Pioneer Bible Translators of Canada

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How It All Began

When I tell people that I am a Bible translator, they often ask me if I am a member of Wycliffe Bible Translators.  That’s not unusual since WBT is the single largest Bible translating organization in the world and has been around for over 80 years now.  So I respond, “No, I’m with a smaller group called Pioneer Bible Translators.”  And you can read here about how PBT first got started in the States back in the ‘70s.

When I say I am with PBT of Canada, then people want to know how it began.  This is a great story and I love to pass it on.  It goes back to the early 90’s when Jill and I were seeking direction from God as to how we could be involved in the overseas ministry of Bible translation.  Ever since I was a teenager I was interested in becoming a translator.

In 1990, Jill and I attended a month long orientation course in California put on by Wycliffe which allowed us to see what they were like and they could get to know us.  That course confirmed for me that this is what I wanted to do as a ministry.  At the end of the course, the recommendation was that Jill and I stay settled a little longer in Canada, get our debts reduced and strengthen our marriage before we head to the mission field.

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So we spent the next couple years doing pastoral ministry in Central Canada and worked on all the things we were told to be working on.  We got to the point where it looked like the timing was right to move ahead with our application with Wycliffe.  We sent in all our paper work, but we didn’t hear back from them.  So life carried on and our family by this point in 1993 was in Prince Edward Island in the Maritimes of Canada.

In talking with a good friend at that time, the question came up about whether I was going to go into mission work.  The desire was there, but the timing wasn’t right.  But from that discussion the door opened to pursue my biblical languages again and we moved to Lincoln, IL.  I loved the Greek and Hebrew studies.  And then someone introduced me to one of the staff of the school who just happened to be on the Board of Pioneer Bible Translators.

After having a good discussion with this man, he invited me to drive with him to Dallas to attend their Fall Board meeting.  For a period of four days, I heard all about what PBT was and what they were doing in the world.  My interest in Bible translation was then fanned from a small ember into a blazing fire.  When Jill asked me when I got back as to what I thought, I said, “Start packing.  We’re going to Dallas.”

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In September of 1994, I began my two years of linguistic studies, mostly in Dallas, but also one summer in North Dakota.  Part of PBT’s training was to attend two one-week courses held each June to get more familiar with PBT and get ready for field ministry.  We took our second course in 1995.  At that time, the Board also met to make decisions for the mission.  As students, we were invited to attend one of their sessions.

After the hour together with the Board, the Chairman asked us all if we had any questions or thoughts to share.  It was at that moment that I believe God empowered me to speak up and say, “One day I believe there will be a PBT of Canada.”  Everyone in the room paused to consider this thought and then they broke out into applause.  What a wonderful moment that was to think about what God might do next for us and through us.

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There was a very practical reason for wanting to believe that there would one day be a PBT of Canada.  As Canadians, there was no legal way for churches or individuals in Canada to send money to PBT-US to help support the work we would be doing and be able to get a charitable donation receipt.  There had to be a Canadian mission agency existing through which we could be sent to the field and through whom people could send their donations.

Many discussions were held between me and Rondal Smith, the president at that time of PBT-US.  We both felt that we needed to have a meeting with Canadian pastors.  I told him about the annual “Pastors and Wives Retreat” held in western Canada each winter and suggested that we try to speak with them at that time.  We did get an invitation to attend the Retreat and Rondal spoke for a half hour one afternoon challenging the pastors to consider started a Canadian organization and help in the task of bringing God’s Word to the Bible-less peoples of the world.

We announced that we would have a meeting that evening for anyone interested in starting a PBT of Canada mission.  Quite a few pastors said yes.  The funny part about this story is that the Retreat was held at a hot springs resort, and wanting to enjoy the facilities while having this meeting, we all agreed to get our swim trunks on and meet in the hot pool.

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And that is how PBT of Canada started.  From that famous “Hot Pool Meeting”, a handful of pastors worked with us to build the foundation of a new Canadian mission.  In June of 1996, it was announced at the annual PBT training course that PBT of Canada had just been granted its official status as a Christian Charity in Canada.  Eight months later, on February 15th of 1997, Jill and I and our two young boys stepped on to the soil of Papua New Guinea to begin our career as a Bible translation family.  Praise the Lord!


Being A Missionary Recruiter

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Who Am I?  Part 21

The last article in my life journey story ended with the announcement of my son’s diagnosis of leukemia and our departure of our family from our mission work in Papua New Guinea. The first chemotherapy treatments for Eric occurred in Brisbane, Australia since it was necessary to start treatments as soon as it was possible. It was five weeks before the first window of opportunity presented itself for us to take Eric back to Canada and to continue with his treatments there.

Those early days in Brisbane and our trip to Canada deserve their own story, and I hope to tell that in some future article. I will relate one part of it though so you can get an idea of what our family was going through at that time. When we left PNG,  we barely had time (actually less than 24 hours) to pack a few suitcases. What happened next occurred both in Brisbane and then also in Calgary. Here is how it played out.

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Upon landing at the airport, we immediately took a taxi to the hospital. The four of us in our family, along with our eight suitcases, went up to the Admitting Desk and announced our arrival almost like you would do when you check in at a hotel. The hospital had already been alerted to are coming, and so the chart was already there for Eric. The nurse, or attending clerk, would go over the admitting papers and confirm all of our personal information. We did well on all of the lines until she got to one of them.

The question that stumped all of us was this one, “And what is your local address?” We heard the question. We looked around. We looked down at our luggage. Then we looked at the nurse again and said, “Here?” And that was the beginning of the next three years that we all now refer to as “The Cancer Years”. Not a very promising start, was it?

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Obviously, our primary focus in the years of 2002 – 2005 was to take care of Eric as he went through his 33 months of chemotherapy. Those were very difficult years for all of us, and for a lot of different reasons. But God was very good to us in many ways, and many people were very kind and helpful to us as we walked along this road. And certainly our faith in God and our love and commitment to each other in the family were also what helped us to survive those years.

But for me personally, I was faced with a huge issue that had no immediate answers for me when we first got back to Canada. I had to answer the question of, “So what do I do now?” I had prayed for, and prepared for many years to be a Bible translator. And in the previous five years to this moment, I had actually been involved in translating Scriptures into the N. language of Papua New Guinea. But now what was I going to do?

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The decision of what to do with me was partly taken out of my hands. The leadership at our international office conferred with the Board members of Pioneer Bible Translators of Canada and made a decision which they felt would be in our best interest. We were immediately “unassigned” as members of the PNG Branch and were reassigned to be staff members of our Canadian PBT organization.

What was positive though, was that this did give me something to do. I was asked to become the Director of Recruitment for PBT of Canada. (Isn’t it funny how we like to give ourselves titles?) And so in the midst of these difficult health years for Eric, suddenly I was given a sense of purpose again, and all of us need that in life, don’t we?

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For over two years then, God took me on trips all over Western Canada in order to publicize our mission and to try to recruit new members. At the same time I taught Greek and Missions courses for one year in a Bible College in Calgary, and then the next year I taught New Testament studies and Missions in a Bible College in Regina, Saskatchewan. (You never know where you’ll end up when you commit to serving the Lord, do you?)

This wasn’t exactly what I had planned to be doing as a missionary, traveling across Canada to do recruitment.  But if PBT of Canada was going to really stand up as an independent mission organization, then it would have to grow by getting new members.  It was in 1994 when God put the vision in my heart to see PBT-C be born, but by 2002, Jill and I were still the only missionaries in the mission.

There were some seeds planted in a few individuals and couples during my two years as Director of Recruitment.  Just like the parable of the four kinds of soil, I did see that many people showed little interest, some showed rapid interest but fell away later, and still in a few others there was receptive soil to the idea of becoming active with our mission group in Canada.

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Well, that is a quick overview of what happened for our family and how my ministry work for the Lord took a different turn. Many other things have happened to our little mission in Canada. Suffice it to say that our Canadian Board has become strong and quite active lately. And Jill and I are not the only missionaries now who are a part of PBT-C. Not in every case, but in some cases, I’m glad to know that I had a small part to play in that.