Archive for June, 2008

For those of you who read my previous post about the statistics that present the needs of Bible translation, you will want to read it again, because I’ve had to revise some of the things that I said, based on what I’ve learned recently.  Sorry for presenting the information incorrectly last week.  I really thought that I understood the whole situation, but I guess I didn’t.  I think I understand the situation better now, but then again, I may receive further clarity again in a few weeks. 

I hope my revised post doesn’t discourage anyone from praying hard for this ministry or considering joining it.  The needs are still extremely large.  One thing I didn’t say about the stats in that post is the fact that just because a Bible is published in a language doesn’t mean that the need is no longer there.  There’s always a need for revision, and in other cases, there may be a need for a complete re-translation. 

For those who are interested in the ministry of Bible translation, you might want to read my review of an article by D. A. Carson about the limits of the theory of dynamic equivalence.  See “Translator’s Page.”

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When I give my presentation at churches, I like to draw their attention to the back of my prayer card.  I note that many missionaries put prayer requests on the back of their card.  Then I point out that I have over 4,500 prayer requests on the back of my card, because there are that many languages that don’t have a SINGLE verse of Scripture in their own language.  Of course, that makes the impact that I intend.  Then I explain that my greatest concern is for the believers among those 4,500 who have to have a relationship with the Lord through a Bible not written in their heart language. 

While I was in Quebec, I had a guy (an American from BJU, in fact) express his confusion about that number.  He said that Wycliffe Bible Translator’s site notes that there are around 2,500 languages without any portion of Scripture.  In fact, the number is presently about 2,300.  I was just speaking to two representatives of Wycliffe (and SIL), and they said that they derive their number by starting with a rough gestimate of 3,000 languages that they project to have a need for Bible translation.  Then, they subtract out some hard-and-fast numbers of what they are currently doing.  Thus, they arrive at the 2,300 amount. 

I was also able to pick up a Wycliffe brochure to help me better understand their perspective on the need.  According to a graph that they have in the brochure, Bible translation projects are currently underway in around 2,700 languages.  They indicate that there are around 6,900 languages in the world, so that leaves around 4,200 that still have a need.  This is much higher than the 2,300 mentioned above.  However, there are a number of languages among the 4,200 that might go extinct before we are able to provide them with a Bible translation.  But it’s really difficult to know for sure how many of those languages are close to extinction. 

And as I said in my earlier post, a full survey of all the world’s languages hasn’t actually been accomplished.  What a mammoth task that would be!  Thus, the numbers that we can provide are not hard-and-fast numbers.  When we finally get around to surveying them, we may find that there are many more languages that have needs.  Someone said last Sunday that there are around 100 sign languages in the world, but that if we did an in-depth survey, we would probably discover that there are more like 400 sign languages. 

Another person I sat with at lunch last week pointed out that even the 400+ languages with complete Bibles have needs.  In at least one case, the last edition was published 100 years ago and no one knows where it can be accessed. 

Needless to say, there is still MUCH work to be done in the field of Bible translation.  And when one considers the great deal of linguistics work that needs to precede, accompany, and follow Bible translation, we can bank on the fact that there will be no shortage of needs any time soon in this aspect of missions.  It is true that there is not as much of a need as what I had originally thought–i.e., 2,300 is much less than 4,500.  But as I said earlier, we can’t be sure that 2,300 represents the actual need.   In addition, the Bible agencies around the world want to at least begin projects in all of the 2,300 needy languages by 2025.  But remember, this is just the BEGINNING and this is just the languages that have been surveyed. 

Another note about numbers.  I read some tracts in Quebec that spoke of the great diffusion of Bible translation.  In fact, one tract says that 97% of the world can now read at least a part of the Bible in their maternal language.  What are we to make of that?  Well, we should actually adjust the figure to around 93% and we should keep in mind that the remaining 7% represents around 400 million people.  In addition, we need to ask ourselves, “What is the quality of the Scripture that they do have access to?  How much of the Bible do they actually have access to in their own language?  Should we rest content if they have a dozen portions of Scripture from various places in the Bible?  Why can’t they have the same privilege that we do of having it ALL?!”  The Bible is a highly disseminated Book, but this does not mean that there are no more needs or that there are only a few needs here and there around the globe.  There are GREAT needs, and they demand IMMEDIATE attention, because souls are dying without access to Scripture in their own heart language. 

What’s the moral of this post?  Keep in perspective what you read about numbers in this field of Bible translation.  Pray for the Lord to send more laborers.  I’m so thankful that I have been called to this ministry.  And here I have been concerned recently that maybe there aren’t that many needs.  I have the feeling that I am going to look back on these days in the future and laugh at my unwarranted concern. 

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I’m so thankful for the time that I spent in Quebec.  The Lord truly met all of my needs and exceeded my expectations.  I praise the Lord that I never had to find my own housing in a hotel, and I had to purchase only two meals the entire 34 days.  Since the churches are so small in Quebec (most have around 20 people, though a few had as many as 70-80), I was praying that the love offerings could at least cover my travel expenses.  But as it turns out, the people gave so generously that the offerings were at least three times higher than my travel expenses, and there are still some gifts on their way!  I’m also very thankful for the church and a young couple who promised to begin supporting me.  Most importantly, I greatly appreciate the ministry I accomplished by God’s grace, the friendships I’ve established, and the prayer supporters I’ve gained.  The people truly gained a vision for the worldwide needs of Bible translation.  One Quebec pastor sent me a message yesterday saying that he sees my prayer card on the refrigerators of the members of his church.  The people continue to pray.  Praise the Lord! 

I began the long trip back to the USA on Thursday morning.  I drove 6 hours south to stay with the Claude Jutras family.  I left bright and early on Friday in order to get back into Grand Rapids before the banks closed.  I ended up missing my target by about half an hour, but I’m thankful for the safety and the good fellowship with the Lord that I enjoyed on the trip. 

That evening was quite hectic as I had to unpack, do laundry, sort through the mail at the office, and re-pack for my trip the following morning, as well as find time to squeeze a supper in.  I ended up finishing all those activities by around 1:30am on Sat.  I was up at 5:20am to make final preparations for my train departure at 7:30.  The Amtrak trip from GR to Chicago was uneventful and enjoyable, but the fun began in Chicago.  I had to walk two blocks to the commuter train, but I never could find it.  After lugging four heavy pieces of luggage around a few blocks on a hot and steamy day, I hailed for a taxi.  The commuter train took me straight to O’Hare airport. 

Because of bad weather in Chicago, we were delayed in leaving.  The delay caused me to miss my second flight, which means I also missed my third flight.  I ended up staying the night in Minneapolis and took a plane on Sunday morning to Grand Forks.  So, after around 28 hours, I finally arrived at my destination, tired but thankful to be here! 

I’ve learned much since I arrived on Sunday, both about the course material and about this program in general.  The University of ND has outsourced their entire linguistics department to SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics).  Though SIL is a Christian organization, they have to operate within the confines of a secular university.  This interesting mix leads to a unique situation here.  Though most of the 140+ students are evangelical Christian, some are not.  Classes aren’t begun in prayer, and chapel is optional.  There’s much more that could be said, but I’ll leave it at that. 

My schedule is nicely grouped around the middle of the day–Translation of Texts at 9am, Typology and Discourse at 10am, chapel at 11am, lunch at 12pm, and Semantics and Pragmatics at 1pm.  On T and Th I will be taking the students’ kids to the pool for a couple of hours; this is my work assignment to help keep the costs down. 

Please pray that I would be salt and light here.  Please also pray that my studies would not suffer too much as I take a trip to Chicago this weekend for my sister’s wedding. 

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Sometimes I wonder if I’ve really left America.  I’m referring to the fact that I have probably spoken more in English than in French.  There has been only one church where I had to speak only French to everyone.  Otherwise, I’m either with missionary or with Quebec pastors who know both languages.  This switching between the languages is messing with my mind; I often revert to French as I think things through in my mind. 

After visiting the Faucettes (American missionaries) in Laval, I went to Lennoxville, a town that is 90% English-speaking.  But the church ministry is to French-speaking people.  After having difficulties in French the Sunday before, I was quite fearful of how things would go in Lennoxville.  Thankfully, the Lord helped me to communicate my message well in French both in the morning and evening services.  I greatly enjoyed getting to know the believers there, and I enjoyed spending time with Pastor Mario Roy and his family, as we played volleyball, football, and soccer; worked on his house; and celebrated my birthday. 

The Lord also gave me good ministry at St. Nicephore the following Wed.  I enjoyed getting to see David Brind-Amour (freshly graduated from BJU) and his family.  It’s a blessing to see how the believers are catching my burden for Bible translation.

I returned to Laval to stay with the Faucettes, so that I could attend Van Gelderen’s meetings on Thur and Fri.  The Lord challenged my heart greatly about having greater faith in prayer and in evangelism.  I look forward to attending the Netcasters seminar in September.

I experienced a change of pace on Saturday (May 24) as I headed to Claude Jutras’ farm in Mt. St. Gregoire.  He grows asparagus, blueberries, rasberries, and grapes; raises piglettes; and makes his own maple syrup.  But his desire is to sell the farm so that he can give his full energies to his church.  The Lord gave me a wonderful day of ministry at his church (see picture of him and his deacons).  Claude had definitely prepared the hearts, because he already has a great heart for Bibles International.  The people showed great interest in my ministry, so much so that I never had to worry about finding someone to talk to at church.  One young couple thanked me personally for my ministry, called me the next day, and then sent an email to the same effect.  What a blessing to see the Lord answering our prayers!

With Claude Jutras and his deacons


The following Wednesday I headed north to Chateau-Richer, where I enjoyed seeing Raymond Teachout’s family and ministry.  We had a great time touring the area and praying together.  Then I headed up to Rimouski to minister at the Zimmerman’s church.  I was especially encouraged by the Ouellets, a family with 5 lively children who actively support the ministry.  Tomorrow evening I head further north to Matana for my last meeting.

It’s been such a blessing to see the generosity and hospitality of the people here.  The Lord has provided exceedingly and abundantly above my expenses.  Pray for God to continue to raise up my support team.  Pray also for safety as I begin the long trek back to Grand Rapids on Thursday.  I will drive 6 hours back to Mt. St. Gregoire on Thursday and then make the 11.5-hour trip to Grand Rapids on Friday.  I have one evening to unpack, repack, and then get some sleep before heading by car, train, and plane to UND for linguistics school.  It’s going to be quite a weekend.

If you want to see photos of my Quebec trip, check out http://www.facebook.com/p.php?i=613716245&k=6Z136VR2V6XM5BEGYJ25T3

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