Taking A Look At Bible Translation

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Special Bible Translation Videos

In many of my articles over the past two years, I have tried to explain what is involved in doing Bible translation work.  Explaining the process of translation, starting with a rough draft and then the numerous checking stages after that, can be done in words.  But as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.  And so that is what I will do for this article, provide you with some links to see some video clips that demonstrate and explain the ministry of Bible translation.

Last week, and on the very same day, two short videos were released online.  The first one, produced by Wycliffe Bible Translators, does an excellent job illustrating the stages and the challenges of Bible translation work.  Take a look at this video clip using a fictional language from Asia:

The Bible Translation Process

Now that you have a little taste of what it takes to translate the Bible into another language and culture of the world, you will want to take a look at this next video.  This video clip was just produced by our mission group, Pioneer Bible Translators, and it helps us to see the bigger global picture of Bible translation.  We know that God sent His Son, Jesus, to be the Savior of the whole world.  But there are still over 2,200 languages in the world that do not have even one verse of Scripture in their language.

Watch this next video clip and try to gain a new perspective on what needs to be done in world missions:

Answer The Call

Now that you have seen these two quick video clips, I want to invite you to view a message that I preached to some churches in eastern Canada a few weeks ago.  I was invited to share about the ministry of Bible translation, which I am always happy to do.  In my message, I outline “The Task”, “The Challenges” and “The Vision” of Bible translation.  The message is about 40 minutes long, so I would like to invite you to sit back now (or at a later time) and catch the vision of what God is doing in the world.

Here is the link to the video message I delivered:

Catch The Vision

I hope you have enjoyed watching these videos as much as I have enjoyed preparing this article and spreading the word of what God is doing through ordinary people like you and me to take God’s Word to the ends of the earth.

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!

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.