Holy Spirit Enabled Missionary

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Full-time Missionary Employee Again

It is 2012 and we are staring off the year with me becoming reinstated as a full-time employed missionary. It has been an interesting three years of learning more about what I can do in spite of my muscle disease, and I’m so excited as I prepare to leave for my longest trip to Papua New Guinea since we lived there ten years ago.

In the next few months, I will be busy doing the consultant check on Matthew for a Southeast Asia project, the Gospel of John for two PNG projects, and then the book of Daniel for another project in PNG. Before heading ‘down under’, I have had the joy of teaching part of a week-long intensive training course in Dallas interacting with 16 students who are considering future work with Pioneer Bible Translators.

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My trip to PNG starts on January 15th, and after a few days of rest from the journey, I will work with a team checking the second half of the Gospel of John at a mission base up in the highlands. On Feb. 14th, I will fly down from the highlands, and Jill will fly from the capital of PNG so that we end up meeting in Madang where our PBT mission office is located. (How romantic don’t you think, to meet on Valentine’s Day after being apart for six weeks?)

Then, after a few days of rest, I will begin my work of helping as an Advisor to a group of national men to get their rough draft of the Gospel of John into a much clearer and accurate text. It will take up to six weeks to do that, but once it is finished, then they are ready to have a consultant come and check it. After Easter in April, I will work once more as a consultant to help the third language group check their translation of Daniel. It will be the end of April when I finally return to Canada.

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When I requested employment status with PBT Canada, it was a leap of faith in many ways. My struggles with fatigue and pain have prevented me in the past from being able to do full-time work. The S.E. Asia project (which I can work on remotely through Internet connection) allows me to work when I can and rest when I need to and there is plenty of work with just that alone to keep me busy when I am not on a trip to PNG. And it looks like there is a strong possibility that I will also become attached to one of the language projects of PNG as a remote consultant.

We have found that warmer climates make a big difference positively in my daily pain level, and so we were thankful for the opportunity that arose for me to be in Dallas from August until December, and now for the rest of the winter to be in Papua New Guinea. Recently on Facebook, I wrote my status as “I am no longer a disabled missionary; I am a Holy Spirit enabled missionary.” Whatever it takes to get around and do the task, I want to continue working to help others in whatever way I can to know about the wonderful love of Jesus in the language that speaks best to their heart! What a privilege to serve God in this way.

This most recent chapter of my life is now just about to close.  Except for being apart from Jill and the boys for most of the four months, from August until December, it has been good for me to be here in Dallas.  With the heat, my muscles and my body in general have been doing well.  Remember when people were upset during last Summer because it was above 110 F for almost 100 days?  Well, when I went outside, it was like a giant warm blanket was wrapping around me.  And now that it is in the 40’s F here in Dallas, I am eager to get back to PNG where it is always hot and humid.

But that is not the only reason I am looking forward to going back to PNG.  In every language project, we have a group of national men and women to work with.  This helps us to check for fluency and naturalness of the text, as well as the accuracy.  The real joy comes when we get to the last verse of the last chapter and we breath a sigh of relief that all the tedious, day-by-day checking of every work and phrase and sentence of each verse is completed and now we all have one more book of Scripture ready to be published and put into the hands of the people.

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Someone recently asked me this question, “Besides the warm weather, which is good for your muscles, what are you looking forward to the most as you head back to PNG?”  Without even pausing to think about it, I immediately blurted out, “It is seeing the joy, the awe, the reverence and the excitement in the eyes of the national men and women when they get to hold a copy of the corrected Scripture.

Even though it is one of the manuscript copies of the Scripture book, with all the pen and pencil corrections added into the text, and bunches of words and sections have been struck through until new words were found, to them, the manuscript is still the Word of God to them.  They have such high respect for God’s Word, it often puts us to shame.  But as they hold the old beaten up manuscript, they are able to envision the day when they will hold the completed, real copy of the Bible in their language.  Wow!  What an experience.  I thank God that I can be a part of this ministry.

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Jesus – The Eternal Word

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John 1:1 – 5

The Word of Life

1 In the beginning the Word already existed; the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  2From the very beginning the Word was with God.  3 Through him God made all things; not one thing in all creation was made without him.  4 The Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to people.  5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out.

This is a grand opening to this book, the Gospel of John.  It is very interesting to see how each Gospel (the Good News) begins from a different perspective in setting the background to the glorious entrance of Christ, who came as a baby and lived among us as the man named Jesus.

Mark begins his story with John the Baptist, whose preaching prepared the hearts of people to receive Jesus.  He came and was baptized by John to lead us by example to show the importance of being fully submitted to God.  Then we see Jesus being fully tempted as a man by Satan, but Jesus wins victory and shows that He will be the right Man to save all of Mankind from sin and Satan.

Luke takes us back at the start of his Gospel to the miraculous births of both John the Baptist and Jesus.  He narrates for us the simple and humble beginnings of the One who is King by having simple shepherds witness this divine birth in a lowly stable.  Matthew takes us back even further by starting his Gospel with a long genealogy to show that Jesus came from a line of kings, all the way back to King David, and was also the Successor of Faith having descended from Abraham himself.

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Of the four Gospels though, John takes us back the furthest of all.  He takes us back, not to the beginning of the earthly life of Jesus, and not even back to the beginning of the creation of the world.  No, John takes us back before the beginning, before there was even Time itself.  And in that place where only God existed, there also existed the Word.  And contrary to some philosophies and religions, this was not some impersonal or mystic force, but the equally divine and creative Second Person of the Trinity of God.

We start to see the personal side of this One who is called “The Word” in verse two.  Greek has three gender endings on most nouns – masculine, feminine and neuter.  This “Word” that was with God from before the beginning of time is written as a masculine noun, which implies a “person”, not an abstract “thing” was there with God in the beginning.

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There are many other important truths given to us in this powerful introduction that we must make sure we do not miss.  Not only was this eternal Word “with God”, but verse one tells us that “the Word was God.”  This is one of the greatest paradoxes and mysteries about God.  How can one God consist of two Beings?  (Actually three when we add in the Holy Spirit.)  Yes, this is a mystery.  And yet this is what the Bible claims.  And if the Bible fails to be true here, then it is in danger of falling in every other area of truth.  I’ll come back to this.

Another important truth in this passage is that the Word was intimately involved in the creation of all that we see in the Universe.  True, it is God who created the Universe (read Genesis chapter 1), but here we learn that it is through the Word that all things came into being.  In other words, the Word was the Agency through whom God himself caused all things to exist.  (Jumping ahead, we know that Jesus is the Word spoken of here, so we now know that Jesus Himself was intimately involved in creating us and everything around us.)

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Back to this puzzle about God being Three-in-One (the Trinity).  There is an analogy in nature itself that is helpful for us to understand this concept.  A brief description of light is shared in the book “Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations” which says:

Science tells us that light is constituted of three rays, or groups of wavelengths, distinct from each other, no one of which without the others would be light. Each ray has its own separate function.

The first originates, the second formulates, illuminates or manifests, and the third consummates. The first ray, often called invisible light, is neither seen nor felt. The second is both seen and felt. The third is not seen but is felt as heat.

Mysterious and yet very simple at the same time.  Just as we can accept that there are different components that make up light, but altogether is still just one light, so too we can accept by faith that God is three Persons with different kinds of interaction with us, yet God is still only One in nature and reality.

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One other quick insight on a truth here is in the contrasts found in vv. 4 and 5.  The Word is the source of life and light, which are the complete opposite of darkness and death.  We learn in other verses that Satan, the demon ruler of Hell, is the source of darkness and death.

So we have right here at the beginning of this book a sharp contrast and battle shaping up between the life-giving Word who illuminates us with all that is spiritually true, and the death-dealing demon lord and his realm of darkness.  But praise God, we are told that the Word is forever shining (present tense verb) and Darkness has never been able to put out that life-giving source of life, who is Jesus.

Hallelujah!!  What a great way to start this book.

God’s Faithfulness In This Ministry

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God Is Truly Blessing Our Mission

For 17 years, I have had the privilege to be a part of a mission group called Pioneer Bible Translators, whose goal is to bring the translated Word of God to all the Bible-less people groups of the world .  In 2007, the leadership of PBT believed that the only way to get the task of Bible translation done within this next generation was to also believe that God would provide the workers to join PBT and many other mission agencies doing this work.  Listen to what a colleague of mine shared in 2010, halfway through our 6-year goal to double the number of our career missionary members.

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Dear friends,

I just want to give you a snapshot of God’s faithfulness since our last prayer e-mail.  Please keep praying!  God is doing AMAZING things!!!!

– For over a year now, we have been asking God to provide teachers for our missionary families.  I am excited to tell you that God answered this prayer by providing 3 teachers in West Africa and another one for a family in North Eurasia.  We still have an urgent need in the southern part of North Eurasia and would like to have 2 more in Africa.  Please keep praying with persistence!

– In our last update, we asked you to pray that our interns would be a blessing to the missionaries and people God put before them.  One of our interns got to go on a survey trip to a people group of 100,000 speakers in West Africa (where there isn’t a single missionary working amongst this language group).  He walked up to a group of elderly men in the village and began to talk with them.  He asked them if they would like to have the Bible in their language.  Two of the old men (from a neighboring religion) began to well up with tears.  One of the elderly men said, “It would be good for you to come, but it would be even better if you left something that will remain.”  This intern told us that he feels led to become a Bible Translator.

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– We recently announced 9 more missionary recruits for PBT (which makes 25 for the year so far).  In the next 6 weeks, we anticipate another 16 people will be announced.  These are people God has brought to us through your prayers and support.  Wow!

– From the time I began to hear about Pioneer Bible Translators in 2004, I heard prayers asking for individuals to go to Southeast Asia. It has long been said that this could easily be our largest branch if God began to mobilize missionaries in this direction.  However, in my time with PBT I have never seen anyone make a commitment to go to this region.  This week, two families told me that they feel God leading them to join this project!

– I received an e-mail this week from a couple in South Asia who are currently working in a language group of 13,000 speakers where 100% of the people are Buddhist.  This family believes God is leading them to join PBT to do translation work.  As they explained their work and I talked with our president, we all came to the consensus “this is why PBT exists”.  God has brought us in this time in history to go to the Bible-less and church-less people.

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– Our interns made it home safely.  Over the last two weeks, we have had the joy of listening to their stories of what God taught them and the prayers they have for the future.  God used this summer to help confirm for some of them that this is where they should be.  God used the summer for others to give them more data about what they could do in the Kingdom.  We are praying for God to keep speaking and revealing Himself to them.

– I received an application from a gentleman who was on PBT’s first internship team…in 1990.  Over the last 20 years, God has prepared him and given him the training he needed to NOW become a missionary with PBT.  God’s timing is impeccable.

– Last but certainly not least, I had the joy of holding the newly printed Susu New Testament in my hand today.  This translation is the culmination of 20 years of blood, sweat and tears from one of our translators in West Africa.  Through God’s grace, this people can no longer be called Bible-less

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Thank you for praying, giving sacrificially and for believing that every child of God is worthy of hearing about Jesus in the language they understand best.

Until They All Have Heard.

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Last week I had the privilege to help teach a one-week intensive introductory course to Bible translation and the work of PBT.  There were sixteen students who attended this course, and already almost half the class has started the application process to become members of PBT. It is very likely that we will not only reach our goal of doubling the size of PBT, but will surpass the goal this year.

There is no doubt that God has His hand in this, and we praise Him for this.  I share this all with you so you too can rejoice in what God is doing in the world.  But also so that you can see that God answers these kinds of bold prayers.  My request to you is that you do not stop praying, for there is surely still much to do for God in the world.

Hot, Cold, & Serving God

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Revelation 3:15 – 17  

 Jesus speaks to the church at Laodicea

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

Jesus, this One who humbly walked among men and would not “bruise a broken reed nor snuff out a smoldering wick”, was now giving a stern warning to the believers at Laodicea, a first century church founded in Asia Minor. Jesus was warning them that if they did not change their ways, they would be in danger of being rejected by Jesus. And not only would Jesus reject them, but he would do so in quite a violent manner.

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So this raises a huge question. What was the problem with the Laodiceans? What terrible things had they done to deserve this warning? As I look at this passage of Scripture, it seems to me that Jesus was just as concerned with what they weren’t doing as with what they were doing. When it comes to spiritual matters, we must stand up for what is right in God’s eyes as well as reject and resist the things that are not right in God’s eyes.

But the Laodiceans were neither hot nor cold. They were (spiritually speaking) lukewarm. Had they adapted (or should I say accommodated) themselves to the secular society around them? Is it possible that they were no longer advocating godliness in their daily lives, and were tolerating ungodly behaviors and attitudes of those around them? Hmmmm…. This does not sound a whole lot different from the way things are here for many Christians and churches today in our Western culture and society.

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Now hot and cold are generally thought of as being opposites. And most people tend to like one or the other, but not both at the same time. At least this is true when it comes to drinking beverages. We drink hot coffee or hot chocolate at the beginning of work days and when it is winter. We drink cold drinks or chilled sodas when we want to relax and when it is summertime. But few of us would enjoy drinking lukewarm coffee or Coke at any time of the year.

The same is not true when it comes to temperature and climate. We will do all that we can do to stay warm in frigid weather, and to cool off when it is blazing hot weather. Believe me, I have seen both. I remember our first winter in Manitoba when it was -45 Celsius (-49 Fahrenheit) or worse for over six weeks. And I also remember how terribly hot it was when we were living in the village in Papua New Guinea. During the first six months, I would lay on the floor of our house for over an hour after lunch panting for air and leaving a pool of sweat on the floor around me.

But given enough time, I did acclimate myself to these extreme temperatures. What used to bother me before, became “normal” for me. And that is the danger of sin and ungodliness for us today. If we allow ourselves to be continually exposed to things that don’t please God, or we don’t actively pursue the things that do please God, then the end result is that we can become spiritually lukewarm. Let us take care or may find Jesus ready to reject us just as He was about to do to the Laodiceans.

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There is one more aspect that I would like to explore in this article. Namely this: whenever we do sense God is calling us to serve Him in some way, we should not be surprised if He takes us out of our comfort zone. I still think it was rather ironical that God called me, a person who grew up in the high, dry mountains of Western Canada, to serve him in a low swampy and humid, tropical region of Papua New Guinea. After five years in PNG, I became accustomed to the heat, but then God moved our family back to Canada.

Four years later, we were ready to return to PNG, but this time God sent us east rather than south. We ended up serving with our mission for a year and a half in East Africa. More recently, Jill and I had anticipated spending more time together as a couple seeing as one of our boys is married and our other son was accepted into the military. But apparently, God wanted me to serve Him in Dallas while Jill stayed home back in Canada. And in just over a week, I will be heading to PNG to work on some Bible translation projects. Thankfully, Jill will be able to join me for about half of the three months that I am over there.

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In all of our travels though, I can honestly say that God has taken good care of all our needs. And I have sensed His presence in all we have done. Perhaps we are the lucky ones, for in our constant travels we have had to depend on God and trust Him. Perhaps we have been able to avoid some of that slipping into mediocrity in our spiritual lives that can come through the experiences of simply settling down and blending in to the general cultural environment that is all around us. In either case, may God help us all to stand up for his truth and impact others around us. May we be either hot or cold, but never lukewarm.

Introducing The Gospel of John

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The Gospel According to John

In the last article, I mentioned that because it was the start of a new year, I would start on some new ideas for what I want to do with my article series this year.  Tuesdays will be the day that I share interesting and exciting stories from the mission field written by my colleagues within Pioneer Bible Translators.  Now I want to tell you my idea for the Thursday articles.

I realized last month that I will be doing a lot of preparation to do the consultant check on the Gospel of John for two completely different language groups in Papua New Guinea.  So then I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be neat to do a number of articles on the Gospel of John?”  So far, I have worked on both translating and checking the translations of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke).  Now is my opportunity to study more deeply the Fourth Gospel.

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Most people agree that the Synoptic Gospels are easier to read and to translate.  There is so much more narrative material in these books which gives us more action and fewer extended  passages of deep and difficult theology to try to unravel in the translation.  But that does not mean that there are not difficult sections to understand and translate in the Synoptic Gospels.

Certainly the “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew chs 5 – 7 is full of complexities.  And the many parables throughout all the gospels contain every day words on the surface, but also carry some deep spiritual truths below the surface form which must be handled very carefully.

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Let’s take a quick tour then of the Gospel of John to see what spiritual treasures we will encounter as we go through this book:

The Prologue

Chapter 1 gives us not so much a historical setting as a theological setting for this man, Jesus.  We know from the other Gospels that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of a Jewish mother who was able to become pregnant through the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit of God.  That tells us that Jesus was no ordinary child.  He in fact was God who came down from Heaven and took on the form of a man.  John’s Gospel will give us more insight into the divine nature of Jesus even from his opening words of his prologue.

The Book of Signs

Chapters 2 – 12 cover the entire ministry of Jesus up until the last week before his death.  We see Jesus traveling extensively, starting with his baptism by John east of the Jordan River, and then moving back and forth between the province of Galilee in the north to the city of Jerusalem in the south.

Everywhere Jesus went though, he astounded the people by his insightful and authoritative teachings and amazed them by his miraculous deeds.  Jesus demonstrated that he was from God by exercising supernatural power over nature (turning water into wine and multiplying bread) and over any sickness or disease (healing a crippled man and also a man who had been blind since birth).  Jesus even had power over death itself as he was able to bring Lazarus back to life after being dead for four days.

The Book of Glory

Chapters 13 – 20 have been called “The Book of Glory”.  They reveal the true depth of Jesus’ love for his disciples, and let us hear his heartfelt prayer to God on their behalf.  Then Jesus demonstrated his magnificent love and his power by being crucified on a cross, followed by his resurrection from death.  There is no way that you can read these chapters and not get caught up in the deep emotions (“pathos”) of those few days in Jerusalem.

But all of the book of John up to this point was not written just so that we would have an emotional response.  Certainly we do feel awe when we read about the amazing miracles he performed.  And we feel despair when Jesus died but then we rejoice when he rose to live again.  No, this book was written for a much more important reason.  John himself states in chapter 20 verse 31 the purpose for recording the life of Jesus.  He wrote:

But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

The Epilogue

Many scholars think that John finished writing his book at the end of chapter 20, and then later added chapter 21.  We will never know that for sure.  Most likely, there was some later concern among the early believers with regards to Peter who had denied his faith in Christ before the crucifixion, but afterwards was reinstated as an apostle and leader of the church by Jesus himself.

This gives us a very rough outline of John’s gospel.  I do hope that this is helpful to those who read this.  Now what I would like to do is to go back and start at the beginning and work through the book slowly, one passage or section at a time.  My desire is to try to have a balance between what the text is saying (interpretation) and how its truths can still impact us in our lives today (application).

Please be praying along with me that I will be able to write very good, meaningful and helpful articles.  I invite everyone who reads these to feel free to respond and interact with me as we go through the book.  May God bless you as we go on this journey together.

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[If you find these articles to be an encouragement to you, may I suggest that you subscribe to this site on the right hand side to get these sent directly to your email Inbox.  God bless.]

2011 in review

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Introducing Pioneer Bible Translators

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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.

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