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Archive for October, 2013

As expected this month has been filled with activities, but it has also been full of God’s blessings. The month began with me doing a Dendi OT workshop in Benin. By the end of the week I was heading to Niger to fly to France on my way to the US. I haven’t said much about my time in France yet. My trip to Africa included a 5-day stop in France and then a one-day stop on the way back. The first stint was the most interesting. I was able to do a Paris tour on a boat on the Seine River with a friend. I’m afraid I was too focused on taking pictures that I didn’t keep up with all that the guide said, but I picked up on some things here and there. I was so jetlagged that I took a nap along the shores of the Seine before continuing on. We had dinner at a cool restaurant along one of the busy streets before heading to our respective places for the night.

The following day we enjoyed touring the chateau at Versailles. We lost a lot of time at the beginning since we had a hard time figuring out where to find each other. It’s hard to do things without a cell phone (mine didn’t work, though I called to get it unlocked!). But at least we were able to spend a few hours there. The opulence was overwhelming, but so was the paganism. The French kings decorated certain rooms in honor of Greek gods.

My time in northern France went much more smoothly, since I was with a friend who knew her way around. We spent a day touring Rouen, walking along its old streets and learning about Joan of Arc. Then we had coffee with friends at a quaint little coffee shop. Very fun! On Saturday we visited the beaches of Normandy. It was very moving to see the beaches and cliffs (see picture) that the soldiers were on in 1944. We also toured the cemetery where many were laid to rest. The tour guide gave us snippets into the stories of some buried there–the youngest soldier, a journalist, a “donut dolly,” etc. We even got to see Point du Hoc, which is basically an untouched battlefield. The large craters from the bombs are still mostly unfilled (except from the erosion through the years). Very moving!

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A highlight of the time in northern France was getting to meet various Christians as we ate together and then as we worshiped together. I got to preach in French that Sunday morning. It was a great joy! I was pleased to see so many in attendance (around 60), but I was surprised that most were born outside of France–a very international membership (the majority from Africa).

On my second time through France on the Africa trip, I spent time with Tim Bixby and his family. I also got to distribute tracts near an international market. Then I toured the Musée de l’Armée. I got to see where Napeleon was buried. I also enjoyed seeing the armory used in years gone by. Oh, and I crashed on the lawn in front of that museum after the tour, since I didn’t get much sleep during the overnight trip from Africa. I thoroughly enjoyed the fellowship with the Bixbys before heading to the US the next morning.

A few days after I returned to the US, I jumped on yet another plane to attend a Bible translation conference in Dallas, Texas. The Lord gave me the perspective to focus on the commonalities of those in attendance, though we are from different denominations and have differing translation and ministry philosophies. Most there are born again believers, and probably all are sincere in their desire to help people. They are also wrestling with the same issues that we are at BI. I learned much from the various sessions, made new friends, and found out about valuable resources. It was so much more profitable than I thought it would be! I’ll share one tidbit. I was taught that the OT text is not simply oral text that has been written down. Though the Hebrews had a tradition of the learned reciting the Scriptures repeatedly and the learners saying it back until it became ingrained in their memories, it doesn’t mean that the text evidences being the product of an oral culture. It’s a much more complex situation than that! It was truly intended to be written text from the beginning.

I returned to Michigan for a few days and was able to do prepare for my time at Bob Jones University. I was excited to be back at my alma mater, but I was also quite nervous about speaking in chapel on the following Monday and Tuesday. But thanks to the prayers of many, I had a great calm as I spoke in front of over 3,000 people, and I was able to share the message the Lord had laid on my heart. It was very cool to have been the chapel speaker, because that gave me an immediate in-road into the lives of many students. I could just strike up a conversation with them, since they already knew who I was. I was quite encouraged by the positive comments I heard and by the students’ interest in my ministry. I hardly had a dull moment at the BI booth! That’s also due to the fact that I spoke in 6 different classes (1 Greek, 2 NT, 2 French, and 1 speech pathology), as well as my mom’s homemade cookies at my booth! Time will tell how the Lord waters the thoughts I was able to plant in the students’ minds, as I tried to get them to think about the many roles needed to fulfill the ministry of Bible translation.

I returned to Michigan on Friday and immediately had to prepare for a meeting at the office. I have another meeting tomorrow afternoon. Otherwise, I’m spending most of the rest of the time preparing for the upcoming PNG trip. I leave on Thursday. The translators didn’t send me the text in the right format, so they are scrambling to get that fixed. So far, I’ve only received two chapters of text. Pray I can receive lots more by tomorrow, as I have slated Tues and Wed to prepare. I usually spend a couple of weeks doing prep, but I have only 2 days left for that before I leave. It’s going to be a grueling trip! Pray for strength as this is the fourth trip since early September!

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Below is my latest prayer letter. I will include an addendum below that to tell about my “stolen credit cards” incident.

God has been impressing upon my heart the need to take God’s Word more seriously. Recently, I saw a video segment in which one guy decided he would ignore the danger sign about the sharks and go for a swim anyway in the Australian waters. His friend said something like, “Around 200 people have died in these waters. Either you are going to accept that they are telling you the truth, or you are going to think that they are just trying to ruin your fun.” Sometimes I don’t take God’s Word seriously, as if He doesn’t mean what He says–but God does mean what He says, and He knows what is best for me. I must trust everything He says.

WORKSHOPS IN AFRICA

I’m now in the midst of the busy last four months of the year, and I need your prayers now more than ever. I just returned from a five-week trip to Chad and Benin (including six days of vacation in France). I and a consultant-in-training worked with the Sara Madjingaye team to check their translation of 2 Kings. I PRAISE the Lord that we finished the book within the timeframe I had allotted.

Then, I traveled to Benin via Niger. While at the capital of Niger, I was able to meet up with various people to determine the potential for a revision of the Zarma Bible that we finished in 1994. Please PRAY for wisdom in how to proceed. As always, the factors to consider are quite complicated.

After three days in the capital, I drove with a missionary family and one of their missionary co-workers through southwestern Niger, known for its herds of giraffes and camels. Just like last year, I saw only the camels! The workshop started the day after we arrived. Along with the missionary coordinator, we worked through the Dendi translation of the first ten books of the Old Testament to prepare them for a trial edition to be published this year. We conducted “quality checks” to evaluate the consistent and proper translation of key terms in all ten books and to bring parallel passages into closer alignment. We worked on such things as the names of God, words for “tabernacle” and “temple,” and the “offering” words. The checks can be quite tedious; but they are important and they must be done with great care, lest we accidentally undo what had been carefully thought through earlier in the process. PRAY for the missionary coordinator as he helps the translation team finish up the last, numerous minor corrections. Bible school starts in January, and they want these ten books by then.

UPCOMING ACTIVITIES

On October 11-15, I will be attending a Bible translation conference in Texas. This conference is a key event every other year in which those in the same line of work can rub shoulders and learn from each other how to do our work better, so PRAY that this time will be profitable.

On October 21-25, I will be representing Bibles International at the Bob Jones University Missions Emphasis week. While there, I will be speaking twice in chapel and doing presentations in six different classes. PRAY for the Lord to awaken hearts to the great need of Bible translation and for Him to give me grace in speaking.

On November 4-15, I will meet with the Tok Pisin NT in PNG team to check their first assignments and provide more training. PRAY for grace to keep up with all these assignments and for God’s blessings of power, provision, and protection. On December 2-13, I’ll go to Haiti to work with the Haitian Creole translator to finish up work on the soon-to-be published NT with Psalms and Proverbs.

ADDENDUM: To catch my plane back to the US last Thursday, I took a public bus from Benin to the capital of Niger. The “seat reservation” issue in Niger is a story in itself, but I won’t tell that here (basically, you sit, wait, and pray that there will be an empty seat when the bus arrives). After waiting almost 3 hours, a bus with two empty seats (one for me and one for an African who was traveling with me) arrived. These 70-passenger buses are quite comfortable: tinted windows, curtains to block the hot African sun, air conditioning, and padded seats. Leg room was somewhat limited, since the aisle was pretty full with various items. When I first got on, I saw no empty seats, so I started making my way over the items in the aisle toward the back. I finally found something, thanks partly to the help of the other passengers, four rows from the back.

At one police checkpoint the officer checked the identification cards of various passengers, including mine. I had to open my travel wallet to get my passport out (an important detail to keep in mind). Since I travel so much, there are lots of pages and stamps in it. The officer couldn’t find my Niger border-crossing stamp, and neither could I. After stepping off the bus and calling various people, he finally found it.

After we had ridden for over half of the trip and had made various pit stops, we made yet another one. We stopped in the middle of no where in Niger at the intersection of two dirt roads. As I had done before, I left my backpack on the bus. I knew no strangers would get on the bus, and I figured that since other passengers left their stuff on the bus, so could I. My bag, however, was probably unlike any other in that I had various expensive items in it: a brand new camera, an Android phone, a computer, a digital recorder, a presentation pointer, a Kindle, and a few other things. I also left my travel wallet in there (in a zipped pocket), that had some money and three credit cards. I tried to keep from “flashing” all these items during the trip, lest I attract unnecessary attention, but I couldn’t help opening my wallet when the officer wanted to see my passport.

During the stop I enjoyed playing around with a few kids and talking to various adults, including one African who had an American flag patch on his shirt, as well as a name patch with “Joe” written on it. I enjoyed joking with him that I was pleased to meet an American named Joe, though I knew he wasn’t. I got back on the bus because I wanted to give a few coins to some of the poor kids I was playing with. I doubted I had any coins, but I checked my wallet to make sure. That’s when I saw that my credit cards were gone. I told my traveling companion, and he alerted the bus helper (the guy who helps the driver with collecting money, dealing with various issues that come up, etc.). He went back to my seat and looked around and may have said something to the people, but that was it. Once we got rolling again, I decided to “preach a little sermon” (in French) to the three rows of around 20 people seated behind me. I informed them that someone back there had stolen my credit cards but that I wanted them back. I assured them that the credit cards would be useless immediately, because I would just call and cancel all 3 accounts (the bus helper also added a few comments to support what I was saying). Of course, everyone denied it, so there was nothing more I could do, except pray for the situation. I sat down and was trying to absorb what just happened, especially thinking about the great inconvenience this had caused since it meant having to call the companies from Niger, resetting all accounts, and updating any accounts linked to those cards. After about 5 minutes of doing that, I just happened to look down at my feet, and I saw two of my cards. I picked them up and looked around some more, and there was the third card!

Then, I felt terrible that I had accused the passengers, because I figured I must have let them fall out of my wallet. After agonizing for about a minute about what to do, I stood up and faced the back three rows once again. I showed them my cards and apologized for falsely accusing them. They then notified the bus helper, who was sitting in the front of the bus, that I had gotten my cards back, so now the whole bus knows that the only white guy has three credit cards. Now I definitely needed to keep a close eye on my cards!

But as I sat down and thought about what must have happened, I realized that there was no way those cards could have fallen out of my travel wallet. The pockets were just too tight to allow that. Therefore, they must have been stolen. Apparently, someone got “under conviction” about stealing my cards and returned them to me. I guess it’s because they realized they were of no value. My guess is that all the passengers in the last three rows knew what really happened and may have even worked together to get the cards returned under my seat. I can’t say I know all that happened that afternoon nor did I understand all the French words that were tossed around among the people, but I sure am thankful that God caused my cards to get returned! I praise Him for answering prayers and giving me protection!

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