Archive for November, 2011

What did I want to be when I grew up? Well, I can assure you that I didn’t think much about being a missionary. Not that I was adverse to the possibility. I just didn’t think it was in my future. No, my future was to go to college for 4 years, get married, get a good job as an engineer like my dad, and start a family. Well, none of those things have happened yet! Instead, the Lord has taken me step by step along a path that I would have never dreamed up but which brings me great joy and fulfillment.

Tomorrow evening this path will culminate in my commissioning service at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in Greenville, SC, at 7:15 pm (all are welcome!). It’s a type of commencement for me, since I’ll be closing (mostly) the deputation chapter in my life and opening the chapter of full-time ministry with Bibles International. I had hoped that my service would take place in the newly renovated and expanded auditorium, but it won’t be ready until Sunday. Just as well! My first service at Mt. Calvary in 1990 was in the old auditorium, the same auditorium where my commissioning service will take place.

As a freshman engineering student sitting in an uncomfortable metal chair at Mt. Calvary, I never imagined that 21 years later I would be commissioned into the Bible translation ministry! I couldn’t have even imagined that as late as January of 2007, as a Bible professor of almost 2 years at BJU. It was that January that Dr. Hantz Bernard called me on the phone and asked me to consider the position of Chief Language Consultant at Bibles International. The next month and a half were spent determining if this was God’s will.

Though I submitted my resignation to BJU at the end of February with some fear and trepidation, not knowing exactly what I was getting myself into, I came to realize that this is the very ministry that the Lord has been preparing me for all along. My love for and interest in languages (Greek, Hebrew, French, and Latin) and my desire to be fully engaged in missions intersect in a unique way in this ministry. In fact, all facets of ministry that I really enjoy converge in this ministry. I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life!

So a commencement begins for me tomorrow. But I have already commenced. As soon as I made that first drive to Grand Rapids in August of 2007, I’ve been engaged in the ministry. I’ve already traveled to 7 of our countries: Haiti (3 times), Chad (2 times), Togo, Myanmar, India, Papua New Guinea, and the Philippines. I’ve already helped four projects extensively: Haitian Creole OT (7 workshops), KabiyĆ© NT (Togo), Day OT (Chad), and Tagalog NT (Philippines). Of course, I’ve had some part in all 40 of BI’s projects as the head consultant, giving support and leadership to our Text Production Department around the world.

Currently I have 91% of my support, which comes from three different countries (USA, Canada, and Singapore). One church is voting on me in December, and others will hopefully vote on me soon. I don’t have many more deputation meetings–just a couple in March. In January, I plan on commencing on full-time work with BI. I won’t stay long at the Grand Rapids office, though, since I have a trip planned for January 23-March 1 to India and SE Asia, passing through Singapore along the way. This next year will also include teaching linguistics at Maranatha as well as the usual two Haitian Creole workshops and probably another trip to Africa.

So, let full-time ministry begin! By God’s grace I look forward to post-commissioning life. I plan on bathing this new step in prayer, and hope you will join with me in your prayers.

BTW, I had a good time at Shenandoah Baptist Church in Rocky Mount, NC, this past Sunday evening. In spite of another sickness I picked up from my family, I was still able to make the 10-hour round trip over the weekend. The people really seemed to catch a burden for my ministry. On Sunday I speak in SS and the AM service at Calvary Baptist Church in Kankakee, IL.

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On Thursday of last week, Daniel and I were able to finish checking the Psalms! Praise the Lord! I felt we were crawling across the finish line, since we were both suffering from some sickness. Daniel had just a common cold, but mine seems like it might be the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Wednesday of last week was a very long day, as I had to lead the workshop in the morning and then prepare for the next day the rest of the afternoon. The Lord gave me enough energy to get through the day, and I barely had enough strength for the next morning’s work. I spent the rest of the day and all day Friday resting and trying to recover.

But Haiti is not very conducive to good rest at night, since there are so many night-time sounds. I seemed to be making good progress but then lost ground on Friday night. I was waken up at 1 am with a nearby church blasting their leader’s singing. Plus, there was a huge crowd of people gathered for some games or something. I could hear chanting, singing, and cheering. When I finally figured out how to get back to sleep, I was again waken at 5 am to another church service. So I couldn’t get any more sleep that morning.

I woke up completely drained of energy and having a hard time not falling over because of dizziness. I wondered how in the world I would be able to fly to the USA and then drive to a hotel at 10:30 pm that night. Somehow I made it through the whole day. I got to sleep around midnight and had to get back up around 5:30 am to drive 2.5 hours to a deputation meeting in Nags Head. God gave much grace, and I was able to teach in SS and then present that evening at Still Waters Baptist Church. The whole day was kinda a blur, but I made it through and even had good fellowship.

I decided I should go to an urgent care center on Monday when I saw my hands and feet swelling up and getting a rash all over my body. Thankfully, I was given antibiotics to take, so I’ve been getting better each day since then. I still don’t feel completely back to normal, but that might be another sickness that’s making its way through my family!

I praise the Lord for a restful and refreshing Thanksgiving at my SC church and with my family. I was given a very special reason for thanksgiving on Friday when Pasir Panjang Christ Church notified me that they will begin supporting me in January. That brings me up to 91%! That’s great news, especially since my commissioning service is coming up on Wed. Pray for God to be glorified in that special service.

Tomorrow I drive to Rocky Mount, NC, for a meeting at Shenandoah Baptist Church. I’ll present in the evening service and then drive back to Greenville on Monday.

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Far beyond what I expected, we are on track to finish the Psalms by Thursday. We checked 30 pages today, the most of any day, and have only 45 left to go. The only issues that might slow us down is that Daniel has a slight cold and I have a slight fever. I’m not that bad, so as long as it doesn’t get any worse overnight, I should be OK for tomorrow. Lord willing, it will only get better, thanks to your prayers and the medications I was given. The neighbors right next door invited me to visit them some time during my stay. They are members of the church that I usually attend while down here. It just so happened that tonight was the best night for me to come by, and it just so happened that she is a doctor. She gave me some medical counsel and some medications, so we’ll see what happens overnight. God’s timing is perfect!

To clear things up about my translation example in the last post, some versions do have the rendering that Daniel first preferred. So he wasn’t trying to find a meaning that wasn’t legitimate.

Pastor Simpson and the believers at Worthington Baptist Church in Worthington, PA, are now partnered with me, so my support has gone up to 87%. And a pastor in Reading, PA, said the leadership is putting my name before the church for a vote on Dec. 18. We’ll see what God does!

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I was hesitant to even ask for prayer that we would finish the Psalms by the end of this workshop, because I thought that goal was unrealistic. Knowing the amount of material we covered per day at the last workshop (around 12-15 pages of material) and knowing all that we had to cover during this workshop, it didn’t seem possible to be able to finish. But after finishing the first week of the workshop, I’m beginning to think that such a high goal is actually attainable. In fact, we might actually finish a little early on Friday! We covered 81 pages in 3.5 days worth of work, and we have 103 pages left to go. If you do the math, you’ll see that with 5 days left, we should have plenty of time to finish! Praise God! Thanks for your prayers. Please keep praying that the Lord would keep us free from distractions so that we might finish well during the second week.

It turns out that we are not conducting the workshop here at the house where I’m staying. Instead, we drive slowly down a bumpy, dusty road to a nearby church, the same one that Dr. Hantz Bernard pastored for 9 years. The current pastor there, Pastor Jeanty, has graciously allowed us to use his air-conditioned office. I’ve actually found that the ceiling fan is often sufficient to keep us from getting too hot. It’s just nice to be able to have a separate place to do the work (though I am also having to work each night at “home” to prepare more material).

Tomorrow evening the translation committee will gather at this house for a “Celebration in a Suitcase.” Since this is BI’s 30-year anniversary, we consultants get the opportunity to take that celebration with us in our suitcases. Around 12 people will gather tomorrow to recount BI’s history in general and our history in Haiti, to celebrate 30 years, and to pray for God’s grace for the future. I’m looking forward to rejoicing with the group. I’ve never seen everyone in one room at the same time, so this is a real privilege!

I’ll now give you a taste of the complex issues we sometimes have to face. In Psalm 105:22 the psalmist notes that Joseph was given the authority “to bind princes according to his will.” In the first draft Daniel used a verb that means “constrain,” thinking that “bind” (i.e., chain) communicated a dictatorial type of leadership. He knew that such wasn’t the type of leadership that Joseph provided. Before dealing with the issue, we got a good laugh at another version that says that Joseph was given a “blank check over all his chiefs.” Clearly, that was not what we wanted to go with!

I explained to Daniel that binding princes was not simply an act of dictators. If the princes were rebellious and not submissive to his authority, he might have sent them to prison. Such would have been appropriate justice. I also noted that many versions use the verb “bind” or something similar. I also questioned Daniel’s use of the verb “fose” (i.e., forced or constrained). I said that this verb might actually communicate the idea that he was trying to avoid.

When he agreed that “anchene” (imprison or bind) really does work, I threw out a question to make sure he didn’t come to easily to “my side.” I asked if “according to his will” was actually what made him think of dictatorial rule. He responded by concluding that “bind according to his will” is truly the best translation.

God continued to give us help through such complex difficulties, and He helped us with the easier ones too (e.g., add a comma here, change this comma to a semicolon, add a conjunction here, etc.).

I was pleased to see on my account that a current supporter has increased their monthly support, raising my support level to 86%! Praise the Lord for this increase after not having one since September!

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I’ve had many opportunities for ministry at this missions conference at Grace Baptist Church in Wilmington, NC. On Thursday, I spoke to the 1st graders and then the 4th graders. Then after a short break I spent some time with the 12th grade economics students. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in each class. At lunchtime I gave my testimony and a short challenge about missions at a men’s luncheon.

On Friday I showed a DVD and gave a brief challenge to around 450 elementary kids. We had a great time together! They had a very hard time answering my question about which country Hamidu Insah, our Waalii translator, was from. The word “Ghana” just didn’t come easily off their lips. Later that morning I spoke to 10th graders in a Spanish class. I finished off the day by presenting my ministry at the main service in the evening.

This evening people will come to the home where I’m staying for an informal time to get to know one another. I will be the only missionary at this fellowship, so the focus will be on me. I have no responsibilities tomorrow, so I’m taking advantage of this low key Saturday to rest and relax before things really pick up on Monday.

Early Monday morning I’ll be flying from Raleigh to Haiti. I’ll begin the Haitian Creole OT workshop on Tuesday. For the next two weeks I and the translator will meet for intensive all-day sessions to evaluate his translation of about half of the Psalms. We hope to finish most of the Psalms during this workshop; we are beginning with Psalm 83 on Tuesday. Pray for grace and wisdom, as it will be a grueling schedule of working all day and most evenings just to have enough prepared for each day. I have 8 day’s worth of material prepared, so I have to prepare for two more days as well as develop devotionals for each day. Pray also that the Lord will minister to our hearts as we look at the Word all day every day. What a privilege we have! Pray also for grace as I’ll be staying at the same home where we will conduct the workshops–i.e., I’ll be in one location almost non-stop. It’s not good to travel around much anyway, because of the threat of kidnapping, so you can pray for safety as well. Thanks for your partnership in prayer!

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