A “Jack-of-all-trades” Missionary

In the technological world that we live in today, it is considered quite normal to become highly specialized in our vocational field.  This can be said about us who are Bible translators, or should I say Linguists.  We often come to the field with Master’s degrees in linguistics or Biblical studies, or both.  As you will see below in the update sent by a colleague of ours from Pioneer Bible Translators, knowing and working with biblical and foreign languages is a major part of our work.

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In our last newsletter, my wife told you what a typical day/week looks like for her and this month it is my turn. Like her, every day looks a little different and every week looks much different than the previous. I will first tell you what my office time looks like, then what a week looks like when I travel, and finally what I fill my other time with.

When I am in the office, I am doing a variety of things, but two main things. The first is looking over the biblical passages that I will check with the translators so that when I go to visit them I am prepared with notes of things to talk about. The second is continuing to learn Swahili. I do this by reviewing vocabulary and doing a word for word translation of the Swahili Bible to understand both more vocabulary and grammar.

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There have been multiple trips where I have gone to a nearby town to help one of the translation projects I am responsible for helping. When I am there, the main thing we do is go over Scriptures they have translated and compare them by looking at the Greek Scriptures and notes I have made before hand. The goal of our time together is to get the meaning of the Scriptures accurately translated into their language. Also when I have been in this town, I have had the privilege of being able to distribute Scripture portions and so far that has been my favorite part of making the trips to this town.

As far as what fills my other time, the list seems quite endless at times. I love doing anything which helps with getting the Scriptures into peoples’ hands and hopefully their hearts. Right now this means passing out Scriptures, talking to as many people as I can about what we are doing—whether it be pastors or people I meet every day. In addition to this we are planning many other things such as: showing Jesus Films, starting Bible reading groups, putting recorded Scriptures on the radio and so much more.

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[Editor’s Note:  We see above how the translation work being done in the office does not stay there but is taken out into “the highways and byways” as the Bible puts it.  We do not want to produce a Bible translation and simply put it on the shelf when we are finished.  Our goal is not just to translate the Bible, but to get the Bible into the hands of the people to see their lives transformed.]

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For any of you who know me well, you know that I like doing things with my hands. This means I constantly have projects I am doing around the house, and at one time my list was three pages long. Whether it is repairing doors, fixing cabinets, plumbing and electricity problems, hanging curtains for my wife, digging holes for trash, the list is quite unique and I can always find something to do around the house.

Also I have had fun doing things with my hands for others that has included: building shelves, making an oven out of dirt, sand, straw and water (this was a lot of fun), scraping and painting ceilings, prepping walls for paint, and a variety of other things. Recently I have become more involved with building a church in a nearby village (thanks in large part to the generosity of a VBS group back home).

So as you can tell it is very hard for me to describe what a typical day/week looks like for me. Hopefully this gives you a little bit of an idea of what consumes my time. I love being here and I feel so honored to be serving in so many different ways. Thanks for being a part of our ministry here.  Without you, none of this would be possible.

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I can totally identify with my friend on how many other kinds of things a translator can get himself involved with.  Even though our specialized training is to do Bible exegesis and translation, there are always so many other things that need our attention, whether we live in a large city or in a remote village.

In fact, the old concept that a missionary needs to be a “Jack-of-all-trades” is still true today.  When we lived in our village, I learned a whole lot about plumbing, electrical work, carpentry, small engine mechanics and so much more.  That’s just life on the field.

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That is why we are constantly asking people who have these trade skills to consider coming over to the mission field to help out in these areas.  Just think how much more attention we can give to our translation projects if we don’t have to stop and fix our car or repair our houses.

So for anyone who is reading this article, if God gave you the knowledge and skill to do these other support work activities, we would sure like to hear from you.  Perhaps God is calling you to the mission field.  You never know.  But God will bless you and reward you with great experiences, and what you do can help us concentrate on getting God’s Word out to the nations.

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