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.

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My Life Testimony – Pt. 7

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My Online Christian Magazine Interview – Pt. 7

Recently, I was interviewed by a Christian magazine regarding my life in Christ and the translation work that I have been involved with for over 17 years now. In this seventh and final article that includes a portion of the questionnaire, I talk about how God has helped me through spiritually to continue serving Him in spite of the muscle disease which showed up in 2008.  My prayer is that what I wrote will be a blessing to you, and be a testimony to the greatness of God who has empowered me to do His work.

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Q12: The muscle disease seems to be your next big challenge out of the blue. It is simply amazing that you keep going on despite the hindrance. How do you focus on the work when the pain comes?

[Editor’s Note: The following section is a continuation of Question 12 from “My Life Testimony – Pt. 6”]

I must mention one other very important way in which God has helped me through the past year and a half.  In the summer of 2010, the time when our PNG Director became sick and died, God used Jill to help me deal with my own pain and suffering.  The husband of our Director was quite an avid blog writer, and he found that he could deal with the sudden death of his wife through his blog writing.  Jill could see that I was still floundering in my emotional and spiritual state at that time, so she suggested that I also try to write from my heart about what was happening in my life.  That is how “The Listening Post” began.

If you go back to the very first articles, you can see how I was trying to deal with my disease, and part of that was trying to use humor to cover over my pain.  But God convicted me of that, and very quickly I realized that I had much to be thankful for in my life and that it would be much better to talk about what God had done in and through me over the years, than to complain about my illness.  This thought was further reinforced by my mother who had been asking me for years to “tell my story” about all my mission experiences.

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Within a couple months of “writing my story” down in my blog site, I saw that many people were starting to read my articles and I was hearing from quite a few people of how blessed they were after reading my articles.  Most of my days are spent sitting in my recliner chair with my legs up to manage the pain, and I had no idea that God was calling me to use my time at home while I sat in front of my computer to be a ministry outreach to other people on the other end of the Internet.  Jill has given this a name and says that God has blessed me with an “Armchair Ministry”.

I can say in all honesty that this blog writing has been as much a blessing to me as it has been to my audience.  In 2009 and 2010, my eyes were on myself and the misery I felt from daily pain and barely having any life outside my home.  Now I look forward to every article I write as God reminds me of His faithfulness over the years, and continues to teach me new truths from His Word.  I can hardly wait to get back to the computer to share another article with my audience.  My life is no longer consumed by focusing in on my pain; it has expanded to see God and His goodness and His glory.

Q14: Finally, could you share with our readers, the invaluable joy of following Jesus and the great rewarding feeling that helped you triumph over all your life’s trial?

In Revelation 7:9-10 it says, “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” 

There is no greater blessing than seeing the faces of people here in PNG (or anywhere) really light up with joy and reverence as they hear the Word of God spoken in their mother tongue language.  We have heard many times the people say, “Before, God only spoke the White Man’s language; now God is speaking my language.”  And the message of God ignites a fire of faith in the hearts of these people. 

It will be my joy one day up in Heaven to have people coming to me from all these language groups that I have worked with and say to me, “Because you gave of your life and helped to bring God’s Word to us in our language, we too have come to believe in Jesus and we stand around the Throne of Glory as brothers and sisters in the faith, singing praises to our God.”

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This completes the articles on the interview that I had from the magazine “Guideposts”.  It was an honor to be chosen by one of the editors of that magazine.  What I have not mentioned is that it was for the Korean office that I was interviewed.  The article about my life and work as a Bible translator, and as someone who depends on God for strength each day to be able to do this work went out across Korea in over 10,000 copies of the magazine.  My prayer is that all I have shared will bring glory to God in Korea, and around the world wherever these blog articles are being read.  May God bless you richly.

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

Be Prepared For Jesus’ Return

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A Devotional Thought from Great Commission Ministries

written last winter by Sharon Harms

Be Prepared

The National Weather Service has issued an ‘Ice Storm Warning’ for our area. They are telling people to have a winter survival kit in your car if you have to travel, and enough food and water in the house in case of power outages. We have well water, so having containers of water is very important for us to have if we lose power. No electricity means no pump, no pump means no water.

Like us, people have filled water containers at the artesian well. And, I am certain some have been at the store buying batteries, milk and food. They have been making preparations for the ¼ to ½ an inch of ice.

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I want to pause Sharon’s devotional thought to add an experience Jill and I had while we were in Texas in 1988.  Just like Sharon’s experience, there was a massive storm coming, and people were scrambling to make preparations for the storm.  The main difference between the ice storm mentioned above, was that this was a Category 5 hurricane named Gilbert that was bearing down on Texas.

At that time, Jill was a nurse in one of the hospitals of Beaumont, Texas.  I was working at planting a new church in the city.  (More about that in a couple of weeks from now.)  Like most people, we were watching the news and keeping an eye on the weather as this storm front was gathering its strength in the Atlantic and starting to head into the Gulf of Mexico.

Up to this point of living there for one year, we had seen a few very nasty storms, and had come close to being near a tornado touch down.  But this hurricane was going to dwarf all those experiences.  We knew that it was very serious when the hospital called Jill in to work (along with a lot more doctors and nurses) and was told that they may have to stay and sleep at the hospital for up to three days if the brunt of the hurricane hit our area.

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Meanwhile, I went around and visited the people of our fledging church, as well as tried to visit a number of other people with whom our church had previously had some contact.  Many said they appreciated my call, and definitely would appreciate my prayers for them and their families.  But for the most part, many of them had to excuse themselves while they went and made preparations for the storm.

Now I had never experienced a hurricane before, so I didn’t know what to do or what to expect.  I turned on the radio and listened to all the local news I could.  Even though the weather was still warm and calm, reports were already coming in that there was a critical shortage of plywood, generators and other emergency supplies.  And there were long line ups at gas stations.

But I think I got a better understanding of the degree of panic and impending doom when I went to the local grocery store.  It looked like people were calmly doing their shopping.  But I stood there transfixed as I saw some people calmly reach their arms out on to the shelves and push huge piles of canned food and other items into their grocery carts.  The shelves were literally becoming empty.

The people were afraid, and they were doing all they could do to prepare for the worst.  Now let’s pick up again on Sharon’s devotional thought.

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What kind of preparations are we making for Jesus’ second coming? Are we standing around looking up into the sky for Him? Or are we working for Him? After Jesus’ resurrection, He appeared to the disciples and gave them the ‘Great Commission’:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:19-20

These verses plainly tell us that we are supposed to teach others about Jesus, whether it is next door or in another country. It is not an option, but a command to all who call Jesus, ‘Lord’. We are not evangelists in the formal sense, but we have all received gifts that we can use to help fulfill the Great Commission. And as we obey this command, we have comfort in the knowledge that Jesus is always with us.

Jesus also taught about remaining watchful in Matthew 24:36-51:

(v. 36) “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (v. 44) So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”

It is good that we don’t know exactly when Christ will return. If we knew the precise date, we might be tempted to be lazy in our work for Christ. Worse yet, we might plan to keep sinning and then turn to God right at the end. Heaven is not our only goal; we have work to do here.

So while we wait for that glorious day of our Savior’s return, prepare to be working for Him. He has given us a job to do – to teach others about Him.

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