Archive for March, 2012

I began my deputation activities back in the summer of 2007. At that time I thought maybe I could finish in a little over 2 years. I thought, “I’ve got a PhD, so the churches will see that I’m well-trained. I’ve taught in Africa and at BJU, so I’ve got experience. I have been at BJU for 15 years, so I have many connections. Deputation shouldn’t take that long!” Well, I sure was wrong on that! I guess the Lord wanted to humble me. I had no idea that I would hit the deputation trail only months before the economy would tank. How often I would get the line from pastors: “We aren’t taking on any new missionaries right now, so we aren’t scheduling meetings.” OR “We are having a hard time fulfilling our current obligations. In fact, we’ve had to cut some of our missionaries.” OR “You are welcome to come and present, but we can’t guarantee any support. We just don’t have the funds.”

Of course, the other issue I ran into was that I’m not a “church planting missionary.” And what seemed to slow me down even further was that I will be headquartered in the USA. Churches like to see their missionaries living on the field.

So, my deputation experience was a fairly trying one. It really tested my faith. The Lord used it to sanctify me, because I wanted to keep myself right with Him so that I could experience His blessing. It also drove me to my knees more as I pleaded with the Lord to move in hearts to come along side me with support.

Though it was trying in the spiritual sense, it was actually quite pleasurable in the physical sense. In other words, I experienced so much of people’s kindness and generosity during my travels. I often stayed in very nice accommodations and ate delicious food… too much of that! The only horror experience I can remember is having to sleep in a bed that smelled so bad it kept me awake at night. Otherwise, I can still remember that feather-top bed in Lancaster, PA, and many other nice luxuries. Of course, I didn’t fly along on “flowery beds of ease” the whole time, but it was a pleasant experience as far as accommodations. Oh yeah, I do remember the stink bugs in PA that invaded my room. But thankfully they didn’t come in flocks, so I was able to kill them as they appeared.

I absolutely loved seeing the countryside. There’s hardly an experience that is more relaxing to me than getting on the road for a long trip with a long stretch of concrete in front of me. Lots of time to pray and think. I especially loved Pennsylvania, and especially the windy, two-lane roads in the hills… on a rainy day.

I had these high ambitions of learning Spanish while I traveled. That didn’t get too far. I had plenty of time to listen to the CDs, but I had a hard time carving away time to keep up in the book. I did listen to many Hebrew and Greek words, so that kept me fresh in those languages.

I did find myself getting emotionally drained after being on the road for multiple weeks in a row. I am not one who enjoys routine for too long, but I found that a good dose of routine in the midst of lots of variety is a really good thing. I stayed in MANY, MANY different places. Sometimes I would stay in a different bed almost every night. I still smile when I think of one older man who asked me if I would rather have the rug on the floor on the right side of the bed or the left. I have no “right side of the bed” to get out from, so it doesn’t matter where the rug is put! But I guess the good side of that is that there’s no “wrong side of the bed” either!

I really enjoyed making so many new friends. I now have friends all around the world because of my deputation travels (as well as my other travels). I feel that I have many “homes” around the world too. Maybe that’s what the Lord means when He promised that He would bless those who left houses, family, etc. for the Kingdom’s sake. I’ve also gained grandmothers, grandfathers, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, nieces, nephews, cousins, etc. And through these relationships I’ve gained much prayer support. And I surely need that!

I spoke in around 170 churches. According to my records I preached or taught around 340 times. That’s a lot of good opportunities to minister! I was able to open many people’s eyes to the needs of Bible translation around the world.

I began with only $100 per month in my support account. By the end of 2007 (after 4 months of deputation) I had 20%. By the end of the dismal year of 2008 I had 36%. By the ends of 2009, 2010, and 2011, it was 53%, 69%, and 95%, respectively. I completed my support raising in early March. So it was a slow-go during those early years. I really didn’t experience too many quick increases until the second half of 2011. I can still remember how depressing it was to see no new, or very few, support increases at the beginning of each year. Deputation surely tries your faith! I can still remember churches and individuals that promised support but never came through. They must have had some unforeseen things take place, but it’s quite an emotional rollercoaster for missionaries!

I definitely won’t miss feeling like a salesman. Pastors probably don’t want to convey this, but I often felt that I was bugging them. Their answering machines assured me that they valued “my” call and that they would call back right away, but I knew that didn’t really apply to missionaries. Yes, they probably do value the calls of missionaries, but I also understand that it’s hard when they receive so many each week. I don’t think the deputation system needs a complete overhaul, but I wish we could work out a system whereby pastors could coordinate with one another to help missionaries get meetings and to save us from having to bug so many pastors. My records indicate that I made 800 phone calls, but I know the number is at least double that, since I often didn’t write down when I called a pastor. Too many details to keep up with!

I traveled over 76,000 miles and spent somewhere around $50,000! If pastors could coordinate meetings for us, we would use less of the Lord’s money and channel our time toward our ministries rather than to meetings all across the US. Pastors’ fellowships would be a great forum to coordinate meetings. I usually dreaded going to these fellowships, because I know the pastors weren’t there to have a missionary tug on their coat tails. But it was a great place to establish relationships. And though I often tried to avoid these fellowships and conferences, I usually went and have found that a good portion of my support is a direct result of pastors’ fellowships that I attended.

So, am I thankful for all I learned on deputation? Definitely! It shaped my thinking about this ministry, strengthened my burden, and sharpened my philosophy. Would I have wished that the process were slightly different? Definitely! Can I do anything about it? Well, I guess I can begin by posting on my blog and continue by speaking individually with pastors. I spoke to one pastor recently, and he said that another pastor tried to establish some coordination structure, but few pastors wanted to join in because of fears of power struggles, etc.

Only God can help us work through these issues. Until then, we missionaries will keep knocking on doors, pulling on coat tails, ringing the phone off the hook, sending out emails, etc.

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Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Deputation is done, as of yesterday. Today I officially begin “full-time ministry.” I’ve heard someone say, “Life is what happens to you when you are waiting for life to happen.” Well, though I’m still waiting for certain things to happen in my life, the ministry aspect of my life is no longer in the waiting stage. Yes, I’ve been quite heavily involved in the BI ministry since I began here in August of 2007 (and even before), there’s something different about this moment today. Maybe the main difference is that I can no longer say, “Well, I’m still on deputation so….” No more excuses! Get to work, Troy!

I had a good final deputation meeting yesterday. It was at Macomb Baptist Church in Clinton Township, MI, pastored by Ron Wagner. His daughter, Joy, and I were graduate assistants together at BJU, so it was good to see her again. She came up with the idea to have the people try their hand at translation at the dessert social on Saturday night. They were given bilingual dictionaries (English and Spanish, French, German, Polish, or Russian). They had to translate a verse of the NT into one of those languages. I walked around with my Droid and Google Translate to see how they were doing. Everyone came away with the clear understanding that translation work cannot be done by those who don’t know the language and have only a dictionary!

Oh yeah, back to work… (I hope to reflect on my deputation experience in the coming days…)

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I had another great time at First Baptist Church in Rockford, IL, pastored by Scott Williquette. They asked me to come last year to their missions emphasis month to take the entire Sunday to present my ministry and preach the Word. For some odd reason they wanted me to come back again for a second year in a row! Of course, this meant that I had to come up with all new material to present my ministry. Thankfully, Pastor Scott had given me an idea last year, and that resulted in a new Powerpoint presentation. He gave me some other ideas over the phone about a month ago, so that gave me enough input to develop something for the Sunday afternoon service. In the morning worship service, I preached a sermon that the Lord laid on my heart in 2011 when I was memorizing Psalm 145–“To Know Him is to Praise Him.”

My last deputation meeting is at Macomb Baptist Church in Clinton Township, MI, where Ron Wagner is the pastor. I’ll be sharing a few words at the “Dessert with the Missionary,” preaching in the AM service, and showing my DVD in the evening service. Another missionary will share the day with me. I look forward to being with the believers at Macomb, and I’m excited that it’s my last deputation service!

Meanwhile, this week I’ve been immersing myself in phonetics and phonology. I’m teaching a basic linguistics course on these subjects at Maranatha Baptist Bible College in May, so I’m preparing my lectures for the course. I’m learning all sorts of cool things about pulmonic and non-pulmonic consonants, sonority, resonance, phonological hierarchy, and many other things. I’ve always wanted to supplement my knowledge of these concepts, so now is my chance!

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I have two more meetings, one in Rockford, IL, on Sunday and one in Clinton Township, MI, the following Sunday. In Rockford I’ll be presenting my ministry for the second time to the believers at First Baptist Church. This is actually my third time to speak there, since I also gave a brief challenge one Wednesday night last fall as I was passing through. I’ve had to develop some new material for this church, since it’s my second time to speak all Sunday (SS, AM worship, and PM service). I’m incorporating some of my experiences from my recent Asia trip. They are the highlights of my trip, and I wanted to post them in my blog as well.

In my deputation DVD, I quote Pastor H.C. Stephen, who is currently the head of the Simte church association in NE India. He speaks in the quote about how the completion of the Simte Bible in 1993 has had a profound effect upon the Simte churches. During this past trip I was finally able to meet this man. I told him that I’ve quoted him around the world! When I preached in his church, I mentioned that the Simte people are among the privileged few language groups (471) to have the entire Bible in their language. Pastor Stephen marveled at that fact, especially since he knows that his language has only around 20,000 speakers. Indeed, it is a small language group, but each soul is precious in God’s eyes.

At another Simte church I met an older man who functions as an unofficial stewardship representative for BI and BIIS. He goes to churches and from house to house to encourage people to pray for and give to help with the Simte Bible translation project. My heart was warmed to meet a man who shared the same burden as I do and that he does so without any desire for recognition or pay!

In the same village in India, I also met up with the Read-and-Review Committee for our Paite Bible revision project. They told me that there are 6 readers who review the revision work that the translator is doing to the Paite Bible. The translator submits his revision work to the first reader who gives his input and sends it back to the translator. The translator then incorporates those suggestions into the translation and passes it along to the second reader. And so on. The first reader is an elderly man and an elder in a Paite church. After we finished the meeting this elder took off his shoes, laid his hands on my head, and prayed a prayer of provision, protection, and blessing for me (he prayed in Paite but I was given an English summary later). Just before we took a group picture, he was putting his hands on me, apparently just to show his appreciation that I would give my life to help him get the Bible into Paite. Another reader wanted to hold my hand during the picture to show his partnership with me. What a blessing it was to be with such godly men!

In Myanmar I preached at a Mizo church. We finished the NT for the Mizo people a few years ago and are soon going to start work on the OT. I asked the believers at one church to help me help them. I needed testimonies of the impact of the NT upon their lives so that I could share these testimonies with churches in America, causing those churches to want to help with the OT project. I was especially blessed by the testimony of one church elder. He said, “I was a drunken man doing very bad things for many years. …I almost died. But people prayed for me…. Because of the work of the Holy Spirit and the preaching of the church…one day I opened the Bible, and the Holy Spirit convicted me. I knew I was a sinner, and I received Christ. …when I find a drunken man, I realize also that he is like I was. …one burden I have is for people crying, crying for the Gospel, especially drunken men.” Our translations are saving and sanctifying people! Praise God!

As I finish up deputation I’m also beginning furlough. I already reported to my home church in November, to a MI church in January, and Wed to an IL church. I was so encouraged by being with the people of Calvary Baptist Church in Geneva, IL. One older lady shared that she has a special missionary booklet where she keeps the prayer cards and prayer letters of all of the church’s 28 missionaries. She prays faithfully for them all the time. It was a small group of believers that gathered Wednesday night, but we had a blessed time reviewing what the Lord has allowed me to accomplish through their prayers since the beginning of our partnership together in July 2009 (my report technically went back to Aug 2007).

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Before I got too far removed from my Asia trip, a few days ago I wrote down some miscellaneous thoughts about different things I experienced…

The senior consultant in India, Sana Singh, wanted me to spend an extended period of time in India, so that I could get to know the people, places, and projects better. It would give me a better understanding of the context in which the BI India personnel are working in, and that will help me as I interact with them from the Home Office. I did gain a much better understanding of India on this second trip, since it was almost 4 weeks long (the first was 10 days long). Let me share a few miscellaneous things I learned.

It’s interesting that I took a similar route that Adoniram Judson did 200 years ago right around this very time. In February of 1812, he left America, stopped in India, and then continued on to Burma. And he did so for the cause of Christ with Bible translation as a major emphasis of his ministry. I’m definitely no Judson, but I’m thankful to be following in the shoes of such a great man.

People often ask about food in other countries, so let me start there. First, rice, rice, rice. OK, maybe I should have said that only twice to represent the fact that rice is served twice a day usually. Tea, on the other hand, is served, with milk and sugar, thrice (as the Indians would say)—breakfast, morning tea, and afternoon tea. Curry flavoring also abounds. And for the stout of heart, hot chili peppers are usually available at suppertime. Usually my company for meals was just men in India, partly because most of my India co-workers are men, and partly because women would usually stand off to the side ready to serve. For 4 days I ate with a family that has one child. The girl sat with us, but the mom stood off to the side, waiting to see if we needed anything else. It was a similar situation when I ate at the BI India Society Director’s home. The same thing happened in the country in SE Asia I went to, when I ate at the new consultant’s sister’s house there.

In India the nights and mornings were quite cool, and so were the days at times. One night it dropped down to 8 C, which is around 46 F. That may not sound too cold, but it feels cold when the houses have no indoor heat. Instead, you just have to bundle up with clothes and blankets. Then, in the mornings, I was never completely sure if I would have hot water for a shower or a bucket bath. Usually, I did, but sometimes I took a very quick, cool shower.

All the Asians that entertained me during my trip were gracious hosts. Many churches gave a gift for speaking at their church. All treated me to tea and cookies. Whenever I would be invited to someone’s house for a visit, tea and cookies were a natural part of the visit. Some friends even gave me gifts for visiting them. I gave gifts to various friends as well, but I know they outdid me in their generosity.

The roads and the driving on those bumpy, dusty roads in India were definitely a source of stress for me. We were always trying to avoid potholes or at least find the least shallow ones. And as we were wending along, we would always need to watch out for vehicles coming the other way. There were few stretches along the way where we wouldn’t meet oncoming traffic within the next 30 seconds. And usually as we met that oncoming traffic, either we would be passing someone or they would be. So, there was always this question of whether we would get out of one another’s way to avoid a head-on collision. Sometimes I wondered if we were just playing the game of “chicken.” Though I love to drive, I had absolutely no desire to take over the steering wheel while I was in India. I would have definitely lost in the chicken game! Besides, they drive on the “wrong side” of the road and the “wrong side” of the car. Interestingly, in the second country I was in, the driving wheel is on the right side of the car, but the cars drive on the right side of the road. Not a very good system!

You may think you know what a “typical” Indian looks like, but I can assure you that India defies stereotypes. It’s a land of diversity. Since I was in northeast Asia, I saw mostly people who resembled oriental people. I did see a number of dark-skinned Indians who had long-narrow noses and faces, but I saw more who had light skin, square jaws, and narrow eyes.

India, of course, is also a land of diversity with its languages. That’s one reason why we are working there. So, all of my sermons, except the short challenges I gave at two Christian schools and the two seminars I did in association with a Bible college, were interpreted into a different language. I can’t say I ever get used to being interpreted, though I do appreciate some of its advantages (e.g., it gives me time to think of what I’m going to say next).

Church associations are a big deal with the churches in India we partner with. Basically, there is no sound Baptist church there that’s outside of an association. Some are run just as the denominations here in the USA are, with a leadership deciding which church will be pastored by which man. But one association has a problem that no association in the USA has—the association has over 60 churches but only about 9 pastors. So each pastor has at least 7 churches under his charge.

Milestone markers are also prominent on the Indian landscape. The markers are erected to celebrate the significant points in the association’s history—25 years, 50 years, 75 years, and 100 years. Speaking of milestones, Baptist Mid-Missions has been in India for 77 years now. The people there celebrated the 75-year anniversary in 2010.

Sleep was difficult to come by in India. The mattresses are only around 3-4 inches thick and sit on a piece of plywood, so my shoulders were sore by early morning. Parties or religious festivals could occasionally be heard until late in the night. Then the sun came up faithfully each morning at 4:30. If that didn’t wake me up, the Muslim call to prayer at 5 am did. My time in Churachandpur, however, was more restful. The mosque wasn’t within hearing, and there was no electricity at night, so people could do nothing else but sleep. But regardless of the issues I faced during the night, I always woke up with enough strength for each day. Praise God!

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Deputation is Done!

I’ve been at 98% for a number of weeks, waiting for the last little bit to come in. I thought maybe a new supporter was coming on board, but I needed to verify that before I could declare that things were officially finished. Well, on Friday I checked my support account and saw that the new supporter was in fact beginning monthly support. That was all I needed to complete my fund raising! Praise the Lord that deputation is finally done, after 4.5 years of work. I began in Sept 2007 and have been going at a 75% pace since then, since I’m also doing many things for BI. I’ve been to around 170 different churches and probably contacted about three times as many to seek meetings. There’s many things I’ll miss about deputation, but that whole process of “beating the bushes” to get meetings is something that I definitely won’t miss.

Now, what will I do with all my “free time”??

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