Teaching Literacy In East Africa – Pt. 1

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 Translation and Literacy Must Go Together

Translating the Bible into the minority languages of the world is the primary task of Pioneer Bible Translators.  It has been my privilege to serve with PBT for 17 years now, and I have transitioned from being a translator working on one language in a remote area of Papua New Guinea, to where I am now a translation consultant, helping to check the final draft of a translated book of Scripture for many language groups.

As important as Bible translation is, there is anther task that is just as critical as the task of translation.  I am referring to the task of Literacy.  We know from experience that there are some projects that do finish translating the New Testament, or even the entire Bible, but because the people were never taught to read their own language, the translated book sits on shelves and collects dust.

What a shame that is to have worked for decades to complete a translation, only to have it be shelved and not read by the people.  That is one reason why during my linguistic training in Dallas to become a translator that I took a course called, “Literacy For Translators”.  This course gave us an appreciation for literacy, and we put our hand to the task of trying to create and teach new alphabets to each other in the course.

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In this course, we learned the importance of starting out slowly, giving students one sound and symbol at a time.  Even if students are able to read in a trade language, we must not assume that it will be an easy and automatic skill for them to read in their own language, which up until the time of Bible translation, had never been written down before.

The final project for the course was to come up with a new alphabet for the English language, and to write lessons and a story in the revised alphabet.  This is much more difficult than you can imagine since we all were highly literate and fluent in our native tongue, English.  But consider what learning English is like for someone who is learning English as a foreign language.

For example, we can say the words “through”, “threw”, and “thru” which all sound the same, but are each spelled differently and also have different meanings.  A harder problem for many is when you see the same vowel set and find out that the vowel is pronounced quite differently in each word.  Take for example these words “though, trough, rough, bough, and through.  And many more examples can be found.

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What we try to do then as linguists is to find a symbol that represents one and only one sound, and that each sound has one and only one symbol to represent it.  In our village language, we were able to identify 6 significant vowels and 19 significant consonants.  Other sounds were heard, but they did not produce significant changes in word meanings and so they did not become part of the official alphabet.

It certainly is a lot of work to create these alphabets, but once established, especially if they have this one-to-one symbol to sound correspondence, then it is possible for new readers to begin to learn how to read fairly quickly.  In my official “Revised English” (Reeviyzd Ingglish), I determined that there were 25 significant consonant sounds and 15 significant vowels and diphthongs (a slide between two vowels.)

In the remaining space below, and in the next week’s article on “Teaching Literacy in East Africa”, I have taken a portion of two ladies’ newsletters.  These two women were teaching the concept of literacy for two language groups.  By the end of the two weeks, each language group had prepared a full “Primer” (pronounce with the “i” in “bit” not “bite”) to take back and teach other people in their language group the alphabet and the basics of reading.  Please pray that all of the projects where we are translating the Bible will also be able to get full literacy courses off of the ground so the people can read God’s Word.

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a, i, l, k, w

Can you rearrange these letters to make words?

Now use those words to create a short story.

This was the first of many challenges given to the 15 local writers at the primer construction workshop this month. For two weeks guest consultants guided teams from two language groups to write 72 lessons. These will help adults learn how to read in their own languages.

This was the short story created by one of the teams for the first primer lesson using the letters above:

Ali ikala. (This is charcoal.)

Alila kawa. (That is a cover.)

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The first story is very simple, but as the lessons continue the stories get longer and introduce many more letters and words for the new readers to learn. By lesson 12 the letter “Y” is introduced and also the word “Yesu” (Jesus). At least one of the stories for each subsequent lesson focuses on the life of Jesus and His teachings.

These reading primers will be one step toward helping people who cannot read at all to learn how to read the Bible on their own. And those who haven’t heard the gospel will have the opportunity to learn about Jesus while they’re learning to read.

Praying over the finished Primers before they were sent to the publishers.

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Networking & Praying For God’s Word in Southeast Asia

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[Editor’s Note:  It is exciting for me to be able to share with you about a couple who are colleagues with me in Pioneer Bible Translators.  There are two reasons for this.  First of all, for many years they helped to impact a people group close to where my heart is, the Island of New Guinea.  Now God is using them to impact the lives of millions of people in a large region of Southeast Asia.  How exciting!

What makes this especially meaningful for me is that I have the privilege to work along side with this couple in their new work.  Once the Scriptures have been drafted and checked through a couple of times (for comprehension and exegetical accuracy), then the team sends me the language files electronically and I do the final consultant check on their Bible translation work.

In the past two years, I have had a hand in checking parts of or the whole of Ephesians, 2 Thessalonians, Matthew and just recently Philippians.  The work is progressing well and it is hoped that the New Testament will be published for this regional language in 2013.  Come along with me as we learn more of what this couple is doing to promote the advancement and distribution of God’s Word to Southeast Asia.]

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Phil and Gale came to Pioneer Bible Translators with 29 years experience with another Bible translation organization. They worked with a language group of 2,000 people in the rainforest of Papua, and didn’t need much in the way of networking skills. Work proceeded smoothly once a few government and church officials were aware they were translating the New Testament.

Now they are working in a vastly different situation, translating the Bible into a national language with a potential audience of over 200 million people. The work is no longer just faithfully translating each verse; it is about knowing the right people, and what partnerships can be set up with various Christian organizations.

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The people who make decisions are in the cities, but the people who need the translations are mostly in rural areas. Rural language groups won’t have a chance to hear God’s Word if we don’t succeed in advancing our projects in the cities. Phil travels often by taxi, giving out local translations of Scripture to every driver. He rode with 51 drivers on his last trip; only one was a Christian.

He visited the managers of a Christian radio network and discussed sending out our books as free gifts from their stations. He is scheduled to meet with a producer of a free satellite TV network that has viewers in cities and rural areas all over the area. He met with a Bible class that is part of a huge mega-church in the capital, and he will soon be visiting seminary students who will distribute our Gospel of John on their mission trips.

There are approximately 400 languages in South Asia that need a Bible translation. After Phil’s presentation at one seminary, 10 students made the commitment to pray about becoming Bible translators for 10 of these languages. It is amazing to see God work out the details! Pioneer Bible Translators has an enormous task ahead of us. We must complete our translation work and get God’s Word in the hands of these people.

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Prayer Requests

  • Pray local supporters would be found to publish local translations of the New Testament and find channels for distribution to rural areas.
  • Pray that Phil will successfully navigate unfamiliar cultural expectations as he speaks with important people.
  • Pray that God will provide a means whereby nationals can be trained and equipped to translate for many needs. There are many who would volunteer to become translators, but cannot see past practical reasons.
  • Please pray that churches in the area would feel called to support Bible translation, and that training centers would be established in the area.
  • John 4:23 – Pray that many from among the Bible-less peoples will become true worshipers who will worship the Father in spirit and in truth.

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[Editor’s Note: For almost two years I have been writing articles about my work and the larger work of Pioneer Bible Translators in the world.  I have asked my readers from time to time to pray about some important issues and current events.  This is the first time that I would like to suggest to my audience that they consider taking the next step after praying for Phil and Gale and their translation work and to consider the possibility of helping them with a financial gift to see this work accomplished.  I end this article with a quote from Phil, and a link to where you could become a financial partner.]

Southeast Asia Plain Translation
“This island nation in Southeast Asia has a Bible, but the translation is old and very hard to understand. Our team is creating an easy to understand translation that will be life-transforming for millions in this area. These books of the New Testament will offer Living Water to a thirsty land. Click to donate. Choose ‘Projects’ and ‘Southeast Asia Plain Translation’ from the drop-down menus.”

Scripture Impact On National Translators

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Bible Translation Ministers to the Lives of Those Who Do The Translation

One of the things that I have noticed over the years as I have been involved in doing Bible translation, and now as I check the translations that others do, is that sometimes we get so focused in on the task of doing translation that we forget to watch for and expect the translation to have a real impact on the lives of those who are doing and checking the translation.

It is very easy as they say, “to lose sight of the forest for the trees”.  In other words, we can be so caught up in making sure each sentence of the translation clearly and accurately expresses the same meaning as the original Greek or Hebrew sentences of the Bible that we can fail to stop or even slow down to let that meaning speak to our hearts and deepen our relationship with God.

    

It’s like the Martha/Mary story we learn from Luke 10:38-42.  When Jesus came to the house of these two sisters, Martha was intently focused on getting all the preparations ready and just right to host Jesus at their supper table and actually got upset that Mary was quite content to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to His teachings.  When Martha complained, Jesus said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it.”  (The Message)

I was reminded of the importance of keeping our spiritual eyes open to see what God is doing in us and in the lives of those with whom we work on these Bible translation projects when I read the excerpt below written by a good friend of ours who has been doing translation work for over 15 years in the Solomon Islands.  I pray you will also be encouraged and challenged by the powerful workings of God’s Word in the lives of people as you read his story.

                                

In our last letter, I mentioned some ‘bumps in the road’ that we were experiencing. It has been good to see how God has worked in these situations over the last few months.

I wrote that Jiro, the man doing the computer work for the translation, had recently lost his 19 year old son due to an illness. So when I arrived in the Solomon Islands in early March it was great to see that he was already there and he made it clear that he is still committed to working on the translation.

I was surprised to see how well he was doing and I found it quite humbling to hear him say how he accepted the loss of his son as something that God allowed to happen. I was also grateful that Jofi, who had injured his leg in the middle of last year, was well enough to come so that we had our full team as we worked together for two weeks reviewing the gospel of Mark.

    

We spent a good deal of our time discussing the meanings of different words. There are two main dialects in the language and it is important to choose words for the translation that will be understood by everyone. After listening to some sections being read out loud it was great to hear the men comment about how satisfying it was to hear the Scriptures in their own language.

They said it will make it easy for preachers because after people hear the Scriptures in their mother-tongue language they will understand and won’t need to have it all explained like they do when English versions are used in churches. When we finished reviewing Mark, we printed out fifty trial editions.

The men have taken those back to their communities and will read them to people and hopefully get feedback that we can use in further revisions. Jiro is currently working on Luke and Matthew and we hope to check these when I make my next trip in late August.

    

 Just before I was heading to bed one evening, I saw Somaka, a member of the translation team for the other language group which is closely related to the one we are working in, sitting at a table in the lounge area writing in a notebook. I remembered that I had a message I needed to give him so I went over to talk to him.

As I was leaving, he called me back and said, “I have been sitting here writing down all the things I’m thankful to God for. Can I tell you about them?” So I sat down and Somaka explained to me that in the few years that he has been involved in translation work, he has been learning what it really means to be a Christian.

    

He told me how he had come to realize that all people sin, but because of Jesus’ love for us, no sin was too bad for Him to forgive. He also explained that he had come to understand that he didn’t have to try and do things so that God would accept him. As he talked, it struck me that even though Somaka has attended church for most of his life, it is only now that he is interacting with God’s Word in his own language that he is understanding the basics of the Christian life.

I am always thankful for these reminders that God uses translations in people’s heart language to bring them closer to Him.

Faith to Believe The Impossible

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John 4:46 – 54

46 So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.

 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. 51 As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering.

 52 So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. 54  This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.

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Over the past month, we have been looking at the encounter that Jesus had with the Samaritan woman living in Sychar in the Province of Samaria.  Actually, we should say it the other way around, the Samaritan woman had an encounter with Jesus when she went to get water at the well.  And what an amazing, incredible encounter it was.  This woman went from social outcast to the town evangelist and from a woman of shame to a woman of faith.

As we conclude our thoughts on this event, I think that Jesus must have been very refreshed from this encounter with the woman and the people of that town.  He and his disciples had come there tired, hungry and thirsty.  But after ministering there for those few days and seeing so many people come to a faith in Him, I really believe that Jesus probably left there with a lighter feeling and an encouraged heart himself.

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But then Jesus moved on, and so must we in our study of the Gospel of John.  Jesus returned back to the town of Cana in the northern province of Galilee.  Recall in chapter 2 how Jesus had demonstrated his divine power by turning water into wine at a wedding.  That was a miracle.  Or as John writes, it was “the first of his signs”.

Before we go on, let’s make sure that we are clear about something very important.  When Jesus turned the water into wine, this was not some “parlour trick”, it was not “magic”, nor was it meant it any way to be a performance whereby people would recognize Jesus as the “Miracle Man”.  No, there was a very important reason for when, why and how Jesus did miracles.

As amazing and wonderful as miracles are, like the blind being able to see and the lame being able to walk again, miracles were never meant to be the focus of attention.  Rather, miracles were to point to the One who was able to do the miraculous.  That is why John calls them “signs”.  The miracles were to point people to Jesus, and to open their eyes and their hearts to believe in the Doer of the miracles.

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Knowing this will help us to see why Jesus seems so frustrated and irritated when this official greets him at Cana and asks for Jesus’ help to heal his very sick child.  As a parent myself who has seen a son suffer from leukemia, I can really identify with the father’s one great request, “Lord, please heal my son!”  But it is not our pleading and begging that will get the attention of Jesus and the answer we want.  It is faith in Him as the Great Physician.

Notice what happens next.  The official is desperate to have Jesus come to his house to take a look at his son.  Perhaps he thought that if Jesus could just see how much suffering the child was going through, then maybe He might heal the boy out of compassion.  But what does Jesus do?  He tells the father to go, and that the boy will live.

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Now here comes the critical moment in this story.  The father could have kept begging Jesus to come, maybe even taking his arm and trying to pull him along with him.  But no, this is the true moment of decision.  Does the man have enough faith to take Jesus at his word?  Can he actually believe the impossible, that simply by speaking a word, Jesus has the ability to heal his son?

And you know the rest of the story.  The man does have faith.  He goes home to find his son well.  And it is made quite clear that the healing happened at exactly the time that Jesus spoke.  Or should I say, it happened at exactly the time that the man demonstrated his faith by accepting Jesus’ word that the boy would live.

What we have here is a story that teaches us what true faith is all about.  Hebrews 11:1 says it so well, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  Without any real tangible evidence in front of him, this man believed the impossible, and believed in the One to whom he was speaking.  And this miracle, this “sign” led not only this man, but his whole household into a faith relationship with Jesus.  Now that is a miracle.

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

Satan Is The True Enemy – Pt. 1

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 3

In Chapter Two of “GOD’S STORY, your story,” Max Lucado reminds us of how dangerous our true enemy is, whom we call “Satan”. Lucado gives us an overview of the great battle that occurred in the Judean desert so long ago between Jesus and Satan. Jesus is tempted to “look out for number one” (to turn stones into bread because He was hungry).

Then Satan encourages Jesus to show off His great powers and impress the religious people by jumping off the Temple pinnacle and having thousands of angels swoop in and rescue Him. And finally, Satan tries to bribe Jesus by offering to Him all the riches of the world, if only Jesus would bow down and worship him.

But as Lucado says, “Satan just showed his cards. He wants worship. He wants you and me to tell him how great he is. He wants to write his own story in shich he is the hero and God is an afterthought.” (p. 50)

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What Lucado does very well in this chapter, is to give us a clear of how devious Satan is, and how much we must remain on guard against all of his crafty schemes and strategies to tear us away from God. In fact, as Lucado points out, the root word for “devil” which is a character trait of Satan carries within it the idea of “splitter” or “divider”. And he will use any means possible to do just that, keep us divided and separated from God.

This all reminds me of one of C. S. Lewis’ most famous best seller books called, “The Screwtape Letters.” In this book, the main character is Uncle Wormword, one of the senior demons of Satan, who (fictitiously) wrote letters to his much junior demon Screwtape, who happened to be his nephew.

What is fascinating about Lewis’ book is that he suggests that some of the best strategies of Satan are not the all-out-frontal attacks that we might expect. But rather, Satan often succeeds the best if we end up being complacent about our spirituality and do nothing to pursue a relationship with God. But if Satan must step in, he will use such sly tactics as materialism, self-centered egos, or just plain old busyness of life.

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Listen to how Lucado points out these very same thoughts on pages 42 – 43:

Distraction would work better. I hate spiritual focus. When you or one like you gazes intently on God for any length of time, you begin to act like Him. A nauseating sense of justice and virtue comes over you. You talk to God, not just once a week, but all the time. Intolerable.

So I’d perch myself on every corner and stairwell of your world, clamouring for your attention. I’d flood you with e-mails and to-do lists. Entice you with shopping sprees and latest releases and newest styles. Burden you with deadlines and assignments.

If I were the devil, I’d so distract you with possessions and problems that you’d never have time to read the Bible.

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I believe this last sentence of the quote above should be sounding an alarm for all of us who are believers in Christ. If we think that there is no time in our lives to read God’s word on a regular basis, then our lives are out of balance with what is truly important. Even worse, if any of us think we don’t need to be reading God’s Word as part of our daily and weekly lives, then Satan will find it that much more easy to bend us to his will, rather than God’s Word bending us to God’s will.

Here, let’s get even more clear and specific about who we are up against. Scripture describes Satan in the following ways (quoted from pages 45 – 46):

Serpent (Genesis 3:14; Revelation 12:9; 20:2)            Enemy (Matthew 13:25, 39)
Tempter (Matthew 4:3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5)               Father of Lies (John 6:44)
Evil One (Matthew 13:19; 1 John 2:13 – 14)                Deceiver (Revelation 12:9)
Dragon (Revelation 12:7, 9; 20:2)                               Roaring Lion (1 Peter 5:5)
Prince of Demons (Mark 3:22)

These are only some of the names that are used to describe what Satan is like. I’m sure we can find much more in Scripture to tell us just exactly who our true spiritual enemy is.

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So what is the point of all this discussion? Namely this: if we are to really understand how the story of our lives fit into the bigger story of God’s life, then we need to also realize that while we are in this life, and this world, Satan too is a part of that picture. We should not be taken by surprise as much as we are when bad and terrible things happen. There is an author behind all this — Satan.

What we need to do is to follow the example that Jesus gave to us when He faced off with Satan in the wilderness. We must be confident of who God is. We must continually be reading God’s Word and putting it into our hearts so that we have the spiritual tools to fight back against Satan. And we must trust that God can and will bring us through these times of spiritual wilderness experiences as well as the spiritual battles that come our way in life.

An excellent preacher I know has said that research into spirituals habits show that reading the Bible up to three times a week shows little improvement in the overall wellbeing of a person (emotionally, spiritually, and otherwise). But those who read the Bible on average four times a week or more, have better marriages, families, church experiences, general health and success in business. So what are you waiting for. Get out your Bibles, turn to God, and resist Satan and his ways. He is the Enemy.

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

Jesus: Giver of Grace & Truth

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John 1:14 – 18

The Word Became Flesh

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.1

Stop!  Listen!  God’s Word is speaking powerfully here.  What we know to be true, and have heard many times, is a very profound truth.  Nine short words that say so much.  In fact, a large part of the Christian message is contained within these words.  What are these words you say?  They are the first nine words of this new section we are studying, brief and succinct but very powerful:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

As we learned from our first study (John 1:1-5), the “Word” was, and is, one of the eternal Persons of the Godhead.  This Person, the Word, was the Agent through whom all of the created universe came into existence and became real in time and space.  And now we find out that this Eternal Word stepped into our time and space to become a real human being and to live among us.

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Theologically, this is known as the “Incarnation”, where God emptied Himself of His own divine nature so that He could take on the form of man and share in the specific culture and language of a first century Jewish person.  He came and “dwelt among us”, which literally means that He “put up his tent for the purpose of living with us.”  He wanted to become one of us so that as a Man, He would be able to help save all men.  Only as an Insider could He do this, not as an Outsider.

This is one of the most important goals we aspire to as missionaries.  Though we could never really compare ourselves to Jesus, who left Heaven to become a human, we too must be willing to leave all that is wonderful and comfortable back in our home countries to go and live among some of the poorest and most neglected peoples of the world.  This is called “Incarnational Ministry”, where we go live among the people as one of them, just as Jesus modelled for us.

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As we look at our Scripture passage above, we see that Jesus modelled much more for us as well.  John writes “we have seen His glory”, which is another way of saying, “we have seen how marvelous and wonderful He is.”  And what had those early followers of Jesus seen?  That Jesus was full of “grace and truth”.  Along with the word “glory”, we have in this short passage three of the most complex and theologically loaded words of this Gospel, and of the Bible.

According to Newman & Nida, in Section III of Apendix II, “the word ‘truth’  in this Gospel refers primarily to God himself, though it may be extended to include the revelation of God or a description of persons who respond to that revelation.”2  In other words, our passage above is telling us that Jesus had complete knowledge regarding the very nature of God the Father.  For anyone who wants to truly know God, that knowledge comes through Jesus.  And verse 18 says that in fact that is one of Jesus’ great ministry tasks here on earth, to help us come to know who God the Father really is.

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Not only did Jesus come to earth full of the knowledge of the nature of God, but it says He also came “full of grace”.  One way of translating “grace” is “loving kindness”.  Using this definition, we see that Jesus came not just to teach us the truth about God (which we so often compartmentalize on just the intellectual level), but Jesus came to demonstrate God’s loving kindness towards us.  This I think is even more important.  As they say, “Actions speak louder than words.”

God wants to lavish His love upon us.  He sent His only Son (who would ultimately die for our sins) as His greatest act of love towards mankind.  So it is not surprising that in this short Scripture passage that speaks about Jesus coming to earth, and why He came to earth, that we find the words, “From His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.”

Putting that another way, when Jesus came to earth, He came to shower “loving kindness upon loving kindness” on us.  Another Christian term is “blessings”, and so we can read this as “we have received blessings upon blessings.”  Isn’t that truly amazing?  Jesus, the unique Son of God, loved us enough to want to leave his glorious home in Heaven to live among us, to reveal God the Father to us, and to shower wonderful blessings upon us.

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My questions, dear friend, as you read this article are these: Do you know Jesus? Have you experienced His amazing love and forgiveness of your sins?  Do you want to know Jesus and invite Him into your life?  Write back to me if this is what you want and need to do in your life.  God bless you.

1  The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001 (Jn 1:14–18). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

2  A Translator’s Handbook on the Gospel of John. 1980, New York: United Bible Societies

Giant Step For Bible Translation

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PBT & The World of Bible Translation

Two weekends ago marked a historic moment for Pioneer Bible Translators. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the celebration event, the Dedication of the new PBT office building in Dallas, Texas. There were at least 250 people, many of whom had flown in from all parts of the country, plus some of our missionaries from overseas, who came to attend this special event.

This is truly an amazing building that was just a dream a few years ago, and a hope for even longer than that. Inside this beautiful 5000 sq. ft. building there are many offices, a large reception, a conference room, and a huge dining room area with a kitchen nook. There is even more to it than that, but that should give you an idea of how large the building is.

What is even more amazing than turning Texas scrub brush land into PBT’s first permanent International Service Center building, is the fact that every area of the building is already fully staffed and operating. Our old modular building, which had housed up to five staff members in each small office area, sent over as many staff as it could, but it too is still operating various departments within each of its office spaces.

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To appreciate the rapid growth of PBT’s home office, let me take you back to 1994. This was when Jill and I and our boys moved to Dallas, Texas to begin my linguistic training so that I could become a Bible translator. At that time, PBT did not have any building at all. Rather, we were renting two small offices inside of the Pike building which primarily housed the library of SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics), a close partner of Wycliffe Bible Translators.

One office was for the president of PBT, Rondal Smith, and the other one was the administrative office of the finance people and receptionist. There literally was only a handful of staff members back then. It would be another six years or so before PBT built a three-wide trailer modular building to handle about a dozen staff members and also have an open front lobby area plus a large conference room in the center.

A good foundation was laid then by the time that PBT chose its next president, Greg Pruett, in 2006. We had seen steady but gradual increase in staff in the 12 years. The same can be said of our missionaries and our personnel on the field during this time. But considering the pressing need to get more Bible translation happening around the world, all of us knew that some changes would need to be made. It was time to really grow in order that we could get the task done that God had given to our mission.

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Let me explain what our sense of urgency was and still is. Linguistic research has shown us that there are almost 7,000 languages still spoken in the world today. But can you believe that there are over 2,200 of those languages that are still waiting for a Bible translation program to be started in their language? This represents hundreds of millions of people who still do not have even one verse of the Bible in their language.

It is our strong conviction, as well as for many others, that to be able to lead people to faith in Christ, to disciple these new believers, and certainly to plant strong and multiplying churches, it is imperative to get God’s Word to the people, especially in written form. And that is why PBT’s primary focus is to transform lives through translated Scriptures and supported by church planting and Scripture impact initiatives.

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Back to some historical data now, when we officially became members of PBT, there were about 85 career members. This too also grew in a gradual but steady upward climb, so that 10 years later there were 182 career members, with just less than half of them being missionaries in assigned overseas fields. But as I said above, our leadership knew that we would have to make some significant changes to address the global need for Bible translation.

Under Greg’s leadership, PBT envisioned recruiting 200 more members to more than double our organization, to begin a number of new projects and to start working in at least four new countries of the world. To do that though, a much stronger infrastructure and more support personnel would need to be put in place here in Dallas. That became a large part of the reason for why we needed a new permanent building.

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And so here we are nearing the end of PBT’s first six-year plan to expand our mission organization in order that we can in turn impact more language groups of the world. And how have we done you ask? We currently have 322 members, and so many recruits who are in the process of becoming members, that it looks like we very well may reach our goal. Also significant is that we have doubled the number of missionaries on the field, and we have just more than that in the number of members who are training to go to the field. This means we are looking at an explosion of growth in our projects around the world.

Let me now finish this article with an important thought. It may look like PBT right now is all about “numbers” and just growing the organization. That is the furthest thing from the truth possible. Rather, we have recognized the great need for getting God’s word into the hands of the people of all languages. We are simply mobilizing the resources that God has placed in front of us to see this task completed.

And one more important thing to mention. Above all else, Greg has emphasized that our fundamental strategy to see this being done is that of prayer. God has always challenged His people to dream big dreams and to pray for the impossible. That is when God shines through the best, and that is what He has done for PBT. Stay tuned, there are more great stories to come.

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