWB to create liturgical services and books for the AGES Digital Chant Stand. After developing ALWB, Michael created the Online Liturgical Workstation, OLW, (olw.ocmc.org), that provides tools for liturgical translators and researchers. OLW allows users to generate liturgical services or books with one, two, or three languages side-by-side. It has tools to create notes about words and phrases in the liturgical text and grammatical information.
In addition to software, Michael works on a liturgical translator's handbook for the Hymns of Theophany. The handbook uses a form of English that should be more easily understood by people who have learned English as a foreign language. The handbook provides a grammatical analysis of the Greek text, model translations, and commentary that explains the meaning of the text, identifies potential translation problems, and provides suggestions on how these problems can be solved. In the first half of 2019, Michael tested features of the translator's handbook in Kenya, Alaska, and Korea. He found that use of a liturgical translator's handbook reduces the number of errors, improving quality. His research was submitted as a Doctor of Theology dissertation to the faculty at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece.
The Colburns are currently based in St. Augustine, Florida, and from there travel to Kenya and other countries to train people in the use of the OLW Software. They are also assisting the Archdiocese of Kenya in the development of a new Priest's Service Book to be used throughout Africa.