Our Tour of Churches in Illinois

Two months ago, an idea came to me that it would be good to visit one of our supporting churches in Illinois.  What I mean by “supporting churches” is that the mission work that Jill and I do for Pioneer Bible Translators (PBT) is supported financially by the donations that come in from churches and individuals who believe in the importance of the work we do.

The primary goal of PBT is to “transform lives through the translated Word of God”.  We believe that everyone has the right to read the Bible and learn about God and His Son, Jesus Christ in their own language.  But of the 6,900+ languages that exist in the world today, there are still over 2,200 languages that do not even have one verse of Scripture in their own language.

We strive then to make God’s Word available to these Bible-less people groups around the world.  In Papua New Guinea, where Jill and I have done most of our work, there are approximately 870 languages, and many of them do not have any portion of the Bible.  In fact, many of them do not even have a written alphabet.  It is up us as linguists to listen to their speech and create an alphabet based on what we hear.

Monolingual Approach

Above you can see me as I presented to a congregation in Pleasant Hill, Illinois, a demonstration that we call the “Monolingual Approach”.  What happens is that I will speak my village language that I learned in PNG, and an assistant will work with me who speaks another language besides English.  I have to draw out from my assistant words and phrases in their language by only using gestures or pointing at objects.

As my assistant speaks in the other language (and this time is was in Colombian Spanish), I write down everything I can in phonetic symbols.  After about twenty minutes of pantomiming and pointing at things, I have a chalk board full of words and phrases.  And from that, I can begin to construct a preliminary alphabet, and I begin to make some grammatical observations of  the language.

I have done this demonstration about 10 times now.  I’ve worked with assistants from various parts of Africa, as well as some who spoke Spanish or French.  And in 20 minutes, many people are quite amazed at how much information I have gathered and what I can say in repeating their language.  One time, after working with an African student, at the end of the seminary class he ran into the hallway and declared to a friend, “This man knows how to speak my language!”

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Now back to the story about me visiting a church in Illinois.  Two months ago, one small church in Illinois decided to send in a large donation.  Wow!  Praise God!  Now how could I adequately say “Thank you,” to them.  I realized that I would be down in Dallas for two months to do the preparation work for the upcoming trip to Papua New Guinea, and thought that it would not be too hard to jump on a plane and go visit this church in Chicago.

So I contacted the pastor of the church, and he thought it would be a great idea for me to come just after Thanksgiving and to preach about and present our work of Bible translation.  That sounds great, but then I wondered where I would stay for a few days after flying to Chicago and how I could get to the church, since my muscle condition prevents me from driving long distance.

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That’s when I remembered that I have a friend named Christian (what a fabulous name), who lives in a northwest suburb of Chicago.  I phoned him and asked if he thought it would be possible for him to help me with a place to stay and to be my driver.  Praise God, he was more than willing to help out.  He told me that he would do whatever I needed help with seeing as he is self-employed.

Then I asked him if it would be okay to visit more than one church, if they responded favorably to me coming to visit them.  Well, can you guess what happened?  That’s right, God had plans so much bigger than mine.  In eight days, I ended up speaking in three churches and in three small group gatherings.  They were all so eager to here more about this ministry of Bible translation.

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What is truly amazing is the interest in our work that came from a small country church all the way across the state, five hours drive from Chicago, that is near Hannibal, Missouri and is almost beside the Mississippi River.  They read one of my emails out loud to the whole congregation that I had sent to the church asking if I could come and preach and present our work.

When I heard back from the woman who is helping to do the admin work of the church, she said, “Everyone is so excited to hear that you are going to come.”  And then she prepared an article for the local newspaper to let the whole community around the church to know that I was going to come.  It was very cool to see it on their front page of the paper. Below is the copy of the newspaper article.  And all I can say is, “Thank you God for expanding the opportunities to speak for you.  And thank you to all who support this ministry work.”

Norm NewsPaper

* If you would like to know more about how you can pray for this work or to help support this work financially, please send me an email at norm.weatherhead@gmail.com .

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