Bible Translation Team Work In Africa

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[Editor’s Note: the couple in this newsletter had only been in their country for a few months, and yet you will read how quickly they get very involved in the work.  This tells us two things: a) the people in East Africa are very spiritually hungry to see the Bible translated into their own mother-tongue, and 2) this article shows that there is so much work to be done, but not enough workers to get all this work done.  And that is a good reason to be in prayer. ]

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Our Lives At A Glance This Month.

We have completed three weeks of consultant checking for Romans and Galatians in 10 languages.  Two expert consultants guided us through these books as we assisted translators in making necessary changes to their drafts to be consistent with the original Greek and maintain understandability.

We have also just been a part of our first branch meeting and we were so encouraged by the unity of our team and where God is directing this work.  During the meeting, we took on responsibilities for doing exegetical checking in two of the languages in the cluster. This along with our other current responsibilities will keep us quite busy! 

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PBT partners with another Bible translation organization here in East Africa which is responsible for training national translators. We will be teaching in this annual training which takes place this August after which we will be involved in another consultation. We have much to do to prepare for these events!

We have recently lost some financial commitments. We now have commitments for 81% of our budget goals. This does not jeopardize our ability to stay on the field but remaining at this level will limit our ministry opportunities in the future.  Please pray with us that God will continue to meet all our needs here on the field.

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No Condemnation

One of the amazing aspects of our job includes digging into God’s word on almost every level imaginable, from the grammatical to the theological. For two weeks we delved into the book of Romans doing our best to understand the meaning of the text and guide translators in making tough decisions about how to render certain terms and ideas in their language. 

The book of Roman exposes the Law for what it is – inadequate to save us because of our sin. And as chapter 8 says, “what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.”  And because of this, there is “therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”! This is the life-saving, freedom-giving message that people are waiting to hear and read in a language that speaks to their hearts. Praise God that very soon the people represented by these ten languages will have access to these words of truth!

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A Team Effort

We are so privileged to be a part of an ever-growing team! This team includes fellow PBT missionaries serving in various areas of literacy, Bible translation and Scripture use, support personnel who see to our logistical needs, nationals who work to take care of our homes and facilities so that we are freed up to do translation work.

It also includes a partnering organization which facilitates many of the steps in the translation process, national translators, exegetes, as well as members of each language community who read and review the translations. This task could not be carried out without all of these individuals and what an awesome pleasure to see our team act as the body of Christ with each member exercising his or her own gifts.

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We have begun to settle into our roles serving as exegetes for two of the languages in the cluster and possibly a third in the future. My wife is also working in the area of linguistic analysis and I offer my talents as a ‘techie’ and musician to meet branch needs.

Still we retain the role of ‘learner’ as we continue in our language and culture learning. Please pray for our team, for unity, for exponential impact as we work together, for the binding of Satan as he would love to render us ineffective through division and for us as we continue to negotiate our roles in the team.

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What a great story!  There is no doubt that this couple are excited about what they are doing in their ministry work for the Lord there in East Africa.  And by reading this story, you can see that there is a lot involved in getting the Bible translated into another language.  It also takes a lot of team work as you can see from what they wrote.

In a week from now, I will share a portion of another story that this couple wrote which speaks more about this annual training program that PBT is a part of which helps to equip nationals to also become Bible translators.  God is doing great things through people like these missionaries.  And He is also doing fantastic things through the national men and women who are partners together with us in this global task of getting God’s Word into the hands of all people in their heart language.

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Max Lucado’s Newest Book

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“God’s Story, Your Story”

This is the title to one of Max Lucado’s newest books. I’m really excited about this book. As many of you know, all through 2011, I wrote articles on a book called “Walking With God on the Road You Never Wanted to Travel” by Mark Atteberry (click here to access this series). That book has had such a positive impact in my life seeing as I have been living with my muscle disease for four years now. Reading Atteberry’s book gave me the hope and encouragement I needed to be able to walk along this difficult path.

As we came to November last year, I could see that we were nearing the end of writing articles on that book. I wondered what new book I could start to write articles about that met me where I was at in life, plus would be an encouraging book for all of my readers. My wife was the first one to mention Max Lucado’s new book to me. I went online to check it out and immediately I felt a connection to it. Even by just reading the Introduction of the book, I felt certain that this would be an excellent book to read and to write about.

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Let me give you a little more background on my life journey. Then I will tell you why I am excited about exploring Lucado’s book with all of you here on my blog site. Very briefly, I have had the privilege to serve God in quite a variety of missionary and pastoral ministries for over thirty years now. By the time I was 47 years old, I had visited 27 countries and set foot on every continent except Antarctica. (And no, I don’t have a desire to go there.)

Then suddenly in 2008, my muscle disease hit me like a freight train that stopped me dead in my tracks. I had just returned from a very active translation consultant project in Papua New Guinea. Days after getting back to Canada, a few troubling aches and pains flared up over the following six weeks to the point that I was barely able to walk across my living room floor.

Needless to say, the following months, which turned into years, were filled with pain, fatigue, frustration, discouragement and even depression. The turning point came when I participated in a six-week small-group study on learning how to deal with chronic pain. It was at that group that I was introduced to Atteberry’s book. And those two things helped me so much to pull out of my deep despair.

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Lately, I really believe that I have learned how to manage myself well physically by adapting my environment and staying within good boundaries. And I’m also doing quite well emotionally and spiritually. I believe I have for the most part, come out of my wilderness experience and am much more ready to start figuring out how my life will look in the future. I am at the place where I want to see how my life and my illness fit into God’s grand scheme of things.

And that is where Max Lucado’s book comes in. I believe it is time to try once more to see what the bigger picture is, and to do my part that God has designed me for. Actually, I know there are many people who would like to explore this important question. Lucado points this out himself on page 22 in his introductory chapter. He says:

We need to know where we came from. Knowing connects us, links us, bonds us to something greater than we are. Knowing reminds us that we aren’t floating on isolated ponds but on a grand River.

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It is well-known that Lucado is one of today’s most popular Christian authors. In 25 years of writing, he has authored more than sixty books and other various print items. I think what makes him such a good author is how he can creatively weave the story in a simple and humorous manner. But within each story lies a deeper story. And so what makes us laugh and cry from what he writes often softens us and prepares us to hear the deeper spiritual truths he wants us to really hear.

And that is exactly the point of this new book. Lucado knows that as much as we often think our life story is the main story for each one of us, the truth is that our stories are all just a small part of a much bigger Story. And it is when we can get a good grasp on the bigger picture, God’s Story, that we can finally start to make sense of our own lives within the bigger picture. Thus the title, “God’s Story, Your Story.”

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Let me close this article with a quote from page 25 where Lucado briefly touches on the purpose of him writing this new book:

Can you find the plot of a book in one paragraph or hear the flow of a symphony in one measure? Can you uncover the plot of your life by examining your life? By no means. You are so much more than a few days between the womb and the tomb. Your story indwells God’s. This is the great promise of the Bible and the hope of this book.

My hope is that I will do a good job this year as I write an article every second Saturday. And I hope you will enjoy what I write, but also that my articles will help deepen your faith in God. I look forward to the year that lies ahead of us.

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

Becoming Children of God

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John 1:9 – 13

Jesus: The Life-Giving Light of the World

9 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Light!  What a wonderful thing light is.  What would we ever do if there was no light for us to see where we are and what was around us.  We probably don’t give it much thought at all since for most of us, if we wake up in the dark or enter a dark room, we simply reach out and turn on a switch.  And then, “Presto!” we have light.  We go from being in the dark to being in the light so quickly that we don’t even give it a second thought.

There are of course some people who are born blind or become blind later in life.  No doubt their lives are difficult, but there are others around who can help them with what they need.  And so they adjust to being blind.  They find ways to live their lives and they accept their handicap.  Even so, I would guess that part of them still yearns for the possibility that perhaps there may be a cure one day and they might be able to see the world around them.

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So whether we have sight and rely on artificial means to have light at night, or we are blind and need special apparatus or others to assist us in life, we all depend on something else to help us out.  But what if we had nothing at all to help us?  What if we were in absolute total darkness, like the Egyptians were when God sent a plague of darkness upon them that was so bad, no one dared move about or leave their homes for three days?  Notice how God describes the plague that He sent:

“Stretch out your hand toward the sky so that darkness will spread over Egypt—darkness that can be felt.”       (Exodus 10:21)

It’s hard to imagine darkness that is so complete that it seems like you can actually feel it pressing in on you and smothering the life out of you.  Only once in the five years that I spent in the jungles of Papua New Guinea did I feel this kind of sensation.  I had been at a special celebration at one village which was more than a two-hour walk from our village.  The event went longer than I had anticipated, and by the time I had walked halfway home, it was pitch black on a moonless and cloudy night.

As I stumbled along behind my guide, I was so thankful that I had brought my flashlight.  Now bulbs and batteries are pretty weak and low-grade in PNG, but I trusted that dim, flickering cone of light, no bigger than a softball, to keep me safe and to help get me home.  Until it died!  And that is when I felt the crushing weight of absolute darkness.

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I’m sure I would have totally panicked if my guide had not been with me.  Don’t ask me how he saw in the darkness, but one footstep at a time, he led me along the trail, down through a running creek, up the other embankment, through the old deserted village area and around the edge of the swampy area.  And then I saw it.  As we broke through into the open, there was my house about 500 yards away, blazing brightly with its battery operated fluorescent lights.  I was safe from that horrible darkness.

That is a picture of what John 1:9 is trying to tell us.  All of mankind was lost in the darkness of their sinful ways, hoping to find their way to God by means of their own feeble efforts, just like me using that mostly dead flashlight.  And then the Light of God broke through into History as Jesus entered into our world.  He who was the very Creator, was now going to live among those whom He had created.  He is the true light which shines and offers the hope of life and salvation.

The sad thing is, the Jewish people lived in the certain expectation that God would one day send a Saviour to rescue them, but when He came, they did not recognize Him for who He really was.  As we will see later on in John 8:12, Jesus says this about Himself, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

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But not all people remain spiritually blind.  God continues to move and work in people’s lives so that they will see the truth, that this man Jesus was much more than just a man.  He has come from God, and as we saw in verses 1 and 2, He is in fact God.  As such, He is the true source of life, spiritual life, eternal life.  He wants to draw us into Himself, just like the lights on my house drew me in from the darkness.

When we accept Him and believe He is God’s Son who has come to give us life, then we get adopted into God’s family.  God, who created us, now relates to us as He has always wanted to, as our Heavenly Father.  And that makes Jesus our Brother.  We all together become God’s Family.  How cool is that!

Taking God’s Word to Africa

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The Trek Up North….

(A true story from one of my PBT colleagues.)

This year began with an amazing trip to our friends in North-East Africa.  After spending a nice Christmas with our son and family in Europe, as full as ever with memories, my wife and I flew to N.E. Africa.  There we met up with our first full-time team who are living and working in that region of Africa.  We flew up to their new home and enjoyed encouraging them and getting a feel for that “neck of the woods.” 

This is an extraordinary outreach into new territories that merits our most fervent prayers.  Together we explored 5 different language groups on motorcycles and found an amazing openness to our work of literacy and translation.

From that area I caught a ride in the back of an old truck (used as a bus) to another people group that I had heard about.  They had the New Testament, but wanted to begin translation of the rest of the Bible.  I studied their language and trained 10 men in translation principles for a week. 

The stories they shared of surviving a long civil war and then eventually taking refuge in Ethiopia were sobering.  Pray for them as they re-establish themselves in their homeland and prepare for a future that does not promise to be easy.

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The next part of our adventure consisted of an hour-long plane ride to an unreached people group that we had already visited once.  This time we went bearing gifts of new Bible story books in their own language, fruit of our labors from the last visit. 

The people were elated to finally see something written in their own language; it was a first for them.  It is hard to believe the impact that a simple Bible story book can have on a group of people.  We dream of the day when we will deliver the whole of God’s Word to them.

After a logistic nightmare, we finally arrived on the western side of the country.  We spent some time looking for accommodations for our next colleague to move on site.  She will develop the literacy projects that God has enabled us to begin in an area covering at least 5 different language groups.  We’ve already prepared primers and taught literacy teachers in these areas, but the fire needs to be fanned.  Our sister will have quite a job on her hands; please pray for her.

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During our many visits to this area, we have also facilitated the translation of a book on “Trauma Healing” based on Biblical principles.  For a war-torn country, that is quite a necessity.  We had several manuscripts that we took back so that they could be proofed before we publish them in the various languages. 

[Editor’s Note: whether we are translating Scriptures into the local language, or other educational/medical information booklets, many different kinds of checks are done to make sure the message is clear, natural and accurate for the people of that receptor language.]

Our final destination brought a special joy to our hearts.  This was our fourth visit to this isolated people group, and this time we finally had a significant gift for them: the Gospel of Matthew.  Once a year the leaders of this people group gather together for a time of reflection about their people’s needs.  They spent an entire day reading the test copies of Matthew that I took to them and they were amazed to hear God’s Word in their own language. 

It was exciting to see the wise men of the group discuss the various terms that we had used to translate key concepts. We also delivered 150 copies of a songbook in their language that was finished years ago, but which had never been printed.  I was touched as the main author of the song book held a copy in hands and said, “I didn’t think it would ever be published.”  Praise God for your help in reaching out to these people.

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We then spent two weeks with our colleagues in a different country of East Africa.  They are involved in 10 different translation projects in the southeast corner of that country.  Once a book of the Bible is translated by the team and checked in the village, a “translation consultant” goes over the book using a back translation into English. 

As the consultant, my task was to review the book of Romans in 10 different languages, and to try to make sure that the translators had understood and communicated the correct concepts.  The team there continues to make progress; please keep them in your prayers.

Editor’s Corner

It is not unusual for those of us who work with Pioneer Bible Translators to be literally “globe-trotting” as my friend and his wife did in this story.  We have taken Jesus’ words to heart when He said that we need to take the Gospel to “the ends of the earth”.

It is also not unusual for us to experience this same kind of joy as we give God’s Word to different people groups and see how receptive they are to hearing the Word of Life in their heart-language.

But did you notice what else is needed in this story related above?  Many people groups are open to receive the translated Bible.  Missionaries are doing all they can to meet this need.  What we need from people like you who are reading this article is your prayers.

Please keep praying that these doors of opportunity will present themselves to us, that we will make good progress in bringing God’s Word to the nations, and that God would receive all the glory in what we do.

Thank you in advance for your prayers for the Bibleless peoples of the earth.

We Are God’s Ambassadors

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The following devotion comes from my email subscription to

Connection! Devotions for Every Day Life“.

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Prayer Burdens

In an amazing statement, Jesus said to His Father: “And the glory which You gave Me, I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as you have loved Me” (John. 17:22, 23).

God’s pattern for saving the world is His own! In the Old Testament, when God purposed in His heart to save Nineveh, He called Jonah to go and preach to them. When Jonah finally obeyed, after God severely disciplined him, all Nineveh repented (Jon. 3:5-10). Down through history when God wanted nations to hear of His love, He chose, called, and sent prophets.

It is no different in our day. God’s people still hold the key to reaching a lost world. So, the biblical pattern in praying for a lost world is to pray for God’s people, as Jesus did. How do we practically implement this? When God places a burden on our heart for a nation, we need to pray for:
• The missionaries in that nation, using Jesus’ prayer for His disciples in John 17 as our guide
• The national believers and the churches in that nation
• Mission ministry groups
• Denominations
• For God’s people

The salvation of the nations rests with God’s people. Missionaries have shared the testimony that when they preached the gospel in some villages who had never heard before, these same villagers upon believing asked the missionaries: “How long have you known this good news? Why have you taken so long to come to us? Why did you not come before now? Our parents and others are in an eternity without God and without hope! If only you had come earlier!”

It has been mathematically calculated that if one person discipled another, and they in turn witnessed and discipled one each, and if this continued to multiply and each one hearing remained faithful to sharing with one other each week, it would take a short number of years for all 6.25 billion people in the world to hear the gospel and to be saved. We must pray for the world, by praying as Jesus did, for God’s own people.

–Adapted from Chapter 61 of Giving Ourselves to Prayer (The Bible and Global Prayer by Henry Blackaby).

Lord Jesus, each day, thousands of people you love die without hope…many without ever hearing Your lovely name! Give me, and the rest of Your people, a sense of urgency for finishing the task You gave us so long ago! I repent of my complacency and discomfort! Please fill me with renewed earnestness and determination to witness and to teach others how to live godly, holy lives.

Posted: 10 Oct 2011

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This same kind of prayer burden is becoming the model within our mission, Pioneer Bible Translators.  Not only do we pray for the people to whom we have been called by God to serve, but we are gathering to pray for each other.  Don’t get me wrong, we are not offering up naval-gazing prayers, you know, the ones that are only me-focused and look at life from a perspective of “What do I want, and when I pray in Jesus’ name, I will get that, right?”

No, I am talking about deep soul-searching and soul-wrenching prayer for all of us to be renewed spiritually within, so that the heart will be a fertile ground of exhibiting the genuine love of Christ for those who are perishing without the knowledge of God.  And especially, we pray for those people groups where they still as of today do not have any Scriptures yet published in their own mother-tongue language.

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It is not hard to see that PBT is a praying organization.  Most field Branches have a regular weekly prayer bulletin put together which is sent out to thousands of people who uphold our work in prayer.  There has been a drive to fill a 24/7 prayer schedule of the names of people who are solidly committed to offering up the “sacrifices of praise” and the prayers for the saints and the work of ministry of PBT.

This plan to have someone praying every hour throughout every week is not that many months old, and already there is about 47% of the prayer time slots that are filled.  Just imagine when the entire chart is filled.  We have seen some amazing things happen in PBT these past few years.  But once we have round-the-clock prayers, watch out, because God will do even more great and wonderful things.

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Even here in Dallas in the small circle of people I am with we are “breaking out in prayer”.  For the first time in a long time, we have a large number of people in the Dallas area who are interested in serving PBT over in Papua New Guinea.  And one of the first things we did (after going out for ice cream of course), was to form a prayer group that met each Tuesday at lunch hour so we could pray for each other and the work being done in PNG.

And then finally, let me mention an evening I spent with a family a few nights ago.  They invited me over for supper and to visit.  We had a great time eating and sharing with one another.  But it wasn’t long after we had finished the meal, and as we kept talking around the table, that we all felt that the appropriate way to close our evening together was to spend time praying together.

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Dear Readers:  I hope you too are catching the Spirit blowing and are hearing the call to prayer.  Do that, and you too will see God do great and marvelous things.

Be A Witness For Jesus

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John 1:6 – 8

Testifying Concerning the Light (Jesus)

6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

The first five verses of this chapter of John take us on a tour of spiritual grandeur that is mind stretching, taking us all the way back to the very beginning of time itself.  Verse 6 and following helps to give the historical setting into which Jesus, the Eternal Word stepped out of eternity and entered into our world of space and time. But we don’t start this opening scene looking at the life of Jesus, but the one who would prepare the way for Jesus and His ministry.

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The College Press NIV commentary gives us a good picture of the ministry of the man who preceded Jesus, whom we have come to know from the Gospels as John the Baptist.  It says:

There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. History within earthly time is now reached with John the Baptist. He was sent from God, his message was repentance, and his action was immersion in water, so that his audience could publicly certify their repentance.  1

Something that I find interesting in John’s Gospel it that although we learn a lot about him through the messages he proclaimed and the interaction he had with the Jewish leaders, we do not know much about the success of his preaching among the people.  We need to turn to other gospel writers to see that multitudes of people were constantly coming to John to publicly confess their sins and to be baptized.

In anyone’s books today, that would be considered a very great success.  You would think that John would have been proud of his accomplishments.  Not so with John the Baptist.  He knew the very heart and mind of God and he knew that the purpose of his ministry was to bear witness to God’s Son.  The primary purpose of this life was to be there at that specific time to be able to give testimony concerning one man, Jesus.

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Again looking at the NIV Commentary, we can see better who John the Baptist was:

John’s real purpose was not (1) to save the world (he never died or rose for anyone), nor (2) to seek recognition as the Messiah of Old Testament prophecy (he acknowledged that he was not the Messiah), nor (3) to found the Kingdom and/or the church (he was not even a part of or in the kingdom/church [Matt. 11:11]). John’s purpose was (4) to testify or to bear witness to the Light, who was Jesus.  2

Now in a way, all of us are witnesses in life.  We witness things happening around us and what others are doing.  Some of us are called by our judicial systems to testify as an eyewitness concerning what we may have seen happened.  That is a rare thing to be called into court to be a witness.  But as for John, the entire meaning and purpose of his life was to be a witness leading others towards the Light, leading them to Jesus.

That sound awfully radical, doesn’t it.  And yet, remember what Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  Just like John, there is meant to be a primary purpose that permeates our daily lives (regardless of what else we may be doing in life) and that is to lead people to God and to Jesus by what we say and do.

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One more thing to notice concerning “being a witness for Jesus” is that there is a goal to be kept in mind.  Specifically, just like John, the goal of us speaking the truths concerning Jesus is so that people will “believe the message that we speak.”

I know that it is hard for most of us Christians today to even speak up at all about our faith in Jesus.  To not only state the facts about Christ, but to try to even persuade people to believe these truths is a huge step that many of us feel uncomfortable to do.

But let us remember what is given to us in verse 8 above.  Again just like John, we are not the Light.  Jesus is the Light.  And light is something that draws the attention of people.  When the sun comes out from behind a large cloud, faces turn towards it.  Many insects will swarm around a light bulb or a candle.  When we are in the dark and feel lost, if a flashlight turns on, we immediately breathe a sigh of relief and head to that light.

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I found an interesting little story that says:

Dr. Alexander of Princeton once described a little glow-worm which took a step so small that it could hardly be measured, but as it moved across the fields at midnight there was just enough light in its glow to light up a step ahead, and so as it moved forward it moved always in the light.  3

I feel like all of mankind can be compared to this little glow-worm.  We don’t often know where we are going in life.  But if we can let Jesus, the True Light, shine in our darkness, no matter how deep that darkness is around us, we will find our direction and purpose in life, just like John the Baptist did.

Bryant, B. H., & Krause, M. S. (1998). John. The College Press NIV commentary (John 1:6-7). Joplin, Mo.: College Press Pub. Co.

Ibid.

Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times. Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.


The Year of Jubilee

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[Editor’s Note: the following letter came to me just last week from a colleague of mine working with Pioneer Bible Translators in Tanzania, East Africa.]

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Year of Jubilee

Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. – Leviticus 25:10 KJV

On December 9th, I looked out of a hotel window in the capital and saw the British frigate Somerset that had arrived for Tanzania’s 50th birthday celebration. In 1961 something seemingly impossible happened – an African country achieved complete independence without a war of independence. The UN Protectorate of Tanganyika applied for independence and actually got it! The British administration peacefully handed over Tanganyika’s governance and a nation was born on December 9th 1961.

On the other side of the world, I was a baby girl being born that same day. I think of this concurrence as the first prophetic event of my very blessed life. As Tanzania and I begin this year of jubilee, I invite you to join me in praying for consecration for me personally and also for this country that I love. Let’s proclaim spiritual liberty for all those throughout this land who are in spiritual bondage. God bless Tanzania!

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15 Years in Africa

When I was in Bible College, I was shocked to read the statistic that 75% of missionaries serve no more than one field term (usually 3-5 years). How could I believe that my dream of spending decades overseas would come true? But I did believe. And it did come true, and still is coming true in fact, despite the little I have to do with it. If it were up to my abilities, health and moods, I would not have made it to Africa in the first place, and I would definitely not be listening to monkeys partying on my roof in January 2012. What is the secret of my success? God says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. – 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NIV

Lord willing I will arrive in Florida at the end of February to begin what we call “temporary home assignment.” In addition to my heavenly home, my heart has two earthly homes, and other than trip preparations and deadlines, I transition easily between Tanzania and the USA. I don’t often think of my life as being apart from either place. Neat, eh? It is just another example of God’s grace and blessings.

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As I read this letter, it brought home two important spiritual truths for me.  The first is the fact that we live in a world where there is the reality of war, and even though peace treaties may be signed between different parties or nations, that peace can often be a very fragile peace.  We have just passed the Christmas season, which speaks of the hope of “peace on earth, and goodwill toward all men.”  But that kind of true peace can only be found in Christ, not a human agreement.

The other spiritual truth that hit me was the reality that we who are committed to serving the Lord in mission work abroad will often find the same thing as my colleague, that our definition of “home” becomes much bigger.  As stated above, we find ourselves to “be at home” in the places where we work overseas, while still being attached to our friends and families “back home” where we grew up.  And then as we think about it, we also realize that this world is not our true home, but in fact Heaven is where our heart truly is.

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You know, I think that is one of the neat things about being a missionary.  As we continually cross back and forth between our home where we minister abroad and our home back in the country we grew up in, we can often find that the attachments we may have had toward material objects greatly decreases.

Rather than investing in “things” of this world, we find there is a greater joy when we invest in people, wherever they may live.  And that is what our Christian faith is all about; it’s about having a relationship with God and others that is most important.

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I will say that I too am very pleased that there is a structure and the will to have peace in this part of the world where our family also had the privilege to serve God.  But we did live there for 18 months and saw that there are still many problems within the country, just as there are in any country.  Violence, crime, poverty and an unwillingness on the part of many people to submit in obedience to the true God above.

What is exciting is that there is still relative peace and freedom to bring the Good News of salvation to those who need to hear it.  PBT has been able for many years to bring the translated Word of God to a number of language groups in that region of the world.  And that is the key to bringing true freedom to all who have been in bondage to sin.

And so my final word is to say thank you to my colleague who has been faithfully serving God and the people of East Africa for more than 15 years now.  My prayer is that she will find herself refreshed and renewed as she spends time with her American friends and family so that she can  soon return to living among and ministering to her African friends and neighbors.  And may we all be open to be renewed in our hearts by the God above, the true Author of peace for the world.

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