This is the first article that I will post for 2012. And seeing as we are now into a new year, I thought that it was time to do something new. As many of you know,  I am a Bible translation consultant for Pioneer Bible Translators. In previous articles, I have written about some of the work that is involved in doing Bible translation (see “God’s Work Goes Forward“) and how I had wanted to do this kind of ministry work since I was a teenager (read “God Spoke Through People“). Starting with this article and on each Tuesday throughout this year, I want to share more about PBT and the work being done by all of its missionaries.

The first thing that people often ask me when I say I’m involved in doing Bible translation is, “Oh, are you a missionary with Wycliffe Bible Translators?” This is quite understandable seeing as WBT is the oldest and largest organization in the world dedicated specifically to doing Bible translation. The other organization which is well-known for being involved in worldwide translation, publication and distribution of Scriptures is the United Bible Societies. And within most countries, there is a nationally run Bible Society office.

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Compared to these two Bible translation giants, Pioneer Bible Translators is the little sister organization on the block. I no longer say it is the new group on the block as PBT is now over 35 years old and has had a few second-generation missionaries go back to serve in overseas assignments. And PBT has come a long way since I started working with it seventeen years ago. There were less than 100 career missionaries with PBT in 1995. Now there are more than 325 full-time missionaries.

But back to the question of PBT and Wycliffe, the next most common question I’m asked is, “So what is the difference between the two organizations?” That is a very good question, and I think lying just beneath this question is an unstated one, “Are PBT and Wycliffe in competition with each other, or do they work in cooperation with each other?” It is unfortunate that over the centuries there have been many instances of Christian groups that do not get along with each other or help each other. Thankfully, this is not the case for PBT and Wycliffe.

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During the early ’70s, some of the leaders of WBT were noticing that they were not getting many new missionary recruits from our specific brotherhood of churches, the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ. Some Wycliffe people then got together with some of our church leaders and they formed a group which would go around to our churches and promote Bible translation and seek to recruit new missionaries and gather donations for Wycliffe.  But within a year or so, it became obvious that the best thing was to start a brand new group.

And so Pioneer Bible Translators was formed in 1976. Not as a competitive group to Wycliffe or any other groups involved in Bible translation, but as a partner. In fact, there was at least one Board Member of Wycliffe who for many years was also a long-standing Board Member of PBT. The belief then, and still now today, is that there is so much work to be done in getting God’s Word to every language group of the world that there is more than enough work to be shared around and we need as many groups as possible involved to get it done.

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Within a year of being formed, PBT sent out two brothers and their wives to Papua New Guinea to survey the country and decide where it would be best for PBT to get started. This was not an easy thing to do seeing as PNG has over 800 languages scattered across a rugged and mountainous tropical jungle. The choice was made to focus in on one main province on the north side of the island country.  PBT is currently working there now in about a dozen language, and is responsible for at least another 50 languages.

From that auspicious beginning, PBT has now got missionaries working in West, East and North Africa.  There are a number of projects working in the various parts of Eurasia, mainland Asia and Southeast Asia.  PBT has just started some new Pacific Island projects.  And with the rapid growth we have seen in these past few years (almost doubling in size in 6 years from 185 to 325 missionaries), who knows what new frontiers will be crossed and new projects will be started in the near future.

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As you can probably guess, I am very excited about what God is doing in and through PBT around the world. I have been blessed and very privileged to serve God as a member of PBT in Papua New Guinea, East Africa, the United States and Canada.  And despite my muscle disease, I am still hoping to visit some of the other countries where PBT works.  This will allow me to see first-hand what God is doing in these other countries, and it will allow me to get to know better some of my fellow PBT missionaries.

Until that happens, I learn about the work of these PBT people by reading their regular letters and prayer updates.  And as I read them, I get real excited to hear what God is doing for them in their ministry work.  And that brings me right back to where I started.  As I come across great missionary stories from my PBT colleagues, I am going to pass those stories along here at The Listening Post.  I hope you are as excited as I am to read all these stories.  And as we do, we will have many opportunities to give praise and honor back to God who is the One that all these stories are about.