The President’s Blog
At a recent banquet in San Antonio, Max Lucado surprised me by honoring Rebecca and me for the 20 years we invested to complete the translation of the Yalunka Bible. He compared Pioneer Bible Translators to the New Testament writer Luke, because we provide Scripture for the Bible-less people of today like Luke did for Theophilus.
I have a really intense friend in West Africa. In January I went to visit him, and I said, “Let’s have a meeting with the church leadership to choose several initiatives that will advance the Kingdom of God among the Yalunka people.” Without hesitation, he looked straight into my eyes and said, “I know one that will work! Do you remember when the people of God were about to die in the book of Esther because Haman was going to kill them all? Esther declared three days of fasting and prayer–not drinking or eating. And they were saved. When Ninevah was about to be destroyed by God, the king called for fasting and prayer, and the city was saved. If fasting and prayer saved those people, and it was a matter of life and death, then how could we fail to evangelize our own people if we are fasting and praying? There’s no way we could fail!”
About 80 people sat and stared intently at nothing in particular with that strange look of concentration a person gets when straining with all their energy to hear a sound. Everyone leaned forward to capture every word of the Sermon on the Mount as the voice of Jesus echoed through the grass shelter where we had gathered to explain the new dramatized audio New Testament. The chief would occasionally nod his head at a particularly poignant teaching. One of his advisors would occasionally risk voicing assent when Jesus hammered a point home, but quickly hushed again to avoid missing a single word Jesus had to offer.
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.
During the last six months, a massive influx of recruits swelled our numbers again to the point of having more people in preparation than we have career missionaries overseas. God has blessed us with the biggest wave of new teammates in the history of our team! Over the last months, we have much to be grateful for and amazing progress, but we are also overcoming some significant challenges and grief too. PBT has suffered the loss of two precious teammates to cancer, PNG Branch Director Eunice Messersmith and Tim Wright, the Guinea Branch stateside chaplain. We have suffered enormous sorrow over the passing of our friends Eunice and Tim, but at the same time we know that they are now part of that great cloud of faithful witnesses listed in Hebrews 11. By faith Eunice and Tim invested their lives in service to God striving to see transformed lives through God’s Word in every language on earth. They now see clearly the object of their faith. We who remain behind must pursue the work with the same grace, peace, and strength as the example they lived. We must work while it is day for night is coming when no one can work.
If we have learned anything over the last 4 and a half years, it’s that God moves in great power when we persevere together in prayer about the passion of his heart. We see him move when we pray that people far from knowing him would come to understand the power of his Word in their lives and follow Jesus. We are now four and a half years into our six year plan to more than double in size, meet all the needs we had documented when we started the plan, and start four new fields. As we gradually increase our commitment to prayer, we are seeing all of these objectives become a reality, but we still lack one key thing.
All the important leaders in the area came to hear the preaching and eat some beef. My Christian friends in the small West African village had erected an ornate, grass-covered conference hall in front of the church with intricate care. We needed a place to host the crowd of esteemed guests we had invited to celebrate Christmas with us—all of them leaders in the world religion that dominates that region. Clusters of curious children peeked over the grass walls to catch a glimpse of the assembly while kicking up enough red dust to gradually deposit a layer of caked sediment in my lungs. Most of the church members were feverishly cooking the Christmas cow in anticipation of the feast to come after the preaching and singing—the highlight of the year.
Pioneer Bible Translators has received word that one of our missionary families to West Africa, Yancy and Sherry Fariss, lost their village home to a fire earlier this week.Everyone made it out of the house safely with only minor injuries to Yancy, the father, and Debra, the 7-month-old baby.Yancy reported that the fire burned pretty much everything in the house. He thanks the Lord that their car, computer and language data were spared, along with some odds and ends that were close to the door.The Fariss family reported that their African neighbors in the village where they work were a great blessing to them. Many cried for them and some even wailed and threw dirt in the air to show their pain.
“Long lay the world in sin and error pining, till he appeared…” In this season we marvel that God’s Word became flesh. The weary world no longer need suffer in sin and error, but God’s Word has not yet come to the 200 million Bibleless peoples of the world! Of the 6912 languages of the world, only 438 have a complete Bible and only 1168 have a complete New Testament. Praise the Lord with us as we celebrate what He has done through your prayers and support for Pioneer Bible Translators this year! God has moved powerfully to begin answering almost every request on our long-term prayer list.
At Pioneer Bible Translators, we are planning our future growth as a mission around the question, “What do we need to provide to the Bible Translation movement so that there will be a network of churches using Scripture to grow and multiply in every language group on earth by around 2050 or 2060?” Imagine how different this world would be: Churches and Scripture transforming every language group by 2050! What would that take?
Greg has served as President of Pioneer Bible Translators since 2007. He, his wife Rebecca, and their three children served in West Africa for more than twelve years, completing the Bible in the Yalunka language. He has a degree in civil engineering from Texas A&M, and a Masters and a Ph.D. in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He also has linguistic training from the University of North Dakota and the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics.
Check out Greg's book, Extreme Prayer: The Impossible Prayers God Promises to Answer.