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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)

 

One more month at home

My wife and I are thankful for the safety the Lord gave us during our recent trip to IN and IL. We ended up logging around 800 miles on the trip. We were quite worn out after we got back and needed some extra sleep to recover, but we are glad we went. We got to see pastors from two of our supporting churches, and we spent Sunday morning worshiping with a third, and spending a good part of the afternoon with the pastor and a few others. We also got a ton of free items from Widow’s Jar Ministries, mostly for our growing boy. We are so thankful for that ministry, because they help us save hundreds of dollars. And we need those hundreds too, because we are looking for a second vehicle that will more adequately handle our needs as a family on furlough trips. We hope to get one before our upcoming trip that begins on March 23.

Being at home for an extended period of time has allowed me to get into a regular routine. I’ve been able to spend more time studying Russian, and I’ve been able to keep up with emails better. I only got to 2 of the 64 non-time-sensitive emails so far, but I have hopes that I can deal with more next week. I have difficulty getting the time-sensitive ones below 10 (currently at 14), but as long as I can keep them to a manageable amount, I can work on other things. Soon, I’ll need to prepare sermons and devotionals for our upcoming trip. The original plan was to visit 7 supporting churches in PA and WV, but then it expanded to 9. But now we’re up to 13. It’s going to be a two months packed with ministry opportunities!

I just finished the quarterly report of my department (text production) for the 4th quarter of 2017 (including some activities from January). I noticed that we did 31 translation workshops and 6 literacy/linguistics workshops. That’s a very busy quarter! That also meant that I had to read all the reports for those workshops (not all have been submitted). No wonder I had 100 time-sensitive emails at one time!

As one of my responsibilities as the head consultant, I have to read the latest issue of The Bible Translator. In one article, the author discussed the challenges in translating into Kkmer, the primary language of Cambodia. He explains that there are 16 different second-person pronouns, identifying differences in age, gender, and social status. Greek has only two such pronouns, and they distinguish between singular and plural. Imagine the difficulties, then, that a Khmer translator has when trying to determine which of the 16 pronouns to use for the 2 Greek pronouns. This is particularly challenging when you consider Jesus, the Son of God, who had divine social status, but yet also lived within the realm of human society with its family relationships, government relationships, etc. The author discussed three case studies in John: Jesus and his mother (John 2:4), Jesus and Pilate (John 18:33-36), and Jesus and his apostles (John 15:15). These are the types of things that no commentary gives us guidance on, so we translators are left to work through the issues on our own. Thankfully, though, we have the Holy Spirit to guide us and committed team members to work together with.

 

This weekend my family will take a few days off to spend time together, visit my sister and her family, and stock up on baby clothes for our growing-into-a-giant boy. We look forward to some time away! We’ll also get to make contact with three supporting churches: Bible Baptist in Wakarusa, IN; Calvary Baptist in Geneva, IL; and Colonial Hills Baptist in Indianapolis, IN. It’s going to be a packed weekend, but hopefully fun and refreshing–and safe!

The Pente research trip keeps getting pushed back, since we are waiting for documents to be processed for the main coordinator with whom we are traveling. So, that’s given me the opportunity to spend almost 3 full months at home (minus the upcoming weekend trip). What a welcomed time to get into a normal routine and actually get caught up on emails and other tasks! At one point earlier this year, I had close to 100 time-sensitive emails in my inbox, but now I’m down to around 10. Maybe I can actually get to the 64 non-time-sensitive emails that have been waiting for me for a while, some going all the way back to 2010.

It’s also given us the chance to take care of various medical requirements that BMM asks us to do in order to get missionary clearance. It may not be until mid-May that we get these things done, but we are slowly making progress.

I’ve also used this time to try to finalize BI’s constitution, which should be ratified sometime in March, and to establish my department’s budget for the coming fiscal year, that starts on April 1. I think I’m getting spoiled, because I normally have to keep up with all these things while preparing for a workshop and then traveling to do that workshop. In early 2019, I’ll be wishing my year started as 2018, but instead it looks like I’ll be traveling to India and Haiti in the first two months. I guess I can’t have this privilege of being home multiple months in a row too often, or I’ll actually see grass growing under my feet. God gives grace for every season of life!