Who Am I?  Part 18

At last! After many years of thinking, dreaming, and praying about the idea of me becoming a Bible translator, the time was now at hand. At least, it was the beginning of the beginning. We had just finished living in Lincoln, Illinois for a year, and then we made the move down to Dallas, Texas. This was where I was going to do the linguistic studies that I would need to be able to become an effective Bible translator.

It was in 1976, that I saw firsthand what Bible translation was all about, when I visited the missionary couple who were living in the mountains of Peru. I was fascinated with the idea that you could learn the local language used by the people and then translate the Bible into that language. Now, 17 years later, I was finally going to start to pursue this dream of becoming a translator myself.

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My life became very busy that fall of ’94 and winter of ’95 as I dug into courses like Phonetics, Phonology, Grammar, Language Acquisition, Culture and Society, Field Works ( where we learn to use computer programs to help us analyze language data), and many others. And life was certainly hectic for Jill too as she also took some of the foundational linguistic courses, helped to take care of the boys, and also worked at a nearby hospital.

While we were there, our family lived in a dormitory building where many other linguistics students were staying as well as a few families. In many ways we shared our lives together as we studied together, lived in the dorm together, and also ate meals together in the cafeteria up the hill. It was an exciting time as most of us were here training to become missionaries and be involved in some capacity in actual translation projects, or in support roles to help those who are doing translation.

Besides concentrating on the studies, one of the most important questions that we needed to answer for ourselves was where we wanted to go in the world. At that time, Pioneer Bible Translators was working primarily in three countries or regions of the world. They had a Branch in West Africa, East Africa and Papua New Guinea. They also had a small project starting in the Ukraine.

In a funny kind of way, the choice was very simple for me. In the ’80s, there was a popular Christian song sung by Scott Wesley Brown called, “Please Don’t Send Me To Africa”. It’s a song that pokes fun at Christians who are afraid that God will call them to be a missionary and the idea is that people will say, “Please Lord, I will do anything, but please, please do not send me to Africa.”

You will find out later that our family actually did go to Africa, but in the ’80s and ’90s, I had a strong pull of wanting to go to the Pacific Islands region of the world. I also felt old, considering that most of the students were in their 20s and I was now in my mid 30s, so I wanted to go to a well established Branch, and it also appealed to me to consider working in a project that had already been started.

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I believe that it was God’s providential guidance that Jill and I were able to become acquainted with a couple from PBT that had worked in a translation project in PNG, but for health reasons were back in America. We visited and e-mailed each other many times over the two-year period before we actually got to PNG. Even more amazing, was that this man had produced a grammar of the people group that he had worked with and I was able to use that as part of a research project in one of my graduate study courses.

After taking the fall and winter courses of linguistics in Dallas, our family traveled to North Dakota where some summer linguistic courses were offered. That was very intense since these advanced courses, which were usually taught over 14 weeks in Dallas, were taught in only eight weeks. We spent the Fall in Calgary before returning to Dallas, to finish my last semester of my linguistic training.

So finally, after a year and a half of studies, our family was prepared to leave North America and travel to PNG to live among the people of a remote area and learn their language and translate the Bible into that language. There was just one little detail that needed to be taken care of though. We would need to raise missionary support for us to be able to live and work over there in PNG.

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In some ways, this was much more challenging to us emotionally and spiritually as we realized that we would need to depend on God and God’s people to raise up the monies that we would need. As much as we were able to, during ’94 and ’95, we visited or wrote to many Canadian churches and we were excited every time one of these churches responded back positively to say they would support us as best they were able to at that time.

Then, God opened the door for us to return to Illinois. Jill was able to work at the hospital, and through prayer and the leading of God’s Spirit, we were able to visit about 28 churches throughout Illinois to tell them of our plans to be missionaries in PNG. How God led us to be able to speak in all these churches is another story in and of itself, but we were truly humbled and amazed to see so many places open their doors to receive us and to listen to our plans to serve God.

By the end of 1996, everything was pretty much in place. The training was done, partnerships with churches and individuals had been established, and we were ready to go. All we had to do now, was get the entry visas stamped in our passports and we would be on our way to PNG. But that little story, will be the beginning of the next article.

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