PBT & The World of Bible Translation

Two weekends ago marked a historic moment for Pioneer Bible Translators. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the celebration event, the Dedication of the new PBT office building in Dallas, Texas. There were at least 250 people, many of whom had flown in from all parts of the country, plus some of our missionaries from overseas, who came to attend this special event.

This is truly an amazing building that was just a dream a few years ago, and a hope for even longer than that. Inside this beautiful 5000 sq. ft. building there are many offices, a large reception, a conference room, and a huge dining room area with a kitchen nook. There is even more to it than that, but that should give you an idea of how large the building is.

What is even more amazing than turning Texas scrub brush land into PBT’s first permanent International Service Center building, is the fact that every area of the building is already fully staffed and operating. Our old modular building, which had housed up to five staff members in each small office area, sent over as many staff as it could, but it too is still operating various departments within each of its office spaces.

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To appreciate the rapid growth of PBT’s home office, let me take you back to 1994. This was when Jill and I and our boys moved to Dallas, Texas to begin my linguistic training so that I could become a Bible translator. At that time, PBT did not have any building at all. Rather, we were renting two small offices inside of the Pike building which primarily housed the library of SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics), a close partner of Wycliffe Bible Translators.

One office was for the president of PBT, Rondal Smith, and the other one was the administrative office of the finance people and receptionist. There literally was only a handful of staff members back then. It would be another six years or so before PBT built a three-wide trailer modular building to handle about a dozen staff members and also have an open front lobby area plus a large conference room in the center.

A good foundation was laid then by the time that PBT chose its next president, Greg Pruett, in 2006. We had seen steady but gradual increase in staff in the 12 years. The same can be said of our missionaries and our personnel on the field during this time. But considering the pressing need to get more Bible translation happening around the world, all of us knew that some changes would need to be made. It was time to really grow in order that we could get the task done that God had given to our mission.

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Let me explain what our sense of urgency was and still is. Linguistic research has shown us that there are almost 7,000 languages still spoken in the world today. But can you believe that there are over 2,200 of those languages that are still waiting for a Bible translation program to be started in their language? This represents hundreds of millions of people who still do not have even one verse of the Bible in their language.

It is our strong conviction, as well as for many others, that to be able to lead people to faith in Christ, to disciple these new believers, and certainly to plant strong and multiplying churches, it is imperative to get God’s Word to the people, especially in written form. And that is why PBT’s primary focus is to transform lives through translated Scriptures and supported by church planting and Scripture impact initiatives.

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Back to some historical data now, when we officially became members of PBT, there were about 85 career members. This too also grew in a gradual but steady upward climb, so that 10 years later there were 182 career members, with just less than half of them being missionaries in assigned overseas fields. But as I said above, our leadership knew that we would have to make some significant changes to address the global need for Bible translation.

Under Greg’s leadership, PBT envisioned recruiting 200 more members to more than double our organization, to begin a number of new projects and to start working in at least four new countries of the world. To do that though, a much stronger infrastructure and more support personnel would need to be put in place here in Dallas. That became a large part of the reason for why we needed a new permanent building.

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And so here we are nearing the end of PBT’s first six-year plan to expand our mission organization in order that we can in turn impact more language groups of the world. And how have we done you ask? We currently have 322 members, and so many recruits who are in the process of becoming members, that it looks like we very well may reach our goal. Also significant is that we have doubled the number of missionaries on the field, and we have just more than that in the number of members who are training to go to the field. This means we are looking at an explosion of growth in our projects around the world.

Let me now finish this article with an important thought. It may look like PBT right now is all about “numbers” and just growing the organization. That is the furthest thing from the truth possible. Rather, we have recognized the great need for getting God’s word into the hands of the people of all languages. We are simply mobilizing the resources that God has placed in front of us to see this task completed.

And one more important thing to mention. Above all else, Greg has emphasized that our fundamental strategy to see this being done is that of prayer. God has always challenged His people to dream big dreams and to pray for the impossible. That is when God shines through the best, and that is what He has done for PBT. Stay tuned, there are more great stories to come.

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