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Archive for March, 2011

The 2010 census figures show that Michigan is the only state that has experienced a decrease in population over the past 10 years. Though I gained residence in 2007 to counter that decrease (by 1!), I’m hardly ever here to maintain my presence in the state. I arrived on Sunday evening and will leave tomorrow afternoon. I’ll be gone for 5 weeks, visiting IL, PA, and MD.

My first stop is Faith Baptist Church in Pekin, IL, a church where I presented my ministry in Sept ’08. Pastor Tim Collard has invited me back, because the church has had my ministry on their heart since that first visit. Praise the Lord for how He’s answered prayers for my support! I look forward to being with them again and in being back in Pekin. My parents spent many growing up years, met and married in Pekin. Few family members still live there, but it continues to have historical significance to me. I’ll be doing a 10-minute introduction in the AM service and then presenting my ministry again in the PM service. I’ll also be meeting with the missions committee at some point on Sunday.

I’m thankful for a productive week of meetings here in Grand Rapids, MI. The Administrative Group met all week to strategize for the future. The emphasis of the week was on establishing an organizational structure by which we can more effectively and efficiently do our work. During the second part of the week, we focused on learning how Microsoft Projects works. This is an answer to prayer, because we have been working on how to establish standardized procedures for our translation projects. But we were using Microsoft Word to do it, and Word was just not created for such an application. I had no idea that Projects existed, but now I do, and I see that it’s exactly what we need! The trainer said that after a couple of years of using it, we should be able to increase our efficiency by 30-60%. That means we can help more people gain access to the Word of God in less time! What a wonderful prospect! There’s going to be a steep learning curve for the next year or two, but eventually we will start reaping the benefits.

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Support Increase!

A current supporting couple decided to double their support for me, so now I’m at 73%! Praise the Lord! It’s encouraging to see how the Lord is answering our prayers.

I’m at a public library in Geneva, IL, having just finished an encouraging Men’s Retreat at Calvary Baptist Church in Geneva, a supporting church. It was such a blessing to see Pastor Weesner and others in his church again, as well as other Illinois and Wisconsin friends. I especially enjoyed being able to reconnect with Andy Merkle, a friend from Mt. Calvary and BJU. He’s an assistant pastor at East Park Baptist Church in Decatur, IL.

Dr. Larry Oats from Maranatha Baptist Bible College gave some challenging sermons to us men about being Psalm 127 kind of men. I’m thankful for his ministry to us, reminding us of the importance of fearing God, pursuing godly wisdom, and being Spirit-filled.

This afternoon I’ll head over to First Baptist Church in Oregon for my meeting tomorrow. I’ll be presenting in SS and preaching in the AM service. At BI the Administrative group is doing 5 days of strategic planning for the next 5 years, so I’ll need to drive back to Grand Rapids on Sunday afternoon. Please pray for safety. Pray also for wisdom this week as we try to determine the Lord’s mind concerning our ministry for the next 5 years. It’s exciting to think of all that the Lord has in store for us during that time, and I’m especially looking forward to it, because I’ll be finished with deputation for most of that time and will be able to give my full energies to the ministry!

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I’ve been enjoying my time in northern Illinois, but something unexpected took place in my heart when I was driving into the area a week and a half ago. Normally, I’m always so thankful to be back in “my home area,” after living here for 14 years (1984-1998). In 2007 when I first returned back to the area, I had all these warm, fuzzy feelings when I saw the Chicago skyline again. Well, I saw the same site that Saturday night, but those warm fuzzies weren’t quite as strong. What’s going on?! The only thing I can conclude is that I’m getting quite comfortable in Michigan–which is quite odd since I seem to spend so little time there (in Dec-Mar I will have spent a total of 5 weeks there). I hope this doesn’t mean that I will also eventually turn into a Pistons and Lions fan. Never!! Always a Bulls and Bears fan!!

But I’m still thankful to be back in the Chicago area. I had a great time at Faith Baptist Church in Sterling, IL. Pastor Bice received me graciously, and so did the people there. I did my presentation on translation complications for SS, and the people got the message quite clearly–this type of ministry can’t be done by missionaries in their “free time” but needs a Bible society dedicated to doing it. After giving a short testimony in the AM service, I spent the rest of the morning in Children’s Church. I had around 45 minutes to minister to them. I told them about Hamidu Insah, the paralyzed Ghanian translator of the Waali Bible. Then I taught them how to say “the Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want” in Hebrew. We also looked at the NT equivalent in Greek. I was thankful that the Hebrew had the infamous glottal sound, the one that you do when you are clearing your throat. They really enjoyed doing that!

This weekend I get to return to one of my supporting churches, Calvary in Geneva, for a men’s retreat. It will be good to renew relationships. Then I’ll head to Oregon, IL, for the Sunday morning services. I’ll be teaching SS and preaching in the AM. Then back to Michigan!

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BI’s founder, Dr. Paul Versluis, went to be with the Lord on February 21 at the ripe age of 86. We will greatly miss having this man around to encourage and pray for us. His wife Genella really needs our prayers as she adjusts to life without her husband of 65 very full and satisfying years. Paul started the ministry in 1981 at the request of Dr. Allan Lewis, BMM’s president at that time. Dr. Lewis asked Paul to start this ministry “to bring cohesion to BMM’s 18 Bible translations scattered around the world,” as Dr. Gary Anderson, BMM’s current president, puts it. Dr. Anderson goes on to write:

Paul had little hesitation on getting involved. He remembered a pastor’s conference in India in which a man didn’t know the story of Joseph. The man interrupted Paul several times, so often that Paul told him politely to “be quiet.” But the pastor would not. He asked to hear the story again: “I want you to tell the story again and where it is found, because we only have the gospel of Mark in our language.” The man was from the Paite tribe. This incident took place in 1962. He had waited then 50 years for the Scriptures that were only recently published, in 2005.

What a blessing that this pastor can finally read the story of Joseph in his own language (if he’s still alive), but how I long to see people like him receive the Scriptures without having to wait 50 years for them to be translated into their languages! The Lord has given me a strategic role to reduce that time, and by God’s grace I’m going to do all I can to do just that! (Thankfully, though, the length of time to finish the Paite Bible is not the norm for our projects, but there’s still a need to improve efficiency.)

Dr. Anderson gives another experience that shaped the ministry of BI in those early years:

Early in the ministry of Bibles International, Paul spoke in a missions conference in a large church in Virginia, using the Macushi New Testament as an example of what had been done. When he identified it as the Macushi New Testament, a girl rose from her seat in the auditorium and took the New Testament from Rev. Versluis’s hands. Holding it to her chest, she walked back and forth several times on the platform with it before returning it to him and taking her seat. When the pastor asked her about her reaction, her response was surprising, “I am a Macushi. I didn’t know my people had the Bible [in our own language].” The event propelled Paul to include Bible distribution as another BI emphasis to help people become aware of the Bibles they were publishing.

Those of us English speakers cannot even begin to understand what this Macushi believer felt. But by God’s grace, I can help many more around the world have that same experience.

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Those who have little experience in working with different languages, especially in the context of translation, might have difficulty understanding why we can’t simply do a word-for-word translation from the original languages into the target languages on the mission field–e.g., each Greek word has its corresponding word in the target language. Well, I’m currently working through Ettien Koffi’s Manuel Pratique de Traduction par Themes (Translation Manual according to Semantic Domains). He does point out Eugene Nida’s comment that there is a 90% similarity in foundational structures for the languages of the world. So that might lead one to think that word-for-word translations are possible. However, Koffi then explains issues that one confronts when trying to do this.

First, what do you do if the equivalent term in the target language (TL) is not in the same grammatical category as in the source language (SL)? In other words, when you have the Greek word “knowledge,” but don’t have a corresponding noun in the TL for “knowledge,” what do you do? Koffi points out that such a situation is quite common, since it’s unusual for languages to have nouns for processes, states of being, or actions. Instead, most languages use verbs for such items.

Second, what do you do if the TL has no word at all for the SL word? A well-used example is the word for “snow.” I came across this issue with the Day OT in Chad this past summer. I suppose the solution was quite undramatic–we borrowed the French word for snow, “neige.” But what do you do when the Hebrew text has multiple nouns in the same semantic domain–knowledge, understanding, wisdom, discernment, etc, but the TL has only one… or none?!

Third, what do you do when the TL has multiple words for a concept that is represented by only one word in the SL? Koffi notes that the Agni language has many different words for “harvest,” depending on what is being harvested–fruit, grain, spices, etc.

Fourth, what do you do if the TL word seems to correspond fairly closely but lacks/adds a key component that’s in the SL word? Koffi uses the example of “orphan.” He points out that the French word “orphelin” refers to a child who has lost both parents. But the Hebrew word speaks only of one who has lost his father. You obviously can’t use “orphelin” in such cases, unless you want to compromise precision.

Fifth, what do you do when the TL word corresponds fairly closely but is drawn from the modern age, while the SL word is many ages in the past? Such examples may show up in missionary translation when referring to such things as “lamps.” If the TL word refers only to lamps powered by electricity, the word won’t work.

Sixth, what do you do when the extended and figurative meanings of the TL word don’t match up with those same meanings for a SL word? For example, “son” has the same literal meaning in many languages, but this is not necessarily the case for the extended and figurative meanings. Jesus is the “son” of Abraham, but that’s an example of an “extended” meaning; He’s not the literal son of Abraham. What if the TL doesn’t do this with its noun for “son”? James and John are “sons of thunder” (Mar. 3:17). This is a figurative use of “son,” that probably lacks exact correspondence in other languages.

Seventh, what do you do with idioms? Idioms are phrases in which the sum total of the words means something different than the literal meanings of the words taken individually. When Mary says “I do not know a man” in response to the prospects of a virgin birth, she is using an expression meaning “I am a virgin.” It’s highly likely that other languages wouldn’t use those same exact words in that combination to convey the same message.

Thus, in many of these cases, one TL word may match up well in one context for a given SL word, but not in other contexts. And often, multiple TL words may be needed to communicate the meaning of one SL word.

Such complications emphasize the importance of mother-tongue translators. Sure, an expatriate (i.e., missionary) could spend a few years learning the vocabulary and grammar of a language, but he/she could never fully grasp every context in which each word is/is not used without years and years of exposure to the language. How much better to use a mother-tongue speaker of the language, since he/she already has those years of exposure “under his/her belt.” That’s why we use them at Bibles International!

Speaking of foreigners, I marveled this morning at how internet chat groups are affecting the dynamics of our projects. We are considering a project in southeast Asia, and this language group has formed up a chat group connected to their language. The correspondence I read this morning had references to various posts that were made in this chat group. What a complicated world we live in!

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Support Increase!

I found out over the weekend that a family in Pennsylvania has added me to their budget! My support still remains at 72%, but it increased in amount after the decimal. In a few weeks it will go up even more significantly.

I’m in Rockford, IL, now at First Baptist Church, pastored by Scott Williquette. He’s a graduate of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, as is my pastor in Grand Rapids, so it was a blessing to sing some of the same songs that we do at Westside in GR. This church also uses the same hymnal as Mt. Calvary, so I greatly enjoyed the worship yesterday.

My trip to Rockford was a little more eventful than I anticipated, but the Lord kept me safe all the way. I drove through snow for the first part and then over some black ice as I passed through Chicago. Because of the ice, traffic got really backed up so I lost 45 minutes going through the city. Because of the tiring trip and also because I was feeling a little sick, I was quite worn out when I arrived in Rockford.

The sickness lingered into Sunday morning, so I knew I would need the Lord’s strength in order minister back-to-back in three services. I thought of Paul’s words that I should glory in my weaknesses, because it’s then that Christ’s strength is made perfect. The Lord did enable me to make it through the entire day and to minister with His strength. Praise the Lord! I rested much for the rest of the day yesterday and am feeling better today.

Next Sunday I’ll be at Faith Baptist Church in Sterling, IL, and will be speaking three times again. I look forward to that opportunity.

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I’ve been delinquent in posting something to my blog, but it’s not without good excuses. I spent much of Thu-Mon driving (Winchester, VA, to Findlay, OH; Findlay, OH, to Sterling Heights, MI; Sterling Heights to Grand Rapids, MI; Grand Rapids, MI, to Grand Rapids, OH; Grand Rapids, OH, back to Grand Rapids, MI). But now I’m in the latter location… until Saturday.

I’ve been out of the office for over two months, so there’s no lack of things to do as I pass quickly through the office. In addition, the week is full of meetings. First, meetings with the mechanic on Monday… and Wednesday… and probably Friday to fix car problems (they keep overlooking things!). Second, I’m almost drowning in meetings. A one-hour one Tuesday. A four-hour one Wednesday. Three meetings today. Maybe some Friday. But I was able to write my prayer letter–see below.

The Lord gave me a blessed weekend. I had a great time with friends in OH and MI. Since I was not far from Grand Rapids (MI), I was able to drive over on Saturday for the funeral of BI’s founder, Paul Versluis. He passed away early last week, after living a long, fruitful life of ministry. It’s truly amazing to hear how many people have been affected by his life all around the world, not just through Bibles International but also through numerous other organizations and 5 churches that he planted. What a great man and what an awesome God!

I also thoroughly enjoyed my time at Bethany Baptist Church in Grand Rapids, OH, pastored by Tim Coley. Though we couldn’t get the DVD player to work in SS, I had no problem filling the time, since the people had thoughtful questions and genuine interest in my ministry. I was encouraged by their interest both during the service times and afterward and by their kind comments.

I leave Saturday afternoon for three weekends of meetings in Illinois. The Lord has kept me safe in spite of a couple of serious snow storms, so I’m looking to Him again as I continue my winter travels. I was encouraged this morning by Joseph’s words to the Jews, recorded in Exodus 13: “God will surely take care of you.” He promises His care, so can we expect anything less than His fulfillment of those promises?

Oh, one more important piece of information… My support increased once again over the weekend. A supporting family that recently increased their support has increased it even further. Now I’m up to 72%! Praise the Lord!

Here’s my March prayer letter. If you would like to begin receiving my letter (with pics), please send me an email (see “about me” page for address).

Dear Family and Friends,

F. F. Bruce’s History of the Bible in English reminded me of William Tyndale’s immortal words that he gave to an educated man who drank deeply from the poisoned well of Catholicisim: If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the Scripture than thou dost. Bruce pointed out that these words echo a refrain given by Erasmus: I wish that the farm worker might sing parts of [the Scriptures] at the plough, that the weaver might hum them at the shuttle, and that the traveler might beguile the weariness of the way by reciting them. PRAISE God for those who had that burden for English speakers! My labors for the speakers of many other languages of the world simply perpetuate that burden.

PERSONAL

Last December brought two unique happenings into my life—a white Christmas in Greenville and a nephew, Tristan Edward Rivera. I had fun helping my youngest niece, Jaden, build her first snowman, and then took great delight in welcoming my sister Michele’s first boy into the world on the last day of 2010.

DEPUTATION

Speaking of snow, I’ve seen very little of it this year, since I stayed in the South for the first two months. In fact, I spent five weeks total in Virginia Beach, VA. The Lord blessed me with one place to return to during those weeks—the Military Christian Center. The sign reads: Your Home Away From Home. That’s what it became for me during that time. I benefited from many Bible studies and good Christian fellowship while I was there.

My travels over the next two months will take me to Illinois and Pennsylvania. Later in the year I’ll be branching out into Minnesota and even Singapore. PRAISE the Lord that my support has increased to 72%! Yates-Thagard Baptist Church in Carthage, NC, joined my support team as well as another individual. Plus, two current supporters felt led to increase their monthly support. My goal, however, of finishing by Easter does not seem realistic; but I truly believe that completing deputation by the end of this year is a very attainable goal. I’ve asked people to redouble their prayers, and the Lord has already answered. Please keep PRAYING. There’s so much work to be done in Bible translation around the world, and I need to be released from deputation responsibilities so that I can give myself fully to that work.

MINISTRY

I thought my time at the Military Christian Center was affording me a peaceful place to finish some required consultant reading, but it turns out that the Lord had other plans. While I was getting some reading done, I was also corresponding with consultants in Asia. It soon became apparent that it was basically impossible for us to generate our typical word concordance for two New Testaments that are nearing completion. The structure of the languages prohibited such a possibility. They would need a Topical Index instead. One problem: we had no English model to use as a base. But as I reflected on my circumstances, I realized that the Lord had given me such a stable situation with few “travelling distractions” so that I might compile such an index. In fact, the Center also had just the right book I needed in its library to help me with the project. So, working almost non-stop for two weeks, I put together a rough draft. But I desperately needed someone to verify my work since such a multitude of references (30 pages worth) would surely have errors. I sent out an email plea, and the Lord provided around 50 volunteers. It greatly encouraged me to see so many get so excited about having a part in this missions project. All of us were blessed, not only as we traced topics through the New Testament, but also as we thought of how future pastors, Bible teachers, and laymen would be using this Index to do in-depth Bible studies and to prepare sermons. This Index will be used immediately in Asia, but eventually, it will also be put into many New Testaments around the world. What a privilege to have such an integral part in leading people to the precious truths of Scripture!

Thanks so much for your prayers. Please don’t stop!

In Christ,

Troy

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