New Territory For God’s Word In South Asia

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In this article, I want to share with you a story about a missionary who conducted a linguistic and anthropological survey through a region of South Asia where the “Bimble” people live.  Come along and experience what it is like to reach into new territory for God and learn, as this author said, “The whole trip was an experience in Almighty God’s ability to overcome all the problems that come our way. It started out as any trip to South Asia usually does, long hours in the air, stomach troubles, and the blazing heat. But then things got interesting with map, phone, and personnel issues.”

                                

“Maps of the area where the Bimble live are not exactly the best. In fact you can call them abysmal and not be wrong. Road and villages are not shown unless they happen to be right on or connected to the “national highway” (I use that term in the most liberal sense). So David had to figure out a way to create a map of his trip.

He found a great program that would work on a cell phone and created roads on Google maps, tracked the locations he visited, and roads he travelled. With this and the help of a local doctor friend, he was able to find villages where he could do his survey. Unfortunately, the phone David had would not work on his Mac so he had to travel several hours to get a phone that would work.

Once he had the phone, it did worked well and was even used in the survey to play some sound clips for the participants. We hope that we can use the map to help other workers in the area to find the villages that David visited. “

    

“Regrettably, David had some trouble finding surveyors to work with him. It should not have been a problem except that the people that were supposed to help him cancelled just before he arrived and he had to find new people (one just got married and the other was in charge of testing that week). The first replacement he found seemed perfect, until they had to suddenly leave to the capital.

With only days to go David now had no team and he needed to find four new people. The lady that was leaving to the capital found three replacements. Then our friend in the Jowai Jacen D’Cannith (a fellow linguist, whom we could not have done this survey without) found us one more local person and he was training her.

The wonderful thing was that in the end the four (later five) replacements were excellent choices since they even had family and friends among the Bimble that were able to help David in the survey. Just shows you that as always the Lord Almighty knew what He was doing.”

    

“While training the new team, David learned a bit about how things work in South Asia. For example, time works differently there. If you tell someone to come at 0900 sharp, you can expect them at anytime from 9ish to noon. And that South Asians learn a bit differently then people in the West. Not worse or better just different. Though frustrating, this allowed him to understand the people far better and prepared not only the surveyors but him as well for the next few weeks.

In Jowai, they started their work on a local festival day and were able to use this as a way to meet people and get some surveys done. The local surveyor’s family and friends were enough to get the rest. The festival was interesting; it was like a massive game of football (the kicking kind not the American throwing version) with a ton of people.

Two neighbourhoods’ teams competed and the stakes were high. According to local beliefs, the side that scored the most got the blessings of the gods for the year. It was quite a sight, people hanging off walls and roofs to watch the game below being played in the slick muddy street by barefoot people falling all over themselves. Great fun!”

    

“Other villages were just as interesting but in different ways. In one they were welcomed by the headman but told they only had an hour to do the interviews since school needed to start in the building they were using. After David explained they would not be able to do it that quickly because they needed to interview about 20 people, the headman helped them move over to the market place he was constructing.

He later helped them go to the other side of the village where they were all followers of the Lord Almighty. It seems that in his village the two groups are split and each has their own headman. But they seem to get along so it was not a problem (David learned that was far more common than we had known before).

Later that week one of best surveyors started loosing her voice so David trained the driver of the Jeep to do the survey. It was a good thing he did that since she totally lost her voice the next day and could not come with them. The driver did a great job. In the end, things went well and David got the data he needed.

However, the most striking thing about this survey trip for David and his team as they travelled through villages and met people was that the people there had never heard about God in their own language. They had always been told that to learn things you have to know Rustar not Bimble. The only book in Bimble is a treatise on the local animist religion and it is hugely popular. Think what an impact The Lord Almighty’s Words in Bimble could have in this area.”

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God’s Word Comes To The Yalunka People

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Praise God for a Completed Translation of the Entire Bible

[Editor’s Note: Pioneer Bible Translators recently celebrated a significant milestone in our mission history.  PBT sent its first two missionary family over to Papua New Guinea back in 1976.  Thirty seven years later, the first completely translated Bible into the local people’s language occurred in West Africa among the Yalunka people group.  The story below comes from a woman who was there and made incredible observations throughout the Day of Dedication.  I know you will enjoy this story.]

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I was there as an observer. Up until this point, my closest tie to the Yalunka people was the many prayers I offered on their behalf and the numerous stories I heard about them from our president, Greg Pruett. Now I was privileged beyond words to witness these stories take on flesh before my very eyes as the Word of God came to life among them.

My eyes scanned the crowd of Yalunka men and women, hoping to absorb every snapshot of this historic moment – the dedication of the complete Bible in their language. It was actually the little things that stood out to me.

First there was the man who accepted the gift of a Bible with unbridled joy on his face. He didn’t glance up from the Word for the next 15 minutes or so, opening the book and immediately beginning to read. He then struck up conversations with those around him, pointing to the text and smiling. Although I couldn’t hear or understand his words, my heart sung with the realization, “He is Bible-less no more!”

Then there were the children, so curious about the many westerners who showed up for this momentous day. They were eager to hold my hands, have their picture taken and catch my attention with a smile. They are the first generation of Yalunka children to grow up with access to God’s Word in their language. As their parents become acquainted with and transformed by Scripture, so too, will they.

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I watched the Yalunka church leaders unload the boxes of Bibles in front of the crowd and set them down reverently on the table. They methodically passed them out to each group of visitors according to the size of the church in their area. Some men received one or two; others were given entire boxes of Bibles to take home with them.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, I choked up as these same men lifted the boxes to their shoulders and carried them off from the meeting place. I imagined the rejoicing of the saints waiting at home as the Bibles were delivered and could almost hear the sound of pages turning in church on Sunday as the pastor preached from the Yalunka Bible instead of the French.

I then observed one of our veteran missionaries open the Book, awe etched on the canvas of her face. I almost felt like an intruder on her private expression of praise for this long awaited day. She served for years as a literacy specialist among the Yalunka people, daily laboring to teach them to read so they could take ownership of the Scriptures once they were available. She placed her hand palm down on the pages of this Holy Book, closed her eyes and raised her head heavenward. The reverence in her countenance sang with mine, “They are Bible-less no more!”

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Finally, my eyes caught sight of a woman standing in the back of the crowd, pulling her ear and looking intently at the ground below. As she dropped down on all fours to look for her earring, I saw Scripture played out before me – the vision of another woman sweeping her entire house in search of a lost coin (Luke 15:8). In that moment, I heard the whispers of the Father, “I am searching for every lost Yalunka soul – every…single…one.”

As songs were sung in praise to God, as introductions of visitors from far away were made, as sermons were delivered and prayers prayed, my love and appreciation grew for the worldwide team who enabled this ministry among these beautiful people. We always describe the ministry of Pioneer Bible Translators as a team ministry, but the reality of this was never clearer to me than at that moment. God accomplished this work – our first completed Bible – through a team of missionaries, support personnel, donors and prayer warriors who each made sacrifices to see God’s Kingdom expand.

Together we look forward to the day when a great multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language will stand before the throne and before the Lamb (Rev. 7:9-10). On that day, none present will be mere observers, but full participants in the coming of His glory.

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Prayer Requests

  • The Yalunka people now have the complete Bible in their mother tongue. Pray that these recently dedicated Bibles will be widely used. Pray that lives will be transformed.
  • We serve among 11 other people groups in this region whose Bible translations are in various stages of completion. Pray that the continuing work of our missionaries and national translators will be fruitful.
  • 
Our West Africa team has a critical shortage of administrative personnel. Pray that the Lord of the harvest will send the right administrators and managers to serve here.

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Pioneering New Mission Fields – Pt. 1

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[Editor’s Note: every few months, our mission puts out a magazine called “The Latest Word” which shares stories of what Pioneer Bible Translators is doing around the world. In the Fall 2012 issue, a special emphasis was put upon the idea of pioneering new fields of missionary endeavors.

In this article, I will share with you the opening comments of the magazine which will set the stage for five stories that tell us of how God is opening up new fields for mission work. Each of these five stories will be the basis of a new article which I will post here on “The Listing Post ”.]

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 “They Put Missionaries Where?”

I remember overhearing the shocked conversation of other missionaries who had just learned the location of our new home. Conventional wisdom would’ve placed us in a major town serving near well-established local churches. Instead, Pioneer Bible Translators had moved my family and me into a rural village to live among a Bible-less minority language community.

Only a handful of the people were Christians. The others followed another religion, one often antagonistic to Christianity. More than once someone challenged us with the question, “What were you thinking?”

When Jesus commanded us to teach people of all nations to follow Him, He challenged us to reach every culture and ethnicity on Earth with His message of grace, salvation, and justice. He instructed us to teach them to obey everything He commanded (Matthew 28:18-20).

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How can the people of every nation and language learn to obey all Jesus commands if we cannot understand the words He spoke? Jesus said that people cannot truly live without every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).

The peoples of the world will learn to follow Jesus and obey the teachings of His kingdom only if we cross every remaining language barrier with:

–  Church                                              – Scripture                                           – Transformation

The next major benchmark I see on the pathway to obeying the Great Commission is this: churches with Scripture transforming every language community on Earth. I love Pioneer Bible Translators because we have committed to following the Spirit’s lead to fill the gaps in the Bible translation movement so that this benchmark can be reached by 2050.

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The greatest gap we see today is the 200 million people who speak one of the 900 languages remaining with no Scripture and no church. These are the world’s least-reached peoples.

Pioneering among these Bible-less, church-less language groups is one of Pioneer Bible Translators’ non—negotiable core values. I am committed to doing everything I can to help ensure that by the year 2050, their are churches with Scripture transforming every language community on Earth. How about you? What would God have you and your church do to achieve His mandate to teach people of all nations to follow Jesus?

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Pioneering Where Christ Is Not Known

“Libya? What in the world possessed you to go there?” Libya seemed like a strange place to launch a mission effort, especially in 1961. So why did we? My answer always goes back to – and in fact begins with – Paul’s statement, “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known” (Romans 15:20.

That has always been my ambition, too. Pioneering. New fields. Pushing forward into areas without communities of faith – and usually without Scripture in the people’s heart language. Libya was that kind of place in 1961.

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Why not pioneer there? A door was open for us to enter the country. Furthermore, just as God told Paul that He had “many people in this city” (Acts 18:10), we could see that He was at work in Libya preparing the way through social, political, and economic upheaval. Ours was a call to join His efforts to bring to fruition what He has always been about: the salvation of unreached people.

One reason I now serve with Pioneer Bible Translators is their commitment to pioneering. That means new fields, new challenges, and the possibility of new victories with God’s gracious enabling. Pioneer Bible Translators is determined to make a difference among the world’s Bible-less, church-less peoples. To me, nothing is more exciting – or more central to what God would have His servants be about.

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Pioneering  NEW FIELDS

Pioneer Bible Translators is reaching into the last, vast areas of Bible-less, church-less people groups who still wait for God’s word in their language. In the last two years, we have begun sending multidisciplinary teams into four new fields that God has opened to us. He has also given us new strategies for reaching people groups that are currently closed to North American missionaries.

Each new field presents unique challenges to establishing our ministry, coupled with exciting opportunities for spreading the Gospel where Christ is not yet known. The following five stories [to be shared in the next five articles on this blog site] bear testimony to God’s faithfulness in growing His Kingdom here on Earth through the ministry of Pioneer Bible Translators.

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Used by permission from Pioneer Bible Translator’s monthly publications.  If you would like to receive this quarterly magazine, click on the box for “The Latest Word” and subscribe to it.

Transforming The World Through Bible Translation

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Reaching The Ends Of The Earth With God’s Word

In Matthew 24:14, Jesus says that the good news about the Kingdom of God would go out to all the nations, and then the end would come.  The word “nations” here comes from the Greek word “ethnos” and so means that God’s Word will go out to “every ethnic group” in the world.  But there are still over 2,000 languages which do not have Scripture in their mother tongue.  And there are some languages which have the Scriptures, but for some reason are not utilizing them in their church and daily life.

As one of the global partners in Bible translation ministry, Pioneer Bible Translators has taken many steps to identify those language groups that do not have the Scriptures and need a translation.  And we have also worked on identifying those groups where greater Scripture Impact work needs to be done.

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Below is part of a positional paper that was recently released from the President’s Office of PBT which will help us identify the areas that need to be targeted:

In the future, Pioneer Bible Translators will follow the Spirit’s lead to fill the gaps in the Bible Translation movement so that we and our partners will see churches with Scripture transforming every language group on earth by 2050. There are three major gaps in the Bible Translation movement standing between us and this major milestone of the Great Commission:

      1. Scripture-less language groups with little or no church which requires a specialized strategy.
      2. Areas of extreme linguistic diversity where the number of languages requires more translation resources than our partners have available,
      3. Languages worldwide with “finished” translation projects that were never used by the people.

We estimate that if our small team were to grow rapidly and become capable of starting and finishing around 10 percent of the remaining translation projects in the world, our larger partners would have enough momentum to handle the other 90 percent of the needs.

First Gap: Language Contexts Lacking Church, Scripture, and Transformation

First, to accomplish the task we need to fill the gap among the Church-less, Scripture-less language communities. Bible Translation agencies naturally prioritize language groups with churches so that their Scriptures will be used. Church planting agencies tend to prioritize the majority language contexts in the urban centers of the world. This leaves around 900 minority languages–200 million Scripture-less, Church-less people–in a strategic gap.

We believe Jesus is moved with great compassion for these suffering the most extreme spiritual poverty in the world–who also typically are among the most physically impoverished peoples of the world. What greater need could attract the compassion of God than marginalized people far from knowing him without a church to show his love and without Scripture to reveal the path to hope?

There are many church planting agencies that do some Bible Translation work on the side, but PBT is one of the only Bible Translation agencies that also has church planting as one of its original purposes. This makes PBT uniquely suited to translate the Bible for language groups that have neither church nor Scripture.

Second Gap: Language Contexts Lacking Scripture

Second, to accomplish the task we also need to fill the gap among the areas of the world with the greatest linguistic diversity. In most places around the world our partners are set to start all the projects needed over the next 20 years. They will be in position to translate most all of the New Testaments needed by 2050.

However, pockets of extreme linguistic diversity are scattered over the earth that defy the current resources of the Bible Translation movement. We need to rise to the challenge and focus 50 of our proposed 250 new projects on supplementing the efforts of our partners in places where the church is already present, but the Scriptures are needed to disciple the people as Jesus commanded.

Third Gap: Languages Lacking Vernacular Scripture-Based Transformation

Third, to accomplish the task we also need to fill the global gap of a lack of Scripture impact in scattered language communities that have received a translation in their language, but for some reason churches have never begun to use the Scripture. No one in the Bible Translation movement knows how many translations in the world have not begun to be used. We will find out.

We know from our experience that the problem is considerable. On a recent trip to South Asia I found church planting efforts everywhere using second or third language Scriptures to advance the gospel when first language translations were available. How much would the growth of the Church accelerate if more of these movements used Scripture in the local language? Often we find people who have simply never heard the suggestion or don’t know that the Scriptures already exist or where to find them.

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Sometimes they need an audio format or some kind of oral storying to stimulate interest in Scripture. In other cases, the translation was completed, but there are no churches to use the Scripture. We will recruit and train Scripture Impact personnel that will research the scope of this problem and trouble-shoot regionally by innovating ways to promote the use of the vernacular Scriptures among the churches and church planting agencies active in each region of the world.

In cases where there are no churches in the language community, it will be necessary to put together church planting teams without the normal translation element and/or to mobilize some of our church planting partners to meet the need. By 2050 these workers will ensure that there are networks of churches using Scripture to grow and multiply in every language community with enough language vitality to need their own Scripture.

 We’ll see with time if all of our brain-storming ideas will come to fruition and we will see the gaps getting smaller and smaller as we find effective means to target and work in these Bible-less groups.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.