Transforming Lives With God’s Word

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What is Pioneer Bible Translators?

I have mentioned the name of Pioneer Bible Translators many times in my articles, the mission agency that I am a member of, but I have not given much background on it.  So I thought I would share something that our current President, Greg Pruett, said in one of his articles.  He sums up some of the primary distinctions of our mission and what we hope to achieve through prayer and the power of God.

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Greg wrote this a year ago, and sets the backdrop of what PBT is all about by starting with this story:

The passion in his eyes drew my full attention. I could tell from the sheer concentration on my friend’s face that he was about to make a once-in-a-lifetime statement: “I can’t imagine any way to explain how grateful I am. For as long as I live, I will never be able to tell you the thanks I have in my heart for this New Testament in my own language.

Sometimes I think about it at night. I used to read the Bible in English or in French, and I could understand a little bit, but now when I read this New Testament, the meaning just comes right into my mind.” Pioneer Bible Translators’ ultimate aim, our vision, is to strive together with our partners for the day when God’s Word will be transforming lives in every language on earth.

Greg then goes on to share the core values of PBT:

The Need

Every person on earth has the right to a Bible that he or she can understand. Jesus said that people cannot truly live except by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Yet 350 million people —speaking more than 2,200 languages—are completely Bible-less, without access to even one portion of Scripture. Another one billion people do not yet have a New Testament available in the language they understand best. How long will they wait to encounter the story of God’s love for them?

Our Roots

Pioneer Bible Translators started discipling the Bible-less in 1976. With our roots in the Restoration Movement, PBT is committed to practicing unity in the body of Christ with Scripture as the sole authority. We promote the restoration of the unity of the Church by mobilizing Christians to work together on the basis of obeying the clearly taught, essential elements of Scripture while allowing for a wide diversity of opinion on matters that Scripture does not make clear.

We seek to mobilize believers who are able to unite around reading and obeying the Bible and making it accessible to people who do not have it. Today, Pioneer Bible Translators bridges the gap between the Church and Bibleless peoples, translating the Word into the heart languages of unreached people to transform lives and grow thriving New Testament churches.

Our Strategy

Pioneer Bible Translators…
• Disciples the Bible-less peoples
• Mobilizes God’s people everywhere
• Provides enduring access to God’s Word
• Maximizes the impact of Scripture to grow the Church

We give our utmost to fulfill the Great Commission through the power of the translated Word of God.

We aspire to help people without God’s Word impact their context with Scripture, equipping them to translate it into their language and use it to transform their community. We consider our ministry among a people complete when a network of churches is using Scripture to grow and multiply. We put together whatever team is needed to help a language group go from Bible-less to Bible impact.

We Send…
• Translators where there is no Scripture.
• Church planters where there is no church to use the Scripture.
• Literacy workers where the people cannot read.
• Community development specialists where the people are closed to Scripture in order to show Christ’s love.
• Skilled support specialists —teachers, builders, administrators and more—to accelerate the mission.

Our Future

If the momentum of the Bible Translation movement continues to build as it has for the last 30 years, then over the next two decades we and our partners will start all the translation projects needed in the world. By 2050, we could live in a world where the New Testament has been translated into every viable language. We are now recruiting and training the generation of missionaries that could leave behind them a world in which the New Testament exists in every language!

If Jesus doesn’t return before then, they will tell their grandchildren, “Kids, it wasn’t always like it is today. There was a time when not everyone could have the Bible in their language.” We in PBT are giving our lives to leave that legacy. But it’s not enough to crank out Scripture—we want the Bible to transform lives.

That’s why we are now planning for our future by asking the question, “What does PBT need to become—what do we need to bring to the Bible translation movement—to see a network of churches using Scripture to grow and multiply in every language group on earth in the coming decades?” If this generation rises to the challenge, the goal is within our reach! God has placed it within our reach.

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These are exciting days for sure.  I have been part of PBT for 16 years now, and I have seen it grow from a small mission with two offices rooms and about 100 missionaries working in primarily three regions of the world, to a mission that is based out of two building (one just brand new), and has over 300 missionaries working in countries all over the world.

How could such a transformation happen?  Only by the grace of God and the power of prayer.  And as Greg says, the purpose of our existence as a mission is not to grow the mission, but to transform the lives and hearts of individuals in every distinct culture and linguistic group of people around the world.

Stay tuned as I share much more from this point forward about Pioneer Bible Translators.  Both in my “Who Am I?” personal life journey stories, as well as current day happenings in this mission.  But in anything I write, ultimately, I want to give all the honor and glory to God who is doing these great things through us who are merely His servants.  Praise be to God.

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God’s 100 Blessings

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Last Thursday marked my 100th article published on this devotional blog site.  Who would’ve thought it was possible.  As in many aspects of daily life, it is truly by the grace of God that I am able to do the things that I do.  And so I pause for a moment in my writings and I lift up my voice (and keystrokes) to give praise to my God who has given me strength over this last year, and to thank some important people.

One of the purposes of The Listening Post has been to “tell my story” of all the adventures I’ve had over a lifetime of faith and Christian experiences.  But really, it is much more about trying to tell God’s story as I reflect on what He has done in me and through me, and to remember all the incredible people who have touched and influenced my life.

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My gratitude goes first to my immediate family who gave me a home and a place to explore faith as a child.  For many years, my mother took all us kids to church and Sunday School and some seeds of the Gospel were planted.  My sister, who went to be with the Lord in 1992, brought me to Youth Group and helped me to see that church was more than just “Religion”.  My Grandmother’s missionary life and her firm faith were an anchor for me.  My brother’s salvation story as an adult showed me God’s incredible grace.

Leaders in the Christian faith held out a lifeline for me as I wrestled with faith and an unfriendly world.  The caring of Youth Group sponsors, the deep exposition and teaching of God’s Truth by powerful preachers, and the wisdom and knowledge of Scripture of my many Bible College & Seminary teachers grounded me in my faith that has lasted a lifetime.

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And then there all the many Christians I have met around the world in my travels.  In Central America, I’m thankful for a small church gathering in Panama that looked after me while my shipmates wasted themselves and wanted me to join in their sin.  In Honduras, and Dominican Republic and also in Brazil and Mexico, I saw the tireless efforts of career missionaries, and it strengthened my resolve to follow in their steps.

In Scotland, Tanzania, South Africa and Vanuatu I met simple everyday Christians who exuded the joy of the Lord, and I knew that my faith was not some North American ornament or oddity, but a deep down real life experience of a relationship between a humble human being and the God of the Universe.  Every time I have shared a meal together, prayed with or met in worship with one of these precious saints, I knew that I was part of a much bigger picture, the universal body of Christ.

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Above all, I have had the privilege to live and visit some very remote parts of Papua New Guinea where one feels like he has truly gone to the “ends of the earth”.  God took a Canadian mountain boy and placed him into the hot sticky jungle lowlands to learn how to live with very little and teach him how to love his tribal neighbors.  I had the opportunity to speak the Words of God to a people group who truly “hunger and thirst” for divine truth and forgiveness from God.  How I thank God for all the years He has allowed me to live out my faith in that remote location.

And even these past three years of living with a muscle disease has been a time of drawing me closer to God.  I have had to learn to depend on Him more than ever before, to truly “walk by faith”.  I have seen now how God has used me to bless others these past few years in ways that I never could have imagined possible before.  And so I thank God for allowing me to have a voice and a message and a continuing ministry in Bible translation, in spite of this illness.

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Of all the blessings of people and events that I hold dear, there remains one tremendous constant in my life for which I am thankful, and is a big reason for having this devotional blog ministry.  It is being married to Jill, my life partner and cheerleader who continues to let me dream big dreams and who encourages me to keep on pursuing the ministries I am involved with.

Jill has been by my side now for 27 years now.  She knows the joys and the heartaches I have experienced in ministry over three decades.  And she saw the pain and darkness I was falling into when this disease hit me.  I believe God led Jill to encourage me to write so that I might remember all that God has done in me and through me, and to speak from my heart.

And so for eight months now I have had this wonderful outlet whereby in telling my story I get to tell His story.  Many people have written to me to say what a blessing it has been to read these articles.  I am thankful for that, but I want to say that this blog ministry has been medicine for my own soul and a healing for my own body.

It could be so easy in a situation like mine to just waste away in this living room recliner and let this disease take my life.  But God has been gracious to let me remember so many blessings that He has given me throughout my life, that I eagerly come back time after time each week, ready to tell you another adventure and let you see God and His goodness through my life story.

So for those who have touched my life, I say “Thank you!”  For those who say that I am touching their lives, I say “Isn’t God good!”  And to God I say, “Thank you Lord for letting me count my blessings, one article at a time.”

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God’s Power Over My Disease

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Conversation:

“I hear you had a bad night.”

“No, we had a great night.”

“And I hear that you can’t walk very much.”

“That’s true.”

“But I heard that you led a presentation last night and you were walking all over the Activity Center and then you were in so much pain that you needed help to get back to your room.  Wouldn’t you say that you had a bad night?”

“Your facts are right, but your conclusion is wrong.  Let me explain….”

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At the moment that I am writing this, the 35th annual Pioneer Mission Institute (PMI) is half way through its week-long sessions.  And you’re probably saying, “What is this PMI?”  Good question.  For three and a half decades, our mission (Pioneer Bible Translators) has invited people who are interested in this Bible translation ministry to gather for orientation and exposure to what this ministry is all about.

We hold two levels of classes for adults as well as run full child care and a children’s program.  Any adult who would like to know more about PBT will attend the “Discovery” track of sessions.  This includes learning about Bible translation, literacy, support role ministries, hearing about “Life On the Field” and exposure to the various countries where we work.  I have been helping teach the linguistic sessions.

After attending “Discovery” in a previous year or on a Bible college campus, returning students attend the “Orientation” seminars.  These include sessions that help them prepare for going to the field, being able to contextualize the Gospel, learning how to deepen their spiritual walk, and further exposure to the work around the world that is being done by PBT.

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Being a long-time missionary with PBT, I have worked and prayed along with many others that we would continue to find new people who would also desire to see the Bible be translated and be made available to those who do not yet have it in their mother tongue, the language of their heart.

And being a member of our Papua New Guinea Branch of PBT, it has been my hope and prayer that we would be able to recruit some new people for this Branch.  So about a month ago, I had an email dialog with the Acting Director of the PNG Branch, and also with the Area Director of the Pacific Rim.  We came up with the idea of having an invitation to go out for some ice cream with those who would like to hear about PNG and talk informally with them.

This idea caught on and the leadership in Dallas supported this and helped to announce this event for Tuesday night.  The one concern was to work out transportation for the 15 or so people we expected to show up.  So one person thought, “Why not stay on the Linguistic Center and bring the ice cream to the people.”  Brilliant.  So at the afternoon chapel, we asked for a show of hands of those thinking of coming, and over 30 hands went up.  YIKES!

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Wow!! God was stirring the hearts of many people to come hear about translation work in PNG and its neighboring countries.  We had a little problem on our hands, but it was a good problem.  What to do now?  Well, I quickly got the attention of one of the Staff and asked if we could use the Activity Center.  He made a call and someone had approved that.  Then I asked the man running sound and tech stuff if we could get a person to help as we pulled a media presentation together.  He said he would come back and run the boards himself.

Then we phoned the Area Director and said, “GET MORE ICE CREAM!!”  Over a hasty supper meeting, I talked with the Acting Director, the Branch Missionary Care person, and another PNG missionary who had finished their project.  I asked permission to be the emcee and I quickly made suggestions as to how each person could contribute.

And it was wonderful!  Everyone pitched in with only about an hour notice and we were ready to run a major presentation in the hopes to interest some of the people attending this PMI to consider coming to our region of the world as new missionaries.  Our PNG Branch has some wonderful people, but we have been needing some new blood for quite a while now.  (Praise God, four new people have just started there earlier this year.)

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When the time came to start our event, I was overcome with excitement and amazement.  Including all those helping to do the presentation, there were 55 people in the room.  Hallelujah!!  God is stirring in the hearts of these people.  And then, for an hour and a half, God gave me the strength to emcee the program, to walk around the room, to tell gripping emotional stories about life in PNG, and not experience pain or fatigue.

This is a small miracle in itself.  I had already had a busy day, which usually will wipe out my energy and lead to pain and fatigue.  But for four hours, from the time the people put their hands up until the end of the program, God energized my body, gave clarity of mind, loosened my muscles, and spoke through my mouth.  Only by the power of God could this ever be possible.

And then when it was finished, so was I.  There I was, sitting in a chair at the front, and not being able to move my right arm or leg.  My energy bank was depleted.  And that is why I needed two men to help me get back to my room and help me get into bed.  So was that a bad night?  Certainly not!!  God used me for a very important purpose, to expand His Kingdom work and find others who share that passion.  By morning I would regain my strength, but through the night, I was filled with His joy.