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My last blog post

September prayer letter (see at the end why I’m going to discontinue my blog but also how you can still get updates)

Dear Family and Friends,

Our new director encouraged us to read Milton Vincent’s The Gospel Primer, so Oksana and I decided to incorporate it into our family devotions. Vincent gives us many reasons to rehearse the gospel daily to ourselves, one of which is how it cures distrust of God by reminding me of His sacrifice of His Son’s life for me. What a powerful and precious truth!

SLOW BUT STEADY IN EURASIA

We are thankful for the safety God gave us on our trip to Ukraine and Eurasia in June and enjoyed spending two weeks in Ukraine with family and friends. My workshop preparations during the first week went smoothly, so thanks for praying.

We covered a few more verses than any previous workshop, but are still moving at about 25% of our optimal speed. The main translator plans to take language courses to improve his skills, so PRAY for this to help significantly with the project. Thank you for praying for us as we guided the translators through some complicated linguistic issues. The discussion ended up being so simple that I wondered why I was concerned–surely, it was because God answered prayers! We do another Eurasia-Ukraine trip in November/December, so PRAY for preparations for that. We also need to renew Oksana’s Ukrainian and international passports during the next two trips, so PRAY for God to guide us regarding how to accomplish that task.

DRIVING TO AND IN SC

We PRAISE God for providing a minivan for us just a week before we headed down to SC. It enabled my mom to travel with us, which really helped my wife, who enrolled in a driver’s training course while we were down there. PRAY as Oksana studies for the permit exam, while also trying to keep up with a busy toddler who doesn’t seem to like sleeping too much!

I am thankful for how well the courses went at BJU. Though it was an extremely busy time before and during the two courses, everything fell into place quite nicely, with three others helping to bear the teaching load. I really enjoyed the teaching experience and the two students, who are both seriously considering joining BI someday–so that goal was certainly accomplished. Plus, I learned much more about Bible translation work and began implementing that into the BI system–so that goal was also met. PRAISE God for how He sustained me during those three weeks because of your prayers! PRAY for BJU as they rework their linguistics program to attract more students.

We also squeezed in a meeting with a new church, and I had the privilege of speaking twice (once to the senior saints) at our former sending church, Mt. Calvary Baptist. In addition, we got to spend an evening together celebrating three years of marriage.

A PROFITABLE SEMINAR

We returned home on a Saturday and began hosting guests for the BI consultant seminar the following Monday, with the seminar beginning on Tuesday. Around 20 of us gathered to collaborate with each other and to learn from an Old Testament expert about Aramaic, textual criticism, theology, translation problems, and Bible software programs. PRAISE God for His blessings on the seminar!

I’ve begun looking ahead to the Haitian Creole OT workshop at the office in late September. PRAY for my preparations and for good progress on the project. We will represent BI at BJU’s missions conference in early October, so PRAY for safety as we travel down again and for God’s blessing on recruiting. We also have a two-day trip to Cleveland in early September.

Because of security concerns in certain countries, I will need to discontinue my blog. I will send out “feature” emails between prayer letters (no more than one per quarter) and “weekly” emails that give a few requests. If you would like to receive either of these, please send me an email at doctor_troy05@yahoo.com and indicate “feature” and/or “weekly” in the subject line.

For the sake of Christ,

Troy (for the three of us)

 

The first week of teaching here at Bob Jones University was definitely challenging in many respects but also enjoyable. I had to overcome some snags in getting fully integrated into the system here (online course interface, wireless connection, printer, locked doors, etc.), while also finalizing preparations for the lectures. Eight of my 9 lectures were mostly done when I arrived, but I still needed to do fine-tuning on a few and then make them into class presentations. This meant really long days for the first two days of the week, but then a little easier for the rest of the week.

During the first week of this course on Bible translation, we covered the history of Bible translation, current trends and needs, translation philosophy, translation methodology, and grammatical systems. I’m so thankful that Glenn Kerr, a co-worker at BI, has been able to help teach the course through Skype. His one-hour presentations on history, philosophy, and methodology have really lightened my load. He has also been discussing translation problems in various select passage for one hour per day, so that has really been helpful for me and the students too–especially since these are the only daily assignments that need to be graded, and he does all the grading for them. This means I mostly just need to focus on lecture preparation. Over the weekend, though, I also had to begin working on the final exam, since I wanted to supply my students with a study guide to help them in their preparations.

This week we’ll cover semantics, implicit and unknown words, sentences and paragraphs, and translation procedures. On Friday the students will take the final exam. So, once I get past the classtime on Thursday, it will be smooth sailing. There are only two students (Dr. Grace Hargis, on the left, is the resident faculty member overseeing the course and the missionary linguistics program), so grading their papers and exams should not be too bad at all.

I’m so thankful for God’s help during the first week and looking forward to how He’ll continue to help. We hope to see these two students join BI someday; they seem to be quite hopeful too. In addition to the recruiting aspect, I’ve also appreciated all I learned as I prepared for the course and all that I continue to learn as I interact with the material and with the students.

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On Sunday, we got to minister at Fellowship Baptist Church in Anderson, SC. It was a joy to be with the believers there and to tell them about our ministry of Bible translation. I knew Pastor Arnett from a church north of Grand Rapids, MI, so it was good to reconnect with him in his new pastorate down here.

We are thankful that the Lord connected Oksana to a good driver’s training program down here. She’s already done one behind-the-wheel session of about three hours and will do another tomorrow. She also did one classroom session with the group last week and has three more to do. I’m looking forward to seeing how she progresses in learning how to drive!

I can’t get too specific on the work we did in Eurasia because of security issues, but I will say that God definitely answered prayers regarding some complicated linguistic issues. We were able to make some progress on how to represent 4 sounds in their language, and the Lord gave us wisdom concerning guidelines in making word choices.

The team still struggled in writing their language, so the workshop went very slowly. But thankfully, we covered more material than in the past. During the last day, we covered more than any single day in the past as well, so there’s hope that we will eventually get close to our goal. This good progress was in spite of the many distractions caused by the fact that there were three families with their children all in the workshop room during the workshop sessions. I felt like I was leading a workshop in a day care! It sounds like the situation should be more conducive to productivity the next time we are there, so pray that everything will get completed in time for that to be possible. Pray too as the team tries to strengthen their grammar knowledge in their language and in other important languages.

One blessing of a slow workshop is that it allows me to work on other tasks both during the workshop and in the evenings. I made lots of progress in preparing to teach the two translation courses at BJU. I’ve actually gotten to the point where I think I see now how everything is going to fall into place before we leave on July 13. Praise God!

On my last day of this short vacation, I wanted to post something about some viewing I’ve been doing recently. I’ve found that I can double up on time by listening/viewing material while getting ready for the day and doing other mundane household activities. I’ve been asked to speak on textual criticism at BI’s Asia Consultant Seminar in January 2019 and on the English version issue at a supporting church in eastern PA next summer, so I wanted to learn more about both issues.

Some of you may be familiar with Steven Anderson’s attack on BI (and on me personally) a few years ago. If you know nothing about this, then you are better off. In fact, if you have never heard of Steven Anderson, consider yourself blessed in your ignorance. Anderson seems to love stirring up controversy and is basically a conspiracy theorist when it comes to English versions. He attacked Dr. James White, a pastor and an apologist who has debated various KJVO advocates (and debated many others on various issues), in March 2014. Dr. White graciously agreed to allow Anderson to interview him in August 2014. It’s 2.5 hours long, so it’s a lot to wade through, but I found it quite revealing of Anderson’s thinking. Clearly, White exposed the irrationality and self-contradictory nature of Anderson’s thinking. But what was particularly instructive was when Anderson explained how he arrived at his KJV-only position (starting around 26:00 into the video). He basically had a subjective, feeling-oriented experience in which he “heard the voice of God” in the KJV. He didn’t hear God’s voice in any other version. Though he would deny that a person can get saved only through the KJV (in the attack on White in March, he said people of other languages need to read the Bible in their own language), it’s actually the only logical conclusion to his position. At numerous places, White tried to show Anderson the self-contradictory nature of his positions, but Anderson always found a way to slither out from under the intense scrutiny.

Another KJVO advocate is Gail Ripplinger. She has even stranger views about the KJV. I had heard of her and her book, New Age Bible Versions, but had never actually read the book or heard her speak. So, I listened to a 1993 debate between her and Dr. White, that R.C. Apologist posted on YouTube in 2015. Ripplinger’s view is even more dangerous than Anderson’s, because she claims to have received a “word from God” in which He gave her “acrostic algebra,” which is a means by which you can supposedly find hidden meaning behind various letter combinations. White exposes the many errors of Ripplinger’s views and book, including numerous egregious misrepresentations of many good men. Sadly, Dr. Kent Hovind actually defended Ripplinger after this debate. It’s amazing to hear Hovind and Ripplinger (through his reading of a letter she wrote) claiming that what they are experiencing is persecution for the sake of the Lord. Surely, the Lord is not in illogical, divisive views or any claims of new revelations!

Because I had been viewing these videos about the KJV debate, it pulled up a debate between Dr. White and Dr. D.A. Waite. I have to admit that Waite was probably the most moderate in his demeanor. However, he was also like Anderson and Ripplinger in refusing to be backed into a corner by logical argumentation. Instead of answering questions about conclusions to which his self-contradictory views took him, he would dodge them and spout out more of his views.

After that overdose of KJVO advocates, I decided to turn my attention to an actual study of the facts of textual criticism. Dr. Mark Ward, a good friend and a Faithlife writer, helped me know about some free lectures by Dr. Daniel Wallace at credohouse.org on textual criticism. Since I studied this information in my doctoral studies, I found much of it to be review, but it was good to be reminded of the facts and to learn many other things that I didn’t know. I’m not quite halfway through the lectures but have found Wallace’s presentation of the issue to be quite fascinating. Since Wallace has extensive personal experience with the NT manuscripts, being the executive director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, he has a unique insider perspective on the issues. While I don’t fully agree with Wallace’s view on a developing “canon consciousness” (in various places like 2 Pet. 3:16, Peter indicates his consciousness of actually writing Scriptures), I am finding his lectures to be extremely valuable.

Anyone familiar with the issues of textual criticism knows that even the KJV translators wrestled with textual variants, as one of Dr. Ward’s friend’s noted. I really appreciate Ward’s blog, because he’s a deep thinker, an engaging writer, and most importantly, a committed Christian. He’s trying to help Christians see the real issues behind the KJV issue. In fact, he wrote a book, Authorized: The Use and Misuse of the King James Bible, to help with the issue, and he has developed a website, KJVParallelBible.org, to show English speakers in Elizabethan English the differences between the Textus Receptus and the Critical Text, the latter being the basis for most modern versions of the NT. I highly recommend Dr. Ward and his works!

I also highly recommend Dr. James White. I found his kind, patient spirit toward the KJVO advocates to be quite commendable. His ministry is called Alpha & Omega Ministries. Though I haven’t read or listened to everything he’s put out there, I found what I’ve read or listened to so far to at least lead me to give a positive recommendation.

One interesting observation that I read on CAnswersTV‘s video description of the White-Waite debate is that the KJV-only position actually began among the Seventh-Day Adventists in 1930. A book was written then and then another by a different SDA guy in 1955. But it wasn’t until Rev. David Ottis Fuller, a Baptist pastor, wrote Which Bible? in 1970 that the position became popular among certain fundamental Baptists. Apparently, Fuller removed the SDA connnections and baptized it, so to speak, to make it more palatable for Baptists. I’ll have to do more study on that idea, because I had never heard of it. Fuller was quite a big name in Grand Rapids, MI, where I live. He helped establish children’s radio ministry and Grand Rapids Baptist Bible College, which is now Cornerstone University.

When the summer began, the work was piling up faster than I could keep up. I wondered how in the world I’d have time to take a short vacation (4 days) here in Ukraine. I had to save all of my workshop preparation for this week. I hate procrastinating, but I had no choice. I knew it would be intense to spend almost all day every day checking the translation with the Greek for John 1-7, but I knew God would give grace.

What ended up happening is that almost every day as I did the work, I finished much quicker than I thought. In fact, these past two days, I finished with 3 hours still remaining in the day. Instead of jumping into the next chapter in the afternoon, I would set the work aside to catch up on emails and other projects. I actually got my urgent emails down to almost 0, and I took care of many other less urgent emails as well. I even made good progress on another lecture for the Bible translation course, after taking advantage of some quiet moments in travel from the US.

So, having come to the end of this week, I can feel good about setting work aside for 4 days to enjoy family and friends in Ukraine, before diving back into the work in a week. We’ve already been able to enjoy some nice evenings together, especially since the weather is absolutely beautiful. If you could only hear Eliyas’ excitement when the playground we are walking to is finally in sight, you’d also agree that he finds it quite enjoyable! (The picture below was actually just a quick moment between Sunday morning church services and Sunday lunch.)

2018.06.03--Ukraine

Praise God for how abundantly He answered prayer! And to top it all off, it was such a joy to read through John 1-7 in Greek. I love this statement from the officers of the Jewish leaders: “No one ever spoke like this man!” (Joh 7:46 ESV) Such statements almost brought tears to my eyes. What a glorious Lord!

June Prayer Letter

Dear Family and Friends,

Many challenges and encouragements to improve our marriages are found in the second book in the Marriage and Family Counseling course I’m taking. In Sweethearts for a Lifetime, Wayne and Carol Mack have found that marriages are often lacking because “so little in our society encourages couples to make the kind of adjustments and sacrifices in their lives that are necessary for oneness in marriage.” When our society encourages a self-focused life, it is only by the power of the Spirit working through the Word that we can see the right way to live. PRAY for God to help Oksana and me to strengthen our oneness.

A BUSY BUT GOOD FURLOUGH

Oksana and I are thankful for good ministry opportunities in 13 churches during almost two months of travels recently. We enjoyed reconnecting with 13 churches and seven supporting families. We were not able to find a second vehicle before the trip; but God enabled us to fit everything into our Ford Escape and gave us safety over the many, many miles we covered.

2018.04.01 Easter (1)

Eliyas’ First Easter (Reading, PA)

During meetings in the first six weeks, we were able to return to one location, giving us a “home away from home” to enjoy welcoming spring as a family and to get some work done. I was able to complete five of nine lecture days for the two-week course, Bible Translation, that I will be teaching at Bob Jones University in July. Since then, I have completed another day of lectures and have made significant progress on the second course, Translation Technology, a one-week course. PRAY as I need to complete the rest of the material for both courses by the middle of July. PRAISE God that He has provided a way for a co-worker to share some of the teaching via Skype for the first course, and that He opened a way for two PhD friends to help teach Bible software in the second course. PRAY also for the Lord to raise up more students to take the Missionary Linguistics Program at BJU.

SHORT VISITS AT HOME

After furlough we had only two weeks at home before we headed out to Ukraine at the end of May. We will spend two weeks there before going to another Metanoia NT workshop in Eurasia. I have had to save all my workshop preparations for the first week in Ukraine, so PRAY for wisdom and strength as I prepare. PRAISE God for helping the team and Oksana to finish all their work so that I can start preparing. PRAY for wisdom as Oksana and I try to resolve complicated linguistic issues, including whether to borrow words from the old parent language of Metanoia or its new host country language.

When we return from Eurasia, we will have only two weeks in MI before we head to SC for the translation courses. Then, we’ll have only a few days at home before I lead the BI Consultant Seminar. PRAY for grace in these quick turn-arounds. PRAY also for good preparation and participation in the seminar. PRAY too that the Lord would provide a minivan before the trip to SC, since my mom will be going with us on that trip.

It looks like I will not be doing the research trip to another creative-access country this year or going to Mexico. Thank you for your prayers!

PRAISE God that Tim Fink has answered God’s call to become BI’s new director. PRAY for Tim and his wife Sandy as they adjust to this new ministry over the summer. PRAY for God to provide project coordinators and a Scripture Use manager.

For the sake of Christ,

Troy (for the three of us)

 

Though we are very thankful for “our Enola home,” we are excited about relocating our PA headquarters to Kittanning, where we’ll be through Mother’s Day weekend. We will be speaking in 5 more churches during this last week and a half of furlough ministry. We’ll also get to see individual supporters all along the way.

We are thankful for the very encouraging time we had at Community Baptist in Fleetwood and then at Calvary Baptist in York. Both churches were very encouraging and receptive to us. We’ve also enjoyed welcoming spring into this area. This past week was finally a week of consistently warm temperatures. We will definitely miss getting to take evening walks along the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg.

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After doing a lot of reading about translation philosophy, I finally cranked out a rough draft of a lecture on it for the Bible translation course. Though scholarship is moving beyond functional equivalence (formerly called dynamic equivalence), this is still the prevalent philosophy in textbooks and the majority of the last translations. So, my lecture focuses on essentially a comparison of BI’s philosophy and functional equivalence. I really appreciated the critical analyses that are available to help me think through the issues, but probably my favorite analysis was done by Vern Poythress in Translating Truth. His article is called “Truth and Fullness of Meaning.” His main point is that functional equivalence has essentially reduced the translation process to a scientific process. This is evident even in the title of his first book, Toward a Science of Translation. He took the advances in linguistics, especially in regard to grammar studies (e.g., generative grammar by Noam Chomsky), and applied them to the task of Bible translation. The process he proposed is one of analysis, transfer, and restructuring, by means of kernel analysis and transformations, in order to produce the proper reader response to the resulting translation. As Poythress explains, this process is too reductionistic, even though Nida does give some explanation of the artistic aspects as well. Like Poythress, I am thankful for the analytical tools that Nida has provided in the theory he advanced, and I also recognize that Nida cannot be held responsible for those who have taken his theory further than he intended it to go. But I really appreciate Poythress helping me to see that translation is much more than a scientific process; it’s an art and a science. Also, the meaning of the biblical texts cannot be discovered simply by linguistic analysis. The transfer to other languages is much more than the transformation of underlying kernels into new forms in the target language. We also depend upon God’s Spirit to guide us, and we bow in humble recognition that some passages elude even our best efforts at trying to discover the meaning.