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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.

Enjoying the Road

We understand that many people probably have no desire to travel as much as we do, but my wife and I love it, and we’re thinking our son does too. We’ve really enjoyed the rhythm of having a set place to stay between meetings and then traveling out on the weekends and now Wednesday nights. We love seeing people and going to new places as we go to meetings, but then returning to our home away from home in Enola. It’s also nice to have a flexible schedule so we can work together on watching Eliyas and other things. I also like having a quiet place to get work done, particularly lecture preparations. So far, I’m ready for 4 days of teaching this summer, and I’ve begun collecting thoughts for 3 other days. We have one more week in Enola and then we spend a week in Kittanning (western PA).

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Last weekend we had a very nice time with the people at Independent Bible Church in Duryea, PA. We are very thankful for Pastor Cremard and his people for their strong stand for the Lord in the midst of a world shifting toward compromise.

Then, we enjoyed being with the people of First Baptist in Lebanon, PA, last Wednesday. We always like the fellowship with Pastor Fernett and the dear people there. We also picked up some baby clothes that they were holding for us, which were given by Heritage Baptist in Flemington, NJ. We are thankful for their love and support through the years since we began getting to know them.

We are at the halfway point regarding our meetings–7 done and 6 more to go. Only 2 more weeks on the road. Though we enjoy being in the road, we are looking forward to being home. We miss seeing family and friends in Grand Rapids. We also miss seeing our flowers open up at home. But these are small sacrifices in service for the Lord.

We are at the halfway point in terms of weeks of furlough, but we are not quite halfway through our meetings. We have been to 5 churches so far, but we’ll be going to 8 more before we head home in less than a month. We are so thankful to be able to use Cornerstone Independent Baptist Church’s missionary apartment in Enola, PA, between meetings. It’s become our home away from home! As I focus on preparing lectures for the two Bible translation courses this summer, it’s nice to have a desk I can use and a very peaceful environment. My goal has been to write a day’s worth (4-5 hours) of lectures each week. We’ve been on the road for 4 weeks, and I have 4 days’ worth of material ready. Praise God!

We are so thankful for the many blessings as we visit churches and spend time with the people. Faith Baptist Church in Lebanon, PA, was such an encouragement to us on our first weekend. We are thankful that they gave us a very generous offering to help with expenses, especially the purchase of a second vehicle, and they gave a very sizeable gift to help with the printing of the Falam Chin Bible. Less than $30,000 remains to be raised.

A highlight has to be returning to the church where we got married in July 2015–Victory Baptist Church in Reading, PA. We got to spend Resurrection Sunday with them. Here’s a picture after the morning’s events.

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I hadn’t been to Lowman Baptist Church in Pine Grove, WV, since before Oksana and Eliyas came into my life–almost 5 years. It was good to be with them again, and we were thankful for the welcome sign they prepared for us.

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Last weekend we got to spend time with our dear friends at Calvary Baptist Church in Lancaster, PA. Oksana already knew one couple since they came to our wedding, but that was her first time to visit the church with me. That church had become very special to me since they asked me to do a presentation on “Life as a Christian Single” a number of years ago. I poured out my heart to them, so they drew near in support.

I got to minister to the church group where we are staying here in Enola, PA, this past Sunday. That was an encouraging time as well. Sometimes I have rough nights because of Eliyas’ poor sleep patterns (every night is bad for Oksana), and that Tuesday night was particularly hard for me. But I’m thankful that the Lord gave me the strength to minister the Word that Wed evening.

The peaceful time at home came to an end, and now we are back in the rat-race pace of life. I’m thankful I was able to get my backburner emails down to 10, after seeing them rise to 62 by the beginning of this year. But now that we are busy with furlough travels (and very limited wifi), I’m seeing the more time-sensitive emails rise to around 40. Yikes!

My family really enjoys traveling together on furlough, because we get to be together all day long. Plus, we can set our own schedule, which means we can adjust it to how well Eliyas does through the night (which typically includes multiple interruptions).

I had hoped to have a somewhat slower paced schedule on this furlough trip, but then I found out I’ll be teaching graduate-level courses on Bible translation at Bob Jones University in late July. I have to prepare three weeks of lectures. I’m praying that BJU will allow some team-teaching so that my load is a little more bearable. Pray that they allow that! Meanwhile, I’m working through 10-15 books to prepare my 13-15 days of lectures. The positive side of this is that we get to spend time with friends in Greenville, SC! We are looking forward to taking our son down there to introduce him to friends.

On Friday a consultant submitted to me the Falam Chin Bible for final approval. This Bible is for the Falam Chin people who are in mainly in northern Myanmar, but whose diaspora is all over the globe. The translator, our new director for the Myanmar office, is an extremely hard worker (along with his team). He began his NT in 2002 and finished that in 2009. We quickly adopted the OT project in 2010, and he’s just about got it done. Only 15 years to translate an entire Bible! That may seem like a long time to you, but for those of us who do this work every day, that’s an incredibly fast pace. Our current average for finishing a NT is just under 15 years, and then just under 18 years for the OT. So, that would be an average of about 33 years to complete the Bible. In comparison, the Falam Chin Bible took less than half as long as our average. What an amazing feat that God enabled the Falam Chin translation team to accomplish. Praise God!

The prayer request, though, is that we would be able to complete funding, which has to be done before we can send it to the printer. We still need around $40,000. Pray that God would provide these remaining funds soon!

Last week I exchanged a number of emails with our Metanoia NT team and with linguistics consultants with another organization, and we had a Skype conversation or two. We are trying to figure out what letters to use for the velar and uvular sounds–e.g., like our English “k” and “q.” Metanoia has aspirated sounds and ejective sounds in this area of the mouth, and it can be quite difficult to tell the difference. As my wife was speaking in Russian to the translator, he was giving her examples of words with these sounds, and then she was trying to reproduce them for me to hear. Since Russian and Ukrainian don’t have the same exact sounds, it was almost impossible for me to hear a distinction. Needless to say, we need to wait until we see them in June to hear the sounds in person. Pray for us to have wisdom to know how to help them! We want to get this settled soon so that we don’t have to keep correcting the spelling of words in the NT translation. Pray also for wisdom for us in helping them decide whether to use words based on the language of a neighboring country (which most believers in their area know) or words based on their current country (which most unbelievers would know). That’s another issue we have to tackle in June.

Since I couldn’t go on any trips because of the possibility of a Pente research trip (which hasn’t happened yet) for the first three months of the year, I was stuck at home (which I loved!). That gave me the opportunity to get caught up on emails and projects. Some emails, which I call my “backburner” emails, went back to 2010. I had 62 of them waiting for me! But as of today, there are only 10 more! Of course, the craziness is going to get started up again on Friday, when we go on furlough for 2 months, and I don’t know when things will calm down again, though December looks pretty promising. May God give grace!

We at BI praise the Lord that the BMM General Council ratified the new BI constitution yesterday. We haven’t had a constitution since 1981 when BI was created. Since then, there have been many complex discussions about how BI should best relate to its parent organization, Baptist Mid-Missions. The new BMM president, Dr. Vernon Rosenau, determined that we should be considered a ministry team, just like the other ministry teams at BMM (no longer called “fields” since some teams are not tied to any particular location). Then, it was a matter of writing a constitution. That process began almost a year ago, and now it’s finished. What a relief! What a blessing!

I’m also thankful for the 7 volunteers, whom the Lord has provided, to help us develop materials for our projects. It’s such a blessing to see how the Lord leads people to us to help with the work! Plus, on Sunday I met a Mexican lady who has a PhD in exegesis, is a professional writer, and has a heart for Bible translation. She can help me determine what Spanish terminology to use for our technical documents. And then today, an adjunct consultant in Asia, who said he couldn’t help this year, changed his mind and said he is available to help. We really need his experience to work alongside a new consultant in Myanmar, so I’m very thankful for his willingness to help!

So many blessings to be thankful for!

March Prayer Letter

Dear Family and Friends,

While reading for my Marriage and Family Counseling course, I was convicted by these words in Stuart Scott’s The Exemplary Husband: “Many Americans seem mainly interested in three things: getting things done, achieving personal goals, and protecting their personal space” (p. 48). PRAY for God to give me wisdom to focus more on developing relationships.

COMMISSIONED!

Oksana and I are so thankful for the encouraging Commissioning Service at our church on January 21. Friends and family came from various places to join us in this special occasion. God used that time to strengthen us for the trials that lay ahead. We’ll continue to think back upon the challenge to be “His workmanship” (Eph. 2:10) that brings glory to Him.

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We are also thankful for the love gift from that service and other generous gifts that will help us as we look for a second vehicle that will meet our family and furlough travel needs. PRAY for God to provide a reliable vehicle at a good price before our upcoming two-month furlough trip to PA, WV, and NY. We look forward to ministering in 13 different churches. PRAY for strength to be a blessing amid that busy schedule while also keeping up with the translation ministry.

COMPLETING!

We’re very thankful that the BI constitution is almost completed. I have been part of the overall process since 2014 but, Lord willing, it will come to an end later this month.

We are also PRAISING God that the Akha NT with Psalms and Proverbs (Thailand), the Songhay NT (Mali), and the Tagalog revised NT (Philippines) are almost ready to be sent to the printer. I and another consultant worked extensively on the Tagalog NT to get it ready. Using software that allows us to sync the text through the internet, we were able to work in two different countries while also connecting with the revision team in the Philippines. PRAY for the final details to wrap up well and for preparations for the dedication and distribution. Two more projects are nearing completion: Falam Chin Bible (Myanmar) and Manipuri revised Bible (creative-access country). PRAY for the final tasks on these texts. There are also seven trial editions and 16 literacy and linguistics books coming down the pike. We are thankful to God for helping us bring so many texts to completion!

We have begun recruiting efforts in a creative-access country, so PRAY for God to lead us to new projects and personnel. PRAY also as we wait for God’s timing regarding a research trip to another creative-access country and a separate trip to Mexico.

PRAY for the work in Chad, Africa. The OT translators are still getting used to working with solar power, computers, and Bible translation software. Also, our new Chad literacy coordinator is learning his new job. We would like to take on two new projects there without slowing down our five current projects, so PRAY for God to provide a Chadian translation consultant.

PRAY also for personnel needs at the home office: director, projects coordinators, and Scripture Use manager.

For the sake of Christ,

Troy (for the three of us)